The Village that Escaped Covid
Far away from the chaos and humdrum of state media, lies a village nestled in the neck of the Andalucían mountains: Guajar Faragüit.
The only sense of time passing here is the punctual ring of the Iglesia San Lorenzo church bell, on the hour.
There’s nothing like a weathered, old Señor pulling his cart horse down a winding road to put life glaring into perspective.
“Hola, buen día,” I mutter, clearly disrupting his morning routine with my offensively touristic outfit and English accent.
He ignores me and carries on with his descent.
As I continue my walk to the local shop, I wonder what must have offended him most – was it my glaringly touristic leopard print hat or my lacklustre Spanish accent?
Many people told me not to bother with foreign travel this year:
“It’s not safe”
“I wouldn’t risk it”
“Why don’t you go to Cornwall instead?”
Right now, I am sitting in the crumbling ruins of el castillejo (a castle) overlooking the village and I feel thankful to be here.
Under the shade of a winding tree, a herbal aroma mixes with the midday heat. I realise the shrub next to me is actually wild rosemary.
There’s no need to worry about Covid here when I’m the only one crazy enough to be climbing this mountain in 34 degrees.
The noise pollution of the city that I grew accustomed to is now replaced by tinkering goat bells, casual street chatter and bartering village salesmen.
Languages are for Immersion
As a language learner and teacher, I am all for learning via online platforms but there is nothing like being in the country itself.
Listening to the boisterous conversations of locals with their thick Southern accent puts Duolingo to shame. I can barely understand them as they converse on their doorstep. Of course, they have WIFI to access news updates, but revelations seem to travel more rapidly by word of mouth here.
I try to imitate the bold intention behind the language, but when I speak, it’s full of doubt. Spanish feels rusty and neglected as I string together a simple order of café con leche and the tapas of the day.
A Note About Brexit
I fear that it’s not just Britain’s management of Covid that makes us enemy number one, but more so the simmering tensions post-Brexit.
They ask where I’m from, rather than directly why I’m here.
“I’m from England?” I respond quietly.
The old cashier muses about how she has never been.
There is a pause.
I want to let her know that just because I am British, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a global citizen.
Not that she would be remotely interested, of course.
Freedom of Movement
I visited Spain three times in 2019, immersing myself in this culture. I was determined to overcome the classic stereotype of the Brit, who can only speak their mother tongue.
While the UK government focuses on adjusting policies and new trade deals resulting from our separation from the EU, my interactions with students all over Europe makes me crave an even stronger connection to our neighbours there.
Rather than simply focusing on the rhetoric of “locking” and “unlocking” our country in relation to Covid, we must also be careful not to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.
For me, travel and most importantly, the freedom of movement has always been a sacred value.
After having my jab and following domestic Covid protocol (upon arrival and on return to the UK), I just don’t see an issue with foreign travel.
It’s trips abroad like this one that makes me realise: this is what I live for.
This article was a little different to my others – more of a poetic piece – so, I’m interested to know what you think in the comments below.
Having returned from Spain, I tested negative three times and can only speak from personal experience and with the personal sentiment that I felt safe enough to travel during this time. I appreciate that not everyone can consider simply jet setting away during pandemic, and I feel particularly lucky to have had the opportunity to travel recently.
With that being said: What’s your opinion of travelling during the pandemic?
Let me know in the comments section below!