March 17, 2020

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On being stuck in a foreign country during a pandemic

On being stuck in a foreign country during a pandemic

Happy edit! I managed to make it home thanks to the helpful people at the New Zealand Embassy in Mexico, the Germans and Qatar Airlines. It was a German repatriation flight that saved the day, and in the end I was only stranded for about 3-4 weeks longer than I intended. Very thankful to be home…

Often when I feel upset I find writing very cathartic. This is one of those moments. I’ve lived through a few things in my life. Having a close friend die, and coming close to dying myself in the Christchurch earthquakes. Having to cut a overseas trip short to rush home to have treatment for testicular cancer last year. To name a few. Being stuck in a foreign country, alone during a global pandemic is quickly giving the rest a run for their money. This was supposed to be my celebration trip to make up for the last one… I’m trying to remember I did have a great trip.

Now I am by myself, in a small town in Costa Rica waiting and hoping that the travel restrictions don’t change again. I was supposed to go to Mexico City for a concert and come home on the 28th. I started getting worried about this last week. I originally would have had a layover in Argentina for one day but then they closed their borders. After that I decided I’d get home as soon as I possibly could. I spent around $5000 New Zealand dollars on a flight from Mexico City transiting through Chile to Auckland. This was six hours before Chile closed their borders for everything including international transit. I tried calling the New Zealand Embassy in Wellington and had my fear reinforced; I am alone and there was nothing much my country can do for me.

I can speak conversational Spanish, but anyone who has learnt a second language would understand that trying to get answers in a crisis, especially on the phone, is not easy when you’re not fluent. Fortunately I have a Costa Rican girlfriend who can help me and she called the Argentinian airport who said transit is still possible. She also determined that Panama is still allowing transit. I spent another $3700 moving my flight 4 days sooner and going through Panama. As a side note when the airlines say they are allowing people to change their flights without fee, they just mean the arbitrary price gouging “change penalty” they charge. You still have to pay fair differences. At least I’m going home Premium Economy for my 3 thousand dollars.

It’s scary and I’ve been brought to tears a few times today.

I don’t know what it feels like back home, but to me it feels like this could be a very serious situation and no one really knows how it’s going to end. My biggest fear is being stuck here, with no job for months with no end in sight. Air New Zealand is not doing any more flights out of Buenos Aires after the 30th, and who knows when Chile will open their borders. Those are my only two ways home. I don’t want to catastrophize but this is one of those scenarios where considering the worst case is potentially a good idea. We could be in for a seriously bad time as a global community. I’m just hoping I’m not stuck in Costa Rica by myself through it all.

Thinking of all my friends and family and lets not be silly in these times. It’s better to be broke than to be dead. It’s better to be unemployed than un-alive. As soon as I get home I’m not leaving my house and I have already been in self-isolation for about 2 weeks as it is.

Lots of love. Mucho amor. Kia Kaha

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Seth Reid

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On being stuck in a foreign country during a pandemic