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Canada Sportak: Anxious wait for our flight home from paradise

20:41  23 march  2020
20:41  23 march  2020 Source:   calgaryherald.com

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a person in glasses looking at the camera: Calgarians Randy and Michelle Sportak await a flight home as their dream world holiday has been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED PHOTOS, March 22, 2020. Calgarians Randy and Michelle Sportak await a flight home as their dream world holiday has been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED PHOTOS, March 22, 2020.

The worst part is the uncertainty.

Uncertainty made the decision to return to Canada a finality. It’s also making the wait for Thursday’s journey to Calgary through Tokyo and Vancouver all the more anxious.

Uncertainty has become front and centre while on the other side of the world amidst the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

In early February, my wife, Michelle, and I began a dream getaway. The plan was four months flashpacking throughout Southeast Asia, visiting Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Then, it was to base ourselves for three months in Southern Italy at a friend’s family home. Following that, there was a carefree belief we could look into house-sitting in the United Kingdom. At the time of our departure, the virus was almost exclusively in China, with sporadic cases elsewhere closely linked to the epicentre of Wuhan.

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a smiling man and woman posing for the camera:  Calgarians Randy and Michelle Sportak await a flight home as their dream world holiday has been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED PHOTOS, March 22, 2020. Calgarians Randy and Michelle Sportak await a flight home as their dream world holiday has been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED PHOTOS, March 22, 2020.

At first, it had been an amazing time exploring new countries while feeling slightly removed from the real world. Whether it was fact or under-reporting by their governments, the number of cases in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand were minuscule, even as we watched the horror building in Italy, then Western European countries — notably Spain, Germany and France — and finally to North America.

Uncertainty then reared its ugly head. When the Canadian government made its official global advisory, we had already completed a journey to the island of Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia. The next morning (March 15), we decided to soon head for Thailand. While on the island, we experienced light-heartedness the first couple days, then sombreness set in as countries started closing borders and the tragedy grew through Europe. Once our flight was booked, it was an anxious time as we watched other flights to Thailand being cancelled, sometimes as late as when people were arriving at the airport.

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Our original intention was to hopefully wait it out overseas instead of going to Canada, a call made in big part because of the reports from home (hoarding toilet paper, seriously?!?) as well as the increasing number of those infected. After double-checking with our insurance company whether we’d have medical coverage, we believed Thailand was a smart option, being a country that had suffered minimal cases, a visa could be extended if necessary, and — also if necessary — would provide access to more flights out of Southeast Asia to return home.

Proof how difficult decisions are to make in real time, we decided it was time to return home before landing in Bangkok. Hours after we arrived, the Thai government announced anyone coming across their borders must provide proof of health. In our few days in Bangkok, we’ve watched a city begin to shut down. Places of large gatherings have been closed — sporting venues, shopping malls, bars and restaurants (except for takeout) and even the Grand Palace, one of the major tourist destinations.

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a man and woman sitting next to a body of water:  Calgarians Randy and Michelle Sportak await a flight home as their dream world holiday has been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED PHOTOS, March 22, 2020. Calgarians Randy and Michelle Sportak await a flight home as their dream world holiday has been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED PHOTOS, March 22, 2020.

While venues were open, our temperatures were taken many times. The good news is we never had an elevated temperature. The scare was wondering what would happen if we did have a temperature? Do we get whisked away for testing or just barred from entering the venue? More uncertainty.

Overall, though, the days are positive. We have seen people come together in Cambodia, helping each other plan returns home or working together to reach a new destination after flights were cancelled. In Bangkok, strangers on the street have asked if we needed a hand. While near the Grand Palace, a few locals apologized for its closure, and despite what The Colonel said, street vendors here know how to do fried chicken right!

Plus, we’re lucky. Should we become stranded, there’s a big expat community to turn to, and the Canadian embassy is just a phone call away.

So many others are facing issues we can’t fathom. During our travels, we have met a couple who are both doctors from Switzerland and knew they were returning home to chaos. Another couple we befriended are nurses in Germany, and sent us a message they’ve been busy but are fine. What they are persevering through is indeed stressful.

And enough to remind us we will be OK. We just must withstand a bit more uncertainty.

a person sitting on a beach posing for the camera:  Calgarians Randy and Michelle Sportak await a flight home as their dream world holiday has been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED PHOTOS, March 22, 2020. Calgarians Randy and Michelle Sportak await a flight home as their dream world holiday has been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. SUPPLIED PHOTOS, March 22, 2020.

I caught the last flight to propose to my girlfriend on the other side of the world .
Stay in Cairo with family or catch the last flight to Canada to be with the woman he loves? Writer Eihad Boraie decided to risk traveling halfway around the world to propose to his girlfriend.Stay in Cairo with family or catch the last flight to Canada to be with my love. I needed to decide quickly but feared that traveling during this pandemic was the equivalent of suicide, or worse, murder.

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