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Life Abroad During A Global Pandemic

Upon starting this blog, I was living in the United States of America, had a passport and desire to not just travel, but really experience the world. I wanted to travel to places that were exotic, distant, famous, hidden, and everywhere in between. I wanted to experience new foods, learn how to make them, and share them with people far and wide. I wanted to savor new drinks, relish new wines, bask in the sun on a patio with a new found favorite wine in my hand, having a lovely conversation in a new language with friends. What did I do to accomplish this? I prayed for it to happen, I sold most everything I owned, and I packed up and moved, to Europe, Spain to be exact. Was it easy, no. Was it exciting, and slightly terrifying, absolutely. Did I know what I was in for, I didn't have a clue!

I started preparing for my new adventure in November 2019. I did everything I knew to do to get ready. I applied for a visa, which has MANY hoops to jump through in and of itself, including purchasing health insurance to cover me for a year (anywhere outside my home country), had a medical examine and boosted my vaccines, enrolled in a Spanish immersion school to help me get fluent in the language, got an International driver's license (just in case), made sure I had my will and power of attorney set up and in place in case of emergency, just to name a few. I trusted and prayed that I was making the right decision, and on a leap of faith, bought a ticket and moved, with only a place to stay for the first two weeks lined up.

I arrived in my new "home" country in late February 2020, got over some jet lag, and started to acclimate. I was meeting people, experiencing and exploring the world around me, and ecstatic to be here. I believe the Lord works in mysterious ways, and this adventure has only reinforced that for me. My place that I was staying for two weeks, worked out that I was able to stay for as long as I need. That meant I was able to actually settle in, in a beautiful flat, five minutes walking from my school, in the heart of the city. Like many cities in Europe, I don't need a car where I'm at. I'm able to walk to the markets and stores, there is everything I need or want within walking distance, even the bus and train stations for me to get to other cities. I was in language classes five days a week, planning expeditions for the weekends and experiencing a way of life that was different from what I was used to, and amazing.

Two weeks into my classes, and Covid-19 (aka coronavirus) hit the area I am in, with force. The province I am in, shut down all schools for 2 weeks. Fewer and fewer people started going out. Everyone was watching Italy, a country not too far away, go into a state of total lockdown. My first week out of school, and the president of Spain announced a country wide quarantine for 15 days. Not just schools, but all restaurants, businesses and life as Spaniards knew it were put on hold. The country started being ravaged by a virus that was proving to be difficult to initially spot, incredibly accessible to catch and spread, and lethal to anyone vulnerable. While it has been more elderly that are perishing from this virus, it hasn't discriminated in who it has attacked, and who it has made feel like they have been run over by a train.

Once the country wide quarantine went into effect, it meant people were not allowed outside of their homes, except to go the market, pharmacy or doctor. There are lines, where everyone must be two meters apart to get into the market. Only so many people are allowed in at time. You must wear gloves, they prefer you wear a mask. People are watching history in the making, experiencing it, trying to live through it. As the cases of infection and death toll grow, so too does the quarantine time. What started out as 15 days has increased to 30 days. Streets that in the evenings were bustling with life, are now vacant and still. In country that is incredibly social, as part of their culture, this hasn't just been difficult, but unheard of.

Living here, in one of the hardest hit countries in the world, in total isolation, was not what I expected in my move. I have experienced some pretty amazing things so far though. Every night at 8:00pm, everyone goes out onto their balconies, and claps, in recognition and gratitude for those that are serving others as nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, police, etc. You see the country still finding a way, to smile and unite.

I see others, and myself, spending more time actually talking to people, intentionally reaching out and checking (be it virtually) on others. I've got to have wine dates (via zoom), see things happening in other countries (via video conferencing), and have felt more connected to people throughout all of this than I ever imagined.

Make no mistake, I am still in Spain. I'm enjoying Spanish food, even if I am having to prepare it myself. I am drinking exceptional Spanish wines. I am taking classes online now. This was not the experience I anticipated, but it is an experience completely new nonetheless. Cheers to you, your health and your family. May we all get to survive this, and meet in person again soon!

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