Are you insane? (A Trip to ‘Merica during Covid-19)
tl;dr I am spending six weeks in Virginia to care for my mom. While the US is the last place I want to be right now, it’s the right place to be for my family. And yes, during the US Election to boot.
I don’t miss the US medical system
When we first contemplated traveling to the US, we weren’t even sure how it was possible. After calls with Ajuria (the best immigration lawyers I’ve ever encountered), they helped us understand that getting to and from the US because of a medical reason was very doable, but would take some work.
What I thought would be the easiest hurdle (“a letter from my mom’s doctor”) turned out to be three weeks of frustration with the US medical system. Having spent two years working inside the medical/insurance industry before I came to Australia, I should have know that this would be like leg wrestling with a drunk rhinoceros.
Virginia’s Primary and Urgent Care could not have been harder to deal with. They excelled at confusion, and occasionally gave definite instructions on how they could get me a letter, none of which actually worked. “Use our patient portal to send us a message!” I sent several messages, and never received a response. “Our doctor or nurse will call you!” They can’t call international numbers. So we gave them my sister’s number. The nurse called and said she didn’t know how to do it (how to write a letter?) and the doctor would call. The doctor never called.
In the end, the very capable and friendly Embracing Health took care of it in no time. A personal approach to medicine wins — no surprise there!
This airport is coming like a ghost airport
We arrived at the Sydney airport, and only tumbleweeds and people shooting each other at 40 paces would have made the picture more complete. There were no lines, and mostly because there were no people. Good thing, because it took seven people just to check us in: Did we have the right to leave? Did we have the right to enter the US? I’d never flown ANA (All Nippon Airways) but they were exceptional from start to finish in their service.
On our flight from Sydney to Tokyo that seats 250+, there were 40 passengers. The staff at check-in told us they had flights with only 12 people. From Tokyo to Washington, D.C, there were only 20 passengers. I wanted to ask each one of them why they were as dumb as I was to fly out of Australia when there are 30,000+ people trying to get back in. But instead I slept.
Aside from a 10 rental car snafu in the Thrifty lot, the entire trip was easy and yet incredibly eerie. You feel like you are doing something wrong, that somehow you’ve missed out on some critical piece of news or information. And of course, it’s true. Traveling during the pandemic is a last resort.
Enter, the US
Leigh and I chose to spend two weeks in voluntary isolation. The CDC in the US doesn’t even recommend quarantine (I’m so proud of Australia — it hasn’t been perfect but we’re back to single digit cases nationwide and have had days recently with 0 cases nationwide, in contrast to the US record setting 100,000 in a day).
We booked an Airbnb in rural Eastern Virginia, where we’d have space to roam without contact with other people. While the irony is that the US should be quarantining to protect us since we have almost no chance of having the virus, we wanted to do the right thing regardless of how the poorly the US is handling the pandemic.
Our one big risk was getting a sandwich at Subway, inside of a gas station / convenience store along a rural highway. Other than quick strike trips to the Food Lion grocery store, we didn’t have contact with anyone until our two weeks were up.
And yes, the Election
I doubt it’s any surprise that my opinion of the 45th US President couldn’t be lower. It hurts me that my former homeland has fallen prey to a wave of lies and scare tactics that have divided the country even further. While Trump is just the repulsive next phase of the divisive Holy War started by Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, there’s very little doubt that Fox News and the Murdoch Press have damaged the world we live in (both in the US and Australia). Being a centrist is tough work these days. I’m exhausted.
Bob Woodward’s Rage helps highlight that it’s not about Trump’s views or beliefs, it’s the fact that people voted (twice!) for someone who is dangerous, narcissistic, and according to so many leaders (Mattis, Coates, Tillerson, etc…) who he hired directly, is not capable of holding the most important office in our country.
Election night was just weird. The next day I tried to just ignore the news and wait. The days after have only increased my lack of confidence in the human race. The time in nature has been the only balm — a world without people in the end seems like a much better option if this is the alternative. The election has handed conspiracy theorists their dream.
While I believe that every one of us who understands what is happening should work hard to make the world a better place, in the end it may be a losing cause, and that we fight without hope of a better outcome.
But for the next month, none of that really matters. Just Mom matters. That’s all. More on the wonder that is my mom in the next post.