Back in the US of A

Well, it’s been a while. I spent a few weeks isolated in Costa Rica (not much of a change for me). The government mandated that people telecommute if possible, so my students went home and classes moved online. I liked not having to spend hours in Ubers, but it felt a little spooky never seeing anyone in person.

I had made a reservation to return to the States on the 26th, for the usual visit, appointments, refills, etc. When it seemed possible that either country might close the borders, the embassy sent out an email advising Americans to leave right away or be prepared to be unable to travel for an indefinite period of time. I moved my flight up to the 22nd and headed out. I figured that, if anything bad happened to me, I’d rather be in a hospital in the US with family around.

The gods were with me. Although the US didn’t lock out citizens, Costa Rica had a problem. Every year, many religious Nicaraguans, legal residents who do mostly low-level jobs in CR, travel home for Semana Santa (Holy Week), which begins April 6th. They then return to CR. Due to the lack of medical infrastructure in Nicaragua, many people could have returned infected with coronavirus. In an attempt to avoid this, the government decreed that any legal resident of Costa Rica who left the country would lose one’s resident status. This began on the 24th, two days after I left. So I should be fine.

Delta Airlines was so swamped with calls that they decided not to penalize people who missed flights or just no-showed. In the international airport in Costa Rica, there were signs and people reminding us to maintain social distancing (until, of course, we were on the plane). Although my flight was fully reserved, there were several empty seats. I got upgraded to first class, thank you very much, and the flight was fine. Upon arrival in Atlanta, an international entry point where travelers are supposed to be interviewed and have their temperatures taken, nobody said or did anything. It was like any other day. Whether it’s our live-free-or-die attitude or our belief in our specialness, we tend to not handle restrictions well. I’m glad to see that finally most people have gotten the message and are being more careful.

I’m at the house of my oldest brother, who, until very recently, was working in an ER. He is now home, and I am relieved. Our other brother lives in Connecticut, and we had planned to fly to NY for his upcoming birthday. Those plans have been canceled, alas. I am working a little less than I was, but I’m still teaching four times a week and consulting. I’ve managed a couple of medical appointments in spite of the shutdown of non-urgent services. It’s nice to be among loved ones, and I now have the opportunity to walk the dog. Always a good thing.

Ever the optimist, I had hoped that this crisis would bring people together and unite the country against a common foe. Instead, it appears that the fear of contracting the virus has been exploited for political reasons to divide the country even more. I can’t help but wonder if we will ever really be united again.

We are not only suffering from a virus from China but from their famous curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

I am, as always, reading a lot. I recently finished the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin, award-winning fantasy fiction, and On Earth We are Briefly Gorgeous, a novel by Ocean Vuong, a Vietnamese immigrant and poet whose writing is at times so stunning that I would read only a page or two at a time in order to savor it. I’ve decided that my next book will be Love in the Time of Cholera to immerse myself in some magical realism.

It is odd to sit with family and watch TV, eat, and laugh, all the while waiting for something to happen. Though unnatural, it also may prepare us for future unforeseen pandemics. I hope that the systems being put into place now can serve us later, and that the CDC will be re-funded and respected and allowed to protect us before things get out of hand.

And, no, I’m not watching zombie apocalypse movie, timely as they may be. They never were my thing, and I’d much rather watch Ozark.