I went out last night and came back afónica. That means I lost my voice.

You could probably draw some conclusions if I mentioned that I crawled into bed at 6:30 a.m. after dancing all night at Joy Eslava

But entrance to Joy is free on Thursdays for students, and we don’t have class today because it’s the Día del Trabajador, or Labor Day, in Spain. And because my friends and I can relate to the 17 percent of willing and able Spaniards who are unemployed, we decided to skip the 8-euro drinks and soberly belt/rock out to American classics like Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” all night.

So, the fact that I have quedado afónica is not because I went crazy last night. But as I dodged the elbows of sweaty dancers and tried to keep from getting pushed over onto the sticky floor coated with broken beer bottles, I couldn’t help but think: This is how people get sick.

This is how people get la gripe porcina.

I’m pretty sure my sore throat and muscle aches are just from singing and dancing obnoxiously to Bon Jovi. My stuffy nose is probably just from lack of sleep. But when Spain’s health ministry confirmed Europe’s first case of swine flu on Monday, I was a little concerned. The Spanish media really played it up. Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez appeared all over the television, newspapers had huge front page headlines and article upon article of analysis. Photo spreads of people in surgical masks could be found all inside the papers. It was hard to miss.

Now with constant updates online and on television, we know that Spain has confirmed 13 cases of la gripe porcina, and suspects 59, according to The New York Times. Two cases are in Madrid, according to El País.

On my way to el Parque de Buen Retiro today I saw a few people getting onto the metro wearing those little white masks. Comforting, eh?

Granted, I haven’t seen too many people wearing masks, and most who do have suitcases and are most likely traveling. Most mask-wearing folk are seen in Barcelona and Valencia.

The television news team interviewed a bunch of students yesterday about the dangers of disease-spreading among young people. Universities are frequented by thousands of people per day. People share cigarettes and drinks on- and off-campus. And when you factor in Madrid’s nightlife that never sleeps (read: sweaty guys in crowded dance clubs), us youngins are prime gripe candidates.

Mom sent me an e-mail reminding me to wash my hands with soap and water long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. I then reminded her that A) running the water for that long might be a sin in Europe, and B) the girls at the university, at least those in Facultad B, rarely wash their hands after using the restroom… kind of nasty.

But I’m going to continue more or less like normal. Just more consciously. I guess don’t go shaking anyone’s hand, try not to touch anything on the Metro, and don’t give the traditional Spanish greeting! I might just try to smile more instead of greeting with dos besos (a kiss on each cheek)… So here’s a smile from Madrid – because my voice is gone anyway ☺

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