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Quarantined in Spain

The Coronavirus is dominating the news and media outlets and I’m not sure which is more contagious:  the virus or our collective global fear.

The Coronavirus is a global pandemic that started in China then spread quickly to other countries.  The long incubation period means that seemingly healthy people who are out and about will transmit it to others unaware.

We left for a quick trip to Paris on March 7 when the case count in Spain was still low relative to the population.  The countries that were most affected (China and Italy) were already in quarantine so we were cautiously optimistic that contagion would be reasonably contained.  Sadly, we were mistaken.

In the Valencia airport before boarding the plane, my kids pulled up a news update on their phones.  I looked at my family and nervously asked, “Are you sure?  Maybe we should stay at home and go later.”

My husband was on a mission to get us to the security checkpoint and refused to bow to fearful naysayers.  My kids chimed in that they have waited forever to see NF perform live.  We purchased tickets for his concert at Élysée Montmartre in Paris before we left Kansas, so this was a big deal.  The concert wasn’t canceled, so neither was this trip, as far as they were concerned.

I felt uneasy but was outvoted.  “Perhaps it’s just media paranoia kicking in and they are right,” I reasoned. We boarded the plane and were in Paris two hours later.  That was Saturday night.

The weather was chilly, rainy, and gray but we still found things to do on Sunday and Monday.  The kids periodically checked online and the concert was still a go.

At 5:30 on Monday evening, we were two blocks away from the concert venue ordering an early dinner.  Again, the kids checked online and the concert was canceled!  But the doors were scheduled to open at 6:30…could they cancel on such short notice?

My husband walked from the restaurant to Élysée Montmartre while we waited for our food.  He returned a few minutes later and confirmed what our teenage daughters had feared.  All events with over 1,000 attendees were canceled.

We finished dinner then walked over to where a small crowd had formed.  The fans stood quietly, as though in denial or perhaps in mourning.

Gonzalo had already spoken with a couple of guys who had flown in from Denmark earlier that day for the concert.  We also met a family of 3 who lives in Maine.  They had been vacationing in Florida and had flown to Paris for the concert.  After a few minutes of lingering, waiting and hoping, we walked away.  Our daughters were crushed, but they understood.  This was a government decision and was for public health.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus case count and deaths were rising exponentially.  We called the airline and asked to return on Tuesday instead of Thursday afternoon.  Vueling wanted 500 euros to make the change.  For that money, we might as well stay in Paris and enjoy ourselves!  We risked the 48 hours and thankfully, made it back to Valencia on Thursday, March 12, as scheduled.

The next day – Friday the 13th – the quarantine began at midnight.  We made it back just in time!  We can only leave home for doctor’s appointments, to purchase food or medicine or to care for a loved one.  We can take the dogs out but must remain within 50 meters of the door and must return inside immediately.

And they mean business.  For the first couple of days, police cars patrolled while blaring a loud, angry-sounding recording from the windows.  The message was loud and clear…everyone must go home.

We are obviously compliant, both for our own safety and for the greater good!  The first few days were fine, but now we are a week and a half into this and are tired, grouchy and stir crazy.  Yesterday, we learned that the quarantine has been extended another two weeks, which will take us to Easter.

Sadly, the wave has crossed the pond and our home state of Kansas has just announced a 30-day home order, as well.  I have already been on Skype with my 70-something-year-old parents who are at high risk due to age and health history.  They are at home and in quarantine.

I have seen political commentary online about various healthcare models in light of the crisis.  We can all bicker about whether the government should provide universal care or not, but the reality is the same across the board.  No one’s healthcare system has enough ventilators, masks, equipment, or healthcare workers to provide adequate care for a pandemic-gone-wild.

That brings me back to the subject of fear.

If I cough or feel any scratchiness in my throat, I worry.  Am I a carrier and will it pop up 10-14 days post-Paris?  What about my children and my husband?  We are not Spaniards so we have private health insurance, but if we get sick will they take care of us?

I am enrolled in the US Department of State STEP program so the US Embassy knows where we are.  Our most recent email announced that US citizens should return to the States immediately or prepare to remain here for an indefinite period of time.

I feel uneasy to think that I cannot get home if something comes up.  However, I feel safer in my apartment in Valencia than I would trekking through international airports.  Also, in the US, I have no job, no health insurance and our house is rented out until August.  Where would we go? What would we do?  Gonzalo has classes here (which will hopefully be resumed online) and the students in Kansas have all been sent home to finish out the academic year online.

More gloom and more doom.  Fear is contagious, even more so than the virus.

The quarantine will keep us safe from viral contagion but oddly, it seems to propagate more fear and panic.  We are accustomed to being out and about; and apparently, we don’t know what to do with our newfound free time.  Like sheep, we follow the online herd, reading the same cortisol-elevating news reports that predict the death of hundreds of thousands.

I may be physically quarantined in Spain, but my mind is still free.  I can tune out the negativity and fear, and tune in some uplifting music or a comedy on Netflix.  I can meditate, pray, walk up and down the stairs for some exercise, try a new recipe, play with the dogs, or talk with my kids.  I have started writing a book and am catching up on my blog.

The greater question I am pondering is whether I have previously been living in a self-imposed state of quarantine.  Inasmuch as I have allowed self-limiting thoughts to define me, I have.  Now, as a newly minted 50-year-old with extra time on my hands, I am thinking newer, bigger thoughts for my life.  It’s like being young again, but with real skills and life experience.  It’s awesome!

This quarantine will pass, and in a few weeks, most of us will be on with our lives.  May we also be liberated to move forward with greater kindness and compassion, and a sense that we are, in fact, part of a global human family!




  1. Sally Looney on March 24, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    God bless you and your family Kelly. Fear is very real here, too, but this is the only way we can get through this. We will look back on this time of slow paced living and wish for it again because most of us don’t know what to do with alone/down time. We always want more peace and quiet and now we actually have that. So enjoy the down time and treat yourself to some introspective moments to see your future looking very bright. You’re already doing a lot of that now. God will take good care of you.
    Love and miss you all.

    • admin on March 25, 2020 at 6:15 pm

      Hi Sally, So good to hear from you! We are enjoying our time here, although I never imagined that I would spend one month of my 9-month sabbatical in quarantine. We plan to be back in Kansas City by the end of July. I look forward to another lunch date or a happy hour. Blessings to you and stay safe!

      • Kathy Luehrman on April 7, 2020 at 1:53 am

        Thinking of you and your family. Hope to see you when you get back.

        • admin on April 8, 2020 at 3:52 pm

          Thanks, Kathy!

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