Leaving on a Jet Plane

March was miserable, but April’s already an improvement. Not only because the office politics are settling out, but because I left the country. Let me tell you, THAT really helps!

Yes, we managed to jump through all the pandemic travel hoops, and here we are in sunny Guatemala City, Guatemala: Me, the kids, and my mom, in the warm welcoming arms of our family. And it’s warm, period.

The view from the guest bedroom!

This is one of the major benefits of our January COVID experience: We’re all either recently recovered from COVID, fully vaccinated against COVID, or apparently immune to COVID. Also, we continue to be safe and follow precautions, just in case. When I asked our Guatemala family if they would feel comfortable having us visit, they gave the thumb’s up, and here we are!

The first hurdle was to re-book our Covid-cancelled trip from last year, using airline e-credits, which involved endless fruitless internet form-filling, followed by a three-hour-plus hold waiting to speak with a human being at Delta. I waited that whole time, with the same hold music and soothingly delivered “helpful travel tips” on repeat the whole time, while I caught up with my clinical work. By the time a person came on the line, my nerves were shot and I was prepared for battle. But I got the nicest, most competent lady who solved all of our problems with a few masterstrokes on the keyboard and her sweet Southern twang.

The next was to arrange PCR COVID testing no more than 72 hours prior to our trip, because we needed hard copies of the results to present upon arrival, or we’d be escorted from the airport to a quarantine hotel. I researched and picked the venue that seemed to promise the highest likelihood of having said results in time: CVS. Making the appointments and doing the drive-through swab thing on a Monday morning was simple enough. But when Tuesday passed, and then it came to late afternoon Wednesday, the day before our Thursday 6 a.m. flight, I started to worry. Multiple phone calls to CVS were made (and I have to give kudos to the lovely pharmacist who had nothing at all to do with any of the testing logistics and yet was kind to us regardless) but no one had a contact at the actual lab, and it likely wouldn’t have mattered anyways. We started to research if we could postpone our trip a day…

Then, at the same time, our Guatemala family contacted us, a bit frantic, and said there was a rumor buzzing on social media that the president was going to announce another national lockdown due to the post-Easter surge in cases. They had shut down the airports last spring, and they might do it again. Holy Moly! More panic, more phone calls, alot of internet research. I posted queries on all my Guatemala-related Facebook groups… As it turned out, it was just a rumor, an exaggeration of a government statement about a plan to block travelers from a few very specific countries where variants have been identified. Whew! Still, at that point, I hadn’t been able to eat all day, and my fingernails were bitten to the quick.

It was 8 p.m. before the CVS COVID test results rolled in, the shutdown rumors were dispelled, and I could finally relax into packing. Yes, I left the packing to the night before. Yes, that was impractical. No, I did not have any time to think about it beforehand. Hubby helped– he has to stay behind for work, and take care of the dog, so we were packing for me and the kids– but it was a late night for sure. Not good, considering we had to be up at 3 a.m. in order to get to Logan airport two hours before our flight.

Which we did. Bleary-eyed and anxious, but also excited, we piled all the overweight luggage and us into the minivan, and Hubs taxied us into the city. There were a few mishaps between Logan and Aereopuerto Internacional La Aurora– I left my only credit card in the Delta check-in kiosk and only realized it as we were in the security line to the gates; we had a delay in Atlanta and sat on the plane for a couple hours– but overall it was fine.

Until we got to customs in Guatemala. We had made it through the temperature check, the COVID test inspection, immigration, and even baggage claim without a hitch. Now, in customs, it’s customary for officials to walk up and down the line with drug-sniffing dogs.

“Ohhhh, look at the cute doggies!” exclaimed my daughter. And would you believe, one of these adorable-but-also-a-little-scary dogs made a beeline right for her. Sniffing. Sniffing alot. Sniffing her hands, her clothes, and especially her backpack, up and down and all around.

This is not the actual dog we encountered, this is a stock photo, because I wasn’t going to test the officer’s patience!
But it’s almost as cute.

My mind raced… what had she been eating… oh right… peanut butter crackers!

I tried to think of the word for peanut butter in Spanish, and came up with it in my latest panic: “Es mantequilla de mani, estaba comiendo galletas con mantequilla de mani en el avion, señor!” I explained to the armed officer.

Then she piped up: “Mom, I also have dog treats in the bag! I had them for Obi, and they’re still in there,” and she pulled out a Baggie full of crushed peanut-butter-and-bacon doggie biscuits.

I smiled weakly at the officer. “Y tambien tiene galletas de perro, sabor tocino…”

He smiled and chuckled and nodded: “Esta bien señora, ustedes pueden pasar,” waving us on. The pup backed away somewhat reluctantly, licking its lips.

We were allowed to pass through! Big sigh of relief. My mom commented quietly, “I bet they don’t feed those poor dogs enough!” and I suspect that might be true.

In any case, we made it, and man, did we sleep well. It’s a bit surreal to finally be here during COVID, and my next posts will tell more of that story.

Photo credit to my 9-year-old daughter, on our flight yesterday!

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