Just prior to the announcement of the global pandemic a year ago, my wife Renate and I had arrived in Uruguay for a family visit. Her parents had also travelled there, where they had spent the early part of their young adult life. Motivation for us making the trip was to meet with Uruguayan relatives, and to hear stories of Renate’s grandfather. Before he died, he had written most of his memoir of life in Germany, but not the latter part of his time in Uruguay.
Before leaving Niagara, we heard news of a COVID virus, but there were no reported cases in Uruguay. We travelled with caution, yet had a purpose. The weekend after arrival was our story-telling session with family members.
The following day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Canadians to return home. In Montevideo we walked to our airline office, where there was a line-up of people. The representative told us “everything was normal.” The only option of rebooking gained us two days from our scheduled return. Three days later, all flights were cancelled, and like Canada, Uruguay locked down.
We had registered our trip with the Canadian Embassy, and they kept us informed, giving us alternate options to get home as they became available. We lived with uncertainty as to when we might be able to return home.
Our extended time was spent with a cousin’s family, on a rural dairy farm. Unable to visit others, we enjoyed quiet days of summer weather. We tried to help our hosts where we could, and took afternoon walks on the country road. Peaceful, yet anxious.
Our three-week vacation extended to six, and it became a significant challenge, and cost, to make arrangements for getting home.
A year later we are deeply grateful to relatives who hosted our extended stay, and thankful for the St. Catharines travel agent who booked our alternate flights. Our cousin had to lend us funds when we could not pay for a flight by credit card. Then family in Niagara assisted us during our time of isolation at home. Our experience was akin to the Come From Away story of stranded passengers.
When there is much to be discouraged about, we are very aware of the sense of care and compassion we share as a community when we act for the well-being of others. For this, the past year has taught us we have so much for which to be thankful.