We received an email from the Embassy, actively encouraging all US citizens abroad, to return to their homeland unless they were okay to stay for an indefinite period of time. That piqued our attention a little.
When they closed the Guatemala borders, every possible resource we had planned on to earn money this year was also shut down. This email reminded us, we needed to take this seriously.
We received a “Confirmation” email Sunday saying we were considered a priority to get out of the country and that there would be two chartered flights leaving Monday, the next morning. After much thought and talking it out, it became very clear in our minds what we should do. We felt definite help from above, as our cloudy thoughts that were extra foggy because of so many mixed emotions connected to them, became very clear and logical, and we knew exactly what we needed to do.
Almost at that exact moment, we found ourselves “rush packing,” not knowing for how long, or where exactly we were going to be, but knowing we only had a few hours to do it.
Meanwhile, Guatemala had JUST enforced a curfew from 4:00 pm-4:00 am (this was the first day it was being enforced), so all the people we needed to see and errands we had to run before we left had to wait until 4 am.
We stayed up packing until 1 a.m., woke up so we could be ready at 4:30 am, and we were off on our venture!
After a 3-hour drive to the city, groggy and carsick, I lifted my head and looked out the window to the longest line I’ve ever seen out an airport door, most in masks. It was an impactful site.
We hopped out of the van, hopeful we’d be in the “priority line” since we had received the confirmation email. Unfortunately, the email misled many, and we were told we had to receive an actual ticket via email to get on the flight. They told us flights were going out Tuesday and Wednesday and to keep an eye out for another email.
Our saintly friend that had driven us the three hours out of the goodness of his heart helped us find a Plan B before he dropped us off and headed home. Thank you, Colin and crew!
We found ourselves an AirBNB in the city while we waited for the coveted email. The city was eerie; it was so quiet. Guatemala City is never silent, it’s usually mass chaos, with many honking horns, but at 4 pm, there wasn’t a soul in sight…except for the creepy guy that walked past, stopped, and stared up at the balcony we were on, and then kept walking.
So much was unknown. Aaron was working hard to get our family home and keep us safe, and we had one of our dear friends with us, Natalie, that was also trying to get home to her family. Between our coping jokes, conversations, and movies, we held up well, and I felt a surprising amount of peace.
Monday came and went, and Tuesday came and went without receiving “the email” with our ticket “home.” As you can imagine, coping jokes increased, but we were all in good company and made the best of our time.
Something we will always remember is the quiet, eerie air, broken by jolly voices a few floors above us. We rushed out to our balcony to find others doing the same. Some of us joined in, some watched with smiles, some with happy tears in their eyes, and I’m pretty confident I can say, all with lifted spirits feeling like, “every little thing was going to be okay.”
Despite the crazy, our flights being delayed was a tender mercy. Aaron and I were able to visit with the residency office, which is a story in and of itself, but for now, I want to mention what a little miracle it was to be able to speak face-to-face with the main person over residency. Their employee numbers were low due to the virus, so the main guy was the one helping upfront. We felt it was such a blessing to meet and speak directly to him. Had we left without talking to him, we would have been just a file and a number and would have felt like we left important business undone.
After two full days of anxious anticipation, we received no email with a ticket attached, so we went into problem-solving mode and started looking at other options, which didn’t take long because there were only two. 1. Pay $1000.00 per person for a ticket on a commercial flight they were offering, or 2. Figure out a way to get to Mexico and fly from there. Having not worked for a year, option 2 became our only option real fast.
The coping jokes increased, the sounds of airplanes flying above us (but without us) magnified, and we went to the drawing board with three adults, putting our heads together on how we can make this happen safely and responsibly. Our girls were such good sports, persistently, but calmly asking, “Any updates?”:-)
After much deliberation, phone calls, and research, we had a plan.
We would take two Ubers to the Mexico border, they would drop us off because they’re not allowed to leave right now, we would make the trek across the border, get on a shuttle that would take us to a drop-off, where a friend of a friend would pick us up with a friend, and get us safely to our hotel. We would stay there a night, Natalie would fly out first thing in the morning, and we would fly out around lunchtime. Natalie made it home that same day, and we flew to Mexico City for one more stop. We were having so much fun on this venture; we just tried to prolong it as long as possible.:-)
Crossing the border was both surreal and touching. I was in the back, watching my family and friend struggle in the heat, carrying only a portion of what we all own. It made me think of the refugees that have to flee their country because of extreme danger. For a moment, I felt intense empathy for them. What we were doing was minuscule comparatively, but I felt it in my heart for that moment.
The girls were complete champs, dripping sweat, some coping with jokes, others in complete silence, but no whining and complaining.
The curfew. Limited food. Limited hours. Roasty car rides. Impactful, unforgettable moments. Many unknowns. And doing it all with those, we love most. We survived. Moral of the story….I have no idea, help me out with this one. We’re just happy for the experiences and safety.
We are now home, in the USA, staying in the house of our generous friends. We are safe, and we are happy, spending time together during this quarantine time. As difficult as this time is, our world needs this time together as families. Don’t waste it, stressing and wishing the time away. It will pass. Instead, pray for God’s hand to watch over us, our families, and our world.