Spanish Quarantine: Day 20

Last modified on April 2nd, 2020

Sunrise over the Meseta

Tomorrow marks the end of the third week of forced quarantine here in Spain, and unfortunately at this point there still is no end in sight. At the start of this week both the active cases of COVID-19 as well as the number of deaths seemed to be on the cusp of plateauing, but yesterday brought new highs for both. I normally try to stay up each night until midnight, mostly to see what the latest numbers are – while they aren’t complete, usually there is an update shortly after midnight that gives some indication of what the next day may look like. And so far many of those updates haven’t been very uplifting.

I’d like to say that the streets are mostly barren of people, but it does seem like each day more and more people are starting to emerge. If the daily numbers were showing considerable improvement it may not be such a bad thing, but with how things are going it’s disappointing to see more and more people start to relax their personal commitment to staying at home. Even my next door neighbours sound like they are having people over in the evenings for drinks, which of course isn’t allowed. The difficulty of course is that as more and more people start pushing the boundaries of what is allowed, the people watching from the windows will start to feel resentment and will eventually do the same. The police are doing their best to stop people – but there’s only so much they can do.

I won’t lie, this last week was a bit challenging for me. I had a few things I wanted to learn related to my profession, but things have changed (mostly for the worse) in my field so much that it’s challenging to get a handle on it. Previously I could sit down at the computer and easily hammer out a mediocre symphony each time I sat down for a coding session, but now, mostly because of all the incomprehensible tools a person needs daily to accomplish software development, I find I spend that instead of making metaphorical music each day, I simply spend all my time trying to tune and fix the piano. Some of it is just me needing to break some rust off and push past it I’m sure, but definitely I’m not a huge fan with the direction my industry has gone, and I don’t get a ton of enjoyment out of writing software these days with the current technologies and tools we are forced to use and struggle with.

On the upside, I’ve swung back slightly to working on a passion project of mine – building a vacuum tube amplifier. While almost every professional job I’ve ever been hired for has involved writing software, on paper at least I’m an ‘Electrical and Computer Engineer’, but unfortunately one that hasn’t done a lot with my electrical education. So for me it’s definitely something I really want to accomplish on a personal level: the creation of a beautiful hi-fidelity amplifier that will one day (hopefully soon) bring music to the ears of everyone who comes for a visit at my place. So that’s exciting. I still am missing a few components to put it all together, but hopefully in the next few days I’ll have enough here that I can actually start building some of it – with luck it will be done in four to six weeks (especially if this lock-down continues).

People message me all the time to check in on me, which is of course great. But due to the fact that I have friends and family all over the world, lately I find I spend a non-trivial amount of each day updating everyone individually, hour after hour, via Messenger and Facebook with what’s going on. I definitely appreciate everyone’s support, but also have been trying to just batch update people once a day so I don’t feel like I’m spending my entire day talking about quarantine and everything associated with that. So if you are used to me getting back to you quickly, probably best not to get worried if I don’t respond for a day or two – I’m pretty safe here at home, and have been trying to use my time to update some skills and work on my projects. So no news is good news from my front.

Next week is of course my birthday, something some friends have already started to ask me about. I may pop on Zoom or something in the evening to catch up quickly with a few friends around the world, but I’ve never been a big birthday celebrator anyways so I’m mostly content with waiting to celebrate in person with a few friends when this is over. But of course, I appreciate everyone who has already reached out, and for those who I am sure will next week. I set aside a nice 2014 Rioja wine from Spain for the occasion, so I’ll probably make something nice to eat for dinner that night and then share this bottle of wine with everyone’s favourite stuffed penguin.

At this point quarantine is mostly a mental exercise, and at some level it reminds me of walking the Meseta, the middle portion, of the Camino de Santiago in 2017. Beauty on that section isn’t always readily apparent, but if you look hard enough it’s often there. I find being stuck at home strangely similar, where day to day the scenery seems monotonous, but the shared struggle and the camaraderie amongst my other friends in lock-down reminds me that even in these dark times there is still plenty of light. So thanks to everyone who has reached out for support, and for all of you who have popped on Zoom for a few drinks or some chats over the last few weeks. Hopefully by the time I do another update, Spain will have hit the peak and hopefully started to come down the other side of it. Until then.

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