It’s COVID-19 in Peru Day 7.
I wake up around 4 or 5. I’ve kept the phone by the bed just in case. I check it.
I open my email. No word from the embassy.
I can’t remember what else I do, but at some point, I fall back asleep until 8.
The apartment has big windows facing west and a giant floor fan, but no A/C. I don’t mind, as it’s comfortable. But it also gets sticky.
I edit the movie of the nightly shout-out, which takes about 45 minutes. But then I have to load it to YouTube. And because I don’t understand how iMovie works, or even think about a magic word I used to know, “compression,” I manage to add a needlessly painful element to my day.
I check my email every five minutes. Nada.
I check my YouTube upload in between email checks. Another 1%.
In movies where people are waiting and waiting, they edit things into a cute little montage, sometimes with wacky music. In real life, all that waiting gives you SO much time to think about all the things that can go wrong.
What if a flight comes in to evacuate us at 10 p.m. or 3 a.m.? There’s a curfew from 8 pm to 5am. We’re screwed.
What if the US changes its policies and won’t let us back in? Or, as someone helpfully forwarded me on FB, insists that we be quarantined for 2 weeks at a military base?
Then again, maybe I will get to wear camo. I can march through the halls, bellowing, “Your mother was born on your left, you’re RIGHT!” I saw Full Metal Jacket. I literally know the drill.
What’s a Cryptic, Nan?
I settle into a cryptic crossword. I think about sleeping, but I have to keep my VPN hooked up so the video will upload.
After an hour, I finish the cryptic. This is why it takes so long:
Clue: German article describes oddly stern Tomlin character (9)
That was an easy one. The German article is “eine.” “oddly stern” means that the word “stern” will be scrambled somehow, then planted in the word “eine.” Also, I loved Ernestine, and she was oddly stern.
So, for a cryptic clue, kind of a gimme. Still. Cryptics take time and concentration and keep your mind off things like Zombie Apocalypses.
Be careful what you wish for, folks.
When an Embassy Emails
Right then, I get the email I’ve been waiting for from the Embassy. It’s basically a repeat of yesterday, but I reply to it anyway, using the exact format and subject line that they recommend. It’s a rock and a hard place area. They say that duplicate emails give them more email to wade through, which I get, but I also don’t want to get passed over because yesterday, I wrote back without reading carefully. Always a bad practice, that.
(The moral of this post is: Read carefully even when stressed. Think things through even when stressed. Especially when stressed.)
In the return receipt of my email, the Embassy says to contact our airline.
So I call Delta. God love the airlines right now. The employees are working at a hard job that just got harder. I have a nice call with a woman who really wants to help me but can’t.
“If charters begin, can you put my name on that list?” I ask.
She says, in a tone of true sorrow, “No. You have to go through the Embassy for that.”
We say goodbye, me thanking her as profusely as she apologizes even more profusely. Throughout this, I’ve saved all the losing my cool moments for my spouse, which I kind of think is part of the spouse gig.
I half doze, half pay attention as Steve does an online video course on keeping sanity in these insane times. I keep an eye on my computer to make sure the upload doesn’t shut down.
There’s a ping on my phone. I’ve been invited to an FB group, Americans Stranded in Peru. I don’t know how they found me, but I notice a mutual FB friend, so she may have gotten them in touch.
I tell the organizer we’ve been working with the Embassy to get out on LATAM or Avianca. She says they’ve been working with congress people to get the strandees out even faster on charter planes. I add my name to a spreadsheet, then start reading the page.
Dear God, we’re lucky. I still feel a little surreal when I think about our innocence just a week ago. We were in the lodge, getting ready for dinner, thinking about the next day’s climb. I was worrying about my ankle.
Child’s play. Cusco sounds downright Inferno-esque right now. I read updates, and the group page practically throbs with anxiety. I ping back the organizer, telling her we’d love to get a charter out, but we have to be at the back of the line. So many people are genuinely desperate to get home.
I’m not desperate, I realize. I’m ready. And I’ll go as soon as I can. But I don’t have to be part of this Escape from Entebbe-esque evacuation. Some folks do. They can have my seat.
Steve’s seminar seemed to work a little. I feel, if not calmer, a little more ok with realizing I have choices, but next to no control beyond taking the steps I need to and can take.
I cannot choose frantic. It’s too easy and too awful to get swept up in it.
So I go back to checking my emails every five minutes. Then checking my video upload. Finally, after 8 hours, the 1 minute video of the nightly Lima shout-out is ready to go. I get a post out. The video, incidentally, looks like hell. “Compression.” (It’s fixed now.)
I open up another cryptic crossword.
Well, Hello, Representative.
I read that Michigan Rep Debbie Dingell is working to get some of her constiuents out of Lima. I tweet my Rep, Tim Walberg, copying Dingell and Stabenow. I tell him that I’ve sent him an email with details on my situation, and hashtag it #strandedinperu.
I’ve never been super big on Twitter but holy smokes, this time it works. Within half an hour, at 6:05 on a Sunday, my phone rings. It’s a caller from Michigan, a woman in my rep’s office.
I update her, emphasizing we’re safe, but we just want the different reps in Michigan to know who’s down here. I’m genuinely impressed to be getting a call this late.
I look at Twitter. Before the call, Walberg had tweeted me that he’d earmarked my email and someone would call me.
Hold on. A politician actually did what he said he would do in order to help a constituent. I knock myself over with a stray feather.
Soon after, I get a confirmation email with some info from the state department. Apparently, it’s very difficult to get planes into Cusco and other high altitude locations in Peru, because US commercials planes are not authorized to land at over 12,000 feet. It’s going to be a long time before I can think about Cusco without having that feeling like I barely dodged a terrible car wreck with, like, a hundred cars all piled up on top of each other. Plus an overturned semi filled with something flammable.
Weird, limbo-esque day. To be fair, I did spend the first few hours of it a little hung over.
But a decent ending.