Living Abroad During the Coronavirus Panic: Spain
In case you have somehow avoided the news for the past few months, there is a world-wide health crisis due to the coronavirus. I have been keeping up with the news and was aware of the number of cases in Spain, the crashing global economy, and the panic in the streets. Yet, somehow, I am still left completely shocked by the news that the Community of Madrid has cancelled school for the next 15 days (as of around 8pm last night, March 9th 2020).
A friend of mine in Italy wrote it well, “Tonight, driving all alone across the streets of my town, completely empty, I felt some kind of panic… as if I missed something... as if I were the only one who hasn't understood how serious and dangerous the situation is.” This is exactly how I feel after rolling my eyes at the hysteria and feeling convinced that the media was blowing this up more than we needed to-- perhaps, I was wrong! Perhaps, I shouldn’t continue to travel during this time. Perhaps, I need to take this virus more seriously than the flu after all.
CIEE and the Community of Madrid have been staying in touch with the language assistants via email about the implications of this virus (here is a link to some CIEE updates related to the virus). I am grateful to be part of the CIEE program during this chaos as they have been sending more frequent updates (plus CIEE writes in english!) than the Community of Madrid.
While the decision to close the schools for the next 2 weeks is 100% set in stone, the decision on what to do with the staff is a little less certain. As of today (March 10th), we are expected to continue going to school and assisting the staff as needed. We, myself and the other language assistants at my school, have not been informed about what tasks we will be completing without the students.
There are some rumours that we will be asked to babysit the staff’s children at the school during this break. While many are upset by this possible task, claiming that babysitting is not our responsibility, I am open to it. I do agree that babysitting is not our responsibility; it is certainly not in our contract. However, I strongly believe that the world needs more empathy and compassion right now. There is an air of “every man for himself” floating around and I worry what damage that will cause in the long run to society.
If the staff at our school ask us to provide childcare during this time it is not because it is easy or convenient. They would only be asking because they need help and we ought to support them during this time of disorder and unknowns. Plus, if we are required to go to the schools without the students anyway, I’d much rather do something useful than some busywork.
Nonetheless, none of us know what we will be asked to do and none of us (not even the staff at our schools) know how long this will last or how things will change day to day. Only time will tell.
The future is full of unknowns and it is a little terrifying but the least we can do is try to support the people around us during this time.
p.s. I am still so happy to be living out this adventure abroad! There is no perfect time to live far from home and there is always a chance for a disaster of some kind. If you are interested in going abroad, don't let fear get in the way of having an amazing adventure!