By Ann Hazard
Monday, March 16. Buena Vista, BCS
Yesterday was the annual art festival here in Los Barriles. At the last minute I decided not to go. I drove by on my way to get supplies. It was packed. Hundreds of people. Denial is rampant here. “No more updates on the virus!” I was told by a friend. She doesn’t believe it’s a threat.
I’ve done the research. I’ve done the math. It’s real and it’s coming. It could already be here, growing silently. I think I need to go north….
Thursday, March 19. Buena Vista, BCS
I woke up today with a heavy heart. Am I doing the right thing, flying back to San Diego? The majority of my friends here in Baja Sur—mostly in the towns of Los Barriles, Buena Vista and Todos Santos, where I’ve lived part time since 2003—are staying. My heart says, “Go.” A few days ago it said, “Stay.” It vacillates. There are no easy decisions these days. I’m 67. I have Medicare in the US and nothing here. That clinched my decision to leave, although I really don’t want to.
I made my reservation on Monday, but I can’t fly until Saturday, the 21st. Only Boeing planes have pressurized cargo holds and I have two dogs, Miniature Schnauzers. Rokko and Romo have to fly in baggage. Every day but Saturday Alaska flies Air Buses between here and San Diego. So I am waiting on a Boeing, and not very gracefully.
As I am packing my two suitcases, I note that my smaller one contains only clothes. Since I have no idea when I can come back, it’s jammed full. The bigger suitcase (at 48 lbs) has 20 rolls of toilet paper. Paper towels. Medications. Supplements. Homemade hand sanitizer. Wipes. Lysol. Dog food, treats and toys. Most of these things I brought down here. (Well, definitely not the toilet paper!) Some things came by car. Some by plane. But when I packed them there was always joy in my heart. There were always extra things crammed in for friends who live here. Now, I’m flying these items back north, on this unexpected and unplanned journey. There is sadness, fear and uncertainty in my heart. I imagine myself explaining this to the customs guy as he zaps me in the forehead with a thermometer.
I will miss my home, my friends, my adventurous, free-wheeling life here. I already do. I’ve been self isolating for four days already and it’s lonely. I’m going back to 14 days of more isolation. At least. I wish everyone—here and everywhere—to stay healthy, to stay safe. I realize there are still many who don’t take this COVID-19 thing seriously. I know they too are afraid, but hating the stress that fear and uncertainty produces, they turn away from the reality facing us. Fear can cause such ugliness. Especially when it seeps out from our subconscious and assaults others. I pray this stops. I pray for love, kindness and solidarity.
Saturday, March 21. Alaska Flight 1297: 35,000 feet above the Baja Peninsula
The Cabo airport was super packed. Social distancing? Absolutely impossible. They did make everyone fill out a health form saying you had not been near anyone with the virus and had no symptoms.
After I checked in I had to go downstairs to outdoors at arrivals to wait an hour before I was permitted to send the dogs off in their crates. Two of the three bars were closed. There were only a handful of people coming into Cabo, and those drivers waiting for them looked shell shocked. Nothing like the party-party-party atmosphere normal for the Cabo arrivals, where people are laughing and ordering drinks, excited to begin their vacations. Today we all look like zombies—victims of something we cannot begin to comprehend. I feel so sorry for everyone. Everywhere. Tourism is evaporating and cancellations are rampant. The livelihoods of my friends and their families and friends are vanishing. It’s heart breaking.
Finally upstairs at departures there was nowhere to sit, until I finally got a seat at the main bar where I had a veggie burrito and a gin and tonic. No alcohol or food service on this flight, even in first class. I was hungry and the food was great. The bartenders equally awesome and terrified as their jobs could disappear in a few days. They wanted to know why I was leaving. I explained in Spanish. I paid in pesos. They wished me a speedy return. I wished them salud y suerte—health and luck. I tipped well.
After I ate, I stopped in at the restroom. It was 11:35 and boarding was scheduled for 11:40. While in the stall my phone rang. Unknown caller. I answered. It was my plane. Seriously? “Where are you?” the flight attendant asked. I told her. “We’re ready to close the doors. How soon can you get here?” I did not wash my hands. I ran. I made it. It was 11:40 when I hit the jetway. They greeted me, laughed and told me they were taking bets on who’d get my dogs if I was a no show….
This plane is about 1/3 full. On the way south there were three passengers. This may be the last flight out I could have gotten out on with my dogs. Alaska is cutting back flights next week and pets will only be allowed on nonstop flights. On a Boeing. So I am blessed beyond belief… as driving alone was not an option for me. The flight attendant just gave me a nice hunk of dark chocolate. Oh my God what a treat. And two waters. We were told to bring an empty water bottle, which I did. I have sanitized my hands so many times they’re raw. Yes, it’s home made sanitizer. Los Barriles has been out for weeks.
We are now on approach. Just touched down. More later….
Monday, March 23. Encinitas, CA
Three flights came in at once in San Diego. One from Puerto Vallarta and two from Cabo. No one took our temperatures. Totally business as usual. People helped me wield my two super ungainly smart carts—one with two antsy dogs in crates and one with my suitcases. I asked the customs agent who checked my passport, “Guess I am headed for a two week lock down, huh?” He laughed. The driver who brought me home thought everything was overblown as well.
It was a gorgeous spring weekend here. Thousands of San Diegans hit the beaches, parks and hiking trails. It was so packed that the county shut them all down. Every beach. Every park. Every hiking trail. School playgrounds. We are truly on lockdown. I can walk my dogs along my street, and even that is iffy. I understand the rebelliousness. Cabin fever and spring fever are a double whammy. But the consequences aren’t fun. I was looking forward to walking alone with my dogs on the beach in Cardiff. Along the Batiquitos Lagoon trail. At Fiesta Island. So not happening!
On a positive note, I made it to Stater Brothers at 8 am today when it opened. I woke up at 7:30, threw on clothes, fed dogs and made coffee. Grabbed it and my gloves and mask and took off. I was fortunate to choose a store that was fairly empty and fully stocked, except for canned goods and toilet paper. I’m good. Settling in for the duration—whatever that means!
Wednesday, March 25. Encinitas, CA
Yesterday I learned that my daughter, son-in-law and two of my grandkids had finally gotten tickets out of Australia, where they have been stuck. They will be back on April 8. My relief is overwhelming, and almost impossible to express. Yesterday was also my sister’s birthday. We celebrated by having some wine together via FaceTime.
I woke up different this morning. In my heart I felt a shift from fear and dread toward hope and joy. I am grateful. We got this!!! We can emerge from this a better people. We can be stronger, kinder and more generous. Stay strong, amigos. Wherever you are. Please be safe. Be smart. Be careful. Salud y suerte. Cuidado.