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This is totally and utterly surreal. When we left our country less than 1 month ago on this photographic trip to Buenos Aires, the world was still how we knew it, the world I grew up in. There had been many changes over the years, but all those changes came slowly and we chose to be part of it (or not). The internet, the cell phone, the smart phone, video calls…. They came slow, and now we can’t imagine how our life was before these inventions.

In just a few weeks time that world has changed. In just a few days time, Argentina went from ‘corona is far away’ to a total lock down, with rules much stricter than even in Italy, where they count up to 1000 dead a day. In Argentina they had (yesterday) a total of 17 dead, over just less than a month.

We realised even more that the world has changed when we got into the airport, after being stopped and checked by the police several times. An airport that was dead and closed. The international airport of Buenos Aires isn’t very big -the national airport is a lot bigger-, and the 500 people of our plane didn’t give the impression it was totally empty, as everyone was keeping a distance. But the announcements before boarding, with detailed instructions on how to behave, the demanding tone of the voice, and especially the people complying without complaining, was surreal.

We got on a ‘special plane’, this was a repatriation plane, and the crew volunteered to pick us up. They got a full round of applause even before we took off! The food was limited, and everything was brought in one round. Aperitif, food and coffee, just to limit the contact between crew and passengers. We were not allowed to move around the plane except when necessary.

Even Paris seemed asleep. Our plane was the only one in that terminal. There were only French and other Europeans in the plane so the pasport controls were fast and we were out of the airport in no time. Nicely keeping the 1,5m distance, as voices through the speakers kept on repeating.

Getting to Belgium was another problem to tackle, as the French-Belgian borders are closed, and to move around in France you need special documents, just like in Argentina. There are hardly any trains riding. Our TGV was canceled.

We were lucky to have our son pick us up : family members are allowed to pick each other up. Armed with a whole file, including copies of our passports, our flight tickets, proof of residence, proof of relationship, he set off to Paris.

But just we had read on the embassy website, the police is tolerant for Belgians picking up relatives in Charles de Gaulle airport, and our pick up seemed a piece of cake. Only the Belgian police at the border wanted to know where we came from and wanted to see proof of relationship.

The Belgian roads (in contrast to the French and Argentine) are still rather busy, at least during the day, nevertheless the trip home was fast.

Finally home we have a zillion things to do. What a difference to the complete boredom in Argentina! We are now in quarantine, the 3 of us ; for 2 weeks we are dependent on the goodwill of my sister in law and my nephew to do the shopping. We will have to make up for that later, once life turns back to normal.

When will that be? Will the old normal ever come back? What will the new normal look like? Or is this new normal? We will just have to wait and see about that!