I have to chuckle to myself every time I begin to write a post on my blog because there in front of me are always the words: “What is on your mind?” If truth be told there is always something on my mind since I suffer from the disease that most of us have today and that is over thinking.
What a loaded question for us bloggers at this time! How could the thing on our minds be anything other than COVID-19 which has taken over our world in such a short time? For the past week we have been daily, if not hourly, bombarded with information on the latest government action based on our need to self-isolate, practice social distancing, and how we can deal with it…or else!
A week ago when I arrived home in Annapolis Royal, I was barely aware of what these words meant. I was confused by the varying interpretations I was receiving and by what I had witnessed up to this point. I confess I found myself resisting much of the advice that was being thrown at me the minute I stepped my foot on Nova Scotia’s soil.
Six days previous to that, I arrived in Toronto and then Ottawa where I encountered no screening measures. No one was wearing masks and at Pearson Airport tons of people were in shorts and flip flops. There was definitely no sense of panic, only the usual anticipation of those who were heading south for some fun in the sun during their March break. Everything seemed quite normal which was a bit surprising since I had been screened “for the fever” as the young lady at Chiang Mai’s airport in Thailand told me. While in Ottawa, I didn’t meet anyone who was self-isolating or social distancing, including my daughter with whom I was staying. The only irregularity was she had been given notice that she would be working from home and that my grandson would have an extended March Break up to April 6.
My first clue to the enormity of the problems that this virus was creating for anyone who was in the midst of travelling began when I received a notice from Porter Airlines that I should either change or cancel my upcoming reservation from Ottawa to Halifax because they were considering cancelling their service. I had no trouble changing my departure to leaving two days earlier than scheduled. The real problems began when I told my brother who lives in Dartmouth of my new arrival time. In the past, I have always had him there to greet me at the airport after my long haul home from Thailand and then stay over with him and my sister-in-law before heading home the next day. I was totally surprised to hear that he couldn’t do that because they both had bad colds making them vulnerable to catching the virus should I be carrying it. Of course by this time, Nova Scotians were being informed that travellers coming from overseas countries were on the high risk list. He suggested I book a hotel which I did. When I look back on that move, I realise I was again lucky that the Quality Inn let me stay with no questions asked. I’m sure that would not happen now.
Then the perverbial second shoe dropped when I tried to find a shuttle that would take me to Lawrencetown where my car was stowed. I racked my brain for someone who would be willing to drive up to Halifax and fetch me but came up with no one. My brother then posed the idea of renting a car to which he would personally come down to pick up for me and take back to the airport the next day. Unfortunately, my sister-in-law’s bronchitis had worsened so that plan quickly evaporated. The only option I could see working would be to rent a car to get me to Lawrencetown, and then figure out how I could get it back to the nearest pick up spot which was in Middleton. I didn’t think that would be too difficult. I would figure something out or find someone who would come to my rescue.
By this time my focus was on how I could get back home and not much on the rapidly changing protocol for dealing with the virus. I wasn’t glued to the radio or TV because I could get neither of them at my hotel or in my fancy new rental car. Moreover, I discovered my cell phone wasn’t working so I decided I would be wise to stop and do some food shopping in New Minus while I still had some energy, rather then leave it for Annapolis Royal which would be much later in the day. I also thought this would be a good time to have Bell look at my phone to see why it wasn’t working. It had to be a technical problem because I had already reactivated my plan and had made a couple of calls from Ottawa.
This is where the reality of the situation for me really began to sink in. Just about every store in the New Minus Mall was closed or in the process of closing. Bell was already closed and Telus was about to. In fact, the two remaining staff at Telus wore masks and gloves and were trying desperately to stay 2 meters away from me. Another light bulb came on when I realised that I was dealing with staff who were truly scared of what was happening. It all felt so surreal. This wasn’t the friendly Nova Scotia that I knew. I continued on my way home with no more stops feeling extremely tired and in still in a state of shock at what was happening around me.
The next morning there was a knock at my door from my landlady. In no uncertain terms, she made it quite clear that I was expected to self-isolate for 14 days regardless of the fact I had been in the country for almost a week. She told me I should stay in my apartment for two weeks and not even go out to the trail behind the house for a walk. I was flabbergasted! A flood of various emotions took over. I was angry over having my freedom to do anything suddenly taken away. I began to feel like a pariah because no one wanted to come near me. I couldn’t help feeling that I was being punished for being away. I even felt guilty about not being as eager as she and many others in town who were actually carrying out all the stuff that they were telling me I had to do. It all became too overwhelming so I balked. When I look back on all this, I realise we were all over reacting. She was stressed because she was afraid of getting the virus and simply wanted to protect herself and her other tenants from me who was coming from Thailand. I was still stressed after my flight of more than 13 hours from Taiwan to Toronto, the abruptness of having to leave my family in Ottawa, and the scramble and additional cost to get back home. Now that I am back and have had time to process it all and catch up on my sleep, I am more than ready to do whatever I have to do to get through this catastrophe. Furthermore, I have gained a better understanding of the reactions I have received from the few Nova Scotians I have been in contact with since arriving home.
I felt compelled to write about my experience as a returning traveller to my home province because there are still thousands of travellers who are stranded in foreign countries waiting to get home safely. I want people to know it’s just as stressful for them to be away and have to find a way to get home as it is for those who have been here all along preparing for the changes being imposed on them by our various levels of government.
I was on the van guard to this phenomenon of the traveller returning home. Many of the rules and regulations that are now in place were just beginning when I returned two weeks ago. Our government was just realising the seriousness of this virus and what it’s ramifications were if we didn’t get on top of things quickly. The general public were still grappling with it all and not too clear of what was expected of them. My arrival occurred in the midst of the chaos. I expect that now the returnees from other countries will have a much better understanding of what to expect. Some are being flown back by Air Canada as I write this and will be quarantined on their arrival. They will probably get more help than I did because all of us have had more time to process all the changes hitting us.
Despite the problems I encountered, I am extremely grateful that was able get back home safe and sound. My timing for every step along the way was good. I shudder to think what it would be like stuck in Chiang Mai right now. The virus there is growing to such an extent that the government is talking about bringing in martial law. Their pollution index has spiked to a high of unthinkable proportions to over 500 PM2.5 in some areas which is 12 times higher than the safe level. The cause is numerous wildfires raging in the mountains surrounding the city. There has been no rain for months and their temperatures are hovering around the 40’s.
As a traveller this has probably been one of the most memorable adventures I’ve ever had. I had to learn so much in such a short period of time. I now understand how we are all in this battle together with a fickle enemy waiting to snatch us away from life as we have known it. Every day many of us are being faced with new problems needing new solutions which are testing us to our limits. From all reports this thing isn’t going to disappear any time soon. My sincere hope is that we can all pull together to meet our challenges that will require much compassion and understanding for ourselves and others.
P.S. I should mention that I did find someone to return my rental car. She was my land lady who kindly offered to drive up with a friend to return it to Middleton. I am being super careful to stay indoors and only go for a short walks around the French Basin. I have a neighbour across the street who has offered to fetch my mail and any food I might need. In fact, I’ve had two other offers for the same thing so I’ll never have to worry about starving. Just one more week to go before I will be allowed to do a weekly food shop myself. We are being told that our supermarket shelves will be kept full but under extremely different conditions. Another learning experience awaits!