I’ve been slow to write about the current crisis because I’ve written and video’ed so many items for International Living I feel there’s nothing new to say about SARS-CoV-2. Yet, here’s a recap on life in the countryside.

We’re staying at home, writing, reading, doing yard work, playing backgammon, Scrabble and chess, and watching YouTube. I haven’t checked this out yet, but I’m going to virtually visit museums around the world here. Keith is cooking as usual and now bakes bread regularly. We stay in touch with friends and family electronically.  

Speaking of communication, today I received an email from one of my expat groups, International Women in Portugal. In it, one of the founding members wrote us an encouraging letter. I share it below as a window into the kind of support you can expect here from fellow expats. Groups like IWP, Americans Living in Portugal, Women Over 50 Moving to Portugal and others always offer advice and camaraderie, and ever more so now.

“Dear IWP members,

I have been asked to comment on my feelings, my impressions and my recommendations for the crisis we are now facing.

For those who do not know me, I am turning 80 next month. I have lived alone since my husband died 20 years ago. My whole family lives far away and recently and I am hosting a friend who is undergoing cancer treatment in Lisbon. Let’s be honest: for all practical purposes, we are all sort of alone, in one form or another and this is why we need to support each other.
How do you cope with solitude, boredom, stress, even depression? 

We all deal with it in different ways. My friend Eduardo buys three to four newspapers a day and watches  four TV channels to keep up with the news. I find this to be even more stressful because you are constantly reminded of the crisis. I prefer to watch only the official news once in the morning and once again in the evening to stay up to date on the current events as well as on the latest instructions for our protection.

The crunch is: how to spend the rest of the day in isolation?

  • After spending two days cleaning closets, re-organizing files and fertilizing 30+ big plants on my veranda, I was done!
  • Yes, reading is my favorite hobby, but there is a limit!
  • I walk my dog twice daily and dutifully wash its paws upon return home. 
  • Sometimes I cook a meal from my native Belgian cookbooks but that all gets boring after a while.
  • One thing I have done recently seems to bring a break to the routine.  I purchased a large and complex puzzle. It is set up on a table, and several times during the day my friend and I “challenge” each other to find a missing piece of the puzzle.
  • I also rely on ideas given by others. In Oeiras,* where I live, they are suggesting we knit infant clothes for the local orphanage, to stay active and fight boredom. Perhaps this could also be a future project for IWP! Let’s start knitting and when this crisis is over, we will donate those items to the local orphanage (?).
  • Another aspect we need to ensure during our lock down home situation is to keep in contact with close friends, social groups, and family. On this, I found that sharing funny, comical scenes by photos or video (like me washing my reluctant dog´s paws after its daily walks) are more beneficial to our mental health and spirit than repetitive commiseration on the crisis.What about the future? What is our life going to look like?

In a special issue of the “SOL” magazine dated March 21, it related (in more than 50 pages) all the drastic changes waiting for us at the end of this crisis:

  • The globalization is going drastically slow down. No more quick trips for meetings overseas, no more “exotic” vacations in faraway lands like Vietnam, Thailand, for fear of unknown viruses, more restrictions on customs and even a possible cancellation of the Schengen agreements.
  • There is going to be a steady increase of technology in our daily lives. This, I’m afraid is no longer a choice, It’s a must! We increasingly have to contact banks, government offices, embassies, clinics via their online services.  I was told by the local SNS last week that they were only scheduling appointments and renew prescriptions online. Even routine checkups for people with no serious health problems will be done by video conference. This is a change to which we will all have to adjust.
  • Also as a consequence of this use of technology, there will be many less planes in the air and cruises in the ocean. The extinction of low-cost flights will make trips much less accessible. 
  • General fear of agglomeration of large groups will greatly alter the world of entertainment and sports. The list goes on…

On the positive side, the planet is already showing signs of improvement in just three months’ time.
As far as we are concerned, there is an urgent need to improve our computer skills if we want to survive. Maria Barros, our IWP President and her Executive Board, as well as the web team are well aware of that and preparing a new website which hopefully will support us into the new online oriented future. I am very much looking forward to learning how to cope with this new way of life!

As I wrote earlier, we are in this TOGETHER.  We will therefore, together, find new ways to survive and bounce back, stronger and more resilient. 

                                                                                                                                                             à bientôt, Jeanine”

*a suburb of Lisbon     

Until that time, stay well and enjoy doing nothing part of the time. It’s okay to do nothing, really. Carson and Keith and I did a fair amount of that when we moved here in 2012. (See below.)

Play, relax, but also use this time for some serious introspection. Best wishes to you all for a Happy Pesach and a blessed Resurrection Sunday.