Before you ask, no, this isn’t where we are. We’re back in Spain, tucked up and locked down in our cozy apartment. But this is my favorite picture from our recent stay in the USA; I took it in New Hampshire in February. We had a big snowstorm while we were there and spent a few days nestled in another cozy apartment, reading and watching movies and being all hygge. So at least we’ve had some practice for what’s going on now!
Much of our time in New Hampshire was occupied with attending candidate rallies in anticipation of the early primary in that state. Trust me, there was no social distancing going on there! But it was fun to be packed cheek by jowl with other folks out to see the candidates. Amy Klobuchar was our favorite, and it will be interesting to see where her career goes from here. After New Hampshire, we flew to Texas and our beloved home in the Hill Country. We had a great visit. There’s nothing like seeing family and friends, eating barbecue and Tex-Mex, and shopping for used books at Half Price.
All of those normal activities now seem like they happened to someone else. The world is experiencing a pandemic that is killing many people and sickening many more. This experience has brought to mind something our daughter Jane used to say when something happened that was important but hard to describe: “That was a thing that was a hell of a thing.” This pandemic is a hell of a thing.
COVID -19 has changed the landscape, literally and figuratively, for all of us. We’re now in a country where time outside is limited to trips to get food or medical care and to work. Oh, and people with dogs may walk them briefly outside. (Is some enterprising soul renting out dogs?) After we flew in yesterday, I made a quick run to our nearest grocery store for essentials. Happily, the store was fully stocked. The one difference in the store’s operation was that customers are not allowed in the produce aisle. Instead, you tell a store employee stationed in the aisle what you want, and they get your items and hand them to you. Everyone was kind and patient.
But today we’re in our apartment, listening to the sound of the waves crash on shore. No chatter from the restaurants and bars below interrupts the hypnotic rhythm of the sea. That part is actually quite soothing. I’m doing laundry and unpacking. Mark and his friend Rick just finished a videoconference in which they rewrote the lyrics of “I’m a Believer” to deal with COVID-19 issues. We’re lucky to be here.
Why are we in Spain instead of the USA? It certainly was a lot of trouble finding flights here; we had several cancel on us and ended up in cramped coach seats instead of our typical, more spacious Economy Plus ones. We also had a seven-hour layover in Toronto and shelled out for a sojourn in one of the airport lounges. We saw people everywhere with face masks and plastic gloves on, and restaurants and bars were mostly closed in the airports. It was a tiring trip, although for the most part people were kind and patient. Let’s put it this way: I was so jet-lagged by the time we got home that I failed to finish my glass of wine last night before heading to bed for 12 hours.
So why did we choose to return to Spain? It’s because of, not in spite of, COVID-19. Health insurance in the USA is so expensive that we don’t maintain an ongoing policy and instead buy travelers’ health coverage for our stays there. But our policy for this trip was expiring on March 22, and re-upping coverage was not an option. Our Spanish policy covers us up to about $30,000 in the USA if we get sick or injured there, but that amount will buy you about half an emergency room visit. We figured that if you need to ride out a pandemic somewhere, you might as well do it in a country with one of the best health care systems in the world and complete health insurance. And while Spain is reporting many cases of the virus, it’s also taking strong steps, such as the ones described above, to flatten the curve. So here we are, and here we’ll be, at least for a while. And isn’t this a thing that is a hell of a thing?