Keeping morale high during tough times

Going through coronavirus pandemic is like watching a movie that you star in along with everyone else in the world. It isn’t an outbreak hitting a distant African country that you hear about on the news. Instead, we’re all going through it at different degrees.

Our planet is suddenly divided into “not too bad” areas and “really bad” ones. When the virus hit Europe, I got in touch with my old Hungarian friend Josep. March was the time of the year where he’d be migrating from freezing Germany to sunny Andalusia for a long stay.

Josep is an old-fashioned man who owns a landline phone and his definition of staying in touch is by writing long letters. He strongly believes that the day he owns a mobile phone is the day when his memory would seep out and senility fills in the void.

Josep answered his phone and when he heard my voice he complained- in his unique mixture of languages- about his ruined Spanish holiday plans. But being locked up in his apartment wasn’t that bad. It gave him the chance to read Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo trilogy.

Weeks later, when coronavirus was declared a pandemic and Europe being its hotspot, I instantly got in touch with my friends who stayed in the worst hit areas: Italy and Spain.

My Italian friend Sara was anxious. The situation in her country was so grim that many had lost hope of it being over soon. The daily high death rates caused depression among many and few suicides.

When I complained about empty supermarket shelves here after the declaration of lockdown on March 18th – shopping really felt like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie- Sara replied that in their case it was the opposite. The shelves were full but people were too afraid to leave their houses.

The situation in Spain wasn’t any better. Having friends who resided in Madrid and Málaga meant that I was hearing the news first hand. When the lockdown started in Madrid, my friend Victor sent me a picture of his son holding a paper with the number of days he’d been locked in his flat.

Pictures of empty supermarket shelves and news about losing touch with relatives entering the hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus was alarming.

But what do the Spanish have in common with other Mediterranean citizens? The resilient spirit that distinguishes them from the rest of us.

From standing on the balconies every morning applauding the medical staff who risk their lives on daily bases to shooting funny videos mocking quarantine rules that gives right to walk your pet but not your partner.

Even better, digging up an eighties classic song called “Resistiré” (I’ll endure) by the Duó Dinámico to become their resistance anthem. My friend in Málaga played this song to his surrounding neighbours day and night at full blast (and they kept hooting and cheering every time!).

A new version of the song came out in April with famous Spanish singers taking part in it such as José Mercé and Rozalén. In this compilation, singers and musicians could be seen recording from the comfort of their homes which gave it a special human touch.

The song is long but I include one part that I like most: “I’ll endure/ I’ll stand up against the world/ I’ll turn to iron to withstand it all/ and despite the wind of life that blows strong/ I’m like the reed that bends but always remains standing”.

Ultimately, we all could use some Spanish morale to keep us going through the tough times of COVID-19.

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.