Friday, January 14, 2022

Home and still Negative

 I pride myself on being a very positive person, but right now - Negative is the way to be! We've been home 3 days and just took a home Covid test and both of us tested negative! Yay.

How we got here ...

OAT arranged for a driver to take us to the airport.  It's about 45 minutes from where we were in San Salvador to the airport and we had a delightful conversation the whole way. Our driver was El Salvadoran, but he lived for 20 years in Canada - Edmonton, Alberta no less! Aha! that's why his English was so good. He told us about how he messed up with getting Canadian citizenship because he came back to El Salvador for a visit and stayed just a bit too long. He forgot to read the fine print! Weatherwise - he's certainly better off where he is now, on the Pacific coast of El Salvador running a small business. A hostel for tourists in El Sunzal.  

The airport was a busy place! Everyone, and I do mean everyone, was wearing a mask. There were extra airline employees greeting passengers at the door, guiding them to the correct line, and checking their vaccination cards and Covid-19 results. I'm so glad I thought to get the hotel to print our results out so it was easier to show them.

They were very friendly and efficient getting us checked in, but then we had a problem. The lady at the ticket counter handed us our boarding passes and said, "Gate 6." We looked around and saw no signs for gates. If we walked to the right, it only led to doors outside, so we went left. No signs. We went upstairs - no signs. We just kept following open corridors and ended up in a kind of food court, but no sign of security or gates. So we went back downstairs. We asked someone for directions and they tried to send us back to the ticketing area - no, we have our boarding passes ... WHERE IS GATE 6?

We ended up going outside and starting over again! In the doors by American airlines, take a left and go upstairs. We then noticed a small sign that said "Passenger pre-check" - well, that sounds like security, but there was no line?!? Yep, that was where we needed to go. Take off your shoes, everything out of your pockets, laptop out of your bag etc. etc. I was called aside and they took me and my belt bag to a separate room - oh sh*t - I forgot to take my swiss army knife out of my personal bag and pack it in the checked bag. So, they confiscated it. Oh well, my fault.

We're on our way to Gate 6. I really want a beer. That's our standard airport routine: we make it thru security, find our gate, then find a beer - or if it's morning we get a bloody mary! But, no .. when we found our gate we had to go thru another security - take off your shoes, everything out of your pockets, laptop out of your bag etc. etc. I was called aside this time because my boarding pass had the secret code that identified me as a winner of the special treatment club. They swabbed my palms with some kind of test paper looking for explosives? or drugs? I don't know, but I passed and we could now find a seat to wait for our flight. We still had nearly 2 hours but could not leave our gate in search of food or drink. Oh the horror!

Really, no big deal. We finally boarded the flight, I got a a window seat again and enjoyed seeing the Pacific ocean, then farmland, giving way to mountains further inland and soon I was seeing the Caribbean and Honduras where I've been diving at Roatan. 

Before Jim's movie had even finished, we were landing in Miami. 

Speaking of movies ... things are different from the last time we flew just a few years ago. In 2019, when we flew to Australia, the plane had a sophisticated touch-screen on the back of every seat! This time there were no screens at all. Not in the back of seats, not dropping down from the overhead, NO screens. They assume that every one of us has our own screens - phones or tablets. The plane has an entertainment server with a local Wi-Fi. So, what you do is connect your phone to their server via free Wi-Fi (no Internet, just a connection to their entertainment). The airlines must be saving a ton of money this way!

The space where the fancy touchscreen monitor used to be 

We disembarked in Miami, sailed thru customs with my Global Entry credentials and Jim's Mobile Passport app. We found our bags in short order, made our way to Tri-Rail and got off at the Cypress Creek station where Devon picked us up and took us home.


Yes - we're glad to be home.

Home Covid Test

Oh ... after we got our luggage and were on our way we passed some people from the CDC who were handing out free Home Covid tests. They said we should take them in 3 days. That was today. 

How interesting ...


The kit includes a swab, a dropper of testing fluid, and a tester - and lots of instructions. You need to have a smartphone because the whole thing runs over bluetooth with the special app. What blows me away is how nothing on the package makes it clear that you need a smartphone - it just assumes that everyone has one! The instructions simply say, "Download and install this app" 

In any case, we both tested negative.  Life goes on.



Monday, January 10, 2022

Negativo!

 We did it! Jim and I studied hard all night and took the test again and PASSED it!

This time we took an Antigen test instead of the PCR test - and it came back with negative results for Covid. Either PCR or Antigen tests are accepted for entry back into the US. Both of them are "viral tests", meaning they test for the existence of the Covid  virus - not to be confused with the Antibody test which is completely different, it tests a blood sample and looks for anitbodies which indicate that you had Covid and some time in the past. Both PCR and Antigen use a swab from your nose or back of throat.

All totaled, we took 4 tests:

  1. 12/29/21 - PCR test - Jim positive, Chris negative (this was taken at home 3 days before departure, but we didn't get the results until we already in El Salvador)
  2. 1/3/22 - PCR test - both Jim and Chris positive
  3. 1/7/22 - PCR test - Jim positive, Chris negative
  4. 1/10/22 - Antigen test - both Jim and Chris NEGATIVE!
The folks at OAT got right to work rescheduling our flights so that we can catch a flight home tomorrow. The test is only good for one day. We're ready to go home! We will do this trip some time in the future.

To celebrate we went outside! It was just a couple blocks walk to a local Cervezeria.
4 beers, 2 small plate appetizers, one dessert + tip = $11

fyi ...

CDC requirements for entering the US ...

You must be fully vaccinated at least 2 weeks before travel, and ...

All air passengers 2 years or older with a flight departing to the US from a foreign country at or after 12:01am EST (5:01am GMT) on December 6, 2021, are required show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than 1 day before travel, or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, before they board their flight.

You must be tested with a viral test to look for current infection – these include an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT).

see CDC link here



Sunday, January 09, 2022

Just hangin' out - with a friend in Italy!

 After our positive test results on Friday, it was settled that we would be staying at least another 3 days at this hotel. We hope to get a negative test on Monday and find a flight home on Tuesday. 

So what to do for the weekend? I'll tell you about Saturday later, but for Sunday - that's when we normally do our "What Does This Button Do?" live YouTube show. Well, we weren't interested in preparing a lesson plan and doing our class ... but, might we want to just do a "Gabbing with the Geeks?" We could talk about our experience with travel in the time of Covid. For us, Covid has been an inconvenience, but it made me think about our friend, Cary Tennis. Cary lives in Italy and when he got Covid he spent 5 weeks in an Italian hospital and nearly died. He's OK now, and I wondered if he would join us on our YouTube channel and talk about it. I had already had my share of wine and was feeling invincible, so I shot off an email asking Cary if he would be available for showtime. I got a response on Sunday morning and we were ON!

Cary is an excellent writer - please check out his story: The psychedelic madness of Covid-19 - the introduction is by David Talbot, the founder of Salon.com where Cary wrote a column for many years. Cary also did a podcast about his experience on his own website CaryTennis.com.

Today, Cary joined us on YouTube and Facebook for a live discussion about Covid, Travel, Italy, and El Salvador. You can watch the replay here


 

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Bad News

 As you've probably guessed from the title, we did not get the negative results from the Covid tests that we had hoped. Chris was negative, but Jim was still positive. We've been hearing that the PCR test can stay positive for a long time, but if anything, we thought Chris would be still positive and Jim would have turned negative, because I (Chris) only turned positive on Monday. 

Today is Jim's birthday - it was supposed to be such a cool birthday. Now, not cool at all. Our reservoir of good cheer is running low.

We still feel fine. Our OAT liaison, Marvin, gave us a pulse oximeter and asked us to report our blood oxygen levels twice/day all week. He asked us to take a picture with our finger in the device and send it to him via WhatsApp. Our numbers were always good - blood oxygen levels between 94 and 97 every day.

Jim

I'm really not sure why they had us do this - maybe for the possibility that our test would be negative, but they wanted to be sure we were actually healthy? Don't know - but it's a very interesting way to report don't ya think? The photo proves the numbers and sending it via WhatsApp gives a date and time stamp.

So what now? We really don't know.  Wait a few days, take another test, hope for negative, then catch a flight home? The trip leader, Walter, has been wonderful - staying in touch with us every day via WhatsApp and sending a few photos of what the group has been doing. He kept encouraging us and believing that we would test negative and be able to join the group today. He said he was looking especially looking forward to getting to know us because he is in process of building out an RV and he plans to drive it down to Tierra del Fuego! He wanted to hear all about our RV lifestyle. He is from Guatemala and I was especially looking forward to the tour at Lake Atitlan because I visited there with my parents in 1962.

10 year old Chris, sitting on the shore of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala when my family traveled there in a truck camper.

My Mom buying ponchos? from local artisans at Lake Atitlan


We met a family (Hansteins) by the lake who invited us to come stay at their coffee plantation in the nearby hills. See our camper in the driveway?

Me by the pool at the Coffee Plantation - Finca La Paz

I was so looking forward to going to Lake Atitlan and remembering 1962.
S I G H ....

Friday, January 07, 2022

Di Chocolate

 "Dee Chocolatay" is how you pronounce what I wrote in the title. I called room service and ordered a salad and a chicken dish and a dessert. The dessert was chocolate cake. 

If you're in a spanish speaking country and you call for room service, they expect you to speak spanish, so the first thing I say is "Ingles?" This is to signal that I am english speaking, so if you can speak english that would be great. However, I still try to express myself in spanish as much as possible. The man on the other end of the line was SO nice! The menu has a spanish section and an english section so I could figure out what I wanted to order, but still read from the spanish.

  • Salade de Tomate (The english says that is a tomato and mozzarella and basil salad - Caprese?)
  • Milanesa de Pollo (the english says that is chicken milanese with cheese sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables.)
The man's voice on the other end of the line was answering me in English every step of the way. He gave me encouragement for trying to speak spanish, while still letting me know that he would understand me if I spoke only English. When I got to the dessert, I said that I wanted to order the chocolate cake. I tried reading the spanish part of the menu and said  "Pastel de Chocolate"  but I pronounced it more like in the french movie with Juliette Binoche - Chocolat - and he corrected me ... no - "chocolatay" - he was teaching me how to speak his language!

OK - chocolatay

He said, Si!

a Teaching moment!