This Is What It’s Like to Live in Spain During the Coronavirus Lockdown

(Note: Please check the WHO for current information on how this is progressing. This post is simply about my experiences I’ve had in regards to this issue from January 31-March 17.)

Prior to the lockdown…

January 31

First coronavirus case in Spain.

February 12

My friend sent me a screenshot of a cheap flight from Madrid to Bergamo, a small Italian town an hour outside of Milan.

“I’m walking back home. Should be back in 30 minutes. When I’m back, let’s book it.”

However, when I got back, we realized that hostels and Airbnb’s in Bergamo were even more expensive than our 54 euro round-trip flight. We decided that it wasn’t worth it. Italy could wait.

If we had bought those flights, our trip would have been March 13-15.

February 13

First coronavirus death in Spain.

February 14

I knocked on my roommate’s door. We were just about to meet up with a friend for Galentine’s Day.

When she opened the door, I said, “I booked my flights for Paris!”

Paris has been a dream of mine for my whole life, and I thought, what better way to ring in my 30’s than to spend my birthday in the City of Lights? I even put it on my vision board. One more month until I made a childhood dream come true.

February 15

My friends and I spent the day in Cuenca, Spain. We couldn’t have visited on a better day: blue skies and warm weather. It felt good to get out of the city for a bit, and breathe in fresh air.

Mid February

One of my students sneezed in class.

We looked at each other with suspicion for a moment.

“Coronavirus,” the student finally said, trying to break the silence.

We both nervously laughed, and continued with the lesson. But something didn’t feel right. Coronavirus cases were still low Spain. But something told me that in a short time, everything would change.

February 27

My friends and I went to a Spanish cooking class. We learned how to make gazpacho, torrijas (similar to French toast), and vegetarian paella.

The bottles of Spanish wine kept flowing. We cooked everything ourselves, ate, drank, and were happy. The food was delicious, and the company couldn’t have been better. Not once did we think or talk about coronavirus.

February 28

“I don’t know why people are getting so nervous,” my student told me. He was showing me photos of tourists stuck in a hotel in Tenerife. They were sitting outside in swimsuits, looking like they didn’t have a care in the world. In reality, the entire hotel was under quarantine.

“I have a friend who works in the medical field,” he continued. “He says that it’s just a flu.”

At the time, approximately 33 cases had been confirmed in Spain.

March 4

I finally got my orange hair fixed. I found a salon on Instagram, and to my surprise, was able to book an appointment for the next day. Usually, it took me weeks to book a hair appointment.

Most of us who’ve had hair appointments in Spain have left disappointed. Thankfully, my hairstylist spoke English, and even more thankfully, I was very happy with the results.

Four hours and a couple shades blonder later, my friend and I got tacos and drank Corona beers. The irony. Or not. There’s just something right about Corona beers with lime and tacos.

March 5

I finally joined the gym, one of my New Year’s resolutions. Too bad that today was the only day I would go.

March 6

Line 4, otherwise known as the “Brown Line,” was half open for the first time in two and a half months.

March 9

Cases were increasing daily by the hundreds. Approximately half of them appeared to be in Madrid. My students, friends, and I still weren’t worried. We washed our hands more often, and tried to not touch anything in the metro if we could help it, but we continue to live as if all in the world was normal. What else were we going to do?

The government decided to have students stay home for the next two weeks, starting in two days.

Italy went on lockdown.

That night, the cases in Madrid had doubled. We were now over a thousand.

March 10

The Brown Line was completely open. Gone were the days where I would have to take two metro lines to get to work! I didn’t know how true this would be in less than two weeks’ time.

That being said, the Brown Line wasn’t completely packed like I’d thought it would be. Perhaps people forgot that it was open again.

More and more people started to wear face masks on the metro day by day.

My friends posted pictures of the huge lines at the supermarkets. Carts were full of food. Shelves were emptying. After the announcement that the schools in Madrid were closing for two weeks, the panic started to become more visible.

Someone on my Instagram feed called it “coronageddon.”

March 11

The WHO has stated that the coronavirus is a pandemic.

March 12

I was trying to sleep. I had a class at 8 o’clock in the morning the following day. But all I could hear were young people outside the bar right around the corner.

Apparently, since the college kids were out of school, many of them partied at the bars and discos that Thursday night. I don’t know how true it was, since I was in bed, trying to sleep before am 8am class. But it must have been true, because the next day, we had 2,000 more cases.

My Spanish roommates decided to go back to their hometowns to be with their families until school is up and running again. Rumors had been simmering all week of a lockdown in Madrid.

“How do you lock down a capital city?” I wondered.

I wasn’t scared. There wasn’t much more I could do besides the necessary precautions of washing my hands, and avoiding crowded places. But this was starting to feel more like a movie.

March 14

One of the first things I saw on Facebook was that there was a 30-day travel ban on most of Europe.

At least I had a topic for my lesson with my student. I googled phrasal verbs related to “health” and “pandemics.”

March 15

The Spanish government declared a State of Alarm. The country went on lockdown. We’re only allowed to leave to go to the supermarket, pharmacy, work, or in an emergency.

That afternoon, I stocked up on groceries, bought sanitizing wipes, and headed back to my apartment.

Much to my surprise, the supermarket still had toilet paper.

March 17

It’s day two of the lockdown. It’s inconvenient, but honestly, it could be worse. We have water, electricity, and the Internet. My roommate has lived through hurricanes; I’ve lived through water shortages abroad. If we have to stay inside, we’ll have cabin fever, but we’ll be fine.

My Paris ticket got canceled. I’ll be ringing in my 30th year from my apartment, with my two roommates. But, we’re going to make the best of the situation. We’re getting a cake and sparkling wine, I’m going to post a picture of the Eiffel Tower somewhere in the apartment and play French pop music, eat macaroons of the supermarket sells them, get all dolled up as if I’m going out to party in Paris, and Skype my friends who are quarantined in various parts of the city.

I’ve been on the phone more in these two days than I normally am in two weeks. I’ve been catching up on studying Spanish and my hobbies. I’ve done some at-home workouts. I’ve been hanging out with my roommates. I made arepas for the first time in months. I’m catching up on my blog again.

I just don’t think getting into a state of panic and worry is going to help anyone at this point. All we can do is make the most of the quarantine, and wait for this to pass over, so we can continue on with our normal lives.

I will conclude this blog post with one of my favorite quotes:

“In chaos, there lies opportunity.”


3 thoughts on “This Is What It’s Like to Live in Spain During the Coronavirus Lockdown

  1. Cheryl Benisatto

    Stay safe McKenna. You can go stir crazy with cabin fever, but it is giving me a chance to catch up on cooking, reading, and my lesson plans. Keep is posted with how things are in Spain and with you. We love you.
    Aunt Cherie


  2. Jhonathan Huertas

    Dear McKenna…. it was very interesting to know how this situation has expanded on ….Please be say… Miss you !!!


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