Picture it: our first, and last, Latin American wedding before we skip the continent. The pomp. The fashion. The food. The energy. The amazing friends and dancing and hugs and lack of facial coverings. Over the top in the best way.
Three days later our classes were moved online. You know the story. (Luckily the above event wasn't a cause of any spread.)
The idea of this blog is to serve as a time capsule for us to look back on later. The fact that a handful of others may be taking a look in the meantime is icing. But for our time during quarantine this primary reason for being is especially true because the images below and the stories they reflect are not unique. Decades from now we're going to be telling each other what we did during this time, and we'll be surprised and comforted by the similarities between those stories.
You made multiple batches of enchilada sauce from scratch as well, right?
During the first week of lockdown we were allowed to walk our neighborhood with our family. We didn't realize how much we should've savored stretching the legs.
The government then issued the strictest lockdown orders in the world: all adults could only go out three days a week (males Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, unless they said we couldn't go out on Saturdays which happened more often than not, and females Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) for two hours each day based on the last digit of your national ID card. Children were not allowed outside of their apartments or off their house's property at all. A friend's kid was fined a few hundred dollars for breaking this curfew. Luckily we had a backyard, many of our students in highrise apartments didn't go outside for months.
Yes, we taught online from March through June. Yes, our children learned online, some better than others, during that time. But we have no pictures of such things for the same reason that movies about The Information Superhighway from the late nineties are all so bad: because the images are very difficult to be compelling, and I'm just not that good a photographer.
Instead you'll see a few collections, loosely organized by themes that you'll identify with.
We played some games. You know, as a family. And online with our extended family (both actual and professional).
Our school had a weekly online trivia that we loved and hosted twice. A category we very much enjoyed was where I would play a song on a different instrument for each question and players had to name the song (or the movie, or the international sporting event, et cetera). In the two examples below name the TV show: (answers at the end of the post*). These videos will also serve as a reminder of the diversity of window coverings in our Panama abode.
One week each team had to create a dialogue-free video representing a famous movie. Below is our contribution to our teams (longer) video. Can you guess the movie? (Note: there isn't enough information in just this short bit, but perhaps with the hint...)
Yes, we cooked a bit. The Big O made a mean homemade burger, The Little Lady made homemade truly awesome falafel, and The Eldest made amazing enchiladas from scratch (NOTE: we probably don't need to specify homemade at this point...). Sarah baked and baked, and I made sauerkraut (well, the microorganisms actually did the work, I guess) and mozzarella from scratch. Oh, and I spilled a piping hot casserole dish of saucy pasta in the back of the oven. Good times!
We made stuff.
While The Little Lady branched out a bit from her usual viscious-looking dragons and other scary creatures, the boys stuck to what they know best: creating and using weaponry and corresponding armor.
Look! Us! (Except I didn't get Sarah that day...oops!)
While we were cooped up in our house for months we still had a few rare opportunities to enjoy the teeming creatures and colorful skies that Panama had to offer.
Only a few weeks into online learning a couple of coworkers flew back to the U.S. on a humanitarian flight to teach from there. We thought that was super weird. And then others joined them. Then administrators. Hmmmmmmmm...
I'm not sure if you've heard, but the U.S. of A. hasn't really nailed this whole dealing-with-the-coronavirus situation. It hasn't been our finest hour. And Panama was looking at least half-decent. Sure we could only legally leave our property a few times a week to enjoy a mad rush to wait in line at the local Costco-ish big box store, but at least we weren't being screamed at in a Trader Joe's, amIright? Why would we get the heck out of Dodge for that?
So the plan was to stick it out in Panama until we could just jump over to Europe for our next adventure, though we thought we'd do a five day stopover in the U.S. to accept a few (ha! A few...) online orders for our new Alpine lifestyle. (While the U.S. may not be able to beat a little virus, we sure do have online shopping figured out!) But Europe had other plans.
On July 6th Europe banned entry for people from the worst countries. I mean people from countries with the worst outbreaks. Or is that the same thing?
Given that Panama's airport had been shuttered for months except for humanitarian flights, we realized a while back that we'd have to head back to 'Merica, at least for a little while, just to get out of Latin America. As Sarah said, delaying that flight was playing chicken with the U.S. Embassy.
But then it wasn't looking like we could make the jump across the pond once Stateside. Changes to the Swiss entry visa policies meant our new school might figure out a way to get us on a plane in a few days, weeks, or months. The uncertainty pointed us towards biding our time in the freedom of home; specifically, my home, with my parents, in beautiful Riverside, California!
And so, with one week's notice, we boarded a (freaking 3am) humanitarian flight and said a temporary goodbye to Latin America on July 1.
But first we had to make sure we didn't infect Grammy and Gramps with Covid-19. Quarantine, Schnack style: two one-week home exchanges (we didn't directly swap houses this time) in Claremont and in the San Bernardino Mountains.
14 days after flying in we felt safe enough to move in with my folks. Sarah and I spent most of our time maxing out the credit card buying anything and everything that we might need whilst living in the Alps. Our children would need pants, for example, something they successfully avoided while living in the tropics for three years.
We made many memories playing Nerts and Quadruple Solitaire as well as exploring the neighborhood a bit. But one thing we did not do enough of is take very many pictures of/with Grammy and Gramps. Whoops! We love you and thank you so much for hosting us while we waited for our Swiss work visas to be magically delivered by the Fedex guy!
On August 10th we received an email that our work visas had been approved by the Swiss government. On the 11th, we booked the next available flight to Zurich, finished up our packing, and waited anxiously for our passports to arrive via the aforementioned FedEx Santa so we could get up before dawn on the 12th and fly to our new home in the Alps.
Somehow, unbelievably, it all worked out. I'm writing this from our apartment overlooking the jagged peaks you're picturing in your mind (and yes, it does look like a box of Toblerone). To celebrate this next stage we've started a new blog: MindsOverMatterhorn.com
Come check it out!
* ANSWERS! The first song is the theme from Knight Rider, the second is the theme from Barney (technically Barney & Friends), and the movie is The Italian Job, hence the pasta!