Saturday, 28 November 2020

Back Again

I was 24 when my world became a bit bigger. 

Although one can argue that big is not a word you use for a country like Gibraltar, a British territory in the southern tip of Spain with a population of 32,000, for a girl who grew up chasing chickens and jumping in muddy puddles with piglets (before they became roast dinners) in a farm and spent her childhood reading books about greener lands, a one-way ticket to any part of Europe would have meant an exciting new life.

Well, different, at least. 

Before I packed up two large suitcases for my great adventure, I was working toxic hours in my country's business capital of Makati, a city that never sleeps, churning out financial accounts that fuel the country's economy to earn measly crumbs enough only to pay my monthly rent on a shared bedroom in a shady part of the metropolis close enough to my workplace and livable enough to spend at most 6 hours each day to catch up on sleep.

Four years of bright lights and the big city and I was ready for a slower pace of life. Then Gibraltar called and I answered. 
The Gibraltar of 12 years ago felt like a little seaside town except even then people were driving BMWs and sailing off in pretty little boats to catch the sunset after a 7-hour work day. There was a single cinema, long replaced with a modern one, built in the 1960s that would take you back to the glorious old days of film appreciation. The busiest place was the Casemates Square, where within a few minutes of taking a seat, somebody you may or may not want to acknowledge would have found you. The Main Street, as it is aptly called, is the main shopping thoroughfare where you can spend a whole Saturday to explore, again and again. Because for a visa-holding national who couldn't cross the border to Spain, there was very little else to do. 

It took me a whole year to obtain a Schengen visa that would allow me to get to other parts of Europe but I have kept myself busy by going up and around the Rock, immersing in the local way of life and meeting the many lovely people who became my family away from home, establishing roots that have remained firmly grounded. 

I did not come here looking for love. But love is what finds you when you have plenty of free time to figure out yourself. And love whisked me away to face adult responsibilities and uncertainties I would have happily put off for a few more years. 

And so Gibraltar became that place we longed to go back to and relive our carefree youth. 

In the over ten years since we have said our vows, written in the Rock of Gibraltar and witnessed by people who became our family in a homely church at the end of Main Street, we have often been back. A few times for the occasional short visits, then four years ago to try our luck for what we thought would have been a permanent move that only lasted 18 months. This time it's for a very long holiday "while there is Covid". 

But Gibraltar is not the same place we have left behind over a decade ago. It has become a place that keeps on building, from the glass-fronted buildings of Ocean Village, the sleekly-built luxury apartments in Midtown and the three towers of King's Wharf by the quay to the highly anticipated Euro City that keeps rising each day. The friendly little airport that once greeted us warmly has become a sprawling and impressive structure welcoming its international visitors. A green space has been created on what used to be a car park, where children can run around (but not kick a ball!) with a tiny man-made lake filled with colourful fishes and turtles to keep little ones entertained. 

Gibraltar circa 2010
Gibraltar 2020

But many things have stayed the same, like the genuine fondness I am greeted with when I meet an old colleague or a church family member randomly on the street. Like coming home and finding that things have moved on without you but you are still welcome anyway. 

In the four months we have been back, we have slotted right back in that it felt like we have never left. Our social lives have resumed, with night outs ending at 2am (and for ladies' that does not involved a speck of alcohol!). Isaac has started school with friends he made from football, on Sundays he plays tennis with his 'first-ever-bestmate' Enzo whom he met when he was three months old and on Tuesdays he alternates Spanish lessons at home with his new friend Hector. Spain, despite its restrictions, is once again easily accessible for when we need a respite from the looming levanter that clouds some of our days. Covid, for all the damage is has done and is doing elsewhere, has been kind to us. 

Life is easy, like a never-ending holiday. Until reality calls us back.

The Originals, 2010

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The Lockdown Diary of Isaac Savas, Nearly 7

Hello there, it's me Isaac, although some people call me mini Aguero (the Man City footballer in case you don't know). I am nearly seven. My birthday is in August but my birthday party is in July. Except it's not happening now, blame it on corona. 

This is what I know about the corona virus: that some people ate dogs (or bats or monkeys) and they got sick and then they met other people who also got sick who then got on an airplane and then it traveled all around the world. So we had to stop going to school, meeting friends and playing football tournaments. It's a bit rubbish. 

But I guess, it hasn't been all that bad. 

1st Week of Lockdown

We went for a walk. I hate walks. Alright, it wasn't that bad (but don't tell my Mummy that). 

My Mummy told me that we are going to start "School From Home" so she made me write down a daily plan. She said that she likes giving me "choices" but when I said I choose to play XBox the whole day, she kicked a fuss. We made a tent in the living room where I could read my books and play card games. I thought it was really cool!

My Mummy also made me watch art classes online and do some artworks. I said I didn't want to but she said I could play XBox afterwards so I did. I guess they were alright. 

2nd Week of Lockdown

I've been doing BBC Bitesize lessons for a week now and I'm getting bored so I've been switching to Roblox on the computer while Mummy was on her work meeting. I lost my XBox privileges for a week. I was really upset. 

My friend Lam and I started doing a weekly Lego challenge. This week we decided to build a house. 

We played Monopoly for a few days until the first person could buy a hotel. Mummy lost but she said it didn't matter because she was just teaching me "money Maths". She's not great at losing. 

She forced more artwork on me. I made a cherry blossom tree using earbuds to make flowers. I also drew what they would look like in autumn. 

3rd Week of Lockdown

I've been watching Mummy work and she was showing off how she can make the computer do things without touching the mouse and the keyboard. She wants me to say she's cool but whatever. I asked her how come she types so fast and she started me on a typing course! It was fun though. 

She also wanted to get me interested in programming so we played with Beebot and my challenge was to knockdown the chocolate Easter Bunny. I tried many times before I made it work. I also made a boat with Tito Dab on the wheels for my Lego challenge. I named it "Slowcocher" because it's slow!
On Easter Sunday, Mummy and I took turns hiding and finding eggs in the garden. We also decorated Easter eggs and made chocolate nests. They were as yummy as they look!

Also, I got my XBox privileges back and I've been playing Fortnite with my friends with a headphone. It didn't last long though. My Daddy banned Fortnite eventually because my Mummy complained that I was being naughty after playing. It wasn't fair, everyone else is playing Fortnite!!!

4th Week of Lockdown

Mummy discovered that my school has a Twitter account where parents can show off their homeschooling success so she's been making me work hard everyday so she can compete!

We also do fun things too like cycling in the park and playing football. 
The highlight of the week though was that I was retweeted by Sheffield Wednesday! And it had over 5,000 views. 

5th Week of Lockdown

It was my friend Lam's birthday, I made him a birthday bear and for this week's challenge, we did a Lego marble track. 

I've been keeping my Mummy fit by dragging her to the park to play football everyday. I hope she thanks me for it!
We took out the wooden train set and built a train shed from cardboard boxes. I had a go at being station master, I didn't think it was an easy job trying to make sure that the trains don't hit each other on the tracks!

6th Week of Lockdown

I worked really hard this week so that my Mummy has something to post on Twitter everyday. I watched a documentary about the South Pole and I really enjoyed it so Mummy made me watch another documentary about the African continent. I watched a baby elephant die and I was really upset. I told Mummy I will never be able to have happy thoughts ever again! 
I enjoyed the BBC Spanish lessons but I didn't like practicing writing!
At the weekend, we went to do gardening at my Great Grandma's. I enjoy gardening but Mummy just sat on the conservatory. I said to her it wasn't fair but she said it was because she was supervising so I told her that next time I will be doing supervising instead!

Mummy has also turned our house into an art gallery of her paintings she's trying to pass off as mine. I don't mind it when she's being creative, I get to play XBox!

I made my own artwork too although I'm a bit late in the game. But this one I made especially for my Lola Mum who is working for the NHS. 

7th Week of Lockdown

I've finished reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and even did magic! I can't wait to get a letter from Hogwarts but Mummy says I need to wait until I'm 11. I really want to be a wizard! But when I asked Lola Mum if she's a witch, she looked at me like I've offended her. 

Daddy has been sending me videos of my favourite footballers doing training at home. This is me copying them. 

And I'm still working hard online...
and offline...

But the most exciting thing that happened this week was VE Day. We had a party in our street with buntings and flags in the windows. And though that photo looked like we a poster for an apocalypse movie, that was just us enjoying a mini concert instead of listening to the Queen's Speech!

8th Week of Lockdown

Lockdown is slowly easing! I unexpectedly met my friends in the park and we had an impromptu game of football. I was so happy to see them!

After over two months of no Daddy, I finally got to cuddle him for a few days. I really miss my Daddy.

And because Mummy said that ALL families go on walks during lockdown, we also went on one. 

9th Week of Lockdown

I went back to school this week because Mummy and I have become mean to each other. I said I was very sorry for hitting her and shouting at her but it's because she makes me hit her and shout at her when she makes me do Maths and English. She wasn't very happy to hear that but I think she felt a bit better when she was talking to my friend's mum who said that he was as naughty as I have been. 

Lola Mum took me to the park to visit the goslings. They are so cute!

And she's getting her exercises from playing football. 

10th Week of Lockdown

We met friends in the park and did picnics this week. Sophie brought her bike and we did some drawings. 

Bobo and his sister and their little brother also came to play. We had a really good time and they promised to visit us again.

I really really like picnics! So at the weekend, we borrowed Lola Mum's camping tent and set it up in the garden where we ate the left over picnic food. 

11th Week of Lockdown

I went to school for two days and on the days I'm not in school, Mummy lets me play online with my Tita Bre and Tito Dab and my cousins Alex and Violet as long as I do my Maths and English activity books. Othewise, I just watch TV. She calls it movie appreciation time. 

I finally got to see my cousins Alex and Violet! We played tennis, said hello to the goslings and then we got caught in the rain. I had so much fun but we couldn't hug though because of corona...

12th Week of Lockdown

My mummy said she didn't want to talk to me anymore just because I shouted at her again. I told her that's being rude. I didn't mean to be naughty, it's really hard to be a good boy but I told her I will try hard. 

For my Mummy's birthday I got her a cute cup with a heart and I bought her a dress from Georgies using my savings. 

Football training is back and I sent my Daddy a Father's Day card in Gibraltar.

13th Week of Lockdown

It was my end of season presentation for Sheffield Rangers. They called me "speed devil" and gave me a signed shirt I can hang in my bedroom for my room in Gibraltar. I will miss playing with my friends for 14 months. 

14th Week of Lockdown

Not long now before I get to see Daddy and take a break from corona. Mummy has packed the boxes that she thought we would need for a long holiday although Daddy said they are probably just clutter. I can't wait to go on a long adventure!

Til then, 

Isaac Savas, Future Football Star, Nearly 7 Years Old
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