Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Day 42 - Confinement - Lockdown in France - Update on life and when we might slowly return to normal...

Update - Confinement/Lockdown- 7th week

It's now been 6 weeks that we have been in strict confinement here in France - I know the last time I wrote - we were waiting to hear about a possible extension & yes, as we thought- the confinement was extended until at least May 11.  But they very quickly added that on May 11, we would not be returning to life as it was - it will be a progressive return to life and definitely different than before.

This state of strict confinement is definitely getting long.  We all have good days and bad days.  Often all feels okay, it's fine and in other moments - it's just so very tiresome!!  How many times can I rearrange my cupboards, clean the refrigerator, search new recipes to try or pull weeds out of the garden?  .  We choose to go out as little as possible, in France the saying is "Restez chez vous" (Stay home).  Yes, I take my walks but for this past week, it's been rainier and colder and frankly, I have had little motivation to go out and even though the days pass - it's frankly getting quite long.  I miss getting out and about.  Socializing or even just wandering around the city.  The big outing last week was to shop at our local warehouse store and I picked up items for my neighbors.  This meant I could deliver and talk to them for a few minutes outside - keeping our social distance.  It's amazing when you are so use to interacting with people, how much you actually miss it when you can't.  I adore my neighbors - we are all around the same age with children about the same age - so it's nice to catch up and chat a bit.  It's different in person versus Zoom or messaging.  I am a social person - I enjoy interacting with people, it gives me energy.  I miss my job, I miss my clients.  I miss showing and touring the region.

I have done projects that I have put off for years - cleaning out personal papers, re-arranging cabinets, cleaning numerous times.  I have enjoyed trying out new recipes.  Lots of people have said that they have had confinement projects, and yes, I made some masks and I've organized things - but it's getting tiresome.  I am so ready to return to life.


But they say here, life won't be as we knew it before.  The government is working on a deconfinement  plan - phasing in re-openings and returning to work/normal life.  Returning to school for the children is also part of this plan...but all will be phased in slowly. Slowly.. They have already announced that most stores can re-open on May 11 with safe sanitary measures in place - social distancing, anti-bacterial gel,  & masks (if needed). But restaurants and bars will remain closed for a while longer.

The wearing or not wearing of masks has been a big debate here in France.  Is it really that helpful in the general public, especially if you keep your social distance?  Do people know how to appropriately wear them?  As there has been a shortage, how does the country insure that all people have them?  We have listened and watched the media reviewing all of these questions and more.  So far in France, they have announced that masks will be required when riding public transportation. Cities and towns have ordered reusable masks for their populations to be distributed within the next weeks or so. 

May 11 also marks the re-opening of schools - but this is still to be organized.  This is a very heated topic in France as many parents, teachers & doctors are not in favor of this and would prefer that schools wait until September to re-open.

But here is what has been laid out so far by the government regarding schools:

All schools will be thoroughly disinfected before opening.

Class sizes will be limited to 15 students with social distancing measures put in place.

The details on what this will look like or how this will be done will be up to each School. Not all schools will open at the same time - levels and grades will be phased in:

May 11th
The date when children in three year groups - grande section (US-Kindergarten, 5-6 year olds), CP (first year of école primaire, 6-7 year olds- US-1st Grade) and CM2 (last year of école primaire, 10-11 year olds-US 5th grade) will return to school.
May 18th.
From May 18th secondary school pupils in 6e (11-12 year olds-US -6th grade), 3e (14-15 year olds- US 9th grade) and lycéens (high schoolers) in the second and third years (Première and Terminale- US- 11th& 12th grade) will be able to return to school.
May 25th.
The week the remaining classes go back to school.

Parents can choose to keep their children at home as long as distance-learning modules can be maintained.

Universities and Post-Secondary studies will remain closed until September.

Use of masks are probable but no firm decision has been declared yet.

There are still many questions from many parents and teachers as to what this will really look like in each school.  Normal class sizes runs between 30-35 students in many establishments. Class sizes in the lower grades are also as high as 25 - so how will the limit of 15 be met?  Can we really expect children, especially young children to keep proper social distancing from their friends?  Again so many questions and not a lot of answers yet.

The girls are anxious to return to school, see their friends and get out of the house.  All of this is normal but life will not return to what it was - not yet in any case.  Still so many questions.

In any case, we continue to receive information regarding exactly how things will work when the lockdown is lifted.  Early on we watched a lot of news regarding the epidemic and especially how it affected France and the United States.  But recently it's been media overload and we have cut back on our viewing.  We listen for the highlights and read papers/news when we want.  In these days and times, my phone will send notifications when a big news happens.  This allows me to relax and enjoy my days and not get too worried about what is to come.

We still have a 2 weeks before the magic date of May 11, but I know May 11 will not mean life as it was - it will not be the same as before...it will be different.  This date may also be pushed out further depending on the statistics of the virus.

So we wait to get more information.  In the meantime, it's life confined at home.....
I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe.

Score some oysters from Cap Ferret - delivered directly to the house!! Yum!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Day 21 - Confinement in France - the uncertainly, the waiting & my beloved Bordeaux

We have finished our 3rd week of official confinement in France.  Still waiting for the situation in France to improve healthwise with this virus.  Still too many deaths, too many people in Intensive care and still new cases each day.  I try not to worry too much, but this is the daily news.

Life last week the girls returned to my home and fell back into their routine of schoolwork.  We did add exercising to the mix.  By French confinement rules, we are allowed one hour a day to venture out for exercise.  The State stresses that this is for exercising not for just being out wandering.  So on Wednesday afternoon, the older girls headed off on a jog for an hour and my 12 year old & I went off on a brisk walk....well I walked briskly, she followed on her skateboard!  (Children have a bit more flexibility with the rules, they can go out with their parents on bikes, skateboards etc...)   As adults we can't ride our bikes except for either going to work (if approved) or to run the necessary errands. In any case, it felt really nice to venture out beyond our walls.  It felt so nice that I have begun a new routine of a power walk each day.  It does feel good.  But it is for exercising, not just to get out - it feels good to exercise & work out that underlying stress of this whole situation.
To be honest, it's still stressful even to go out.  I've realized that there is a feeling of safety to be home, staying at home.  We have control at home, everything is clean, no one is sick.  I'm a not a person who is fanatic about these things, but this virus is definitely something serious and it makes you think twice about how germs are transmitted.  It's important to keep things clean & stay healthy.  I do believe that exercising daily helps our immune systems and I believe that this was the true intent of the 1 hour a day allowance of exercising.  
Each night we watch the news to see how everything is going.  We are somewhat lucky here in our part of France - we are one of the areas lesser hit - fewer cases in total for our region.  But the virus is still here none the less and still increasing.  We watch to see how many new cases, how many new deaths - both as a country and as a region.  We watch for the number of cases to lessen, the number of deaths each day to lessen..we wait & we hope.  It didn't help this last week that France was originally showing numbers of deaths in just the hospitals but not in the nursing homes & they finally added them all in and are now appropriately counting them both.  This means that our numbers took a bit jump all of a sudden.  It's important to understand how each country is counting their deaths.  I just learned this morning, that in the United Kingdom, they are just counting like France was doing before - confirmed cases of Covid-19 who pass away at the hospital.  But there seem to be other deaths, outside of the hospitals where Covid-19 was listed as the cause on their death certificates and these are not in their offical numbers.  This makes it harder to compare countries and situations.

Of course, I keep a close eye on the United States too.  So it's actually a bit of a double stress for me as I follow our life here in France, along with the mess in the United States.  I definitely have to limit my news information, it gets overwhelming too easily & too fast.

As of yesterday, as we started our 4th week in confinement - here in France, like elsewhere, there is the debate about everyone wearing masks in the general public.  At this point, it is not mandatory, it's seems to be highly recommended and this might change in the immediate future.  It's been reported that the city of Bordeaux has ordered reusable fabric masks for everyone that can be worn and cleaned for a duration of 30 days.  New details keep emerging but like many other areas, many people are making their own and using them when out and about.  

In all of this sadness, sometimes it's necessary to laugh.  The following was a comic sent to me by friends.  It translate to:  Trump's advisors have advised him to wear a mask. But they were not precise enough.
There is definitely the concern here that people are getting tired of being confined and are going out more.  Especially in Paris, where this last weekend, there were many photographs of people out and about "doing their shopping" or "exercising" - but many more than before.

I just read an article from here in Bordeaux about the stupid excuses that people gave our local police here in Bordeaux to justify their ventures out and about.  Like the woman who was wandering along with a pet carrier under her arm & told the police that she is allowed to walk her dog...a stuffed dog!!  Or the man who tells the police that his dog just ran off the leash...  For exercising, the woman who tells the police that she has the right to exercise her infant son in a stroller because isn't it the same as exercising her dog?  In Paris, it's worse, there are just more and more people venturing out.
You can see it's starting to get long for people...

In Paris, today they have started new controls that indicate that you do NOT have the right to exercise between 10am & 7pm.  All in an effort to get people to think twice and stay home.  Some cities have installed curfews that no one is to be out after certain hours.  We protect ourselves & we protect others.

They have just announced that President Macron will be speaking on Thursday evening.  Will he extend our confinement until the end of April? There is so much uncertainty, so much that is unknown....from my single perspective, I think the confinement will be extended as France has not started seeing a consistent decrease in the number of deaths or the number of cases admitted to the hospital.  We have good days and bad days.  There seems to be glimmers of hope from Italy and from Spain - but remember both countries have been locked down very strictly for the past few weeks..
So we will wait and see.

In the meantime,  as I have done before, I wanted to share a little corner of our paradise.  Here's a few photos of my beloved Bordeaux - the city that has gone very quiet over the past month.  I long to return to the keyside, to the center and enjoy it's charm.
The Grosse Cloche
The Stone Bridge - Le Pont Pierre

Winter skies along the Key side
More views along the Garonne River

Wishing everyone well and I hope you are staying safe.  Until next time....

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