THE CORONA CRISIS: MY TRANSOCEANIC ODYSSEY

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I wasn’t sure whether to go home or endure Spain’s 15-day lockdown. I knew I would enjoy the time for solitude that the lockdown would provide. I would have plenty of time to read, write and meditate upon what I want to do with my life. But my parents preferred me to come home.

 

By Chris Brady

Loathingly, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ is the theme song of my life. It was the few days before lockdown began in Spain that Monday in mid March. Universities had already sent kids back home from my internship abroad program. Since I wasn’t with my school, I had the choice to stay in Madrid but I wasn’t sure whether to go home or endure Spain’s 15-day lockdown. I knew I would enjoy the time for solitude that the lockdown would provide. I would have plenty of time to read, write and meditate upon what I want to do with my life as a 23-year-old recent college grad. Forget practical matters. But my parents preferred me to come home.

To stay or not to stay in Madrid.

Like an adolescent, I wanted to do the opposite of what they wished. A part of me wanted to prove my independence by staying in Madrid, but in reality– I could’ve gone either way. Indecision was setting in. I had to make my mind up before any more travel restrictions would be placed, and I didn’t want procrastination to make my decision for me.

I explored both sides of should I stay or should I go. I asked aunts, friends, siblings, and my three remaining roommates for their recommendations. I secretly wanted someone to make the decision for me, which I hate.

I ultimately knew that going back home would be more comfortable, but wouldn’t the less comfortable option be better for developing growth and independence?

My one aunt said that it’s immature to do the opposite of what my parents wanted, even though reacting out of spite makes choosing much easier. She advised me against deciding from a place of lack. What did I have to prove by staying in Madrid anyway?

“Odysseus and the Sirens”. See the legendary Greek King of Ithaca tied to the mast of his ship.

Predicting the lockdown would extend beyond the initial 15 days, I decided to go home but only after hearing one last opinion. I called my brother, Michael. Leaving out the French, he said “Just make your mind up already.” Like when Odysseus tied himself to the mast of his ship to escape the lure of the sirens, thus I committed to escape the lure of Spain to return to Pennsylvania, the gods permitting.

Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, storms and earthquakes. He uses the elements to wreak vengeance.

That Sunday on March 15th , I packed my things. I had a booked flight home from Madrid for Tuesday, which would be canceled on Monday. All direct flights from Spain to the States were shut down. I would have to travel to Lisbon in order to get home. Poseidon was messing with my travel plans.

My last taste of Spain.

I got on the soonest flight that same Monday at 6:50pm. A can of cocido (winter stew) was my last taste of Spain before I took off from Madrid’s airport. As I waited to board my plane, I noticed how all the food stores and shops were closed.

Once on the plane, my brother John messaged me that all flights between Spain and Portugal were to shut down starting at 7pm that night. It was after 7 and I was beginning to worry.

Fortunately, they still flew us to Lisbon. Phew! It would be one shaky ride without any snacks or drinks.

Portugal had not been locked down. Their airport’s cafes and stores were open, although some people wore masks and gloves. Despite some security standing outside of the entrance gates, I had no issues making it to my hotel.

Lisbon Airport

I eagerly arrived at Lisbon’s airport the next morning at 4:30am for my 10am flight. The bag check-in for United Airlines wasn’t even open yet. On March 17th , there was a full flight of Americans heading to Newark, New Jersey.

We haven’t even left Lisbon and I already felt at home upon hearing the sound of American English speakers. Other than one woman coughing nearly the whole eight-hour flight, the ride home was smooth.

We had to fill out a mandatory health form asking whether we had symptoms of the coronavirus as well as whether we had recently traveled to either China, Iran or any European country in the Schengen Area. Once landing in Newark, CDC clearing accepted my form after collecting my temperature (which was a 97.2 F = 36.2 C). CDC and security agents clad with masks and gloves ushered us through the lines before we reached Customs with little wait.

Temperature check per CDC guidelines to prevent COVID-19 spread.

I soon met my dad in the parking lot. We didn’t hug because of  social             distancing. Under strict command from my mom, I changed into fresh clothes delivered from home (except for underwear and socks), wiped down my luggage with sanitary wipes, and wore gloves and a mask.

Although it was best to play it safe by following my mom’s health procedures, for a moment I began to regret coming home.

Both my dad and I wore masks on our drive home. It was strange. I had just traveled through three different worlds in a couple days and together each felt the impact of this single Coronavirus crisis.

On our way to Philadelphia’s suburbs, my dad informed me that I would be staying in a hotel room for the next two weeks. While it was unnecessary, he figured that we would play it safe. My dad told the hotel people that I was coming home from college and omitted that I had recently been in Spain. He figured I posed little to no threat considering I was feeling healthy, exhibited no symptoms, scored a 97.2 temperature, and plus that I would be keeping to myself.

“After I told the hotel manager that I’d just been to Spain, she strongly suggested that I check out.”

We would soon learn, however, an important lesson in transparency.

One day, I had a conversation with the manager in passing. I made it a point to mention to her that I had just been in Spain which was unnecessary. At the time, she didn’t make a big deal out of it. The next morning, however, in the lobby, when I was about to eat yogurt, the hotel manager came to me. She strongly suggested that I check out that very day. I agreed and returned to my room to pack my things, yet again. It had been only two nights at the hotel.

Telling the truth can be a hassle. No wonder people lie!

After taking my time to shower and pack my things, I went back to the front desk to speak with the manager to remind her of my good health. Maybe she would let me stay once she learned my temperature was 97.2. She said she preferred to call me on my room’s telephone because of social             distancing.

The hotel manager told me many of her employees became worried when they heard someone in the hotel was recently in Spain. She said they would have to deep clean my room.

Once the manager called, I heard her case. She told me that they would have to deep clean my room with expensive equipment once I left. She said that many of her employees became worried once they heard someone was in the hotel after recently being in Spain. She was understanding with me. I felt bad and decided it was best to check out for everyone’s sake.

So my dad picked me up, once again, and he took me where we should’ve gone in the first place: home.

Casey: she teethes incesssantly but she’s so cute!

Overall, I’m glad I chose to come home. It’s more comfortable here. I can eat more and take walks as long as I practice social          distancing. My dad works from home in his living room office, while my mom keeps the house standing. Casey, our family’s three-month old golden retriever, provides us both playful company as well as a major pain in our hind parts. She likes to incessantly teethe. If only she wasn’t so cute.

I finished my two-week self-quarantine on Tuesday March 31st and my prediction was correct. Spain’s initial 15-day lockdown has extended to April 11th . With the American federal government’s guidelines for  social            distancing set to be in effect until April 30th , I don’t know when I’ll next return to Madrid.


Dear Spain, muchas gracias for the short time we had together. We’ll see each other soon, once the gods permit.

 

 

 

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Images
Featured image/Chris Brady
Quote mark/Bad JPG: w:Image:Quotation marks.JPG (Source), PD
Madrid, Nicolas Vigier, PD
“Odysseus and the Sirens,” mosaic, 2nd century AD, Bardo National Museum, Tunisia, PD
Poseidon/Jastrow, CC BY2.5
Cocido Madrileño in Amazon.es, Fair use
Lisbon Airport/Panoramas, CC BY-ND2.0
Temperature check/The National Guard, Lisa Crawford, CC BY2.0
Suitcase clipart/Mark Morgan, CC BY2.0
Disinfecting/Metropolitan Transportation Authority, CC BY2.0
Casey/Chris Brady
Flamenco/Michael Perez, CC BY-ND2.0