The Covid-19 news about Spain shows a brutal situation. Spain has the second-most deaths of any nation (after poor Italy). The death rate has hovered around 800 people each of the past few days. In response, Spain’s Prime Minister has extended the national State of Alarm to April 11, issued stricter travel restrictions, and increased patrols for violators. The worst-hit areas, are, of course, the big metropolitan areas like Madrid and Barcelona.
We are so thankful that we chose to be ensconced in this sleepy little off-season resort town along the coast of Spain rather than a big city.
Whenever I go outside now, I have this low level of stress about checkpoints and roaming authorities. In case I get stopped I have my US Global Entry card with me (easier than carrying my passport), and on my phone I keep info about our Air BnB address and the host’s contact info. Although I appreciate government efforts to enforce social distancing, it’s unnerving to feel like I need to be prepared to be stopped by authorities and questioned about what I’m doing, even if all I’m doing is walking the dog. This is something Americans, particularly white Americans, have never had to think about. It’s also an interesting insight into the daily stress that so many people around the world, particularly in the Middle East, have to deal with because of political issues.
Catalan Spoken Here
One interesting challenge about our apartment locale is that we’re in the Catalonia region of Spain, which runs along the border with France and down the eastern coast well past Barcelona. Catalan is the co-official language, along with Castilian (Spanish). Many people speak Catalan as their first language. A Romance language, it has the same kind of similarities to Spanish as Italian does. I can understand about 50% of it when I see it written, and much less when it’s spoken.
I took the left picture (below) while walking the trail that runs along the coast (and right by our apartment). It’s a great example of how Spanish and Catalan are similar but different. (Click on the left image to see the sign in its entirety.) If this pandemic leads to the fall of humanity as we know it, this sign could be a potential future Rosetta Stone!
Further Shopping Adventures
At the grocery store they’ve installed tall clear plastic barriers between shoppers and the checkers. The barriers start on the belt where you places your goods to be scanned and goes all the way to where you bag your own groceries. Also, they now want us to put on gloves before touching produce or items on shelves. Except the grocery store’s not gonna spring for gloves for everyone, so they’ve set up a stand at the front of the store for us to put on produce bags as gloves. (They do have bajillions of these bags.) It works great. Just remember: these bags are not toys!
So far, we’ve not seen much in terms of hoarding. Things were a little empty right at the beginning of the lock-down but things have reached an equilibrium. Besides, everyone has a European kitchen. They don’t have room to hoard. We’ve never seen a lack of toilet paper. Is it a cultural thing or does the popularity of bidets reduce the need for toilet paper? I have seen rumblings that European farmers may have an issue as crops come into season if itinerant farm workers aren’t allowed to travel.
I found Peanut Butter!! This makes me happy. (We need to get something other than fig jam, though. PB and fig is just not right.) PB is not a commonly eaten thing in Europe. Nutella? Europeans eat that shit by the gallon. Peanut Butter? No! The PB I found is one I’ve never heard of: Capitán Maní. Given the label, I assumed it was started by a Latin American baseball player who played for the Yankees. I visited their website to figure out the story. Capitán Maní seems to be totally made up (kinda like Cap’n Crunch.) Just a weird representation of what an American is. Their site does proudly point out “Capitán Maní is a delicious artisanal peanut butter, made in the purest American style.” Whatever that means. Oh, and one minor annoyance: the label spells the name as “Capitán Mani” with a star dotting each “i”, but the website spells it “Capitán Maní”, which results in a different pronunciation. Poor graphic design, I’d say.