I don’t think that there was ever a single day when I couldn’t walk out of my apartment in the middle of the City Centre in Madrid, and not see the hustle and bustle of people living their lives. Cafés, restaurants, those guys who run around the city centre with cheap knock-offs of professional soccer jerseys, the ongoing tale of a city living its best life. I usually wake up early, and go to the gym first thing in the morning. I work out, get home, have breakfast, check my schedule for the day, and then it’s off to the Exam Madrid Academy. If I spot a student I worked with in the past, or one I’m currently working with, I stop and say hello. When I enter my classroom, I check my e-mail, and see which one of my TEFL students has submitted their weekly essay to me. Depending on the people I’m working with, it could be one, or it could be five or six. At ten o’ clock in the morning, my first group of students arrives, and we get started. Outside my window, I’ll see a small congregation of university alumni crowding into ICADE, a school located across the street from the Exam Madrid Academy. After two or three classes, I have a bit of a break, have something to eat, check my e-mails again, and then get ready for my private students later in the day. We practice. We speak. We read. We write. We give each other high-fives, and then I go home, sleep, and do it all over again the next day. I couldn’t be more thankful for a routine like that.
Then, coronavirus became the reason that Spanish President Pedro Sanchez imposed a nationwide shut down of all schools, from Kindergarten to University. It appeared to be the exact same thing with Private Institutions, and sadly this included Exam Madrid Academy.
We got on to delivering our private classes, and we were successful at it for the first couple of days. We made sure that when we did TOEFL Classes online, or GRE or GMAT Classes online that we ensured a certain consistency with tone, with a commitment to our students as possible. I would wake up, grab my tablet, have a little breakfast, and my morning cup of matcha, and then take myself off to the academy. This time, however, I would be keeping myself there for an extended period of time to create new content for both the website, and the Online offerings of TE Madrid. This was important. I still saw my students, and I was still able to fully deliver each class. Then, I would spend my free time writing, and submitting things to Xavier, the founder and owner of TE Madrid. When we came up with our battle plan to continue working even with this ongoing, and interruptive nuisance to our routine, we even got around to doing our necessary grocery shopping. We stocked up to prepare for the coming days and weeks. We didn’t buy too much toilet paper. We thought about our fellow man and woman, there.
When I woke up on Saturday Morning, I knew that I had a good deal of work to do (including this very article, by the way), so I made that necessary trip to the supermarket to get the last couple of things that I needed to really focus. In the emptiness of the streets, I couldn’t help but image the same hustle that defined them. I also couldn’t help but put a steady tune to it, as well (See the Official Coronavirus Soundtrack at the end). I think I had a pretty big smile on my face as I imagined the energy that I know was there, and was waiting to show itself to me again. I was even luckier, because when I got into the supermarket, people weren’t ripping each other to shreds trying to get to the bare essentials. When things weren’t available (and of course, that’s what you’ll get in times of crisis), I shrugged my shoulders and had a laugh. The funny thing about all this is that I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where stores would be locked down. This is very different. It’s a crazy world we live in, isn’t it? We make these grand plans, and then something happens that completely turns it upside down. I even heard of certain TEFL Academies that terminated all of their employees when the President announced that Spain would immediately close everything except the stores with the necessaries. They wouldn’t be able to support themselves, so many of them had to leave the country almost immediately. It’s an absolute heartbreak. Meanwhile, I had the tasks that TE Madrid had in front of them, and the work of an English Teacher in Spain to do. I’m preparing my students to do some work. I’m editing some documents for my colleagues. I’m preparing for the week ahead. Still though, anything could happen. Everything that I have right now could be taken away. There was that dagger floating over my head. It’s not something that I look forward to.
Pedro Sanchez then ordered for the entire country to be locked down, with immediate effect. The only travel that would be allowed would be either to go to work or to buy essential goods, like groceries or sanitary products. This would be in effect for fifteen days. All residents of Spain are strongly urged to remain at home unless it is absolutely necessary to leave.
I’m sure that I need to tell you that thinking about this all the time was depressing enough as it is. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. I continued working on this article. I looked over a student’s written work. I spoke with a colleague about the ongoing project we were doing at TE Madrid. There was a certain paranoia in the air. I wondered how I would feel if I suddenly got a head-ache, or a runny nose now in the midst of this global panic. Even worse, if I suffered the onset of what I thought to be the Coronavirus, and I lost my job as an English Teacher. What could I possibly do in that scenario? These are the sorts of things that make people go crazy. Then, at 10:00pm, I heard people out on the streets clapping. I went to the window, and witnessed my neighbors putting on a show. I joined in. It was the first time that I would see, and involve myself in the very spirit that emulates from the peoples of Europe. I couldn’t put a hand over the heads of those who were suffering the worst at the moment, but I could join the many people who were thinking about them. I suddenly thought about all the good that I saw in the people around me, and what we were prepared to do to help each other out. In keeping the business open, in hearing the boss say that he would be willing to help in any way possible. In our daily workings in and around the TE Madrid Academy, we worked, and continue to work hard to let people know that we are still here to help everyone. I was, and still am, willing to share my existing students with my colleagues to ensure that they are busy, and active in and around the office. I’m working on developing our Online TEFL Course here in Madrid. Why am I focusing on this? In so many words, it is what I can do to help people around me. Keeping this at the very centre of my mind, I know I won’t let any Coronavirus cast a shadow over me, or anyone close to me.
Now…… beyond the poetic and philosophical, what else can we do in the midst of this chaos? Well, let me tell you what I’ve done so far:
- Stocked up on non-perishable food items: Pasta, rice, quinoa, canned vegetables (corn, beans, garbanzos, red and white kidney beans). I probably have enough to last me a month.
- Bought the necessary sanitary items: Hand soap, sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, and one package of toilet paper (because one package is enough to last me a year, and getting more just doesn’t make any sense)
- I confined myself to my bedroom. I know it sounds depressing, but I kept in contact with my work colleagues from in here, and got a lot of work done.
- I thoroughly and deeply clean anything that I use. To be honest, I did that, anyway.
- I don’t share utensils like plates, forks, knives, spoons and cups with ANYONE in my flat.
- If I need to travel anywhere, I walk. I limit the use of the Metro unless I have no other option. If I do take the metro, I make sure not to touch anything.
- All the private classes that I have are done online, either in my home, or in the Exam Madrid Academy (which I can get to by walking for fifteen minutes).
So, that’s what I’ve done to make sure that I myself don’t contract Covid-19. Now, on to the stuff that I do to keep myself entertained. Here are the tunes that keep me entertained, and at least keeping my head on an even keel:
- Have you ever seen the rain? – Creedence Clearwater Festival
- Same Ol’ Situation – Motley Crue
- Five O’ Clock World – The Vogues
- Don’t Panic – Coldplay
- Ain’t Got No Home – Clarence “Frogman” Henry
- I’ll Be Around – The Spinners
- Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Put Your Lights On – Santana (Feat. Everlast)
- Spanish Key – Miles Davis
So, for those of you English Teachers in Spain stuck and not sure what to do, get out your Netflix, stock up on the bare essentials, reach out to your students, and prepare to offer your classes online. Do what you can to be of service to the place that you now call home. I, for one, plan to do my part. The next time that you see a piece of my writing, this whole thing will have passed. I look forward to seeing you all then!