After having many flights canceled, redirected, or partially booked, and making a wistful drive to Milford Sound, we began our journey home.
While in Queenstown, we received the same text from the airline that stated and I quote:
“Due to Presidential Proclamation, non-U.S. citizens who have visited the countries listed on united.com/importantnotices in the 14 days before their flight will be denied entry into the U.S. Citizens, their immediate family members, and permanent residents are exempt from this rule; however, they will be subject to additional health screenings and may be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.”
After reading this text every time I received it, I became low-key freaked out and completely paranoid that we would not be able to enter the United States. Of course, because I knew we were traveling, I also felt a huge responsibility. I did not want to inadvertently get anyone sick. In case someone sneezed on me, I wanted to wear a hazmat suit. I also felt like we were somehow diseased and had done something wrong. (Thank you innate religious guilt.) Of course, Dave, knowing my neurotic-over-sense-of-responsibility, repeatedly assured me,
“Beth, we have not traveled to any of the listed countries. We are OK. In fact, there are fewer cases of Covid-19 in the entire country of New Zealand than there are in the State of Utah.” (Guess what? There are still fewer cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand than there are in Utah.)
Eventually, because I would not ramp my neurotic self down, Dave opened the CDC website, showing me we were ok, that unlike the United States, as of our date of travel, New Zealand was not a country with a Level 3 travel advisory. We also had not traveled to any of the restricted countries. Further, I was relieved we actually would be able to travel home and that we were not required to self-isolate. OH, HOLD UP! We are self-isolating. Please know we are strident advocates for flattening the curve. I am certain we all know several vulnerable people. While in New Zealand, we actively socially distanced ourselves and washed our hands until they were raw. We continue self-isolating and social distancing. (Note* And I may write another post regarding wearing the Scarlet Letter of Quarantine.) For now, I will say is this:
“Before you get all judge-y, check yourself and make sure you are doing your part. Please consider the literal steps you have taken. Are you projecting your stuff onto me? Do you have some unchecked anxiety that needs looking after? Do you wash your hands (often)? Are you gathering with 100s of others at the SLC airport to see your returned LDS missionary? Are you touching your face or your eyes? Are you hugging? Have you been to the grocery store? Are you quarantining your food? Are you disinfecting your purchases? Do you wash your hands after you pump gas? If you are working, how safe are you? How many people do you really include in your socially distancing circle?”
So, instead of being passive and confusing, and before pointing a finger, or making me prove to you that I am safe, how about trying a more direct approach. How about saying something like,
“Beth, I am not comfortable seeing you until you have quarantine for 14 days.”
I can get behind that. Hey and if all it took to wipe Covid-19 from Earth was to avoid me and my family, then sign us up. Ultimately, In truth, we all can do better. As much as I respect your ability to be responsible, I expect you to show us the same respect. (*This prudent sidetrack is a result of some personal interactions — obviously.)
Back to our story: As we moved through the Auckland New Zealand airport security, we were asked to step aside. Next, we were questioned (by a woman wearing gloves and a mask) about our health and our travels. Security was also very clean and socially distanced, including barriers, agents wearing latex gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer (everywhere). Our actual flight was quiet, safe and well orchestrated. I managed to calmly watch, “Ford Vs. Ferrari,” listen to a podcast and get some sleep. Kyle tells me he was not able to sleep. Consequently, he spent his time playing Minecraft. Dave used a carry on suitcase to elevate his long legs. Even though the airlines assured us the plane had been deep cleaned and disinfected, everyone on our flight sanitized their seats, trays and arm rests. People actively worked not to make physical contact. All flight attendants wore gloves and worked not to make physical contact. In fact, I have never seen so many people sanitize their hands before and after a meal and remain in their seats for an entire 12 hour flight.
We made it home. We made it without fanfare (as it should be). I told my mom we cannot see her for 14 days or more. Yesterday I tried to help her set up a Target home delivery order. (We are still working on placing the order.) Dave is telecommuting (rather successfully I might add). Kyle’s belongings remain in Sydney. Eli tells me his back hurts from all the sleeping. I stopped wearing makeup days ago. Tuesday I had this fabulous idea that each day we would do yard work as a family. Wednesday we took the day off and today it snowed. Earlier, after he was outside, I insisted Dave take off his clothes and leave them in the garage (and this was not for sexy time 😉). He obliged. (His clothes remain in between the cars.)
As we plod along, Eli tells me I am getting too panicked watching Covid-19 prevention videos. I remind him that people like his grandma(s) are vulnerable. He totally gets it. He is just processing and I am certain trying to find a space to put all of this. I am also heartbroken that he, with so many other kids, is missing the end of his senior year. (I am still annoyed with the woman who suggested Eli get over it because she also missed her senior year and she is fine.) Eli has been such a good sport. I can feel his disappointment. And guess what people? Pain is not a competition? He forces himself to do homework. Yesterday, I said he needed to start his paper edits by 6:00PM. He started at 5:41PM. (It’s the little things.)
Finally, as I sit here typing, Kyle sits next to me. Having him here is a comfort. I am also sad his study abroad was cut in half. He (still) does not know if he will ever see his belongings again. He is emailing every administrator he can think of as he tries to navigate how to get his things sent back here and figure out insurance and refund issues. I am certain it is a lot. Oh, and because we were in New Zealand on his spring break, Kyle is also trying to buy new textbooks before his Zoom classes begin next week. Dave is back on a conference call. I have been doing laundry all week and took a break today. We have eaten dinner every night as a family, something we rarely do. It is nice. And of course, we are grateful for the distracting tender mercies such as Netflix’s show, “Tiger King.”
PS. In the past few weeks I started vlogging our Covid-19 & Coronavirus experience (and life). I will start posting them here. It is a work in progress and I hope to get better at it. Enjoy!