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My Fab Fifties Life on Cyprus Under Quarantine

Location: Argaka Cyprus

Message from Cyprus Edition One

As I post this blog we have been self-quarantined on Cyprus for a week. Every day brings a new development. We are currently comfortable and healthy but unsure of how or if our world journey will continue. So for today I thought I would tell you a bit about life on Cyprus under quarantine.

Some Background

Some of you who follow my personal Facebook page might remember this post I made on January 23rd. I said “when people ask me if travel scares me it’s things like this (Corona) that scare me more than terrorism or crime. Luckily we aren’t flying for three more weeks but still its the kind of thing that can explode so quickly…”

That was on January 23rd two months ago and we were in Mauritius. As soon as I read the first story about Wuhan I felt a strong foreboding. But also thought to myself that we had two months in Africa and it would possibly be gone by the time we headed towards Europe.

Covid-19
Wearing a mask on our flight out of Mauritius

But the nagging in the back of my mind made me go to the pharmacy in Mauritius and buy some face masks. The pharmacists asked me if we were going to China? Even he wasn’t thinking about it spreading outside of Asia.

It was late January when the first case was diagnosed in Washington State USA. But the US government did not react.

Covid-19
Carefree in Victoria Falls

Fast Forward Late February

We were carefree in Victoria Falls and in Uganda too as we continued with our planned itinerary. It wasn’t until our arrival in Rwanda on February 27th that we began to see significant changes in airports and hotels (as a matter of fact, Rwanda had the coolest hi-tech system in place for screening). This is when I began taking very strong measures such as washing hands more frequently, not touching railings or elevator buttons and scrubbing things in our room like remote controls and door knobs. I’ve always washed down my airplane space and now we began using a bleach product everywhere we go.

Covid-19
Still touching people in Rwanda

In Kigali Rwanda we bought hand-sanitizer and more face masks, despite now hearing that face masks weren’t helpful. I still wanted to have some.

By this point the virus was spreading in the USA and becoming epidemic in my home state of Washington but Trump continued to deny that it was a legitimate issue or take measures to protect his citizens or the US economy. He was not listening to Advisor’s and making statements like this one – “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear”. As we watched from afar the virus take over entire countries we were flabbergasted at the lack of concern from the US President.

Worries about family back home

People I know back home were split over the issue and not surprisingly along party lines. One faction thinking it was all getting blown out of proportion (and actually blaming Democrats for causing the outbreak to take the focus away from the election) while the other faction was beginning to hoard food, toilet paper and scream that something needed to be done.

Because of the malaria meds we took all through Africa I was suffering with some tummy issues and I was really worried about being flagged on the arrival in Israel since I wasn’t feeling 100%.

Israel

We touched down in Israel on March 4th and absolutely breezed through the airport. We were totally shocked that Israel’s entry was easier than Rwanda or Botswana and Israel seemed to not be doing ANYTHING to check visitors arriving in Tel Aviv. It sounded just like what was happening in the USA. Head in the sand. I was a bit disconcerted.

Covid-19
Unknowingly, this was our final dinner in Israel after only five days

We enjoyed our first few days in Israel but on day four we began hearing that they may close the border to tourists and our planned day trip with a local tour company to Palestine was cancelled when Palestine closed its borders.

We assumed we would be fine since we had arrived in Israel before the border closed, but when we woke up on day six (March 10), regular alerts we receive from the US State Department told us anyone who had arrived in the past week would be quarantined for at least two weeks from date of entry. Spot checks were going to be made and we would need to prove we had a place to stay for a 14-day quarantine. Since our planned itinerary in Israel did not include us staying in one place for 14 days we did not have lodging secured. We made a spur of the moment decision that it would be in our best interest to leave the country while the airport was open and we still could. We made this decision at 8:45 am and were on a flight to Cyprus at 1:45 pm. Never in our nearly four years of travel have we changed our plans so drastically. It was a stressful and heartbreaking decision but in hindsight the right one.

Cyprus

Before leaving Israel we had contacted the Airbnb in Cyprus to see if it might be available early. It was and they welcomed us 15 days early on March 10th. It’s a beautiful spot and perfect for a long stay. We currently have it booked until April 7th.

Covid-19
Cooking Class in Cyprus

When we arrived in Cyprus ten days ago there were only three cases of Covid-19. We went to the grocery store, the pharmacy and stopped at a sporting goods store to buy sweatshirts. We had coffee in a coffee shop and visited the butcher. Our Airbnb host stopped by with cookies and citrus. Everything seemed normal and no one was panicking. We even did a cooking class and a winery tour and spent one day hiking.

Covid-19
Hiking in Cyprus

But on the evening of March 15th we learned that Cyprus was limiting inbound flights and incoming tourists until April 10th. Schools were closing too and two of the island’s large hotels were closing. The island now had a total of 20 cases, all but one related to incoming visitors. Cyprus is a popular direct flight from London and many British expats live here.

Covid-19
Sunset in Cyprus

This news also included the mandate that any visitor already on the island should self-quarantine for 14 days from the time of entry. So on March 15th we began a self-quarantine. We will stay quarantined until March 24th. For us that means we will still do our morning run, where we have no contact with other people, but spend the rest of the day at our villa.

BUT THEN, on the morning of the 16th it was announced the island was closing all restaurants, hotels, malls, museums, archeology sights until April 30th. Even one hospital was closed for 48 hours for sanitizing. Cases now up to 39.

We now realized that at the end of our 14-day quarantine, we still might not be able to enjoy the the sites of Cyprus because everything will be closed. But, it’s out of our hands.

On March 17th they began turning away people, even residents, arriving on flights unless they had a medical statement of their wellness. And those who were allowed in, are going into a mandatory GOVERNMENT LOCATION quarantine. That’s big…we did not want to be in a government location quarantine.

Today, March 20 th a big announcement. ALL FLIGHTS are to be terminated in and out of Cyprus beginning Sunday. All flights. Wowza. Even flights for Cypriots trying to return home. There is rumor of a possible curfew. Meanwhile today the US government declared a Level 4 Travel Advisory. Better late than never I guess. Hopefully the idiots partying in the Florida beaches aren’t carriers.

Cyprus has very quickly, without a lot of politicizing, created a comprehensive economic assistance plan to help it’s citizens get through this. It’s impressive and quit thorough including such things as unemployment, childcare and elder care. I am impressed with their foresight and lack of political bickering.

As of March 20th, Cyprus now has 81 cases of Covid-19. In the ten days we have been here it’s gone from 3 to 81, an exponential growth.

Grocery stores remain open, but only a dozen people allowed in at a time. We went yesterday and were presented with hand sanitizer and rubber gloves before entering the store.

So every day something new and foreboding.

So Now What?

So now what? I have no idea. Our next flight booked was to Ukraine on April 7th. But even if Cyprus reopens its airport by then, Ukraine’s borders are closed. Beyond that we are supposed to be in Malta in late April and May. As of today Malta’s borders remain open but anyone entering must self-quarantine for 14 days. No doubt that too will change shortly.

Covid-19
Quarantined breakfast in Cyprus

We were planning to attend a wedding in France in late June and then head to the USA for a six month visit. Even if we forego France we are currently unable to get a flight home. We have a lot of money at stake, with little help from airlines or lodgings as far as refunds so far. We did get a refund from Airbnb for our place in Jerusalem, but lost the money for the other hotels and flight changes in Israel. We also got a full refund from our Kiev hotel after we contacted them with a personal email. We are currently waiting to hear from Ukraine airlines.

Of course our health is more important than the money, but we actually might be safer staying put than going to the USA. And we honestly might not be able to get a flight for an indefinite amount of time. We just don’t know.

Our world tour

We feel we can’t make a decision now until the end of March at the earliest, when several countries who closed their borders on March 14th will make a decision as to what’s next. If borders and airports remain closed we may be able to get flight refunds or at least credit. Or we may have to cough up (no pun intended) the money to get back to the USA. Currently a flight from Cyprus through London to the USA will cost us nearly $2000 per person – that is if the Cyprus airport reopens…and if any flights to the USA are running.

My Biggest Fears

My biggest fear is not about coming down with the virus; although we are in our sixties we are healthy and strong. My biggest fear is the economy and how this might effect jobs and lives of people I care about back home. Already my friends and family who own small businesses and restaurants are in dire straits. Even since I began writing this blog several days ago the changing economic impact to the USA seems catastrophic. Frightening.

Covid-19
This is where we are

My biggest fear is that my father (age 87 Alzheimer patient), my mom (age 81) and step-day (age 90 with many medical complications) and my mother-in-law (healthy but age 86) will get the virus. And of course I’m very fearful for my adult sons.

My biggest fear is this thing will go on for months…years? And we may get trapped indefinitely.

I am in no way a “sky is falling” kind of person. I am definitely “look at the bright side” girl. In fact I have been criticized in my life as a “Pollyanna” by people with a less positive outlook.

HOWEVER I am also a realist and see this as a long-term scenario. And that is why the things I listed above scare me.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile we have no choice really but to wait and watch at least until mid April. Hopefully by then we will be armed with enough information to move forward in one way or another. There are few other options. The only silver lining is the weather here in Cyprus is finally beginning to warm up a bit.

I’d love your comments on the blog about your situation wherever you are. I am genuinely concerned for each of you and I am thinking of all of you and sending love and best wishes. God speed.

Not in my wildest dreams. Wow.

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32 Comments

  • Reply ann coupe

    Thanks for your post. It is very surreal. I have concerns with my own folks as well. the financial devastation locally and around the world is very unsettling. We had travel plans late April to Boston and Europe. Was glad I was able to be refunded. Unkown territory. Ii think it will be some time before we can get back to some kind of normal. Maybe we will have a new “normal”. Stay safe.

    March 20, 2020 at 9:16 am
    • Reply Laureen

      You too Ann. Thanks so much!

      March 20, 2020 at 9:43 am
  • Reply Randall Fortier

    I can so relate to all of your feelings. My saddest day was when the boarder between Canada and the US was closed. Knowing that there was no way I was going to be able to assist my aging relatives and friends there hit me hard. We have been voluntarily sheltering in place for three weeks now and it is really hard to tell our kids and grand kids to stay away. But with my issues and the fact that two of my grand-kids are working at St. Anthony’s and have been re-assigned to Covid 19 ICU units, it just has to be done. Gail is still working remotely and I am still working on my writing, but after 40 years in hospitality I am sorely missing dining with friends and travel. But most of all I am heartbroken that several of my younger relatives and friends with small children to support have lost their incomes. Then I get furious when I learn that some of our “leaders”, after being briefed on the depth and scope of the pandemic withheld information from the public long enough to use inside information to protect their wealth.

    Please stay well and sincerely hope that yous can resume your incredible journey safely in the not too distant future.

    Warmest,
    Randy

    March 20, 2020 at 9:25 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Stay healthy Randy.

      March 20, 2020 at 9:43 am
      • Reply Lynn

        Keep the Faith
        California is on Lock down
        Time to watch movies and read.Your Mom sounds good and in good spirits
        Everyone Misses you and Arnie. Stay on the Island‍♀️keep safe

        March 20, 2020 at 10:22 am
        • Reply Laureen

          Thank you. I wish she read my blog but she can’t seem to figure it out. But I call her as often as I can. ♥️

          March 20, 2020 at 10:34 am
  • Reply Poole

    That was an awesome thoughtful post Haydock.
    I am worried too.
    I wasn’t. I am now.

    I’m sure it’s very uncertain being so far away.
    It’s uncertain being here. I hope you come home because I miss you! I love your blog and your perspective on the world. I realize when I feel isolated or trapped I think, well I will just “ go to Paris”. I realize that’s not an option and it makes me feel suffocated. If you ever need anything please let me know if I can help.

    I was thinking people were over reacting but yesterday I went to a hospital for work and it was like walking into a closed business. Everything elective is cancelled. All elective cardiac procedures. My business has shifted to on line meetings and trainings. We will adjust and hopefully the silver lining is to hunker down and focus on what is right in front of us. Accept the things we can not change.
    It’s really weird. Selfishly I hope my business can survive the economic down turn.

    One thing I know for sure is the people are who matter. Our families, friends and that’s what’s most important.

    Thanks for keeping me entertained and stimulated. Your blog is beautifully written and a real inspiration! Especially from a girl from Chico who was not only girl of the month, and an influencer in High School but my best friend too!

    Love you Haydock. Hugs to Arnie!

    March 20, 2020 at 9:43 am
    • Reply Laureen

      I love you and look forward to a reunion soon.

      March 20, 2020 at 9:45 am
  • Reply Morrie Pedersen

    Thanks for sharing this story. You have certainly experienced ever changing circumstances. We are all self quarantining just to control as much as possible. One of our grand daughters had been studying in Torino until the virus hit the fan and has been home in self quarantine for a week and a half. All schools, colleges and universities are probably done for the foreseeable future and, where possible, are providing online curriculum. Stay safe and know that we all send you our best wishes for continued safe travels. See you in Gig Harbor!

    March 20, 2020 at 10:01 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Thank you so much Morrie.

      March 20, 2020 at 10:13 am
  • Reply Tom Dolan

    Thanks for your blog today. Yes things are scary here too. Hard to believe that our world/country/state can change so quickly! Hopefully you’ll get to be home soon. It sounds like you were from Chico? My neighbor Gregg Lund is from Chico. Small world! Stay safe.

    March 20, 2020 at 10:17 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Well Chico WA not Chico CA. ♥️

      March 20, 2020 at 10:35 am
  • Reply Michael Söhlke

    Thanks for this update. It puts it pretty much in lkine with what we are seeing here in Germany and the stories I hear from my sister who is lingin in the UK aren’t comforting at all. Although being an all-time optimist I believe the worst is yet to come. Europe will see lock-downs in public life, curfews and sadly more fatalities.
    We, too, have discussions related to the Hawaian girlfriend of our youngest son. As of today it seems safer to stay here and not risk endless travel and eventually being grounded whereever, besides questions of pricing and availability of flights after all. All decisions, however, are based on hoping that nothing happens to loved ones…
    So, I can relate to your thoughts and imagine how it might be. But: with the pandemia just starting we are talking about at least several more months – we are just facing phase 1 (remember the Spanish flue at the beginning of the century). Let’s pray that a vaccine will be found soon, be available to all infected and until then thank all the helpful employees and persons that make it possible to maintain at least a certain routine of daily life.
    Please stay healthy!

    March 20, 2020 at 10:36 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. Best to you and Barbara. Be well.

      March 20, 2020 at 10:41 am
  • Reply Leslie

    Hang in there, Laureen and Arne! This too shall pass. Keep you Pollyanna attitude! It serves us all well. I am now on lockdown in Tunisia and start ‘distance learning’ with my students on Monday. Larry and Carol were able to escape on the last repatriation flight out just this afternoon.

    Sending love!

    March 20, 2020 at 11:37 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks for checking in. Ive been wondering about your family. Glad they got out. You take care. ♥️

      March 20, 2020 at 11:54 am
  • Reply Cheri

    Great recap. It’s a little surreal here. Good news is temporary hospitals are getting erected in soccer fields and we are getting a naval ship hospital in WA state. Test kids and masks have arrived from the feds so those who need testing are able to get tested. Even Wenatchee has drive- thru testing! That said, Costco was out of rice, canned chicken, bottled water, and of course toilet paper. I am working at the office this week but probably remotely starting next week. Curfews are coming. We will recover from all of this but life has definitely changed everywhere. At least you are stuck in a nice spot like we are, so hard to feel too sorry for ourselves. Be well and choose happiness.

    March 20, 2020 at 1:58 pm
  • Reply Dennis White

    I

    March 20, 2020 at 4:49 pm
  • Reply Michael Wilford

    Very interesting perspective on the virus crisis Laureen. Glad you are in a nice place for quarantine. Your escape from Israel was an exciting read, spy thriller stuff. The scariest part of your story was the tourist new arrivals bringing the disease to the island from distant shores.

    March 20, 2020 at 5:57 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks so much Michael

      March 20, 2020 at 8:25 pm
  • Reply Laura Deaton

    We have so enjoyed following your travels all over the world; we’ve followed about 2 years now. Your pics and blogs are very uplifting. Yes, these are absolutely surreal times back in Tacoma; we are retired ourselves and just flew back into this virus Epicenter ,about two weeks ago, from a winter escape down south. We are hunkered down and all our kids and grandkids are safe and healthy so far but we worry, too, about all of our Puget Sound neighbors who have lost their jobs and incomes due to this virus. We know our hospitals are already working to their maximum and will be dealing with supply shortages soon. Anyway, just wanted you to know you’ve been an inspiration to us all as you explore the world, and we hope you can remain emotionally -strong, while hunkered down together abroad. We will all get through this…..we just don’t know how long it will take. (Hard to imagine that one day soon we will be grateful for the bad traffic thru Fife! Who would ever have guessed that???) Laura and Cary Deaton, Tacoma

    March 21, 2020 at 11:11 am
    • Reply Laureen

      I can’t thank you enough for your loyal support in good times and bad. I am hopeful for the world but it sure is hard. Glad you are back home. Please stay well and stay in touch.

      March 21, 2020 at 9:15 pm
  • Reply Carol Nelson

    Hi, Laureen, I am friends of your sister, Corey, and Leslie Stowell is my sister in law, so I’ve been following your travels a bit! I can totally relate to your situation now. We left March 6 to Amsterdam for a few days and all was fine, though things were starting to happen back in WA. On March 11, we traveled to Carthage, Tunisia to stay with Leslie, and go on a camel trek in south Tunisia, then on to Morocco then Spain, 6 weeks in all. By March 13, Tunisia had closed it’s borders in and out and our camel trek was canceled! After that, as you said, every day something new. Travelers having arrived in the last week were asked to do a 14 day quarantine. So we prepared to hunker down and find out our options. We did long walks to see outdoor ruins in Carthage and surroundings but avoided indoor venues or restaurants. Then things started closing down and just like you, the grocery stores had lines, letting in only so many people. Then a 6:00 curfew, and starting yesterday, a full lockdown. All of this in about 9days! There were no flights leaving Tunisia so things were indefinite. We started preparing to stay! All of a sudden, a couple of airlines offered repatriation flights out. We got a flight from Paris to LA set up then packed and left within 60 minutes! Tunis airport was crazy! And we still had to book the flight to Paris! But we did it and I am at this minute in the LA airport waiting for our last of 3 legs home after about 40 hours! I wish you the best in being able to move on, but you are right, you may be there for a while and coming home could a long time. We were worried, too and now we’ll have to quarantine at home for 14 days. again, best of luck.

    March 21, 2020 at 5:24 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      I’ve been thinking about you and Larry and am glad you are safely home. At one point a few weeks ago Tunisia had no cases and I said to Arne well we could always go visit Les. But things change so fast and I think no where is immune. Wishing you the best and please keep in touch.

      March 21, 2020 at 9:18 pm
  • Reply Rustin Thompson

    Laureen,

    Rus here, Ann’s husband. Your situation is very unsettling. I’m reading Camus’ The Plague again (I’m dark that way) and finding it quite relevant: “How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views. They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.” Chilling. If I was a biblical person, I’d say the virus is God’s verdict on the Trump administration. We all had to be brought to our knees for allowing a man like that to rule, even if we had no part in his ascendence.

    March 21, 2020 at 6:57 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      I am not religious either but it’s easy to imagine a greater power looking down and saying “smite!”. Have you read Station Eleven? I’ve hesitated digging it up again, because it is so real right now to the current situation. I highly recommend it. Love to you and Ann and I hope your kids are safe and well.

      March 21, 2020 at 9:21 pm
  • Reply Dennis R White

    I can’t even imagine the predicament you’re anything, but if DNA counts we both try to remain calm, be pragmatic, and strategize under pressure. Even though I’m not in a panic for my own health (which is, all in all, decent) I am concerned how others are going to cope with things. Or survive. This is indeed a world-wide pandemic and within a few weeks I don’t expect any place will be safer than any other…I know you and Arne will keep updated and make decisions based on the ever-changing situation. I only hope that you don’t end up being locked out of returning to the US in a timely way, and it seems likely even at this writing you’ll likely face a quarantine.
    So, brave on!
    As for myself, I’m pretty much on “lock-down” at home…which means the same as usual. I’m practicing “social distancing” but that’s not hard when I only go out to take my dog on a walk in the early morning and late evening.
    If I could be assured I’d be asymptomatic or only have a mild to moderate reaction to the virus I wouldn’t mind being infected ASAP. I’m working under the theory that I would no longer to be infected or to be infected by others. I’d sure like to visit Ben…but I’m not even sure if testing (when we FINALLY get it) detects antibodies that show proof of already having had COVID-19

    All the best. Thanks for the update.
    Much Love
    Dennis

    March 21, 2020 at 9:01 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thank you Dennis for your regular updates and for staying in touch. I am very grateful. Take care of yourself. We wouldn’t want to lose you after just finding you! ♥️

      March 21, 2020 at 9:24 pm
  • Reply Dennis White

    I can’t even imagine the predicament you’re anything, but if DNA counts we both try to remain calm, be pragmatic, and strategize under pressure. Even though I’m not in a panic for my own health (which is, all in all, decent) I am concerned how others are going to cope with things. Or survive. This is indeed a world-wide pandemic and within a few weeks I don’t expect any place will be safer than any other…I know you and Arne will keep updated and make decisions based on the ever-changing situation. I only hope that you don’t end up being locked out of returning to the US in a timely way, and it seems likely even at this writing you’ll likely face a quarantine.
    So, brave on!
    As for myself, I’m pretty much on “lock-down” at home…which means the same as usual. I’m practicing “social distancing” but that’s not hard when I only go out to take my dog on a walk in the early morning and late evening.
    If I could be assured I’d be asymptomatic or only have a mild to moderate reaction to the virus I wouldn’t mind being infected ASAP. I’m working under the theory that I would no longe be infected or to infect others. I’d sure like to visit Ben, but I’m not even sure if testing (when we FINALLY get it) detects antibodies that show proof of already having had COVID-19

    All the best. Thanks for the update.
    Much Love
    Dennis

    March 21, 2020 at 9:03 pm
  • Reply Sonia Motwani

    Take care dearest. I pray for the world peace.

    March 23, 2020 at 8:29 am
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