A letter from Spain during Coronavirus

By Christine Giraud in Granada, Spain

Today is our last day in one of the strictest lock-downs in the world, according to the media reports. It is the 1st of May 2020 and it seems we are ending seven weeks of almost total confinement in our home in Granada, Spain.

From mid March until now, we have adapted to a new life which in my case, is a life where food, music and technology have taken over from everything else. New rituals have been born, new people have become important and we have learned to enjoy each other’s company at home. Our new situation is reminiscent of when we have been on long distance trains sitting for endless hours, though this time the train has no destination, nor arrival time.

At home, there are four of us plus our precious dog: Molly. Our teenage boys have adapted quickly to school and learning through the virtual classroom. Their teachers have done an amazing job, connecting the students during this strange time, not only the academic curriculum but also in terms of mental health. They have created the backbone of a new routine. Okay, the kids also complain but they comply, sometimes on video, sometimes off screen to hide their pajamas. A few weeks into the routine, they reached a good balance. Thank you to all the teachers !

For us parents, work has been reduced to a bare minimum, opening up time for personal projects that don’t have to be rushed for once, as we have so much time on our hands. My husband Stik, has had a rapprochement with his piano, encouraging our boys to accompany him. We hope the neighbours will still talk to us when they have a choice not to!

As part of their ongoing music practice at home, Stik and the boys formed the band ‘Balcones Unidos’ (United Balconies) with two other musicians who live a few doors up from us on the same street. Erica, at the top end of the row of townhouses is the singer and Abe, in the middle, is the guitarist while Stik and the boys, at the lower end of the row, play keyboard, base and drums. Thanks to many metres of cables passing through all our neighbours’ houses and a strong enthusiasm for music, they regularly treat the whole neighbourhood to uplifting, feelgood music. Today, to their great surprise, they made the front cover of the local newspaper.

Featured in the local newspaper, playing music for the neighbourhood from their balcony

What about me? I feel like I’ve opened a restaurant, providing meals with a French touch (partly because of the cheese and wine served during each meal) to my growing lads at least three times a day. To be fair, thanks to the online cooking classes from our friend and favourite Botanico Café chef, Esther Vidal, the boys have even been learning how to prepare Mexican and Moroccan delicacies as well … and they sometimes cook for us.

Shopping every couple of weeks has felt like a hunting expedition in a science fiction film. At the beginning, fear was everywhere. People were scared to be contaminated even by eye contact and ‘aloof’ was the new look; easier when half of your face is hidden behind a surgical mask. At the end of long queues to access shops, we often found empty shelves, no more flour, milk, meat, vegetables or … toilet paper. Then at home, the logistics of washing the virus away from boxes and bottles with warm water and a few drops of bleach was exhausting.

My walk to the local shops takes me through the famous UNESCO listed Sacromonte and Albayzin areas of Granada with a routine stop at the Minuit bakery for bread and croissants. It is a little hole in the wall bakery with a wood fired oven, baking the best bread in town. You are also guaranteed a large, friendly smile from the woman working there and maybe the chance of a correctly, socially-distanced ‘hello’ to friends from our previous life, who were also stocking up on croissants.

Soon messages from local farmers looking for new markets arrived. With our neighbours, we organised bulk orders of fresh asparagus, beans, meat, cheese and bottles of wine to be delivered to our doors. Not sure if it was allowed but we felt we were doing something good for the community and for ourselves with fewer trips to the shops.

Fresh asparagus delivered directly from the farmers

In the Albayzin, the feel has been similar to my very first visits twenty years ago. No longer the usual buzzing atmosphere as the empty streets are eerily silent. Only distant ambulance sirens and new birdsong can be heard. The grass is growing high in the streets and in some parts, nature is taking over our neighborhood. It has taken a dramatic event for us to enjoy the beauty of the relative silence in our city again.

As my dog photography business has been reduced to taking pictures of my own dog from all possible angles, Molly can no longer bear the shadow of my lens, so I have connected with other photographers and joined different projects for documenting our ‘encierro‘ (lock-down in Spanish). Every so often I follow events online: photo exhibition openings where Zoom allows your face to appear next to other little squares on the screen with the most talented people of the country. Why do the organizers always want everybody to introduce themselves? “Hola, I’m Christine, from Granada, currently Zooming from my kitchen. Molly thinks you all look great”

So far, we have been lucky in our experience of the pandemic. Social distancing and forced inactivity has meant bonding with our family and community through technology and wine. From our home located on top of a hill, above the Albayzin, the drama of people suffering the spread of the virus, has felt quite surreal. Not to mention the loss of personal freedom we have all experienced in a country under a state of emergency. Clapping outside, on our balconies at 8 pm every evening to acknowledge the importance of essential workers, has become an act of life. Yes, we are still here: healthy, alive, all together and, at home!

Of course we miss our families far away even if we have been in touch more than ever and we know they are safe behind strong, closed doors. Our family living footprint has been reduced in scale and we have stopped planning for the day after-tomorrow. However, as it happens, tomorrow is an important day, it’s the day I start jogging for the first time in my life, once a day in the one kilometre radius that is permitted under the current easing of lock-down rules.

Thanks for reading and take care, from wherever you are !

About Christine:

Christine settled in Spain twenty years ago (the last decade in Granada). She is originally from France but has lived around the world before taking up permanent residence in the Albayzin area of Granada where she and her English husband have raised their twin boys. She has been an active member of the local Albayzin community, having contributed to many local initiatives, programs and school activities. She shares her time working with Your Year in Spain helping people organize their sabbatical in Spain as well as with a Scottish-based travel company: “Walk the Camino ”, where she arranges the travel logistics for people walking the Camino de Santiago. Christine is also an avid photographer.

4 thoughts on “A letter from Spain during Coronavirus

  1. A great read, from a Scot living in Perth, Australia. I’ve been down here for almost 24 years now (mostly in Sydney) and I have to say, feeling fortunate we have pretty much avoided the worst of this virus, in a relatively relaxed version of your lockdown. Interesting to read your description of life in Granada, as my husband and I are weighing up the pros and cons of relocating to either Spain or Portugal in around 5 years time. Both Granada and Lisbon are 2 cities that have captured my attention. Enjoy your jogging, the freedom of running and enjoying fresh air feels so good right now doesn’t it? 🙂

    1. Hi Claire,
      My husband and I from Melbourne, are also hoping to move to Spain in the future, with my husband re learning the language as he had previously lived in Spain. What attracts to you Spain or Granada specifically? Granada is very hot in the summer. There are so few Spaniards living here that its difficult to get personal information about current living conditions in Spain and instead rely on internet blogs. Also dont know of any Australians who have moved to Spain.

      1. Hi Anna, we have friends in Spain and my friend here in Perth is from Madrid. She’s a language teacher and I’ve been learning Spanish for a couple of years. Since we are Scottish, Spain is very familiar. Though we’ve been in Australia for many years now – hubby been here 30 years and 23 for me. I was in Andalucía late last year. We are probably leaning more towards Portugal now to be honest – mainly due to attractive tax incentives. Which part of Spain are you thinking of moving to? Up north is also very beautiful, greener, with cooler temps, but more rain obviously.

  2. Y cuando vuelva la normalidad, ¿Echaremos de menos la ciudad confinada?
    And when normality returns, will we miss the confined city?

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