Monday, March 30, 2020

Day 14 - Corona Virus in France - Staying Protected, Family time & Solidarity in the country

We are starting week 3 of homeschooling/distance learning and we are finishing our second week of strict confinement.  The girls have returned back to my house, after spending a week at their father's house and life continues.. or our new Corona virus life.
Not sure if the cat is thrilled to have everyone around 24/7 ,,
Our days are filled with cleaning the house, cooking meals, sharing jokes among friends and neighbors and various mini projects.  The garden looks lovely and neat - rooms have gone through a big Spring cleaning.  We all have probably received those ideas, those videos of all the fun things one can do as a family during lockdown....the reality - no one is too overly ambitious.  There is a fair amount of surfing the internet, hanging on the couch and watching films or TV series.  

We have enjoyed a couple virtual aperos via zoom with our neighbors and friends - it feels so nice to catch up!!! Zoom seems to be our new best friend - allowing video conferencing between friends.

With teenage girls - they enjoy their time in their rooms, watching Netflix movies and series and exchanging with their friends.  We do hang out all together but I also know they enjoy their private time too.   Meal times  are our together time and this has always been our favorite time as a family.  Maybe because they are all in the same place at the same  Saturday night, I decided we would have "make your own pizza night" - I made pizza dough and put out toppings and off they went....

It was definitely a fun time and lightened the mood a bit.  The weather has turned a bit colder.  We have had a very mild March and this week it has been forecasted to be cold and rainy.  But it's back to routine today. Classes and school work for the girls.

Our strict confinement has been officially extended until minimally April 15.  Again in France, we can only go out of our homes with our official statement and only for necessities.  The idea is to stay in - stay at home.  Protect ourselves and protect others, only exit when totally necessary.  We did go out food shopping again last Friday - back to our supermarket.  It's still surreal - so quiet and orderly.  It was less stressful this time, as we knew what was going to happen, how we would have to wait, how they only let a certain number of people in the store at the same time.  Little conversation, and everyone keeps their distance.

The reality of this is we all live with a certain level of stress - watching the number of cases increase each day, hearing unfortunately about the number of deaths per day. France has not hit the peak yet - they are predicting that it will be in about 5-7 days - but that's just prediction - we will see with real numbers.  For me there is added stress of watching this whole epidemic play out in the US where all my family and friends live.  Every country handles this differently and in the US - every state is handling this differently. It's all very overwhelming at times.

Here in France - the hardest hit areas are the "Grand Est" -North East and Eastern France and now, Paris.  Where we live, it's been one of the less hit areas - we still have cases, they are still increasing but other areas of France have many more.  Hospitals in the harder hit areas are filling up - patients in severe distress.  There is a shortage of beds in these areas.  In the town of Mulhouse, the French army has installed an army hospital to serve more patients.  They are also moving patients by a military medical plane across France to areas like the Nouvelle Aquitaine or other lesser hit regions.

We actually had the military plane fly over our home last Friday. (We live 10 minutes from the airport) - It was huge and very loud as it brought the first patients to hospitals in our area.  France has also chosen to medicalized and equipe 2 TGV trains for transporting patients from these hard hit areas to other areas of France.  We also had one of these trains arrive yesterday in Bordeaux.  The coordination efforts of these maneuvers is huge and the medical teams that travel with these patients - dedication.  It's amazing to read about, but sad at the same time.  

Like other countries France is facing a shortage of masks, hand gel and even respirators.  Companies have gone into 24 hours production to turn out more masks for health care professionals.  Other companies have altered their production from one product to start making sanitizing gel and even respirators.  One has to look beyond the drama of everyday news to find inspiring stories like these.  People and companies who are helping out in their own way.  

We have farmers offering baskets of food to hospitals and health care workers, Oyster farmers delivering trays of Oysters to hospitals.  Grocery stores that have dedicated lines to give these professionals priority.  The towns offer school and child care for children of health care professions. Companies refitting and reorganizing production to help with the medical supply shortage.  Designer houses - changing their production - all towards helping during this crisis.

As there is more and more concern about how contagious this virus really is -some health care professionals are choosing not to return home to their families out of protection.  Many hotels have offered free rooms.  There is definitely an outpouring of humanity.  To watch the country come together in solidarity is humbling.  As in other countries, each night at 8pm, people gather at their windows and balconies to applaud these hard-working health care professionals.   (Where we live, it's harder to hear - as we are on a residential street in the suburbs with houses and yards -and many lots are deep with one house sitting in front of other.  It's not the same as living on a city street).

It's these acts that give hope, hope to all of us that we will make it through this time.  News from China indicates that they are now able to exit their homes, go to work and now shops and restaurants are re-opening.  They are the hope, the model, the place to look - but remember - they built new hospitals, they had to generate new materials also.  We didn't necessarily pay close attention, but we are all living the same experience now.  

As we look at minimum another 15 days of strict confinement, I think toward the future - to a month or two  from now when this will be behind us - when life returns to normal - or perhaps a new kind of normal.  

In the meantime, I want to continue to share our lovely area - so full of life and beauty.  Here are some lovely scenes of the Dordogne River - at the port of Libourne one morning last Fall.  I love the fog - a nice symbol for our experience now, it will eventually lift and our life will return again.

Wishing everyone well -  Stay safe.

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.

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