Friday, March 27, 2020

Back in the U.S.A.

Scott and I, masked, in line at the Guatemala airport.
A view of our American Airlines Flight from Dallas to Boston from the front row of
the main cabin where we sat.

Last Sunday we had a video conference call with old friends. We assured them that we planned to stay in Guatemala for some time, probably a month or more. We told our concerned family the same thing. There are very few cases in Guatemala and the President, a doctor, has instituted draconian measures to see that it continues. As I mentioned before he closed the borders early and there were medical check points at the border crossings and ports. Then he closed all businesses but essential ones. Restaurants became take out only. The curfew was at first 6 PM to 4 AM and then 4 PM to 4 AM. 
But starting on Monday the American and Canadian Embassies instituted "repatriation" flights. Several of our friends here at the Marina applied for them: three we are very close to - Rick & Marsha on She Wolf'  Renate & Jim on Emerald Seas and Pat & Dave on Ten Year's After. Rick and Marsha got their confirmation early and it got us thinking. What if things went south here and we were stuck for many months and it didn't look as if the situation in the US was getting better soon. If something happened we'd be away from our family and unable to be with them. So we applied for the flights. A notification that they'd received our request and were being considered came quite quickly. Then on Monday, we got a preliminary assignment to the last of 6 flights going out, Wednesday at 11:38 AM. That was the only one we could make as we needed Tuesday to get the boat ready to leave. We arranged a driver to take us to the airport on Wednesday morning. But when the confirming email came it was for Tuesday at 9:28 AM. There was no way we could make that. We sent emails to everyone we had an address for Monday night. We hadn't heard anything the next morning so Scott made a call to a woman Rick & Marsha had talked to and she promised to look into it. Meanwhile, we worked non stop to get the boat ready. In one day we did what we normally we take many days to do. Tuesday night we got our confirmation! Happily, Rick & Marsha were on the same flight.
We were up at 3:00 AM the next morning and at 4:00 AM our guard at the marina motored us down the river to the public boat dock to meet our driver. There is a curfew here in Guatemala from 4 PM to 4 AM - no vehicles (except safety etc) or people are allowed on the streets or on the water. We have used Otto before and he's great. He delivered us to the airport by 9 AM - a little later than the 3 hour advance we were told we had to make. We had a longish wait at an awful truck accident. Happily, we were greeted by an Embassy person and taken through the large crowd of people waiting outside the airport to the only door in. There our names were checked against a list with our passports. Now here's the only scary and I'll say, really scary event. Marsha and Rick were on the list but they said we were only on a stand by list. They started to move us out into the crowd to "wait". Then Scott remembered the woman he talked to yesterday that said she thought they'd messed up our names out of order. He asked them to check and we were listed as Shay Heather and Garren Scott!!! Thank GOD! At that point, we had no way to get back to our boat.
So we were let into the almost empty airport to a set of checkpoints where our information was checked carefully and we signed a promissory note to pay whatever it cost. One person thought it would be about $600 but time will tell. Meanwhile, a private charter was taking other American citizens home for $1,000 each. That was the situation for the big crowds outside. We hadn't heard anything about those flights to Miami.
Our luggage was checked in and we made our way through an eerie quiet closed airport to our gate. There every seat was taken and many families were on the floor - all trying to keep social distance. Now I haven't mentioned our "masks". Everyone is wearing them but they are quite a funny motley assortment. I have our "regular" mask that the fellow who did our varnishing used! Scott was wearing a paper towel held around his head by a string. Rick had a quite jaunty bandana and Marsha had cunningly sewed half of a bra - looked better than you'd think! 
A long time later (but on time) we were called to board - from the back of the plane to the front. Here's where the best surprise of the day occurred. We looked at our boarding pass and all four of us were seated in first class. Scott and I had the first two seats - marvelous. I think our scary moment earlier and Marsha's numerous calls and emails to Michelle and talking to a wonderful woman Wendy paid off. Several people coming in said "You're the ones Wendy mentioned". Thank you, Wendy. (we'll be sending commendations to both she and Michelle later).
But first class didn't mean first class service. We were given coffee and soft drinks and a choice of sandwich or hummus platter. Unfortunately, the food ran out before they got to the back of the plane - sorry guys!. And we had comfortable and pretty private seating. Once landed (on time) we had an easy time through immigration and customs. Unlike us normally, we booked the expensive Hyatt at the airport. We showed up at the wrong one - who knew there were two Hyatt's there? Because of the virus, the hotel was mostly shut down. There was one nice man at the lobby take out place and that's it. But we got two half bottles of wine and went back down later to pick up a sandwich and salad - all to enjoy in our room. Life was good that evening.
The next day was so much easier than we had ever imagined. Actually empty airports - empty gates and airplanes. We were alone at check-in and got the whole row to ourselves right behind first class (and everyone on the plane could sit alone). We never stood in a crowd but felt always spaced out. We had hand sanitizers and Clorox wipes which I used everywhere but there were signs that they were trying to do a thorough cleaning job. I usually had the ladies' room to myself. 
In Boston, we picked up our one way rental car and there was NO traffic. Imagine. 4 pm on a work day and hardly any cars leaving the city. It was an easy drive home and our youngest son Sean & his husband Will had dinner ready for us. They have been living up here for several weeks, working "from home". So we're here and safe for now. The next two weeks will be a bit scary. Every time you cough, you worry. But at least we could get health care here and in English. Hopefully, we won't need it!!!
Rick & Marsha stayed one night in Dallas and then drove home to Arizona. After we left, Emerald Seas was confirmed on the Canadian flight Friday, 3/27 to Montreal. They flew home to Vancouver Island the next day. Pat and Dave decided not to go (although they could have). Kathy unfortunately, didn't get a confirmation. Hopefully, she will on a later flight. Dave and Ellen are planning to stay until the first of May. They are waiting for Ellen's new insurance to take effect. The rest of the boaters are planning to stay for now.
Marsha celebrated her birthday at the Marina. We all sat around the perimeter of the large veranda and helped ourselves to the food in the center on our own plates. We did get together for this photo however, the "masks" were a joke as none of us had real ones (well, Rick had his gas mask). Heather far left, then Rick - Marsh is in the turquoise shirt at center. Pat and Dave are to her right. 

After Jim & Renate brought Emerald Seas back to the Marina on Monday we stayed on the boat at "Happy
Hour". They sat on the side of their boat and we and Dave & Ellen from Cordelia joined us on our boat. Dave sang and played the guitar. It was a magical night. Jim took these two photos from Emerald Seas. That's Ellen
center under the light.

Anotehr shot. You can see Scott and I far left and Dave in the Captain's chair with his guitar.

The owner of Tortugal, Dapne, has two new puppies - 6 weeks old - named
Patron and Odon. They had their morning walk past our boat.

The cook at Tortugal learned how to make bagels! These were as good as any NY
bagels we've had. As you can see, they are "Everthing".

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