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Tales of the Times

Tales of the Times – Elaine Weinkam


I arrived in Andalucia, Spain on February 18. Life was as normal and wonderful as you can imagine for the next two weeks. Somewhere around the end of February there were discussions about what was going on in the world with the virus. There were some concerns as it was in Italy. But the news never alerted us to it being a crisis for us in Spain. By March 11 my husband joined me in Malaga, Spain. The following day we were told how severe everything was in Madrid from a business man that was just there. He was furious w the government at what he witnessed and heard while there and nothing was being told to the citizens. On Friday citizens at local businesses were talking about the seriousness and expecting an announcement from the President of the Government of Spain on Saturday morning. That never came. So my husband and I had lunch on the beach w many many people around. As we were walking off the beach local workers were taping off all entrances onto the beach. Upon asking, I was told that all beaches have now been closed to the pedestrians. That was a real eye-opener. We had only seen one or two stores that weren’t open in the morning. A restaurant we had reservations at was also closed without warning. Things are shutting down very quickly. We heard unofficially that the government was going to close Spain’s borders on Monday morning at 8 AM. We felt the urgency to get out of Spain ASAP. So we walked to the bus station and bought two bus tickets for Sunday morning: one to Sevilla and luckily the last two seats on one to Lisbon, Portugal. This was quickly becoming real. We were both scared that if we didn’t go we would be stuck in someone else’s Airbnb apartment until God knows when. The government said that it would only be a two week quarantine. And thankfully we didn’t bank on that or we would still be stuck there a month later. So Saturday night all we knew was that we were getting out of Spain Sunday afternoon. We had absolutely no idea how we were going to leave Portugal or Europe as we were unable to get in touch with the airline that had our return reservations in two weeks. Trying to do things online was a nightmare. Credit card attempts were denied or crashed and I could not get through on the telephone. So it wasn’t until Sunday, March 15 at the Sevilla bus station, while waiting for our next bus to Lisbon, that my husband was able to get two seats on a Delta airline from Lisbon to Amsterdam to JFK and finally to Orlando on Monday morning at 5:30 am! We arrived the Lisbon bus terminal at 9:30 pm and got to a hotel for about 4 hours of sleep before getting to the airport by 3:30 am. It was the most surreal experience we’ve ever had. I felt like a refugee. We didn’t even know the situation in the Netherlands, such that when we would arrive there we could potentially be in quarantine. But thankfully there were no new challenges and we were able to board the plane in Amsterdam for the United States. And it wasn’t until “wheels up” that I breathed a sigh of relief that we were finally going home.

One scary moment came as we were boarding the bus in Sevilla for Lisbon. We received seat assignments 49 and 50. HOWEVER the seat numbers on the bus only went to 48! We had to wait until everyone else boarded the bus. Thankfully there were two seats available which we sat in for the next seven hours. Even crossing the border from Spain into Lisbon had its moments. The police stopped the bus and there were discussions for about 5 minutes. We all had our passports and traveling papers ready but thankfully none of us were asked. It was honestly two of the most anxiety filled days I’ve ever had.

~Elaine Weinkam

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