Monday, May 11th. 4:53 pm. The email reads: “You have been allocated a seat on the flight from Miami — Grand Cayman on Friday 15th May.”
I received this email only HOURS after my first blog post. The post in which I said “I have no idea what the next few months will bring.” AKA I was planning to live the next 2+ months in Reedsburg with my parents. And in an abrupt and seemingly random turn of events, I was trying to figure out how I could possibly move abroad with only four days notice.
I relay this earth-shattering news to my parents. My mom responds with a genuine laugh as if I am joking. My dad becomes super focused and asks “Do you think you can pull this off?” Can we? Could we? My response: “I think so.”
Well spoiler alert: I made it! But before I tell you how this all went down, you may be wondering why this news was so surprising and why it came out of left field. Here’s a bit of context: There has been a travel ban in the Cayman Islands since the end of March. Nobody in and nobody out without special government permission. At this time, you cannot purchase a flight to Cayman in the traditional sense. You can’t go on Kayak and book a trip online. The only way you are getting a seat on a plane is if the government organizes the trip for you and the organized trips are few and far between — and for good reason. The Cayman government has implemented effective mitigation and thanks to that there has been very little (virtually no) community spread of the virus. Anyone who arrives on Island during the pandemic has to go into Government-controlled isolation for a minimum of 14 days. After 14 days, those in isolation are tested for COVID and only upon a negative result are they allowed to leave the facility (a hotel). More to come on this later!
SO what’s crazy is that these trips have so far only been organized for local Caymanians and permanent residents of the Island. At this moment in time, I don’t necessarily fit the description of someone who would be granted permission to enter. At least I didn’t think so. Despite this, I had emailed the Island’s travel hotline and in a Hail Mary attempt explained mine and Bryan’s situation. A week or so later, this email showed up in my inbox completely unannounced. It goes to show, and as my mom always says, if you want something in life you have to ask for it.
Okay, back to the logistical nightmare that was getting ready to move to a Caribbean island with 4 days notice. Well, to be sure, this move would not have been possible without my trooper parents. As much as I know they were sad and would have loved for me to stay with them all summer…they (hardly) let it show and dropped everything to make this happen for me. They took off three days of work! Wednesday to move me out of my apartment, Thursday to take me to Chicago, and Friday to drive all the way back. First, they met me in Saint Paul to pack up my apartment. It was already partially packed up as I was planning to move out by the end of May, but we did the last bit of heavy lifting, turned in my keys, and waved goodbye to the Twin Cities. I also got to see some of my SHS co-workers, shoutout Jennifer, Natalie, Josh, and Geoff!
Thursday was dedicated to packing my suitcases. Let me say that I have never been one to live by the “minimalist philosophy; however, when you are moving to another country and can only take with you two checked bags, a carry-on, and a personal item, you are kind of forced to practice Marie Kondo’s “does this spark joy?” tool. The problem? Everything was sparking joy. What I had to do was divide my belongings into piles: YES, maybe, and no. The good news is that the entire YES pile made it into my luggages. However, the ‘maybe’ pile was left in the dust. But I will be back for it! Another problem was that my beloved cat Bo kept climbing into my suitcases and he looked so cute so I had to stop to take pictures.
At the end of a long day of packing, we loaded up my dad’s truck, I telepathically communicated to Bo what was happening, and we hit the road. See you soon Reedsburg! Our last stop before Chicago was to see my brother Chase, my sister-in-law Colleen, and my brand new nephew, Clyde. We grilled out, visited on their patio, and stared at little baby Clyde, fascinated by his cuteness. I tried to telepathically communicate with Clyde too but I only have practice with cats, baby telepathy is a little new for me.
Later that night we arrived at a Park-Sleep-Fly right by O’hare so we could sleep at least a few hours. We left the hotel a little after 3 am (again, my parents are troopers). They pulled me up outside the American Airlines counter and that is where we had to say our goodbyes 🙁
Nervous? Scared? Sad? Excited? Yes, literally all those emotions and more. I don’t think there is a playbook for how someone is supposed to feel when they leave the only home they’ve ever known (the midwest) and move to a different country — not to mention during a global pandemic. Saying goodbye to friends and family is never easy but this experience so far has made me realize how grateful I am for the relationships I have formed not only with amazing people but also with places. I am so lucky to have a support system that is sad to see me go but equally excited for this adventure that Bryan and I get to live. With that being said, thank you so much to my parents and to those friends and family members who have supported me in preparing for this new chapter. I will see you all soon and when I do I will be tan (but a healthy tan okay, sun protection is still important) and ready to P A R T Y! I don’t know what that means but it felt right to say it. Social distancing is getting to me.
So, as you can see by the title of this blog…this is only part one of “An Unexpected Turn of Events.” I have so much more to fill you in on but unfortunately many people lack the patience for reading (bless your heart if you made it this far) so I am going to break this crazy story into two parts. What I can leave you with is that while no, Bryan and I have not yet been reunited, I HAVE arrived safe and sound on Island! Random luck? Meant to be? Your guess is as good as mine 🙂
Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about what life is like in Cayman Government Quarantine!!!
Thanks for reading!