Having just returned from an amazing and life enhancing journey around the globe, I wanted to share some thoughts on what happened as we returned to the USA. Our trip was originally planned to go until March 26th 2020. As the news about the coronavirus continued to grow and spread globally, we had to make a decision on if we should keep those dates. So, we began looking for reasons to stay or go.
Firstly, our original flight home, which was to go through Xiamen, China, was cancelled back in January. As we began looking for new flights home, it was tough to find anything that was reasonably priced and didn’t take 3 days with multiple long layovers. We finally found one that went from Ho Chi Minh City to Manilla and finally to LAX. We booked and then within a couple of days found that this was also cancelled. So, we had to start looking at how we were going to get back and at this point were wondering if that was going to be an option at all considering the trajectory of the cases reported. Finally, we decided to cut the trip short by 10 days and booked a flight going the opposite way, through Qatar.
One thing that I want to express is that it is nearly impossible to find out any info to help guide decisions during times like these. I reached out to the CDC, the WHO, Customs and Border patrols, airlines and anything else I could think of just trying to see where things are really at, because media is so hard to believe. Obviously, I know that there are larger scale issues at hand so my expectation to find the info I was seeking would be trying. Any info released to the public should be done in a safe and delicate way, but to not be able to find the answers I was looking for caused me to grow more concerned about what might actually be happening.
We continued our travels and felt as though everything was going well and then the viral uprisings in Iran and Italy hit and we had to start rethinking our timing. For me, I needed to get back for a handful of time sensitive matters that would have been possible, yet very difficult to handle from afar. End of a car lease, sale of a home, and generally helping my dad through a rough time. So I did not want to risk the issue of getting stranded. We paid some extra money and moved our flight up another week and just arrived back to northern Wisconsin a couple of days ago.
What I want to share is something that we witnessed that was all too shocking. We were on a crowded plane back, of course. Many people from many places on the globe were on the flight. The vast majority were wearing masks, which isn’t surprising considering that that is a common practice all throughout Asia. What was astounding to us, however, was the work of the customs agents and border control at Chicago O’Hare. Or should I say, the lack there-of.
We expected to see long lines of people waiting to get in. Possibly even random testing sites where they would randomly pull people from inbound flights to test and see. We saw this in other countries, even countries that were much less developed (supposedly), than the USA. This is not at all what we found. We went straight through the minimal lines and got to the customs agents. We were in separate lines as I am a US citizen. The agent checked my printed doc that stated which flight I had come from, asked if that was correct, I stated yes, he then asked if I had been to China or Iran to which I stated no. I expected him to ask about Italy as well, which he did not. I also expected him to look at my passport more closely to make sure that I was telling the truth, he did not. He said welcome home and that was that.
I gathered our bags and then found Lianne who had just gotten through and I asked about her conversation with customs. It ended up being even less thorough. No questions about being in China nor any of the other high risk countries. She said in-fact this was the easiest entry into the US she has ever had, where all she was asked was the routine question of when she was leaving, asked what she was planning to do in the states, then he actually proceeded to hit on her even though she had said she was here to attend a couple of weddings with her boyfriend. He did not check through her stamps or travel history and let her in with no issue. In fact, as she has come into the states several times in her life, it is amazing that this time, with all that is happening, turned out to be the easiest one.
Neither of us are people who live in fear. We tend to be optimists and think that most people are good in nature. What we could not and have not been able to shake since returning is the utter lack of concern or defense systems put into place for the potential spread of this virus. I am no expert, and I take news and social media posts as opines at best. This article should be taken the same for any readers as it is just our experience and thoughts, but it certainly seems as though more should be being done to combat this at points of control such as airports.
Many thoughts and opinions are out there about this virus, many conspiracy theories I have heard from a deep state liberal virus that was invented to ruin the stock markets and hurt Trump’s chances for reelection to how China invented it to control their population. Whatever you believe, that is fine, just do your best to get your information from a resource that is coming from a place of good will and science.
The lack of control at this airport on this day may be an outlier. I really hope it is. If it is not, then it is scary to think how unprepared we seem to be for this virus. If it is an indication of how prepared America is then that is truly worrisome. Couple that with the lack of and overall cost of general healthcare here and we could be looking at a problem in which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. I know that we have trillions of dollars to spend on military defense, but do we also have the same readily available defenses for something like this? These are the questions I ponder as this grows. But what I know for sure, is that we can do better.
I will do my best to share what I believe to be places where people can find factual info about what is happening in some links below. If you are anti-vaccines, I would love to hear from you and have a conversation about that simply to learn more, not to scrutinize or judge. If you think I am wrong for sharing this and it seems as though I am spreading more fear, I apologize, but I felt I needed to get this out of my brain and written so that I can process it better. In the end, I know we will persevere because that is what we do. Maybe we need something like this to come together as a world and find peace amongst one another knowing just how fragile this life and planet really are. I hope the best for you and yours as this continues to develop and remember to spread love, help within your community and be kind to one another.