I start this blog on a high, with fun Kizomba and Salsa classes and the felicity of simply walking through the streets of a city you are so fond of. But where there are highs there are bound to be lows. What would you do when Trump closes flights and you lose your job, but you’re off in Europe?
3 days of remote work & dance classes!
Day one, Monday, went off without a hitch. I got onto the laptop and worked right away, keeping my promise to work the eight hours, like I normally would when I was in Miami. The daily scrum meeting at 9:30 Miami time/1:30pm Lisbon time also was rather normal.
Right after, I headed over to the Jazzy dance studio, paid my weekly fee for a full pass to all of the classes and immediately entered the Salsa 3 class, then on to the Kiz 2, and then another Kiz 2 class. I’m in heaven.
The classes were full, as usual. I even recognized many of the faces from the last two years I’d visited the academy.
The teachers recognized me, too, Nuno, Vanda, Guima, Ana. Although I would love to think I’m unforgettable, the reality is there aren’t many Puerto Ricans floating around the world taking Kizomba classes. Smackdown on the ego.
Also, my Portuguese is far from fluent, I tell everyone I speak “portunhol otimo!” (which is equivalent to saying “I speak great Spanglish!”) and that’s another giveaway that I’m one of those foreigners that comes to visit every once in a while.
Guima was notably tense, though. He’s not the Guima I usually know, so kinetic, super energetic, and all smiles. When his expression changed from serious to surprised and “ah” when he recognized me, I gave him my normal salutation of a kiss on the cheek. Guima had “a reaction” that I can only guess was coronavirus-related.
Walking on my way to the hostel after classes, Elias chats to tell me he wants to call me on a phone. He prefers that sound to the wifi cutting out and he feels odd video chatting. We compromise because I don’t have a phone number yet and we talk on Whatsapp well into 1 or 2am, missing each other like crazy.
On day two in Lisbon I had some issues with the VPN connection in the evening, just a couple of hours before I was supposed to get offline. The issue was escalated to higher brains who were too important to reply to my silly emails. Meh. It’ll get fixed early tomorrow, I thought.
That night at Jazzy dance studios, as always, I had a great time in the classes, a Kiz 3, Semba 2, Salsa 3. The level is good and we managed to cover a lot of steps. People were happy. But there was something just under the surface that I hadn’t felt at the studio before.
Day 3. Let the Shit-Show begin
Early-ish my supervisor sends me a message asking if we could video chat. The tone of his request was ominous, it’s not a usual request. The problem was I wasn’t going to be able to video conference because it turns out the IT department had deployed an application on all company computers and it unintentionally blocked me from getting online.
Already assuming he might have checked and I hadn’t been as productive as usual, in one line I took the chance to explain to my supervisor that I’d had some technical problems.
Still, we have our typed conversation through a work chat app and he apologizes for not being able to give me this news in person…
My breath stops. Air is suspended, immobile.
There’s a zero-gravity space right in front of my nose all the way down to my chest as my eyes are glued to the “is typing” to read whatever the bad news is.
He explains our international cruise company has been experiencing financial problems due to coronavirus and that they will start to let go of contractors in each digital department. The announcement of who exactly would be affected would come during the week.
That meant me. As one of the newest content specialists to service their mobile app, it was logical, legal and the fairest to the other team members who had been there longer. And my supervisor is honorable and fair-minded.
My stomach sinks and stays there the whole day. Job searching again. Asking yourself if you can make rent. Meanwhile I’m out here in Lisbon where I will have elevated costs, even if it’s only a slight difference from my life in Miami.
My stomach is in a knot the whole day. I dutifully work my eight hours as usual, but I could puke. ¡Vaya! ¡Toma! No patience for euphamisms today.
After work I could have sprinted to my classes I wanted so badly to have fun. The tension was difficult and I wanted to shake it out of my system, connect with people and disconnect from any negativity.
Dancing is miraculous. You can forget everything when you’re dancing. And I did. That bad sensation that had been with me all day was gone and in its place is a renewed determination to finish my book.
And then Trump happened. Oh, holy bugeezez.
Walking into the hostel after my classes, I overhear something about a coronavirus travel ban. I pay no mind and continue to my room. Elias is writing me words of encouragement and I’m lapping it up, still on my high from dancing and the dream of publishing my book finally.
Upon entering my hostel room I have the sensation of stepping into a wall of tension. It had to be tense if only a second later do I notice a woman sitting smack in the middle of the floor staring intently at her cellphone. The other two roommates are in their beds, upright, not asleep.
Someone says something to the effect of going to the airport and someone else that the flights are at $1500.
Apparently everyone in the world interpreted Trump’s declaration to mean that all travel to the US will be prohibited.
I’d been enjoying my classes and writing with Elias on the way back so much that I didn’t notice my messages on my phone from the people I expect would write me: my parents and my godparents.
“Get out of Portugal! They are closing flights!” They said.
My first reaction is always: don’t believe everything you hear, get to the source and complete information. When the revolution exploded in Egypt and tensions were high, I spoke to people who’d gone to the airport, called the embassy itself and tried to find any official announcements.
And I am so grateful that I just didn’t take off. Some of the most important life lessons were learned during this time period, and I also solidified some of my dearest friendships.
I do not make decisions based on other people’s panic or on how many times the media repeats something. I prepare myself to move and take quick action, but I focus on gathering source information. I make a rational decision based on how real the danger and consequences are – and my instincts.
The girl sitting on the floor mentions that one of her friends said Homeland Security clarified that the travel ban doesn’t apply to US citizens.
Going straight to the Homeland Security site, I read it with my own eyes.
And my reward for that diligence is finding out that it further states that travel is open from the UK. That’s great great because “my flight leaves from Gatwick,” I told the girls.
I sent a screenshot of the Homeland Security site to my family to calm them. There’s still a way out. Not stuck.
However, the situation is unstable.
What would you do?
a. Stay and risk being quarantined in a costly hospital because you don’t have a home to be quarantined in in Europe?
b. Pay a ton of money online for a new ticket and bail ASAP?
c. Try to get on the phone or to the airport to try to have them change your ticket as cheaply as possible, knowing you will waste a lot of time doing so?
d. Or… maybe even hole yourself up with a brand new love in Canary Island and hope that the love grows 😉
Tough call 😉