San Miguel de allende

Confined

DENIAL, FEAR AND DISILLUSION

Flash back on this 2nd week of March 2020 where everything accelerated to stop

Wednesday March 11, 2020: the announcement

I am leaving Mexico for San Miguel de Allende, the plane is not completely full. Posted at the exit from the plane, mask on the face, arms outstretched equipped with a laser thermometer, an airport agent checks the temperature of each passenger. The old memories of Hong Kong during SARS * are coming back to me.
* (Note: During the SARS epidemic in 2003, I lived in Hong Kong).

In the shuttle from Guanajuato airport to San Miguel, we are three passengers: two American and myself. Mary, very chic with her lace blouse and sparkling earrings, comes to San Miguel every year for the International Tango Festival. Jane left a snowy Chicago to unwind for a week in the Mexican sun.
She looks her phone and informs us that the OMS has just declared that the Coronavirus epidemic is now qualified as a pandemic because it exceeds the bar of 100 infected countries in all areas of the globe.
A thick silence fell …
I’m telling myself , damn this announcement will only amplify the panic phenomenon. I was hoping that the Covid-19 was just a brief point, a non-event that would subside as quickly as it started.
But in Mexico, I still feel like I’m far from all that. Proof of this is in the figures: only 11 cases as of March 11 for a country with more than 180 million inhabitants. Central America and South America are very little affected. The virus is is continuing its onslaught in China and Europe. In Italy in particular where the number of cases is exploding and in France where the situation is becoming worrying. France has 2,281 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 48 ​​dead. Over 500 new infections were recorded in 24 hours …

Almost as usual

My first 3 days in San Miguel are almost going as if nothing had happened even if the Coronavirus is on everyone’s lips …
And has already virally infected the web.

All the shops are running, the squares and the streets are lively.

Follower of “magic thoughts”, I’m convinced that it’s enough to believe in it and to remain optimistic so that I pass between the cracks of the net. Alas, all my pretty dreams to come will evaporate in less than 48 hours.

Saturday night on a rooftop

Saturday evening, I’m meeting friends of Marianne (my friend from Hawaii who lends me her house in San Miguel). The traditional “hug” has been replaced by a “shaka” 🤙 so that everyone keeps their distance.
We sit at a large table on the rooftop of the Atrio restaurant known for its breathtaking view of the Parroquia. Comfortably seated in a large chair, I enjoy the sunset and admire the bell tower which lights up. Thoughtful, I mechanically stir my glass on the rim covered with salted and spicy red crystals: a Mezcal tamarind cocktail.
The conversation is going well around the Coronavirus … Sandy announces going back to the United States, to Maui, frightened because Mexico absolutely does not take the situation seriously.
President AMLO shows amulets proclaiming that they will protect him from the Coronavirus …
Sandy questions me about my trip. I’m talking about my next steps, Puerto Vallarta, then Tullum and then Cuba … She stares at me, shaking my head and says “I don’t know if you’re an absolute optimistic or just oblivious …”
What if she was not just a joy flap, but she was just lucid and I in denial.

A month ago: it was far, it was in China

On February 17, Xavier, a friend of the paddle club, sent me a link to a site representing the map of the world and the evolution of the epidemic in real time, accompanied by the following little message:
“Hello Christine,
A link to keep you informed about the evolution of the coronavirus and your future travels around the globe – permanently updated link
:
COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering
Make us dream with your neatiful pictures.
Aloha

Xavier”

At the time, in France, there were only a dozen cases.
At the time on CNN, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases reiterated that the risk of coronavirus in the United States is “very minimal” because only 15 cases are identified and circumcised.
We were far from imagining the amplitude and the gravity that this Coronavirus would take.
I did not think that I was going to consult this site almost daily a little bit like we check the weather forecast before going out and looking at the evolution not of the temperatures but of the number of cases by country.

Pause key

Tuesday March 17: I exchanged a few words on Messenger with my friend Elisabeth in Paris.
“Hello, I’m fine … Just confined … and you?
I admit that you are lucky. Are you affected? In France it’s an incredible situation … “
Followed by a long call …
STOP you don’t move anymore you stock a bit of food, rice and pasta, just in case …
I send a message to my friend Marianne telling her of my fears of continuing to travel, of my fear of finding myself stuck in Cuba … I ask her if I can stay a longer time in her house.
She immediately responds “Yes, of sure. Be safe.”
Relieved. I breathe, I have a roof.
There’s nothing worse than being in uncertainty, now I’m feeling better, I made a decision. I made a choice, I’m staying in San Miguel and putting my world tour on pause.

The following days I receive many messages from some panicked Parisian friends, you must return, you are sure that you do not want to return, I am worried about you …
Go home, yes but why? Go back, where too? This return would make no sense.
And without counting the risks of bus travel + waiting at the airport + a first flight + stopover + new waiting at Mexico City airport + a second flight + arrival in Paris in the midst of turmoil …
An impossible  scenario for me.

A week end full of doubts

During the weekend I wonder about the rest of my trip, my next stop in Cuba, I have a lot of hesitation and also some fears. What if I find myself stuck in Cuba!
In Europe the situation is just accelerating and getting worse. Containment measures have just been taken in France.
Containment, this term which was reserved for animals, farms of chickens or ducks infected with avian flu, now we are applying it to the population of a country!
CONFINED: travel ban …

In 2 days, I have to leave for my next stop Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast, it’s an 11 hours bus trip. I’m torn. I confirm my trips by bus and I prepare my 1st bag while having a lump in my stomach. I follow the evolution of the pandemic in France and in other countries, the borders are closing …
I’m uncomfortable, a little voice inside me tells me if things go wrong, what do you do with your 2 big bags?

As the nanoscopic coronavirus pretends to be the ruler of the world and wipes out the world of travel, I try to organize my thoughts and plan my next weeks.

Keep going despite the immobility 

The cobbled streets are now empty, the restaurants closed one after the other, the doors of the shops are locked, the small street vendors have disappeared, the public squares are deserted. Fear of the Covid-19 has vanished passers-by, onlookers, the last tourists.
No more steps echo …

The planet is shutting itself  and watching for the peak of the epidemic. Almost 3.4 billion people are forced to stay at home, i.e 43% of the world population!
Transport is at a standstill.

On Monday, March 30, the General Sanitation Council of Mexico declared the National Health Emergency to face the coronavirus epidemic. Everyone must abstain from activities outside the home, keep a healthy distance and basic hygiene measures (“barrier” gestures). All of these measures are known in Mexico as the Jornada Nacional de Sana Distancia (trad: National Day of Healthy Distance) which will remain in force until at least May 30, 2020.

Saturday, April 11

The day before Easter, it’s amonth now that I’ve dropped off my 2 big bags in San Miguel.

Lo fi beats jazzy in the background, a little breeze is blowing between the bedroom and the living roomo, only the air has the right to move freely during this period of confinement.
Having time makes me lose track of time. The days are the same, Sunday is no different from the week.

The world is unfortunately at a standstill and my world tour plan is on hold.
It’s not easy to keep my morale high during this rather dark period. However, I have to be patient and stay positive while dreaming of better days.
What’s going on in the world is one thing.
It’s up to me to choose how to navigate during this crisis.
What do I want to create for myself?
How do I want to prepare the continuation?

 

MY CONFINEMENT ROUTINE

As everything I like to do – paddleboard, meeting people, cultural visits, café terraces – is no longer possible for the moment,
I have to organize myself and find a new meaning in my days, alone between four walls.

Morning routine:
No need of an alarm clock in the morning. I wake up with the cock-a-doodle-doo of the neighbors rooster, the cooing of doves, the tweet of little birds nesting in the tree and the barking of neighborhood dogs.

Training routine:
It’s out of the question that I let myself go, otherwise restarting paddleboard will be very difficult, in addition I have a physical and mental need to exercise.
I’ve got my morning rendez-vous for one or two hours of yoga or Xtend-barre with my favorite coaches on Youtube :  Nathalie and KelThe classes are progressive and it makes me feel great.

Well-being routine:
On a daily basis, I instituted a small ritual of face’s qi cong. It boosts morale and helps to decompress. #Positive attitude!
Once or twice a week, I make a homemade papaya mask that I prepare with a ripe papaya slice, crushed or mixed with a blender to which I add a spoon of honey. I apply this mask on the face, neck and décolleté and leave it on for about twenty minutes. Good looks guaranteed.

Culture routine:
I’m taking advantage of virtual tours created by many museums. It’s time to perfect my artistic culture and stroll in front of the paintings (for once without a crowd of visitors)!
I was able to visit the Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris), the LACMA (Los Angeles), the Frida Kahlo Museum (Mexico), the Pierre Soulages exhibition – Creative Power – at the Lympia cultural space (Nice), the Voyage Voyages exhibition at MUCEM (Marseille), The Van Eyck ehibition – An optical revolution – at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent.
I also went for a walk in the biggest galleries of the world in London, New York, Hong Kong, Paris …

Learning routine :
It’s a unique opportunity to learn Spanish. I got into it diligently: I practice every day with the Duo Linguo application which is rather fun.

Relaxation routine:
The advantage of having time is being able to take a nap. I close the curtains, lie down and think of beautiful things to relax. No need to sleep for hours. A short nap of 20 minutes is more than enough to recharge the batteries.

Cooking routine:
Even though I cannot travel through Mexico, I’m exploring Mexican cuisine. A country is also to be discovered by it’s cuisine  wink
I’m preparing and testing new recipes, from typical dishes to the most unusual.

My homemade guacamole 
I’ve prepared it with a ripe avocado bought in the morning at the market. I add half a tomato, some chopped onion, coriander, lime and spicy salsa.

Nopales salad
Cactus salad: you read well, the cactus is eaten! The nopal from which the thorns have been removed by scraping the leaf, is delicious in a salad accompanied by tomatoes, onion and cheese with olive oil and dried jalapenos.

A chicken with Mole sauce
It’s not the most appetizing dish but it’s really excellent. The mole can be bought as a paste at the market. You just need to add water to it and reheat slowly until it reaches the creamy consistency of the sauce.

Read more about Mole

a sauce born from the marriage of two of the most emblematic ingredients of Mexican gastronomy and agriculture: chilli and chocolate. Before the colonial era, the mole was already served to the Aztec emperors and offered to the gods.
Each region has its own recipes and each family has its own.
The traditional ingredients of the sauce are: cocoa, different kinds of peppers, tomatillos (green tomatoes), peanuts, plantains, fried and crumbled tortillas. You can add almonds, dried prunes, sesame seeds, cinnamon …
Each product is roasted then crushed with a pestle and then added to a broth, to season and monitor constantly to obtain the final texture which should be rich and creamy

Read less

The chile relleno 
A dish from the city of Puebla prepared by Elena with a poblano pepper (similar to the pepper in size but more spicy) stuffed with cheese (queso asadero), pork, peppers and raisins.

Du chorizo verde
Cooked chorizo prepared with epazote which gives it this bright green color and served with black beansand onions. The epazote whose taste is difficult to describe (a mixture of lemon, mint, sorrel, mustard) would have digestive properties.

A chicken with mole sauce

It’s not the most appetizing dish but it’s really excellent. The mole can be bought as a paste at the market. You just need to add water to it and reheat slowly until it reaches the creamy consistency of the sauce.

Read more about Mole

a sauce born from the marriage of two of the most emblematic ingredients of Mexican gastronomy and agriculture: chilli and chocolate. Before the colonial era, the mole was already served to the Aztec emperors and offered to the gods.
Each region has its own recipes and each family has its own.
The traditional ingredients of the sauce are: cocoa, different kinds of peppers, tomatillos (green tomatoes), peanuts, plantains, fried and crumbled tortillas. You can add almonds, dried prunes, sesame seeds, cinnamon …
Each product is roasted then crushed with a pestle and then added to a broth, to season and monitor constantly to obtain the final texture which should be rich and creamy

Read less


A masked city

The containment is not total in San Miguel, I take this chance to be able to walk and discover the city in every nook and cranny: a city in slow motion but which is activating to face the Coronavirus, system D and resourcefulness.

A team in white overalls straight out of Star Wars sprinkles and clean every morning all the streets and passages of disinfectant.

At the entrance of each business is placed a bottle of hydroalcoholic gel.

Plexiglas plates are installed in many stores, including supermarket checkouts to protect employees.

A flow direction has been established in shops and markets.

Yellow and black plastic strips have been placed on all public benches, blocking the access to prohibit sitting.

 

As time is going by, all the faces are covered with masks. But not surgical masks, but funny masks in variegated fabrics: floral prints, stripes, skull, smile … And the funniest, the mask of the butcher, a snout of pink pig.
A lot of little mask stalls are opening everywhere in town.
To be fashionable, the mask can be worn on the chin, as a necklace around the neck, as a headband on the head, a gag on the mouth, as an earring simply attached to one ear, or even as a mini handbag. As if just wearing the mask was enough to reassure 
…🤔

Thursday, April 30th 

It’s been 3 months today since I left France for my world journey, it’s not much, but it seems to be a century ago as the improbable events have been linked since!
I was suppose to fly to Guatemala city but of sure it’s cancelled …
It’s been 2 days since I left the house. This morning, I push the door of the house and leave my street to realize that life still exists.

Live with it

Sunday, May 17th

I’m still in San Miguel, 10 weeks later.
I’m feeling down …
However I’m not to be pitied, but I miss traveling, I miss moving, I miss paddleboarding, I miss meeting people.
Despite feeling pretty good in my cocoon in the San Miguel sun, I have a few moments of depression: it’s hard not to be able to project myself into the future. I don’t know if I could go back this summer!

I went on the website of the French Embassy in Panama (my next step scheduled for the end of May): access prohibited for non-residents and suspension of international flights extended until June 22, 2020. Total containment is in place.
Reading the information on the website of the French Embassy in Peru (I had planned to go there at the end of June) is even more alarming: closed borders, extension of the state of emergency until June 30 and social confinement compulsory with curfew.

I need to readjust my plans …

I have to stop waiting, it’s too complicated to imagine what’s going to happen next. Here I’m happy! I feel good in the house, I have my well-being space (the bathroom), my yoga space (a large orange kilim in the living room), my dream space and my writing space (the roof top), my discovery and experimentation space (the kitchen), my garden space (the flowered patio).
I care about my daily life, a beautiful introspection. I live to the rhythm of the sun, on my rooftop with the view of the steeples, roofs, trees and mountains.
I’m seeing nature changing every day, cacti are blooming, roses are opening, lemons are rounding off, tangerine buds are blooming, the streets are changing, purple has given way to red, jacaranda is fading replaced by the tulip tree.

And after??

Monday, May 18th
France is deconfined since a week. The shops have reopened, the Bois de Boulogne is crowded, the streets are noisy.
My friend Elisabeth calls me, gloomy she doesn’t really want to go out, she wants to sleep. She feels aggressive towards people she meets, if a person grazes her at the supermarket she has the feeling of being attacked. It’s called cabin fever, she tells me.

See the world
through pink coloured glasses!!

Monday, June 1st

I’m still in Mexico, I’m still in San Miguel …
Little by little and life resumed its normality. Restaurants and cafes are reopening one after the other. Like the shops, with many restrictions: carpet at the entrance soaked in disinfectant, mandatory mask, distribution of hydroalcoholic gel and temperature measurement, limitation of the number of people inside.
The virus is still there, invisible but very present.
Camera in hand. I carry on with my multicolored walks.

More travel diaries to read about my adventures in mexico

Follow me on social media, share and write me from time to time, it could be worth more than what you can imagine …
… When you spend hours paddling and you’re on the other side of the world.embarassed

Follow me on social media, share and write me from time to time, it could be worth more than what you can imagine …
… When you spend hours paddling and you’re on the other side of the world.embarassed

embarassed