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As those who have been following our adventures on FB already are aware, we have been living here for the past year and a half and were merrily rolling along until Pandemonium broke out and took over. As you also know if you’ve been following the news, Spain was very hard hit and suffered greatly. The majority of cases were here in Madrid with only Barcelona coming close to the levels of infection and morbidity. While the government response was rightly criticized for not moving sooner to contain the virus, considering the news in Italy, their actions since have been resolute. The priority has clearly been public health and the lockdown measures were the strictest in the Western World. All of Spain remained in total lockdown from mid-March until late April. Since then a 4 phase plan of “normalization” has been implemented where gradual openings have been defined and carried out in the various regions of the country.
As we have learned through our collective experience, not all areas have the same levels of infection and experience and the plan has taken this into account. While other regions began relaxing restrictions Madrid and Barcelona remained locked down with only very gradual easing. A week and a half ago we entered Phase 1 where we could get out and enjoy walks in the park and this week restaurants and shops started opening, slowly and carefully with restrictions that to most make sense. Masks are mandatory in any situation where social distancing cannot be maintained. As I’ve said before, they are not a political statement, merely common courtesy or common sense and trust me the look you get if you don’t have yours on is not one meant to validate your exercise of “freedom”. Once the “State of Alarm” has completed its 4 phases it’s clear that masks will still be a part of life until a cure or vaccine is available.
It was tough stuff but there was a level of solidarity amongst the population that was striking and inspiring. The Government’s authorization to impose the State of Alarm and its conditions needed to be approved every two weeks. Politics here are fractured and noisy. The Basques and the Catalans have a tenuous relationship with the very definition of their status as Spaniards that dates back centuries. Political ideologies vary from hard left and right to left and right of center are represented. The current government has had to find coalition partners to maintain a ruling majority and in the process have seriously alienated other parties. Despite all of this, every two weeks the approval to continue to State of Alarm has been granted. In a very real sense, despite some very vocal disagreement from the far Right, the center has held; in my view an affirmation that what connects and holds them together as a nation and a peoples “trumps” their differences in times like these.
I grew up a New York City boy and the rhythms of city life are in my DNA, a far cry from my wife’s early days in Woodinville Washington with cattle grazing in her yard. Despite our differences we’ve found joy in our shared lives from NY to LA to Santa Barbara and now Madrid. For me Madrid has been a little bit of heaven and by far the most livable version of “City living” that I’ve experienced. There is enough of everything and not too much of anything. In the year + we’ve been here I’ve made more friends and had more fun than I ever could have imagined. And of course then March happened. Now as things slowly come back to life, I again am reawakened to why I love city life so much. The energy and instant infusion of life that comes just from walking out the front door makes me come alive in ways that must have connections to where my life began on East 48th Street in Manhattan. As we enjoy Phase 2 with more possibilities of what we knew as normal and more hopefully to come, it makes me so grateful to have this as part of my life for however long that remains.
Spring is always a time of hope and rebirth and here it feels real and alive in so many ways. In my “half-full” view of life it also offers hope for what has been a very dark time in the US. There can be and will be re-birth that will come from these times that will provide not only hope but very real ways for better days. What will accelerate that reawakening will be the willingness of the people to not only want them to happen but to come together to make them a reality. Much of what I’m reading and seeing makes me believe that the buds are about to bloom. Don't lose hope.
Stay safe and strong.