By Marina Mestres Segarra
As I exited the customs area, uncharacteristically crowded with policemen and guard dogs, I was met with a shocking sight. An empty lobby. Just my mum, amidst nothingness, waving at me. The drive was much of the same; we were stopped once by the police, who asked for certificates explaining why two people were in the same car. Speaking to my mum about Durham through a facemask, trying to get used to empty roads in Barcelona, it was hard to believe this dystopian world was going to become my reality for the next 10 weeks.
Back in March, when the UK didn’t know what a lockdown was, I landed in a completely quarantined and paranoid Spain; we weren’t even allowed out for walks or runs.
Once a day, 1 person in the family could go out shopping for groceries, which most times involved queuing outside supermarkets, or walk the dog; my dog has become very fit from the number of walks she has had! After living for 6 years on my own – spending a maximum of three weeks home every three months – being in total confinement for 10 weeks with my mum – who like me was used to living alone – was no piece of cake.
Elbow-deep in my dissertation research, over-baking (if that’s a word), and arguing about every minor inconvenience, quarantine will be remembered as both a time when my mum and I have spent quality time together, and a time when we have heard things from each other that were better left unsaid. A 70 metre-squared, 2-bedroom apartment, with a small patio, in a slightly dodgy neighbourhood on the outskirts of Barcelona: the perfect setting for a Spanish melodrama.
Had we known the quarantine was going to last for 10 weeks, plus then gradual ‘return to normality’ phases (4 more weeks), instead of the initial two, we would’ve gone to live with my grandma, who spent most of the quarantine alone. After 8 weeks, we were allowed out for walks or runs during a specific time determined by our age or ‘risk group’.
When this happened, I’d sneak out for walks with my grandma, in spite of the rules. If caught, we could’ve argued that she needed assistance. Don’t worry, I knew I didn’t have the virus. After my dad, who irresponsibly kept knocking at our door every couple days, showed COVID-19 antibodies in his test (to no-one’s surprise), my mum and I didn’t leave the house for two weeks, in fear that those 5 seconds of hand contact might kill my grandmother in the long-run.
Fast forward 10 weeks, 6 walks to the market, 2 failed attempts to become fit at home, 10 bars of chocolate, 5 Netflix k-dramas and 4 visits to the same park (which I hadn’t been to in 10 years) to take photos of dogs, I’m sitting here writing this article.
We are now in phase 2 of de-escalation. I can see my friends in Barcelona and go for meals with them. We often get told off by old people who see us sitting around tables for not wearing a mask (because we are eating…), and the subway never felt this surreal. Everything we’d always taken for granted: hugs, a beer in a terrace, a stroll by the beach, feels like a gift. For the first time in 6 years, I know I truly appreciate the beauty of the city I live in.
Do I have a date to collect my belongings from Durham? No. Can I? No, due to Boris’ fudging travel quarantine. Do I wish graduation had happened? Absolutely. But you know what? Now that I’m 3 pounds heavier, many books wiser and one degree more qualified, I can honestly say I’m grateful that the quarantine has at least given me the chance to reconnect with old friends from home, and spend a Spanish summer, like the ones I enjoyed as a kid. Bring on the sangria!
Images: Marina Mestres Segarra