A personal account of the Coronavirus lockdown in Spain.
I’m writing this, feeling like I have a lot to say. There is a lot going on in the world right now, we are all going through different things and experiencing different situations but yet we are all in this together.
As you probably know, I live in Spain, recently moved to Seville. A city in which I fell in love with about a year ago when I came here to do my CELTA qualification for teaching English. I moved to the city last September with dreams of tapas and wine in sunny squares with great friends, enjoying the laid- back lifestyle that southern Spain has to offer but instead we have found ourselves in quite the opposite situation and living here through a pandemic that has never happened before in our lifetime.
On March 14th, Spain went into full lockdown as the number of Covid-19 cases rapidly increased within a few days.
A week prior to this, I threw a surprise birthday party for my boyfriend, with all his friends from the UK flying over to surprise him and friends in Spain too. We were completely oblivious to what lay ahead of us just 7 days later when we were partying to 4 am in the morning and enjoying tapas the following day. Seven days later we went into one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.
Like many others our lives have been flipped upside down, nothing was certain anymore. We were confined to our houses, only being allowed out for the supermarket, pharmacy or for medical needs. We ended up working from home, teaching online and our workload doubled. Don’t get me wrong I am immensely grateful to still have a job, and it’s nice to see my students still, but this work situation looks like it could still go on for the rest of the academic year.
My initial thought on lockdown was, ‘it was only going to be for 2 weeks, it would be fine. I always want to stay at home anyways so this is fine for me’. Oh…but how wrong could I have been?
The weeks passed, 2 weeks soon turned into a month, a month then turned into another extension of 3 more weeks. There was no end in sight and it started taking its toll. One thing I realised during this lockdown was that mental health is NO JOKE!!
I struggled a couple of times and cried quite a few tears but week 5 was one of the worse times. Our neighbours were having parties all the time, shouting right outside our window for about 8 hours a day at the weekend. It made me feel even more like a prisoner in my own home, they had no empathy for anyone else that lived in this small courtyard, not for us who were working, the family with a baby, the older residents or another family who have made it quite clear they want to keep their distance because of what was going on. Work was exhausting, planning our classes took double the amount of time, and we had the extra pressure of knowing students could quit at any moment.
All I longed for was to go out for a walk and get some fresh air, but it wasn’t possible. After nearly 6 years of living abroad, I broke down into tears, saying I wanted to go home, back to the U.K. We started looking at flights and ways of getting out of the country. There were either flights from Gibraltar to Heathrow, or we would have to get to Madrid or Barcelona for a flight. The other option we looked into was to buy a cheap car and drive up to France and get back to the UK that way. But it just seemed like a silly idea.
Then miraculously the dark tunnel started to have some light at the end of it. The numbers in Spain started dropping, there was news of relaxation on the lockdown and then it was confirmed. From May 2nd we would be allowed out for a walk/exercise once a day during the hours of 6 am to 10 am or 8 pm to 11 pm. It’s all I had been longing for, some freedom.
The day arrived and I was so excited (although I ruined it slightly from being ridiculously hungover from a zoom quiz the night before). The weather had turned hot overnight, so that made things even better. We went out in the evening time slot as we’ve become nocturnal during this lockdown.
When we usually leave our house, we are instantly met with the hustle and bustle of central Seville, but yesterday we walked out to only a few people. One of the first people we met was a young girl on a bike, with the biggest smile of her face, we cheered for her as she rode past happily. As we got more out into the centre, there were more people, an exciting atmosphere was over us, people were so happy to have their ounce of freedom back and you could feel it in the air.
I felt overwhelmed but also super happy. It was surreal. As we wandered through the streets, we saw friends and families reuniting from across the street or from balconies above. Their joy was wonderful to see.
We wandered around the narrow streets of Santa Cruz (the Jewish quarter), sat in empty squares that are usually full of tourists enjoying tapas, and just listened to the peace and quiet of the city and the birds singing from the trees.
There was a sense of community when we got the neighbourhood of ‘El Arenal’ people were on their balconies, hitting pots and pans for everyone down below, showing their shared excitement. It was an hour after our evening applause for the careworkers (which we have done every night at 8 pm for 7 weeks).
We wandered down to ‘Alameda’ and saw groups of friends reuniting in big circles at a distance, blowing kisses to one another, instead of the typical kiss on each cheek.
On Calle Feria, we saw a rooftop with disco lights and flamenco music being played, the occupants were obviously celebrating the Feria which would have been this weekend.
I can just hope that we all come out of this with an extra appreciation for the things we have in our lives. Be gentle with yourselves, you really don’t need to prove anything during this time. Do what you need to do and remember it’s completely OK to feel exactly how you are feeling.