On Never Walking Alone

Just over two months ago, a few days before I moved to Ireland, I was sitting in the living room of my parents’ home watching Manchester City play Chelsea. There were no fans in the stadium, hadn’t been since the Premier League had restarted after a long, coronavirus-induced break. Stakes were fairly high for each team. A win for Chelsea would boost their Champions League qualification hopes, while a win for City would keep them in the title race for one more week. Chelsea’s young American Christian Pulisic opened the scoring, then City’s Kevin De Bruyne equalised. In the second half, a handball saw Fernandinho sent off and Willian step up to the penalty spot to bury a second goal for Chelsea. Twenty minutes later, the game was over… and suddenly Liverpool were champions.

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Planes and Pandemics: Moving Internationally During Covid-19

The plan was this: Finish our Southeast Asia adventure on March 25, spend two weeks visiting friends in Seattle and Vancouver, arrive in Philadelphia on April 6, and fly to Ireland on May 8. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But we cut our trip short, headed straight to my parents’ in Philly, and spent three months hanging out, going for walks in the park, and catching up on Netflix, Steve’s 90-day visa-free allowance in the States was up so he headed back to Ireland.

I was meant to stay an extra month, see my sister, and then join him, but rumours began to fly that the EU would implement a ban on travellers from high-risk countries. Although I would qualify for an exemption that should have allowed me entry, I didn’t want to chance it and end up stuck for the foreseeable future, so on the 24th of June I booked my flight from JFK to Dublin for just a few days later, and on the 28th I was off. This is what it was like to fly internationally during the pandemic.

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Where we are now

On March 15 I was in a hotel in Hanoi, full of nervous energy and the fear that a staff member or another guest would exhibit symptoms of Coronavirus and the Vietnamese government would lock down the hotel until they could figure out the scope of the virus there, and Steve and I would miss our urgently-rescheduled flight back to the United States.

Of course, we had been monitoring the situation throughout our travels in Southeast Asia. The first cases of the virus had been reported in China shortly after we arrived in Indonesia, but it seemed unlikely to affect us. Apart from seeing a lot of locals wearing masks in Singapore and Thailand, something which is common practice in Asia anyway after the SARS outbreak, it was business as usual. We even went to a Lunar New Year in Bangkok’s Chinatown, and any fears of the virus were outnumbered by excitement for the holiday from both locals and tourists.

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