Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Corona Virus in France - Starting week 2 - Total Confinement, venture to grocery store & Importance of routine

As I start writing this morning, it's still shocking to me how much of the world is currently living confinement like we are in France - and everyday it is increasing.  All due to Covid-19 or the Corona Virus.

We are now starting our second week in confinement - Day 7.  Second week of home-schooling - second week of only leaving the house out of necessity.  As I shared last week, we can only leave our homes for food shopping & pharmacy, work (if unable to tele-commute), medical appointments, a small bit of exercise close to the house (by foot) and families who share custody can exchange the kids.  That's it.  Yes, and each time we leave we must have our ID and an official signed sheet stating what your are doing. You could meet up with a police officer who has been assigned to patrol the area.

So yesterday for the first time in a week we ventured out to the grocery store.  We filled out our sheets and off we went.  We were actually not only shopping for us, but also for a friend, who has health issues and is advised to not leave the house.  We decided to try the large grocery store as it should have everything we would be looking for and due to size would allow more people inside.  Social Distancing is the new way of life.

This particular store is located inside a mall (the rest of the mall is closed, only the grocery store remains open).  As we drove up, we noticed there was a long line formed outside the first entrance.  People all politely standing behind their carts keeping their proper distance from each other.  I counted about 20 or so in the line outside.

We parked our car and noticed that the second entrance was open too.  There was also a line but not as long, so we chose to join that line. It moved slowly at first but then quickly.  There was tape markings on the floor indicating how far to stand apart.  If you look at the photo below, you see silver horizontal strips to the right of the people, each.

As we arrived closer to the entrance we saw a sign that read - only one person per household could enter the store.  Okay - I understand the logic (make sure everyone has an opportunity to shop) but 1 person?  really?  I could see why they wouldn't want families, parents with kids etc. but really?

Luckily as we have the right to shop for someone who can't leave the house, we split up a bit and if asked were going to explain that one of us is shopping for our household & one for our friend.  No one asked as we were allowed to enter the store in an orderly fashion.  Of course, one woman a few people behind us noticed that we split apart in line and of course, once we were both inside, told me that we were cheating that it was one person from each household.  Typically, French!!! Those that follow the rules, follow them exactly! I could have tried to explain to her that we were actually shopping for 2 households but I chose to ignore her comment and moved on my way.  

Once in side, everyone was going about their shopping.  Some had masks, some had gloves.  (The general recommendation in France is that unless your sick, leave the masks for health care professionals).  There is currently a shortage in France of masks & factories are doing 24 hour continuous production to get more out to health care professionals.  But there were people wearing masks, even scarves and I even saw one woman wearing a large heavy duty mask used for sanding. (Sorry no photo but it was a sight!)

Overall everyone kept their space from one another.  Weighing stations at the fruit/vegetable section also had marked out squares of security indicating where to wait.  A very surreal and odd experience.  Everyone extra vigilant and extra aware.

We finished our shopping and headed home. The roads are eerily quiet, only a few cars. We didn't meet any controls on the road nor at the entrance of the store.  We did see Police walking inside the store verifying that everyone was following the rules of social distancing.  We do live in the suburbs of Bordeaux so it's pretty civilized here.  We are hearing though that in certain parts of France, and even here in Bordeaux - there are people who are really pushing the rules.  They have increased fines and even giving jail time for repeat offenders.

What surprised me the most about our non-eventful run to the store was actually how stressed I was but didn't actually know it.  I am a calm person - I take everything in stride and I try not to get overwhelmed by life in general.  I'm positive and optimistic.  Deep inside, using China as a good example, I know it will be a matter of weeks or perhaps a couple of months that we have to endure this virus - this pandemic.  But I do believe that we will get through it by following what we have learned worked from the Chinese.  So we stay home, we stay confined and we keep our distance from others for a time to stop this virus from spreading. 

All of that swirls in my head, and all the news that keeps coming at us.  Unfortunately we are still in that time where we are waiting for the peak, waiting for the confinement to take it's effect, waiting for less cases, less deaths etc. So all of that produces underlying stress - underlying worry - it pushes wears on our system.

So yesterday afternoon, after our outing and after lunch - I took a nap - I was tired.  Not achy tired, just tired.  I think all the stress of it all caught up with me and even though I sleep pretty well at night - this whole experience is tiring.  So instead of fighting it, I let myself enjoy a nap. A good nap!

I felt much better afterwards.  The other thing that I noticed this week without the girls - is that there is no routine.  I don't have to get up at 7:30/8:00 to make sure my youngest gets started on her work.  The routine is up to me.  Routine is important - even if it's a fluid routine. 

So without the kids it's  Get up, get dressed, breakfast - work, write, our 1 hour of exercise, lunch, afternoon project/cleaning/arranging the house, dinner & evening TV.  Yes, at any point a movie could be added in to pass the time.  Flexible but a routine in any case.

As France talks about stricter rules of confinement, closes open-air markets, talk of hopes in research trials of the drug Cloroquine to combat the virus - we wait, we stay home and we stay safe.

We dream of the return to normal times, to our life - it will come - we just have to wait a bit.  This is definitely a test of our patience.  

In the mean time, here are a few photos of Arcachon- our lovely seaside town on the bay of Arcachon - one hours west of Bordeaux, for your travel dreams.  This photos were taken just a month ago!

The open air market in the center of Arcachon - always selling lots of interesting items.
On a nice day, it's great to eat by the water

The walk along the keyside


Stay safe, dream of better times, we will endure this.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Day 5 - Corona Virus in France - end of the first week of home schooling & understanding the virus statistics

It's now Friday afternoon - The girls have left to spend a week at their fathers.  We survived the first week of homeschooling - Distance learning.
Days revolve around meals and school work - at least it's we can eat outside
Yesterday we continued our schedule of 9-12 and 2-5 pm of homeschooling.  I have to say it's nice to have older kids.  I do consider myself lucky that they are the age, they are.  I thought several times yesterday if this crisis had happened 10 years ago...when they would have been 2,6 and 9. So yes, I think of my friends, colleagues and readers who are at home with 3 young children.  I remember vacations when the 3 girls were that age and how a week felt long but I knew it there was an end.  So my thoughts are with those of you who have young children - it's not easy and I know it's tiring.  It always helped psychologically to know the end.

That's the problem here - we don't know how long this will last.  The government said 15 days of strict confinement but it's looking more and more like it will be extended to really try to keep this virus from spreading.  So we wait.

As I said in an earlier post, my challenge is my youngest daughter - keeping her on task and verifying that all is completed correctly.  Of course, like any other week - she's also more tired by the end of the week.  It was also hard for her to really understand that she needed to go to bed like it was any other school day.  Especially difficult when she shares a room now with her oldest sister (who is normally in Paris).  In any case, by the time yesterday and today rolled around - she was definitely more tired.
Luckily with the 2 older girls having plenty of work to keep themselves busy - the ambiance in the house was quiet and studious.  This helps.  So we yesterday and today looked very similar - routine of studying and meals.  

Last night we talked around the dinner table as to how it felt to be home like this.  They were reflective that it wasn't too bad - they were busy and found things to do when they were done with their school work.  Listening to music and talking/face timing their friends in the evening worked too.  They also considered themselves lucky that they could switch houses every other week - gave them a bit of variety in their environment.  They laughed and said - it's actually nice to have parents who have split apart.  (And yes, I agree  - that's the one benefit for me also- a week with them and a week without them.)  Our time together also gives them more time together and more time to pursue other interests, like playing the piano more.
So as we end this Friday afternoon - we have survived the first 5 days of home schooling and the first 4 days of strict confinement.  We have chosen not to exit the house/yard but will have to go get groceries early next week.  We have already placed our order at our local "drive" grocery store.  This is where you can order on line, and have it prepared and brought directly to your car.  I am not the only one who is doing this, so we need to plan ahead and wait up to 48 hours for a pick up time.  I can see we are now living in interesting times.  Yes, we can still go to the grocery store, but I like many others are trying to avoid our exposure to others.   So I have no interest in lining up and going through a grocery store unless I absolutely have to.

As we watch the news - it seems like it is getting worse and worse (more and more cases and more deaths)- which is understandable as we are still very early on in this confinement.  The news can be addictive but also disheartening.  I found a really interesting site - Worldometers where statistics for all kinds of things are listed.  Of course now, they are tracking the numbers for Corona Virus.  I was a bit disturbed as I looked at the numbers in France - we seemed to have a large number of people on respirators (indicating severely ill) as compared to other countries.  Other countries seeemed to have numbers that indicated that every though they were identifying cases, less in severe state.  But then I read that each country tests in their own way.  

France began testing cases in a way that they called - targeted.  This meant when one case was identified - they then went on to test family and others who were in close contact.  This kind of sampling often showed both positive and negative tests but also gave a more rounded sample of degrees of severity.  So initially when we looked at the numbers - it was said that over 85% of people who tested positive showed little or no symptoms.  

However, in France as the outbreak increased, they didn't want to test every single person who was in contact with a positive case.  They were concerned about not having enough tests as the virus spread.  So now they only test the most severe cases.  The cases that arrive at the hospital when they are really in respiratory distress.  For those who are worried and feel they show the symptoms, we are encouraged to call the emergency number and consult with a medical professional.  They will decide if the symptoms are severe enough for the person to go to the hospital.  If the symptoms are not too severe they will treat the person for the symptoms like its the virus and the person stays at home in isolation - so not to spread it to their loved ones.  They are then followed medically remotely and unless their symptoms worsen - they recover at their own homes.  But these cases are not tested now, so there is no positive test to demonstrate that there is a large number of people who recover from the virus.  So this means two things - one that the case numbers is probably a lot higher than the actual numbers but also that there is a higher percentage of recovery than is indicated by the statistics.

I share this for the country of France.  I do not know how other countries are actually testing - I read that each country can choose their style and sampling for testing.  But in any case, it's helpful to understand the statistics and also to know that this virus is definitely highly contagious but also for many not overly serious.  But in any case,  it's best to remain isolated. 

As I have said before China was confined 45 days  - so we won't see improvement for a couple weeks.  But it will seem long - that's why it's best to go day by day. 

So as we continue into the weekend - I dream about better times and today I share one of my favorite chateau - Chateau de la Rivere in the Fronsac Appelation - This beautiful chateau is a wealth of history and wine and was a delight to tour back in February.
View from the Chateau - Looking toward the Dordogne River
It was a great place to explore with my mother during her visit
Caves underneath the chateau are full of history and of course wine
Enjoyed tasting their white and red wines
Visit also included my friend, Anne of Aquitaine Travel Guide

Bon Courage everyone, wishing everyone well and enjoy the weekend!! 

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