WARNING: THIS POST HAS NO PICTURES
For the first time since beginning this adventure, we’ve hit a glitch.
Our license plate may read “GEHEN” (going), but right now we have stopped for a while, along with the rest of the world. More than that, we almost had nowhere to go!
On December 31st, 2019, while we were celebrating New Year’s Eve aboard the Viking Sun off the coast of Mexico, a pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China was first reported to the WHO (World Health Organization) Country Office in China.
On January 24th, 2020 Ted was engrossed in curating bird photos from the previous day’s visit to Madera Canyon, just outside Tucson Arizona, when the first confirmed case of the virus in the U.S. was reported.
On January 27th, while we were exploring Arizona’s Sweetwater Wetlands so that Ted could photograph waterfowl, back home in Ontario the first Canadian coronavirus case was confirmed.
On January 30th, while we were enjoying the spectacular scenery on our drive from Tucson to San Antonio Texas, the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
On February 11th, while Ted and I were taking our first German language lessons with Professor Hansen at the Männerchor, the WHO announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19.
The virus was in the news, sure, but in our little universe of two (social distancing is NOT a challenge for us) there was no reason to worry.
On March 11th, while Ted and I were sitting by ourselves in our cozy loft, after a solitary stroll admiring flowers along the RiverWalk and snowy egrets in the river itself, the WHO formally declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Meanwhile, we had heard about only 2 confirmed cases in San Antonio, related to cruise passengers, and life seemed to be going on around us as normal. Ted and I were walking 5km every day, enjoying the great weather, exploring historic sites, and pretty much keeping to ourselves. Small community museums, historic missions and cathedrals, and nature preserves don’t tend to be crowded. Often, the site’s docent was almost the only other person we saw.
Downtown S.A. was still humming with tourists. Every river sightseeing boat filled to capacity. Every restaurant patio filled with margarita drinkers. Mariachi bands serenading patrons.
Suddenly, on March 12th, came the announcement that schools “back home” would be closed for 2 weeks beyond their normal March Break, in order to slow down transmission of the virus, which had now become deadly not only in China, but in many other countries. Things were clearly more serious than we realized in our little bubble.
Our family and friends started asking us when we were going to come “home”.
But here’s the thing: “home” is wherever we are at any given time. For almost 2 years now, we haven’t owned a home base. From what we were seeing firsthand, it seemed to make sense to simply stay put until the end of April, our original timeline. We strongly considered extending our stay until the end of May, to let the virus run its course and let the world calm down.
You all know how that went. NOTHING calmed down. People started worrying about being quarantined, and bought up all the toilet paper from every store.
On March 14th when our kids messaged to tell us that grocery store shelves in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach were empty not only of toilet paper but also of milk, eggs, pasta, canned goods etc. we thought it was ridiculous. We had just been to the grocery store in San Antonio the day before and stocks were totally normal. Nonetheless, after a lot of badgering from son #2 (aka “caring about his old parents”), I promised that – if we were not going to come back to Ontario right away – I would at least go shopping again and make sure that we had 2 weeks’s worth of staples.
By March 15th, virtually overnight, San Antonio grocery store shelves had also been decimated. We were all set for 2 weeks though, and figured things would normalize fairly quickly. We still had no intention of coming back to Ontario early.
On March 17th we were able to walk the downtown stretch of the riverwalk almost alone; boats empty, restaurants closed, patios silent.
So, today, March 21st, here we are, thanks in part to pressure via social media from friends in Canada AND those who were travelling but heading home ahead of schedule, and in part to fear. Reading that our Prime Minister was considering invoking the War Measures Act to shut our borders was stressful, as was the possibility that our insurance might not cover any COVID-19 related illness out-of-country (although they would still cover injuries, etc, hospitals might not have the capacity to treat us).
It was a very stressful couple of days. Making the drive from San Antonio to the border in two 12+ hour days is not our style. We’re exhausted.
To complicate things, we also had no “home” to “come home” to! Travellers returning to Canada need to self-isolate for 14 days. The earliest our May-October condo could be made available to us was April 1st, which left 10 days of…. sleeping in the car with our luggage? We couldn’t stay with our kids; that’s not isolation! Hotels are still open, but who knows for how long? Anyway…. AirBNB to the rescue. We’ve never used it before, but Ted found an apartment in downtown Collingwood that was willing to rent to us starting tomorrow. Tonight we’re in a Holiday Inn Express in Sarnia, getting a decent night’s sleep before driving north. Son #2 already has a short list of groceries to drop off once we get checked in, but we need to be sensible and follow the isolation rules. It will be like playing Nicky Nicky Nine Doors: knock, drop the bags, and run!
We REALLY hope that the world will have recovered by the fall, so that we can head out on the road, or on the ocean, or into the skies, again. In the meantime, I’ll have to find writing inspiration in other activities. Stay tuned!