(Written on March 12th, updated March 14th)
It has been a dramatic week. I will follow this blog post soon with a post about my three most recent trips (Madrid, Nerja, Morocco), but right now all I can write about is coronavirus content.
On Monday the 9th, I got home from an amazing trip to Morocco. We spent 5 impactful days there, but by Monday evening the cultural differences between Spain and Morocco coupled with the exhaustion of travel made me quite eager to return home. Even more, my boyfriend had arrived in Granada earlier that day, and I was super excited to spend the week showing him around my new city. We had about 24 happy hours together before all of the craziness hit.
Most of my friends were in the group that went to Morocco a day later than I had, so they were returning home on Tuesday. While they were about a half-hour away, I got a text from my roommate Georgia saying “Michigan is getting pulled.” I knew exactly what she meant, as this was the announcement we had been dreading for weeks: the University of Michigan, the school with the plurality of students in IES Abroad Granada (30ish out of 140ish), mandated that their students come home within the week because of Coronavirus. This sucks in general, but it extra sucks because one of my favorite people in the program, Liv, is a Michigan student.
Suddenly, the week’s outlook changed dramatically. What I expected to be a few days to show my boyfriend my normal, daily life in Granada became a bucket-list-crossing, out-of-body frenzy. I was in a daze for a couple of days, scared to process the sadness and fear that I felt. My friends and I got our ears pierced - it’s cheap here and we had talked about doing it at some point before we left. The week was concentrated with all of our “at some points” whose deadlines had come too soon. I felt so strange thinking about myself six months from now, still taking care of the new hole in my tragus that I got because I didn’t feel like I really lived in my body. I feel a little bit more grounded now, but I know my emotions still haven’t quite caught up with my reality.
Each day brought new Coronavirus news and fresh emails from schools requesting that their students return as soon as possible. Left and right, friends and classmates declared that they were leaving. Trump’s sudden restriction on travelers from Europe confused my poor friend Mary who was awake during the chaos. Some, at 3am, thought they would be unable to return unless they arrived before Friday, so they booked tickets and left. When we learned that US citizens would still be able to enter the country, others were able to cancel or reschedule for another day next week. On Thursday, we got the official notice that there are COVID-19 cases in Granada, and an important pillar of my security crumbled. On Friday, Spain’s Prime Minister declared a state of alarm and asked that everyone practice social distancing. On Saturday, he announced that starting Monday, Spain will begin a 15-day national lockdown.
All the while, classes were still in session! This was the weirdest part. Outside of class, life was filled with melancholy gatherings in which we reminisced on our past two months and made plans to see each other at home. But in the classroom, things seemed so normal. It was impossible to focus, and the transition between the world of school and the world of everything-but-school was disorienting.
So where are we now? Two days ago, we said a soggy goodbye to Liv. Yesterday morning, IES Abroad Granada had a meeting with the students opting to stay in the Granada. If I remember correctly, we started with 142 students. Now there are roughly 30 committed to staying as long as they can. At the meeting, we talked about our duty to socially distance ourselves and the reality of isolation for the coming few weeks. We also learned that all classes will be online for the foreseeable future. Yesterday evening, I said goodbye to two more friends. They aren’t leaving for a few days, but they want to stay inside as much as possible so they can protect their host parents. Today I hugged two friends for a long time before they too left for the airport.
As for me, I’m still not completely sure. Many factors are running through my mind. On one hand, I miss my family and my dog. I would have my siblings with me at home, so while I would need to self-quarantine upon arrival, I wouldn’t be so lonely in isolation. Almost everything except pharmacies and grocery stores are closed for two weeks, and I didn’t get a chance to buy the craft supplies that I expected to hunker down with. And I don’t want to endanger my elderly host parents here in Granada. On the other hand, I committed to staying here until May 16th, and I want to complete my semester as I expected. I came here to experience Spanish culture, and if that means experiencing what Spain is like in a global pandemic then so be it. I still want to improve my Spanish-speaking skills, and I will have plenty of time to talk with my host family. I am hoping that by the end of the program, life in Granada will return to a more recognizable existence. And the danger of disease is present everywhere; leaving for California will not make me safer even if it makes me more comfortable. I don’t know what to do.
Like many of you, I expect to be quite lonely in the upcoming weeks. If you know me, please call to chat.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to the implications of the lockdown, I am going home. The thought of not going outside for at least 15 days was weighing on me. While I look forward to seeing my family, I am really upset that I can't stay here.
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<p>My name is Grace Sells and I'm a junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying Global Studies and Art. I'm originally from San Jose, California, but now I'm studying in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. In my free time I enjoy making art and spending time with friends and family. Fun fact: I never go to restaurants without asking my friends for a bite of their food.</p>