Auxiliar Life in the Time of COVID-19

Auxiliar Life in the Time of COVID-19

I’m writing this a few minutes before midnight, a few hours before my first online class for the week. Pardon the reference to Gabriel García Marquez’s novel’s title. I couldn’t think of any other befitting title for this post to explain my auxiliar life in the time of COVID-19 pandemic in Spain.

It seems a bit hazy now, since it has been over 70 days since the Spanish government declared the state of alarm as a response to combat the spread of the disease in the country. So, I will share the information with you chronologically, if I can remember them at all.

I thought about starting a diary to remember my life during this pandemic, but my depression (I don’t know what else to call it… maybe melancholia?) made it hard to even get up in the morning.

Auxiliar Life in the Time of COVID-19
Photo: Anadolu Agency

MARCH

9 March, Monday: Rumors circulated that the Ministry of Education was going to suspend classes because of the disease that started spreading from China. That same day my school coordinator confirmed that we were to stop in-person classes from 11 March, and our last classes at the schools would be on 10 March.

10 March, Tuesday: It was mixed emotions all over the school. Some of the teachers and students were happy about it, while others were worried. My fellow auxiliares and I were told that we were to join the school meeting the next day. I went to my private class at an academy, and I said goodbye to my little students, not knowing when I would see them again (note: never again). I then went to my second private class and the family assured me that they would still like to hold private classes with me, but we agreed to an earlier time.

11 March, Wednesday: I went to the school meeting with all the teachers. It was pretty intense, since most, if not all of us, were unsure how to go about things. There were several interruptions, and it made me think that the behavior of the students inside the class mirrored what was going on in this meeting. I left the meeting with hands full of brownies. I took a quick trip to Malasaña to stock up on my Filipino groceries. Yes, even in times of pandemic, lumpiang Shanghai is life).

12 March, Thursday: My other private class also cancelled until the unforeseeable future, so I went to stay with my boyfriend who lived near Madrid capital. At this point, all of my private classes had been cancelled.

13 March, Friday: My boyfriend and I drove to Ávila to spend the weekend there. We listened to the Prime Minister’s speech declaring the state of alarm as we drove. Once in Ávila, we met up with a friend whose girlfriend was almost hysterical that he was hanging out with us at their house. She said that she was working with the elderly and we might be carriers of the disease.

14 March, Saturday: I had a nice paella de verdura for lunch with my boyfriend and her sister at their finca. The sister planted a tree and together we prepared the paella, while my boyfriend tried to make the fountain and water supply work. I was also in an informal WhatsApp meeting with my coordinator and co-auxiliares on how we could conduct the online classes.

15 March, Sunday: The very first day of the State of Alarm. My boyfriend and I spent lunch again at the finca, conscious that it may be our last lunch together in a while since we didn’t live together. Driving back to Madrid I felt a little nervous, as I didn’t want to be stopped by the police. Luckily, no one stopped us. He dropped me off and we said our goodbyes… or maybe our see-you-laters.


Auxiliar Life in the Time of COVID-19
Our first schedule for the Skype sessions in lieu of in-person classes. One of the auxiliars decided to quit as an aux and he flew back to the US. I was assigned to teach English to 1-4ESO. I taught grammar and vocabulary and other “interesting” topics. The first schedule was a trial-and-error. I mean, no one thought a pandemic would stop pretty much the whole world, right? That stuff was supposed to be only in old movies.

18 March, Wednesday: My coordinator sent me my schedule. I was to teach groups of 4-6 students for 30 minutes through Skype. Unlike the in-person classes, I would only be teaching English. I remember asking my History, Physical Education and Art teachers what they wanted me to do, and I only received one reply.

20 March, Friday: My first classes online with my students at the school. It was nothing special, as their teacher only wanted a quick catch-up.

21 March, Sunday: PM Pedro Sánchez announced the extension of the state of alarm due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Spain. It was to end on 29 March, but would now be until 11 April.

31 March, Tuesday: I got my allowance from the Ministry through the school.

This was to be my auxiliar life in the time of COVID-19 in Spain until 9 June.

APRIL

2 April, Thursday: I received quite probably my final pay at one of my private classes.

3 April, Friday: The first day of our Semana Santa holiday. This was to last until 13 April.

4 April, Saturday: The Spanish government once again extended the state of alarm, and would not be until 29 April.

6 April, Monday: The first time I’ve ever left the house to do my groceries since the government implemented the lockdown. Before then, my landlady offered to buy my groceries for me, or she would ask her son to buy my groceries whenever he did his grocery run. We were very careful every time we went out: once back at home we would disinfect everything, shower, and throw all the clothes into the laundry machine.

7 April, Tuesday: Around this time I felt a bit sick, like I was going to have a fever. About a week ago I lost my senses of smell and taste and I simply thought I wasn’t putting enough spices. Reading the auxiliar forums made me realize that I may have had a mild case of COVID-19, but I couldn’t be sure.

14 April, Tuesday: Resumption of classes and the third trimester. Unlike the previous trimester, this time we had a stable schedule and number of students every day.

28 April, Tuesday: I finally received my pay from my private classes at the academy after weeks of following up.

30 April, Thursday: I got my allowance from the Ministry through the school. I also * F I N A L L Y * got my plaza aceptada email, which I then accepted through Profex. I am officially an auxiliar in Comunidad Valenciana! This news gave me such a big boost. Remember: I submitted my renewal application on 30 January. I got my plaza admitida on 18 February, and today I got my plaza aceptada. I started asking Valencia auxiliares for tips.

MAY

Auxiliar Life in the Time of COVID-19
Wearing eyeglasses and mask at the same time is tricky… and foggy. Yours truly on a sunny 3 May afternoon.

2 May, Saturday: The government extended the state of alarm once again, but had eased some of the restrictions. The government had now allowed us to go for walks at designated times.

14 May, Sunday: My boyfriend moved to Valencia to start at his new job in a different department in the same company. We were thinking that I would follow a month later, should the state of alarm be lifted.

15 May, Monday: The rest of Spain moved to Phase 1 except Madrid, Barcelona, and parts of Castilla y León.

20 May, Monday: The government extended the state of alarm until 7 June.

23 May, Thursday: The government announced that the La Liga would open in June.

25 May, Sunday: The government finally allowed Madrid to move to Phase 1.

27 May, Wednesday: The Spanish government declared an official mourning time from 27 May until 6 June.

28 May, Thursday: My coordinator sent me an official announcement that my teaching time with the school ends on 9 June. I was to report to school on 12 June to sign some documents and return the key that he gave me for the classrooms, the faculty room and the toilets.

29 May, Friday: Today is the last working day of the month and I got my pay in full.

31 May, Sunday: Pedro Sánchez secured enough votes and would formally ask the Congress to approve the request to extend the state of alarm for the final time, ending on 21 June.

In the first few days I would cry every night because I’ve missed my boyfriend, but more important, the feeling of uncertainty was like a rope that tied me down. I hated not knowing what to do with my life, and the pandemic halted everything.

In my mind I knew that I should “make the most of this free time”, to work out, learn a new skill or improve one that I already have, but every day that woke up, I just felt dragged down. I knew very well that I had to start looking for other means of income since the government does not support the auxiliares in the summer vacation. I have submitted my CV and voice recording to a few job posts, but I never got a response, which made me demotivated. One company did respond, and I intend to work with them on a voiceover gig.

But motivation was lacking. I drowned myself in watching relaxing videos for hours. I would wake up at 8AM and sleep at 2AM, because sleepiness was elusive. Food gave me comfort and I started making lots of lumpia and eating them repeatedly, and I didn’t care.

View of Madrid’s Cuatro Torres from the open fields of Pozuelo de Alarcón. This is where I saw many rabbits big and small, hopping at the sound of my footsteps. I think this was when I started feeling happier again.

But I enjoyed my walks to the “countryside” of my city. I felt like I am getting reacquainted with an old friend. I had been living in Pozuelo de Alarcón for 6 months before the lockdown, but I never went out for a walk to enjoy the scenery. My short walks made me appreciate the stillness of urban jungles, and it made me jump and squeal at the sight of rabbits.

I think I’m slowly getting my motivation back. The fog is lifting slowly. I know that I will survive. CM

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