As you know I had an 8-month long wait in Colombia due to covid-19 before being able to move to Mexico. However, so much confusion led to that point. I found out that we were moving to Mexico in December 2019 and expected a quick move within the next month. However, paperwork took quite some time and slowed down the process.
At the end of February 2020, the paperwork was complete. We got notification that we could go to Mexico for my partner to get his temporary visa the following week. Once completed, we would return to Colombia to pack, before our official move to Mexico within a month, but let me not get ahead of myself.
At the point when I arrived in Mexico, the covid-19 pandemic was mostly in the Asian countries. And fortunately, not too widespread, so this was not much of a concern. Little did I know how much could change in the 3 weeks spent in Mexico. After the first week, covid-19 had spread to Latin America, but it was only a few cases.
A few days later, I had gotten sick, my throat was sore which was accompanied by a fever and cough. These were all possible symptoms of covid-19 which was an absolutely terrifying thought. I locked myself in my hotel room, but with the worry that my partner would get it as well. I refused to let the maids clean my room so I would not contaminate them in any way.
My condition had not changed much, and fortunately my partner did not show any of the same symptoms. I constantly read news in both Colombia and Mexico trying to keep abreast of everything going on. But this only flipped my anxiety into high gear. I could not wait to go home on our flight scheduled for a Sunday.
However, the Monday to Wednesday before that, my partner took a trip within Mexico to get his visa. This made my anxiety kick up a notch higher, if that’s even possible! Being sick and alone and wondering who would know if something happened to me if I had suddenly taken a turn for the worst. I made it through the days, yes! Then on Wednesday reception called and informed me that I needed to change rooms. This would allow them to sanitise the entire floor which they were doing for the entire hotel.
So, I started packing everything on my own to prepare for the “move”, not the move I was expecting. Buzz buzz, it was my phone. An email of flight cancellation! This was generally the case around this time since countries were closing their borders. In addition, people were not travelling so airlines did not want to fly with limited capacity. Of course, I panicked! What if no flights could leave Mexico?! However, everyone we travelled with, received the same notification so I took comfort in the fact that the company would need to act on this.
I started throwing whatever could fit in a suitcase. Not forgetting to check the news every few minutes, I saw the news that Colombia was considering closing its borders. If that happened, we would not get back in. I tried to contact my partner to ask his company what was going on but to no avail. He was on his trip back to me, so he did not have connection to respond. All I could do was wait…and try to breathe.
I called reception to help me move to my new room. Of course, in the newly cleaned hotel room, I immediately felt the need to clean! I sprayed everything and continued to wait. Finally, my partner returned to the hotel and soon received a call asking if we would like to stay in Mexico, all expenses paid or return to Colombia.
I know for some of you, it may have seem like the obvious choice to take a free vacation. However, it already felt like I was going crazy being in a hotel during a pandemic when someone was touching everything in my room. I was constantly on edge with the fear that at any point someone could clean our room with contaminated hands. Also, the maids were in contact with lots of people, it was an easy situation for the virus to spread. And remember they touch, EVERYTHING in your room, to the TV remote to your pillow! The thought of that almost drove me crazy! My face would be on the pillow with the germs! Those reasons plus the fact that everything of mine was in Colombia. AND not knowing how border closures would go, I wanted to go back to Colombia.
At 9pm on Wednesday night, we got a message saying someone will pick us up at the hotel at 6am for a flight first thing the next morning. I had to repack since I didn’t pack with the intention of flying so things were all over and badly balanced.
The following morning, we got to the airport however they did not want to check us in. The staff said that we were not nationals and could not return. My stress levels went through the roof! They came back and forth a couple times to get different bits of information from us. In the midst of this, the couple next to us suffered rejected from the flight and exited the airport.
Finally they let us through. But right as we were to board, another stop! Whyyyyy?!? AGAIN?!? Of course, again with the back and forth like we were not worthy of flying with them. But unprecedented times means all this crazy stuff happens. We were let through one by one but could not wait on each other. I was walking onto the plane BY MYSELF! Then I heard someone say my name and my partner was coming behind me, thank goodness!
Finally! We were aboard! However, not long after we stumbled onto the fact that we had an almost empty pantry at home in Colombia. That’s because we were planning to move in a few weeks before we had visited Mexico. ANDDD since we were flying in, we would be under mandatory quarantine for the next 14 days. Under no circumstances we were to leave our home. Simultaneously, Bogota as a city began quarantine so there was uncertainty if apps would even be allowed to do deliveries either. Thinking of all that and at the risk of starving, I decided to use an app to “visit the supermarket”.
However, it takes a while to go through and add each item one by one. And of course, I had little knowledge of what we had back at our place. I was in a panic, AGAIN, to try and make this order. The captain actually said “turn off your phones” and I, like a crazy person, frantically trying to get this order. Fortunately, I just about scheduled it in time before the plane started moving. The groceries were set to arrive two hours after we land.
Finally we landed, there were news crews at the airport because we are such celebrities. Just kidding, it was to show how the pandemic was already affecting flights. We got to our apartment, sprayed everything down. And just when we were about to breathe a sign of relief, the groceries came. But in adjusting to the new normal, the delivery was to the lobby and not my front door. So I had to go to the entrance to collect and clean everything that arrived.
And so began our lockdown….
Find out more about expat life in this article about settling in a new country.