The Journey Home
30 March 2020 | Edgartown, Massachussetts
March 29, 2020
One week ago today, I was in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico walking across the deck of my boat with a wine glass in my hand reflecting on the past month. The sun had set and all was quiet. Very quiet but for the wind through the rigging. It is a sound we are used to hearing, but this night it was particularly haunting.
I don’t remember when, exactly, I became affected with the Coronavirus culture that we are all experiencing. I am not ill. I do not have the Coronavirus. And yet, it has permeated my entire being. My thoughts have been consumed with little else. How bad is it? Should we stay or should we go? Can we even get a flight? Have the ferries shut down? Can we get home? How will we get food? Are our children and grandchildren okay? Have they lost their jobs? How will they eat? Maybe we should stay on our boat. But what if we get ill in Mexico? Do they have the facilities to care for a pandemic? Does anyone? We live on an island with a hospital that has only twenty-five beds. Is going home the smartest move?
We watched as people slowly disappeared. The guests, in the hotel alongside the marina, were checking out. No one was checking in. The hotel employees were standing around with nothing to do but wonder what the future held for them. The few people walking the docks were the workers, disinfecting the hand rails and trying to keep their distance. The security guard carried a thermometer, checking temperatures.
Meanwhile, there were all kinds of conflicting reports in the cruising world. Suddenly, after years of preparation, those who were about to set sail for the South Pacific were told they could no longer go, the borders were closed.
Suddenly, Mexico wasn’t distributing any Zarpas (permission forms to take a boat out of the country). Rumor had it that if you sailed up to Ensenada maybe you could get permission to leave the country. That is, if you could find a slip. The marinas were filling up fast. Information was changing hourly. Some people were flying home. Others couldn’t get a flight and drove to the border. Some decided to stay on their boats. Ride it out in Mexico.
For several days we went back and forth with my son who was in Los Angeles as to the pros and cons of staying or leaving. For the most part, he was urging us to come home but while we decided he got on the phone and called all around Puerto Vallarta trying to find us N95 masks. He found them in the Romantica Zone in a paint shop in Puerto Vallarta. I took a cab and was able to get one box for us and one box for our friends, Casey and Diane, who were making plans to fly home too. I found gloves. I couldn’t find hand sanitizer so I made my own. And we were washing our hands constantly.
We finally decided to try and get home. I wanted to go home. If this was to be a prolonged event, I wanted to be home. Besides, we were in a country where we don’t speak the language fluently. We don’t have medical coverage in Mexico. Jay was not entirely convinced going home was the right thing to do, but honored my feelings and agreed. If we could get a flight out, we would go. If, for some reason, it all fell apart, we would stay and make the best of it.
Before this all started, we had a flight booked for April 9. We cancelled that and moved it up to March 24. Three days before we were scheduled to leave, on March 21, American Airlines cancelled our flight. We rescheduled. But it wasn’t as simple as getting online or even making a phone call. For some reason, our phones would not call 800 numbers no matter what combination we tried. We had to get in touch with a person as we already had booked four flights and didn’t want to add yet another two flights on our credit cards. We were dishing out a lot of money to go nowhere.
We eventually charged our “burner” Mexican phone. We had a 100-peso card so we could get minutes on the phone. We dialed the 800 number. We got through. We rescheduled our flight. Two hours later, they canceled that flight.
After three or four cancellations, (I lost count) and two days of stress, (also known as knots in my stomach) we finally got a flight. We had seen pictures of the PV airport full to capacity with passengers from cruise ships who were told to get off the cruise ship and go to the airport and fly out. The lines were long and everyone was packed in tight. Not the six feet we were told to adhere to. Would we find those same lines when we went to the airport on Monday? We could only be as prepared as possible and then left it in God’s hands. I mean, what else could we do?
Monday morning, we left for the airport. Fully dressed (By that I mean long pants and long sleeves.), with masks, gloves, glasses, etc., and carting three suitcases, two backpacks a camera case and a purse, we were sweating up a storm. We entered the airport to find long lines but somehow, we got through without any wait. The porter that helped us saw that I had printed out our boarding passes so he took us straight up to the Priority desk. One, two, three and we were checked in. We were over the first hurdle now for a three-hour wait for our flight. Our flight was on time and only one-third full. All good there.
Our next concern was the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. We had also seen photos of long lines there. Yet, when we arrived there was only a “two-minute wait” in customs! Yes! The angels were with us.
Our connecting flight had many more people than our first flight but we had no one sitting in the aisle seat and the people across from us were in the window/middle seats too.
Three o’clock in the morning, we arrived at our hotel in Boston. (It is virtually impossible to get from PV to Martha's Vineyard in one day.) We wiped everything down and fell into our beds, sleeping until 10 am the next day. We checked out in an empty lobby but for one person behind the counter. Outside, the streets were quiet. A few joggers ran past us. From a distance, I could see some cars on the highway.
Our driver arrived at 12:30 and promptly reported he had wiped down the car. He drove us to the ferry. Those who drove on board the ferry were asked to stay in their cars. There were three other passengers besides Jay and me on deck. Jay then had the foresight to call a cab (they were no longer waiting at the ferries) who picked us up and took us home. A woman without a ride went up to our cab. “No mam. I only take one party at a time.” He called for another cab. We thanked him for keeping us separate and therefore safe. Hopefully she found her way home.
Having traveled through all those people, Jay and I decided to self-quarantine for two weeks. Our good friends, Lynda and Jimmy, have been supplying us with food and the much-needed wine. We are well, physically. We take walks. I have been baking bread and cookies and making soups.
Emotionally… well, today, it just all hit me. I think the stress of the last month and the unknown future, being separated from our family and friends… I am sure you all are feeling it too.
I just want to say for the both of us that we love each and every one of you. Stay safe. Stay healthy.
Hugs from afar.