Coronavirus Campus Chaos

Dave, Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

The other day I wrote what I would call our Coronavirus download, or better, a “I don’t want to forget this moment” journal entry (that I made public). The post was a bit sloppy. This one might be too. At the time, I had been up for more than two days. I was jetlagged. I was definitely nervous and completely freaked out. I imagine I am not alone. Today I woke up at 6:00AM —  worried. As I listened to Dave’s deep breathing, I tried to stop—worrying, that is. Then, while I hid my head and my brightly lit cellphone under the covers, Eli and I texted about his day. That just made me worry more. Of course Kyle woke up seeming sad. He assured me he was just tired. I have been worrying ever since. Nevertheless and in spite of my worry, I am going to try and write again. I think it is important. I want to remember this moment, even in its rough draft awkwardness. 

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

My hope is my words convey the love I intend (and are not glazed with worry). I know everyone is dealing with a lot. I am sorry you are struggling. We are sending you love & disinfected air hugs.

This Coronavirus business is complicated and hard. As a result, in the past few days, I have been in awe and completely overwhelmed. I have witnessed unexpected anger and extraordinary patience. I have been firsthand-judged in one moment and then unyieldingly supported in the next (from the same person). I have seen awkwardness, a weird sort of piousness, and a thousand times more compassion, kindness and love. At first I felt a little tender and maybe even protective of our bad-timing-travel choice. I think I also understand why people would be mad at us for traveling. I think I get why people might think I am an irresponsible mom for leaving Eli home. Yet, as I slow my own roll, I realize that we are all just doing the best we can. We all have our path. I never intentionally want to do anything that would cause someone else pain. That being said, I am sure I have. Yes. This moment is also making me contemplative. I think it should. Consequently, what I see is that I also need to be patient and forgiving.

Dave & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

We are still in the thick of it. We are still uncertain. 

See, we left Utah before the world shut down. We believe in and support social isolation. We do not take the potential harm our travel could cause others lightly. We never have. Last Friday we were on a flight to New Zealand when the announcement was made that New Zealand would shut its borders. We landed hours before they did. Kyle landed here a few short hours after we did, but before the self-quarantine deadline. As we traveled, we were extraordinarily cautious about touching people and things. We antibacterial-wiped down our airplane seats. We washed our hands. We used hand sanitizer. Social isolation was not as enforced until we arrived. Nevertheless, we still feel like we could have done more. We also feel like we are exactly where we are supposed to be. Is that just weird? I can’t explain it either.

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

Up until the second we left Utah, we questioned our choice. Dave and I rarely, if ever, feel the united calm we did before we left. We still feel it. We think it’s weird. We recognize that Eli is home alone. We feel guilty that Eli is home. We tried to find a way to get him here. Having him fly here at this point is irresponsible at best. Eli and I spent a long time talking. It is complicated. I think he loves being home alone and also wishes we were home. I wanted him to know he is loved. He is. Thank the stars for my super awesome neighbor (dear friend). She offered to help both my mom and Eli. Then, without even saying “let me know if you need anything” first, she texted Eli and brought him delicious tacos packaged in her own take-out container and a yummy chocolate pretzel dessert. To let me know he is really ok, she sent me a proof-of-life photo with the following message:

“Take care of yourselves. I will plan on making extra dinner for Eli until you get home. Even if he just puts it in the fridge for later.”

As I relayed this story to Dave, our eyes filled with tears. 

Eli & my sweet neighbor/friend, Salt Lake City, Utah

I am grateful for Eli. I am grateful for friends who fill in when I can’t. We are here. Kyle has had a tough study abroad experience. So have the million other students who had their studies abroad cut short. We only have one Kyle and one Eli. I am not exactly sure what Dave and I are doing, except providing a safe place for Kyle to land. 

Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

When we arrived here on Sunday, Kyle’s school was still planning on keeping campus open after Spring break. On Monday, and after my other post, we received notification that NYU Sydney will be moving to an online format for the rest of the semester. Kyle has three friends who are also here. Two of them cut their spring breaks short. One of them flew back to Sydney today in hopes of packing up her things. The other’s parents bought him a flight home while he was out of cellphone range. He flew back to NYC this morning, the long way round. The third is here with his parents and is taking it a day at a time. All these amazing humans are traveling their own road and dealing with the impact of having their study abroad cut short. As they process their own shock and remorse, I am amazed and inspired by their strength of character. 

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

But wait: there is more. We were told by NYU that they do not want any students who are outside of the country to return to Sydney. Instead, NYU said that they will mail back their things. Further, students who are still in Australia have until March 22nd to get their things packed and out of their rooms. After that, students will no longer be allowed back into student housing. Wait. Wait. There is even more. We feel bad that all of Kyle’s belongings are stuck in Sydney. Kyle came here with enough clothes for a few days. If we did travel to Sydney to pick up Kyle’s things, we would all be required to self-isolate for 14 days or face severe fines and penalties. At this point (and we think it is a super long shot), we are trying to find out if the Australian government would allow Dave and me to remain in the Sydney airport while Kyle quickly packs up his things and then immediately returns to the airport. Dave and I are not allowed into student housing or we would go with him.

Kyle & the horse, Queenstown, New Zealand

In the meantime, we remain safely in Queenstown. It is beautiful here. Kyle and I went on a walk this morning. We saw two horses in a field. For a moment, they found us and healed our souls. I love horse energy. At first they were like, “Um, you two have so much stress” and they trotted away from us. I was like,

“Kyle, I think they know it’s been a crazy week.”

Kyle & the horses, Queenstown, New Zealand

Eventually, we joined their moment. Kyle noticed some hay just out of their reach. For several minutes he fed them. It was a gift. Dave later commented about our free equine therapy. It was the best. In fact, except for the stunning realization that Eli is not here with us, we almost feel like we were given a reprieve from the chaos. We do feel blessed. Coronavirus signs on storefronts about travel outside of New Zealand keep us grounded. We don’t know how we are going to get home. We don’t know if we will be allowed back into Sydney to pick up Kyle’s things. We don’t know what we will need to do to get back in the country. We are also taking it a day at a time. Some moments are light, like now. I hear Dave laughing heartily as he tells Kyle a story. Some moments are heartbreaking, like earlier when Kyle broke down in frustration. We imagine unpacking the moment will take a minute. We encourage Kyle and his friends to pace themselves and not skip healing steps. I was like,

“of course it is ok to be uncomfortable. This moment is hard.”

Dave & Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

Some of Kyle’s study abroad friends were in a car accident yesterday. They are ok. They also have to go home. I really don’t know how they are doing it. I also know I have to bite my tongue. Of course I want to save them pain that I think my experience can save them. Alas, this is their journey, not mine. Like I said, we are here as a sort of oasis. Once Kyle’s cup is full, I am certain he will soar. 

Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

What a week. Thank you everyone for loving us, especially knowing you are dealing with your stuff too.