A Colombian journalist who arrived in Madrid (Spain) in November 2019 to pursue a scholarship, today lives the self-insolation in an apartment, like all Spaniards, in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. Chronicle of her reflections, her doubts and her daily applause to the doctors and nurses who are risking their lives every day.
I am a young woman and those who know me, realize that courage is not one of my greatest virtues.
I am afraid of heights, needles, diseases, and sometimes loneliness. But like everything in life, at some point it is time to face all our fears.
I have been quarantined in Madrid for thirteen days and, like everyone else if a year ago I had been told that today I would be alone in this city, where the coronavirus progresses at the same speed than in China, according to the British newspaper, the Financial Times could even exceed Wuhan in China where the Covid-19 originated, I really wouldn’t have believed it.
More than a year ago, in the living room of my house in my small city (Tunja) in Colombia, bored with the daily routine and somewhat lost on a personal and professional level, I made a life changing decision.
Tired of the days being so similar to the previous ones, I decided it was time to leave the city, even the country, and start again in another part of the world.
Although the fact of getting lost, introducing myself over and over, asking directions and following directions, caused me anxiety, deep down it was what excited me. I had always wanted to find a story of my own and fill my life with moments to treasure.
That was how after looking for options and obtaining a scholarship, everything began. So it happened! I told my mom and brother, the rest of my family and friends: “I’m leaving!”
Life did not give me sisters, but a cousin who is almost the same. The night before my trip, she visited me and asked: What scares you?, to which I replied: “What could happen?” and laughing, she said: “The worst thing that can happen is that you like it so much that you won’t want to return”.
A few days ago we talked about that moment and, far from being a bad memory, we both laughed so much, I missed her like never before.
I started my trip and arrived in Spain on November 13, 2019; just one month before the first cases of the coronavirus began in China, which by then was classified as pneumonia. At first, it was all part of the adventure.
It was my first time in Europe, classes started and with them I met different people, whom I call friends today and, between jobs and lectures, with their occurrences in the development of videoconferences, we try to laugh like those who are now looking to put a better face to these difficult days.
Days before quarantine
China was going through one of its worst moments and the news was already talking about cases in Italy. However, the common belief was “it’s a flu,” you even heard comments like “no one is going to die from the flu.”
As usual, I went to class, but when I arrived there was a different atmosphere. Some were already commenting that measures were being taken in their jobs, as the human resources department was sending workers with flu symptoms to work from home.
Back then, actions like coughing were the butt of jokes. Like “oops! the coronavirus ”. Some friends were commenting how they resisted to sneeze in the Metro just to not scare people.
Days before the quarantine started, I had a trip to Ifema, a venue where fairs and congresses take place. Me and my classmates attended a contemporary art fair. I remember that, out of so many attendees, only one woman wore a mask, which somehow gave us peace of mind. It didn’t seem so serious, and we were all taking it easy. That was a somewhat extreme measure, we believed.
This year’s theme was “It’s Just a Matter of Time” a work based on a Cuban artist. A title that today leads to asking if life was talking to us all the time.
We toured the art pieces one by one. We walked the corridors to exhaustion without knowing that the place that in those days was covered in art, today is a field hospital where almost 200 affected patients are treated a day. And if you think about it, one of the saddest pictures in many years.
The most common phase among people these days was “they have to quarantine us,” but we all thought that what was happening in Italy was not going to be repeated in Madrid. But we were already late.
Days after, the pharmacies woke up with blunt signs that said, “There are no masks, no antibacterial gel.” Little by little, the apocalyptic purchases took the supermarkets and yes, although apparently the virus does not cause stomach upsets, the toilet paper in Spain also disappeared in a matter of hours.
In fact, I heard a phrase on the street (when you could go out) and with which I totally agree today: it must be that we are all shit-scared.
I have never liked fictional series or movies, especially those about zombies or the undead. I find them boring and a little predictable. However, the feeling I had of being in one of these was so overwhelming that surely, I must have seemed like the clumsy character they chase and stumble across, the one with a lack of coordination.
So, it came on Saturday the 14th of March. The day that the Spanish Government announced the state of alarm and, as an additional measure, quarantine.
Will it be very serious? was the only thing I asked people. For the first time I was afraid of not being able to go out.
From my balcony
At first, I tried to calm down and kept telling myself over and over that it was only 14 days. However, the fear of fighting against an invisible enemy and that also brought with me in my case the dreaded loneliness, made me panic. The first days were hard, full of tears of longing for my people.
Without God in my life and the strength he provides, I would not be writing this story. The anthem of Spain playing in the streets and the authorities with loudspeakers playing at night and in the morning reminding us to stay home, made me miss mine.
Now, the hour of applause excites me, it’s almost like a date. I think I have become a more punctual person. Minutes before I am already attentive on the balcony waiting for all of us to go out and give encouragement to the medical personnel who are leaving their lives in the different assistance centers.
But not everything ends there. One of my neighbours is in charge of the music. The bad thing is that he only plays one song and it is the same every night. After accidentally learning it, now I listen to it and it encourages me. Somewhere it says,
“When I am afraid of silence, when it is difficult to stand up, I will resist.”
And so we are all: resisting.
The days go by, I still keep count, but now that the time of confinement has been extended, I have decided not to count them again. Yes, I see news, but only once a day, as recommended by the quarantine gurus, “the instagramers”.
For a moment I thought that indeed, as the singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina says in one of his songs.
“There was an epidemic of sadness in the city, the footsteps were erased and the heartbeats died,”
but it is already eight in Madrid and it is time to applaud.