It was at the beginning of the semester that I purchased my ticket to visit my best friend in Peru during my spring break, unaware that the trip of a lifetime was going to turn out differently than expected. We were short on time - as I could only be there for five days - but we were going to make the most of the time with a jam-packed schedule traveling and delving into Peruvian culture.
Now, we have all the time in the world. No one realized that Peru's borders were shutting down until I was already on the plane. I almost chose not to board. It was while I was in the air that the President of Peru and all of the department ministers unanimously signed in agreement and announced on national television that the country would go on lock down. I had made it through the empty airport of O'hare, most of its flights cancelled with the news documenting the few people there on camera. I had made it through all the announcements on how to avoid the virus by washing your hands and not touching your face - basic advice people still do not follow. I made it through security in Mexico to spend the day with my family. I figured that as long as I made it out, I would be allowed to return.
Waiting at the gate before my flight to Peru, they asked me if I'd traveled recently to Spain, Italy, or China. I said no. It was in those moments that I considered staying in Mexico. Yet, I had made it through my first flight on my journey to the Southern Hemisphere in order to see my friend. She was in Peru, not in any of the main countries of concern. I thought if anything, it would be Mexico shutting down its borders. I got on the flight. They asked people to cough and sneeze into their arms. Not everyone had that decency.
Fever testing after getting off the plane (Jorge Chavez International Airport)
On the plane, we filled out a form concerning COVID-19. We had to declare whether we had symptoms along with contact information. As soon as we got off the plane, we handed someone our sheets and had our temperatures taken. It was then that chaos ensued.
We started in a single file line to get to immigration. That one line ended up being two, then three once we had been there for an hour. The elderly and children managed to get ahead in a separate line. It caused a few fights. People cut in lines and switched lines, increasing the tension of the long wait. One line appeared to go faster than the rest, but no one knew that at about an hour of waiting later, that line divided into 6 lines, whether official or not.
One of the men involved in that last disruption later ended up cutting in front of a line for Peruvian citizens. He was a citizen of the United States. He cut in front of the many Peruvians, that hours into waiting, were cheated of a separate line immigration had made for them.
My plane's arrival time was 10:30. We arrived at 11:30. I had barely made it through the line at 3am. I was unaware of the fact that the borders had been shut down. I had barely been able to let my friend know I had made it, and I had made it late. I got panicked texts from my mom about the military on the streets and that I should get on the next flight for Mexico. Her last message was that I should stay in Peru until things die down. My spring break as a tourist is a no-go as I will spend the next fifteen days (minimum) inside the house I am staying in, as people have been told to keep off the streets.
Passing out at five in the morning after a two-day journey, I recall the words of a man in line repeating, "Yo ya he visto esta película." I hope you all consider your part in these movie-like events. Wash your hands, and dry them! You should all have done this before considering a virus, but I know many still don't.