Quarantine in Spain. What I’ve seen from my little corner so far…toeflmad
For the past month, English Teachers in Spain, along with everyone else in the world, have adapted to doing things from the comfort of their homes. Teleworking, Skype calls, Freelance writing, and in some cases, people have had to experience the risk of going to work. We cheer and thank these people every single day. Every day life in Spain is not what we would normally experience. The novelty of tapas, flamenco, the travel possibilities, and learning a new language, is now on hold. The world is now on hold as we now wait for the Coronavirus to loosen its grip. As an English Teacher living in Spain, I have experience working online, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to transition back to working from the laptop. From outside the window of my apartment, in Madrid’s City Centre, I’ve seen a couple of things that caught my eye, and really shaped my overall experience of life under quarantine. This tragic episode is definitely something that I want to see as a thing of the past, but I hope that I’m able to convey onto a world tired of growing contagion something a little different. What would that thing be, you may ask? I sit in my room, giving my Online English Classes, and I wait for good news to come that will allow me to go back to work, and physically see my students. None of us are there yet, so what is it? I take a look out the window, and I see something in people that no Coronavirus could touch. I see something that will make us a lot stronger. I see something that will help us move forward together. Nobody asks for these things to happen. In so many words, they just do.
As we all stocked up on essential food in our homes, as the sun went down on that first week, I started hearing music coming from the window in my living room. When I opened my window, I beheld a volcanic blast of electronica, pulsing its way up my street. Here I am, preparing another week of Online English Classes in my apartment in Madrid, and the people I’ve come to surround myself with are the same people that didn’t lose that communal spirit that I equate Europe with. It’s a lot harder to walk up and down the street, but despite the world being shut down to effectively contain the Coronavirus, you couldn’t stop the people in Spain from having a good time. This teacher couldn’t help but smile. It was one of those things that made me want to put effort into what I was doing every single day to prepare for that all-too-inevitable moment when restrictions would be lifted, and we could all return to our lives. Then, you turn around and realize that you’re not there yet, and it has only been a week since the restrictions were put in place. English Classes in Spain are still restricted to Skype. You can only leave to go to the supermarket and the pharmacy, and that moment of liberation could still be months away. You have to wait. In the meantime, take in the collective positivity of the people who share your street, and realize that they are in the same position as you. Basically, your daily commute is no more than a few seconds, and when you go from the kitchen, to the living room, and back to the bedroom over and over, and you’re on your computer, you want to get back out there as much as everyone else. Then you’re told that you can’t, and you can’t because it is the one thing that keeps everyone safe.
When I started doing my English Classes on Skype here in Madrid, I basically saw that same plight coming from each of my TEFL Students. The typical question of ‘What did you do this weekend?’ became ‘What did you watch on your computer this weekend?’. When you conduct an Online English Class in Spain under the hammer of quarantine, you definitely see a lot of the same things that frustrate you in the eyes of your students. Everyone in that TEFL Class wants to break out and get things back to normal, but they also know that in doing so, they are endangering people that are close to them. They want to get out, but they don’t want to bring harm or sickness to the people around them. Coronavirus has only spread itself to too many people around the world in such a short period of time, and simply walking outside could make it worse. They knew, just like I do, that the only way that we can do this is to work together. The only way that we can work together is to stay indoors. It’s something that we’ve all come to hear, regardless of what country we happen to be in. However cliché it might be, we all know that we have to do it. I know that I have to organize and deliver Online English Classes until this passes. I still look forward to seeing my TEFL Students on Skype. I enjoy sharing my frustration with Coronavirus with them. We smile about it as we continue to take those ever-so-essential baby steps forward to the achievement of their goals. We talk about what they want to do. We talk about what I want to do. One of the things that I enjoy about the TEFL Classes that I deliver on Skype are the few minutes before the actual delivering of the lesson when we can interact and talk about something beyond the elephant in the room. It’s one of these things that can definitely make our day a little better. It’s also something that makes me happy to live as an English Teacher in Spain, as well. It’s how we’re all able to open ourselves up to things that go beyond routine, and how we’re able to talk about it with each other. It’s a rare thing to meet someone new in Spain, and not instantly take to them in an actual conversation. Whether it’s done on Skype or in person is irrelevant. Coronavirus has not stopped me from being able to connect with the people that I am able to help.
With Coronavirus and its affect on every day life being the major headline for the last three months, it’s difficult to find something else to think about. Every so often, on the other hand, you do find a silver lining in the cloud. Believe it or not, there is a positive side to the virus being present in our lives. No, it isn’t only seeing your favorite sports team not have to go through the sting of constant defeat. Since lockdown measures were implemented the world over, everyone was forced to stay at home, so what has that done to global emissions? Suddenly, the Himalayas were visible from the ground. There has been more precipitation here in Spain. The air is cleaner. The water is cleaner. We’re not using our cars. We’re beginning to see how we’ve been a cataclysmic force against the planet since becoming its dominant species. Upon reading article after article on the cities that have now seen cleaner air, I became very aware of what we have done, and what we may need to do in order to maintain this natural state of things on Planet Earth. Here in Madrid, it wouldn’t be abnormal to see days exceed Twenty-five degrees Celsius in April. We have barely seen that thus far. In fact, we’ve seen more precipitation recently than we have in the last two years combined. What do you think this might do for food production. There is probably less garbage on the streets, which probably also means less rodents and insects scrummaging through trash heaps. So, there’s that.
Peeking through the window of my little apartment in the City Centre of Madrid, I’ve seen quite a few things that are enough to keep me going. It’s a couple of the little moments that make me happy to have chosen Madrid to be my home. The history is still there. I still live across the street from Plaza Mayor. What Coronavirus did was make me focus on the three ways I’ve seen people deal with this episode. What do you do to move yourself forward when times get tough? Do you laugh and try to make the best of what we know is a bad situation? Do we find comfort and solace commiserating with others? Perhaps there is a positive that can be drawn from this, and maybe that is what we need to keep ourselves moving, keep ourselves out of bed, and on to the tasks at hand. I think that we all owe it to ourselves to at least try. As an English TEFL Teacher in Madrid, I definitely have seen good cause to be positive about this. I know that I am willing to see the good in this situation, not just for the people around me, but for myself, as well. If we can’t do it now, at the worst of all times, we’ll never find it when things get back to normal. We’ll simply continue seeing the negative, and we don’t need that. It’s hard, but, and I repeat myself, we must try. I believe that we can do it.