On March 25, 2020 around one in the morning, I received a call from one of my Program Coordinators. She told me that half of our group was going to be repatriated later in the day. Instantly, I shot up in bed with the remnants of sleep in my eyes and checked my email. I was rather hesitant because the day before half of us were supposed to leave, but President Vizcarra blocked the flights from the country that day. However, this time, the email included the time we needed to be at the Alejandro Velasco Airport in Cusco, and further directions about filling out a promissory note and printing out a copy of a transit letter.
As soon as I informed my Program Coordinator that I received one of the emails, I jumped out of bed and started to pack my bags. She told us that we needed to be ready to be picked up at 8:00am so we could make it to the airport at 8:30am. As I packed, I felt overwhelmed with anxiety since I was unsure what was going to happen that day. I was also really worried about possibly being exposed to the virus while traveling. In addition, my host family still had no idea of what the plans were, and I felt bad waking then from their sleep since it was so early in the morning. My plan was to get all my stuff ready in case we were leaving, and to notify them in the morning what was happening.
Ever since I received the information that I could be going home, I could not sleep for the rest of the morning because I was so anxious and stressed. I just laid in my bed until 7:00am when I took my bags downstairs to the door and informed my host family of my departure. We were all sad that I was leaving on such a short notice, but I thanked my family and we cherished the last hour together waiting for my Academic Director to pick me up. He finally came a little later than expected because he had been stopped multiple times for checks by the police.
When we finally got to the airport, I was surprised to see so many people waiting in line. We got there at the indicated time, and we were surprisingly the last people in line. Hundreds of people stood or sat on the sidewalk in the early warmth of the sun. As the time passed, the sun grew stronger and hotter, especially with the layers I had on and the weight of my luggage. We ended up waiting in line outside of the airport for three hours without a bathroom until finally we were interviewed briefly by a representative from the Embassy. When we were approved, we entered the gates of the airport where our temperatures were taken by workers in white uniforms from head to toe. I was especially concerned for this part since I was sweating profusely from being in the sun for hours and from carrying all my stuff. However, the worker let me pass, and I finally felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. The hardest part was over.
We finally boarded around 1:00pm. On the plane, everyone wore masks and most wore gloves. I made small talk with a woman who sat beside me. She was in Perú for a cruise with her family. Additionally, she told me that when she was standing in line to enter the airport, she was trying to help translate for a family. The Embassy was giving them a difficult time because they only had some copies of their documents online and not physical ones. What was worse was that the family had a small baby of only a few months old; however, eventually we found out that the family was able to get on the plane home with us.
The flight was extremely long, but we finally made it to Miami safely around 11:30pm. I was extremely hungry. My stomach was so queasy that morning that the only thing I could force down was a piece of bread, and throughout the flight, I was only able to eat the few snacks that were offered by the airline. We were planning on eating at the airport, but all the restaurants were closed so late at night. At that point, I was so hungry that my vision was starting to get blurry and I felt extremely lightheaded. As soon as we made if through customs and got our bags, we ordered a bunch of pizzas to our hotel. About forty-five minutes later, we were finally able to eat quickly before going to bed.
I got up early to catch my flight to Philly the next morning. Around 8:30am, about ten people boarded onto the plan, and we took off. It was so weird to see so few people, but it was also a relief since I had a whole section of the plane to myself and I could just relax. I arrived in Philly around noon, and I was so relieved and happy to be home. My boyfriend picked me up from the airport, and we returned home to our apartment safely for more weeks of quarantine!
Although I was relieved to be home to see my boyfriend and my cat, I was also sad that I wasn’t able to spend more time in Perú. There was so much that I wanted to learn and so much that I wanted to see. I already decided that I need to return in the future, and I am already looking at other opportunities for me to go back. While I am quite sad that my time was cut short, I am grateful for the little time that I was there and the relationships that I formed.