Phase 1 -1 = 09 May, 2020
San Vicente Del Raspeig, Saturday 9 May 2020
The night watch is on the road again. Already from 3 o’clock last night I’m turning on and on again in bed, and I can’t get back to sleep. And, as my loyal followers know, this is my most creative moment to write. Well, creative might be a little pompous. Let’s face it, I’m just brooding there and I can’t and I can’t figure it out. Actually, it’s purely therapeutic; by letting go of my thoughts on paper, I’m able to let them go.
Thursday we were told that we -this is Alicante province- were in phase 1 of the exit plan. This was what seemed logical in the end and what everyone here was convinced of as well. And this only meant good news. A much greater freedom is then allowed, and what is more, the hotels and holiday accomodations may open again. Because with that whole corona situation you can never estimate how all decisions will fall, and what they will contain, this meant the long-awaited starting shot to get Lavinia back on track. Although under enormous precautions and with heavy restrictions. For example, only people from your own province would be welcome, you would only be allowed to occupy 30% of your total capacity, and all common areas would have to be closed. As always, this is a race against the clock, because you can only take action at the very last moment due to the lack of clarity of regulations around this and the late decisions of the higher levels.
I can assure you that this has been quite a thinking exercise for us over the past few weeks. For some reason we are not yet known on the Spanish market, and so far our guests have all come from abroad. So we were, and are, very busy translating the website into Spanish. Luckily we have a lot of help from Eli, a Spanish friend, who corrects all the texts. Afterwards, all texts also need to be neatly placed on the website. This is a feat as well, at least for me. Website texts are not just simple Word documents. You really have to work in a concentrated way to make sure everything is in the right place, titles, buttons to click on are also translated, the links behind them do end up in the Spanish part, etc… It seems like a never ending story.
never ending story in the eighties
And on top of that, the business plan was completely revised, because a different audience means looking for other promotion channels. And in turn, translating your promotion, responding to the needs of the Spanish traveller, and so much more. But this is fun, this is an opportunity, this is a challenge we like to take on.
A challenge of a completely different calibre, is that of corona and all measures. Especially because they are so general and confusing. Common areas must remain closed in the accommodations. Good, but what does this mean with regard to the swimming pools, the jacuzzi… So you have to try to poke around at various an authorities. Your accountant in Spain is actually your company’s legal counsel. And that’s where we get our official information, which he gets through the State Gazette. Problem is, that of course it takes days before it appears in the Official Gazette and he makes an overview of it by sector. If the news doesn’t get out until Thursday, and you have to wait for it, while you should open on Monday (read: ‘wanting to open at all costs’). So all you have to do is look for official information yourself. Officially, in itself, means: ambiguity and ‘being steered from the closet to the wall’. But, what choice do you have? The Belgian embassy doesn’t know enough about it, and forwards you to the local government. At the local authority it’s gambling that you choose the right service, department of health, tourism, you name it. When I finally ended up at the right department -health – it turned out that they didn’t really know what it was all about either. I tried to explain our situation in my best Spanish – which by the way is a lot better than when we just came to live here. It looked like the tower of Babel. We didn’t seem to understand each other. So, time to call in a helpline: Eli again. After her feedback to me, it turned out I understood it all after all. It is unclear, there are no specific guidelines, and everything is a piece of interpretation to my liking.
Because we really don’t want to put our guests and their health at risk, and by extension the whole world health, we have chosen in our new plan for optimal separation of the guesthouses. We feel it is our responsibility to adhere strictly to the covid measures. For example, we will only rent the two furthest apart villas, and each villa will have its own private swimming pool and piece of garden, as well as allocated sun beds and chairs. In this way we can keep everything under control, and decontaminate sufficiently after each use. In this way we contribute optimally to keeping the filthy virus under control. The cleaning service was classified in our diary, as well as the gardeners, and we could start to make the park guest-proof. I was really looking forward to finally being able to receive guests again. Also the freedoms outside our domain would be expanded enormously in phase 1. Actually bizarre a lot, all of a sudden, if you compare this with where we come from. For example, in phase 1 you are suddenly allowed to meet with 10 people, although taking the social distancing into account. Terraces can also be used for half, restaurants with terraces can open again, shops less than 400 m², museums, etc… All with restrictions, but what a relief. Promptly I decided to go out for dinner again very soon. How long has it been ! Seeing and hearing other people around me again. To be able to experience the hustle and bustle of the Spaniards again, to feel a bit ‘normal’ again. I was looking forward to that!
But this was all without taking into account politics and economics…
Yesterday afternoon, just one day after the decision to enter Phase 1, the Minister of Health withdrew that decision, at least for us and for many more regions in Spain, which were also in Phase 1. To put it in Monopoly terms, ‘go back to prison’, and start from scratch, as if nothing had happened.
And all this under pressure from regions such as Catalonia and Madrid, which on Thursday were not ‘promoted’ because they still had many infections. The game of ‘it’s not fair’ has begun. They couldn’t cope with the fact that almost the whole of Spain could go back to work and get the economy going, and they couldn’t. So everything was revised, and instead of counting with provincial borders, they suddenly counted with health departments and borders. Totally uncontrollable of course. As a result, we are looking at the hospitals and their patients, and we belong to Alicante, where there is a large university hospital that took care of all the corona patients from the whole region. Conclusion : the whole region of Alicante is suddenly considered to be a major source of infection, while the number of people infected from Alicante province itself was ridiculously low. And so we are punished. We are on our mountain and nature reserve behind us of 500.000 m², where no one ever comes. We live in the Campo, only people who live here come here. It couldn’t be safer… Of course it’s not about us being safe here, it’s about the whole province of Alicante, where there were hardly any sick people. Yet compared to the big cities like Madrid and Barcelona. It was a dagger stab right into my heart. I don’t understand this. How is it possible that a decision is suddenly reversed 180° after one day? Who made the previous decision of -180°? Same people, right? How sure are they of their decisions, if they let themselves be pressured by certain parts of the country? Is that decisiveness? What use is it to saddle our, and the other regions, with infernal restrictions for another 14 days, while there are no, or hardly any more deaths in these regions? I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to try to obtain a controlled group immunity. Wouldn’t the psychological, mental and, by extension, physical consequences have been much greater if this situation had been spread over a period of perhaps a year? This is not good. I constantly hear stories of people who are completely exhausted by isolation and social deprivation. How much longer can this be sustained on a global scale? Not to mention the economic damage, and the associated dramas and misery. In Spain alone, in April 300.000 people have been made redundant by the effects of corona. In a country where it is already difficult to find work. That’s 300.000 families (I write this figure in full, deliberately, to illustrate the enormous number) who are currently living in fear of the future, who don’t know how to make ends meet. Uncertainty gnaws at you. Uncertainty frightens and causes enormous stress. That is also what I feel right now. The idea of having to screw back from what we didn’t even get to taste, the regained freedom, is very hard to bear. I admit it. And we’re with the lucky ones, we have a private park, and enough to hold on to. But many are sitting in a small apartment, without a garden, just looking at each other and getting bored. This also has a name, you know, boring out. I hear the story of boredom popping up in a lot of people, and it’s driving them crazy.
I don’t know what to do with this. Even if it’s only a 14-day postponement, in my head I don’t hear ‘it’s only 14 days’, but only ‘back in your room’. Back to square one. I’m afraid that decisions like this are going to create resistance in people. That people are not going to take this and shoot it in the defense. In the defense their own way probably. That they’re going to think: “forage, then we’ll get sick”. Suddenly the disease itself doesn’t seem as bad as the isolation. I’m afraid that people want to break out, and instead of walking in a disciplined line, they start to panic and there’s no control anymore. People have had the idea on Thursday, that everything will be all right, finally. Spaniards see that all neighbouring countries are easing the measures, and in Spain for the time being suddenly only for some parts of it. As if you put the lion’s cage ajar with a chunk of fresh meat in front of it, let him smell it and quickly close the cage again. That’s what they’re doing to us now. And it’s not a good feeling. Especially since there is no meaningful explanation behind yesterday’s decision. It’s not because there’s suddenly another spike or a worsening of the epidemic, no, just because of the most childish game of ‘he does and I don’t’.
Yesterday I also received reports from Belgium of very confusing measures. The new visitor measures seem to be a joke there too. So I’m well aware that this is the case everywhere.
Tomorrow is mother’s day in Belgium. Luckily my mother is still covid-negative and healthy in the nursinghouse. (where already 35 people have died since mid-March!). Thanks to the clarity about whether or not the residents are infected, they have finally been able to make separate wards with positive and negative resulted persons. The residents finally have more freedom, and they can dine together again, and walk around the whole department. The happiness for my mom is that her BFF (her best friend) also tested negative, became her neighbour. So they can go out in the ward together all day again, and watch TV faithfully next to each other again. Suddenly new forms of visitation have arisen. ‘Window visit’, what a strange word this is. Involuntary and totally disrespectful I have to think of visiting the zoo, I can’t help it, the image just comes to my mind. People can see their family from behind the window. Sometimes the window can even be left ajar, so they can have a chat. Or, people can be placed in the entrance hall at the glass door, and they can talk to each other on the phone. Again a disrespectful image comes before my retina – a prison visit as you often see on TV. But at the end of the day it does. It remains a prison situation. Fortunately, the worries and contact are much more humane and warmer. A golden cage, like my grandmother used to say about the nursery where she was staying at the time.
Yesterday I called my eldest brother who said “you’re not locked up, you have a damn private park”. And yes, I do, and I’m very grateful for that. But, it’s all in the mind. Until yesterday I never really felt locked up, but the news Wim told me in the evening, pushed an alarm button on me. Suddenly I feel very locked up. Suddenly the feeling of social deprivation comes up very strongly, a feeling that all this time was probably deep inside and neatly wrapped up in the beautiful packaging of our paradise here. With the packaging of a beautiful garden, two swimming pools, a jacuzzi and a sauna, an incredible amount of flowers and plants, space, beautiful views, outdoor life, sun …
But without people around us. And let that just be why we came here. Not to be in this beautiful package with the two of us. But to share this beautiful gift with as many people as possible, with warm guests, with friends. This gift is not a gift to put in the display case. This is a ‘Bongo experience voucher’. This is just like Tomorrowland. That’s not where you’d go if you were alone, is it? No matter how beautiful the decors would be, no matter how beautiful the music would be. You go there to experience this together with other people around you. And this is just the same here. I feel like it is. It’s not complete when there are no guests here, enjoying the sun, the cool water, the beautiful flowers, eating and drinking together with other guests, talking to us, freedom and ‘nothing can do everything’. Don’t get me wrong : I enjoy every moment here, all the richness of Lavinia. But it doesn’t feel complete. The soul is not there right now. The soul of human warmth and friendship. And I miss that very much. We’ve been looking forward to that for weeks. Our patience, and that of so many others, is once again being tested. But we also survive this. We are war veterans, Wim and I. We have swam through many murky waters in our lives. This is just another one. And we know you can purify cloudy water, if you want to. We continue to look optimistically and positively to the future. But last night I could do this a little less. Still, when I started writing this. Now, an hour and a half later, I again feel a little freed from the chains of my dark thoughts of the past sleepless night. And what remains now, after 2620 words, is a feeling of ‘everything will be all right’…