This is another guest post by my good friend Joyce Heard, sharing her story of how the COVID-19 virus is affecting her life that moves between Paris and Aix-en-Provence, France and Sidi ifni, Morocco.
By now you probably have your own coronavirus story. Here’s ours. First off, we are well. Jean Marie and I spent the first week of March in Paris. Before the virus seriously hit France, we enjoyed good meals, fine wines, a concert, a movie, a museum and catching up with old friends. I also ran around to various doctors to prepare for a planned surgery in April. It will now surely be postponed.
Parisians were unusually friendly. Eating lunch alone at a cafe, the man at the table on my left reminded the waiter not to forget my coffee as he could see it was taking a long time. The young couple on my right eyed my chair full of bags (Yes I had been shopping) and asked if I was planning to take the metro. When I said yes, they advised me not to do so as there had been a run of metro thieves at the nearest station. I walked instead. Never before had I benefited from such solicitude from unknown Parisians.
At the Marmottan museum to see a show on how classic Italian painters influenced Cezanne even though he never went to Italy, we used the co-ed bathroom. When Jean Marie came out of the toilet and made to leave without washing his hands, I reminded him to do so. A well-dressed and perfectly made up woman about my age, the sort of Parisian who would normally ignore us, turned to me and said, “Oh they are all alike,” in sisterly commiseration. I said, “Yes, I expect to be a widow soon.” She said, “Me too, perhaps we’ll meet up again as merry widows.” Unbelievable. A friendly upper bourgeois Parisienne? Something in Paris has changed. Indeed, the taxi drivers were all on time and uniformly competent with clean vehicles. I think this is due to competition from Uber and other services, but it is such a pleasant change.
We flew back to Agadir, Morocco on Sunday, March 8 and spent Jean Marie’s birthday at one of our favorite hotels, Dar Zitoune in Taroudant. We had thought it would be nice to enjoy a last few weeks of Spring in Morocco before returning to France on April 6. Now we are stuck here.
So far Morocco only has a handful of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, all brought by Moroccans and tourists arriving from Europe. So the country has shut down all ports and flights to most European countries.
Even in the best of times, communication is a weak point in Morocco. So of course there were scenes of chaos at all the airports yesterday as stranded tourists tried in vain to get home. Late yesterday Morocco gave permission for France to send some planes to repatriate citizens. We are not going to be on one of those planes. We have decided to hunker down at home in Sidi Ifni rather than join chaotic mobs at the Agadir airport. Since we are legal residents of Morocco, we would probably not be on a priority list to return to France anyway.
Back in France, two of the friends we saw are showing mild symptoms that could be the coronavirus. One friend went to the hospital to have a stent put in, but as he had a low fever, the stent placement was postponed and they gave him a Covid-19 test. He waited days confined at his apartment. Finally, the hospital told him they had mistakenly sent his test to the wrong lab so it was not analyzed. This is not reassuring. The second friend was simply told to stay at home for seven days and wear a mask when going out today to vote in local elections. France is now only testing people who present with likely serious cases.
So for now, we are taking our chances where we can still go for walks on our uncrowded beach. We have books, television, Internet, Netflix and the calming presence of our cat, Rizu. Since Morocco stocked up on staples in advance of Ramadan which starts April 25, we don’t expect to run out of food here. Our local market supplies fresh local fruit and vegetables and the fishermen are still arriving daily with fish. Before Morocco confined us, we were having a big debate about trying to get back to France or not. In the end, it is perhaps easier to have let King Mohammed VI decide for us.