Nothing ever made me feel as foreign as the coronavirus. Except maybe Trump.


Yesterday, during our current President’s theatrical address to the nation, and after a brief moment of disbelief, I started crying. Sobbing may be a better description. At the dinner table, with my children looking. Don’t worry, they won’t be traumatized by this. They are boys, and boys also need to learn that crying is a valid emotion.

Before breaking out in tears I had to ask my 12 year old, who is a native speaker of English, if I had heard well and Trump had referred to COVID-19 as “the foreign virus”. He confirmed that I heard well. And that confirmed that even in a time of global crisis, our president’s focus is to alienate others while he refuses to accept any blame. At that point I was just mad as hell, swearing at the TV in my foreign language, further enriching my children’s Spanish vocabulary.

But a minute later he said that all travel to and from Europe was halted for 30 days. By now we know that that is not entirely true, but at the time of the address he got the theatrical effect that he was going for, probably to impress his followers, as well as to inflate his own ego. “Look! Look what I can do!”, I am sure he was repeating to himself.

And then, before anyone had time to contrast any information, it landed on me. If something was to happen back home I wouldn’t be able to reach my family. And back home right now seems to be its own coronavirus mess. Considering that my parents are over 80, it is not very reassuring, even if so far they have self isolated in their house in the middle of nowhere. And even though “the middle of nowhere” has never sounded any sweeter than today, the possibility of an emergency happening is there.

That alone, believing for a couple of hours that I was irremediably kept away from my folks for 30 days, instilled in me the panic that no amount of toilet paper shortage could instill.

And it also made me realize, once more, that despite the 17 years I have spent here, my four Chicago born sons, and the shiny blue passport, home is still back there. And as used as I am to be the foreigner in the room, and to live with an ocean between my legs, the realization that if something like this happens again, (something this major, this global, this concerning) I would rather be there than here, hit me like a truck.

So, obviously, when my husband expressed his concern about how a potential school closure would affect our seventh grader’s chances to get into the high school of his choice, my answer was :”It doesn’t really matter. We will be living in Spain by then.” Sob, sob.

After a good 30 minutes of crying, and putting all the kids to sleep, he poured me a glass of Sauternes, the first wine I have had since I gave birth, and brought me some truffle gouda, taking full advantage of European imports while we can. We decided to ignore the news for the rest of the night and watch some calm inducing TV, like Chicago Fire.

And while today I feel calmer, especially after learning that as a US citizen I could come and go if needed, and while I may be willing to postpone a bit a move back home that last night felt imminent, what I cannot shake off is what all the nationalistic vitriol that the man who is supposed to also be my president spewed made me feel last night: that I am a foreigner, and that something that I had always considered a positive part of my identity made me not only feel less valuable, but also disposable, insignificant, unwelcome and above all, completely out of place.

Just the thought that a plane like that would be unreachable for a month took my breath away. 


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  1. Home will always be where you grew up. I’m sorry that one mouthy, arrogant person made you feel that you are not valued here. You are. I also shook my head at all his claims about America being the greatest in the world. I grew up in Europe and although I have lived here for 30 years I STILL miss it and if I hadn’t had kids here I would have moved back by now. There are wonderful, magical, beautiful places all over the world and some people don’t get it. We have a good country, but so does Spain, and France, and Australia. I guess some people need to constantly separate, then compare and measure themselves against others…they need to believe they are better than others. Ultimately it springs from either insecurity or delusion. Don’t take it too seriously – he doesn’t speak for everyone. I hope your parents ride this out safely and that you find a place of peace with being here even while your heart is over there. We will be flying again soon.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! You are absolutely right, home is where you grew up, especially if your family is still there. I know that there are more of us here who are kind and welcoming, but he is not alone in his thoughts or he wouldn’t be sitting in the Oval Office. I can’t wait for summer to arrive so I can take my kids and hop on a plane. It will be a relief to be able to spend the summer there.

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