When I went to Thailand there were only 40 recorded cases of COVID-19 over a period of 6 weeks. These were all in the Bangkok area so it didn’t seem a risk at all.
I wasn’t going to Bangkok and I was going to party in clubs or go shopping in busy areas. I was going to southern Phuket for some fitness training. Who knew what we were in for?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The moment I stepped foot on Irish soil, with a working sim and no app restrictions, I made contact with the government who confirmed I was on their list. I didn’t know what I was going to do if I had to stay there indefinitely, I have a mortgage, bills and a car to pay for and couldn’t continue to cover those bills plus my expense in Ireland forever, especially after the money I’d just haemorrhaged getting back.
I had resigned myself to thinking that I was going to be waiting a while. There were 400 people who were on that list and I thought they’d be prioritising those with medical conditions, families etc. Given that there were only 30 people per week sailing back and 400 of us to repatriate, I fully expected to be waiting 3 months to get back to my beloved isle.
When I found out I was going to be one of those 29 on the first repatriation sailing to the Island I couldn’t believe it.
Up until this point I had had a good handle on my emotions. I knew I had very little control over the situation and accepted that what would be, would be – all I could do was my best. Here I was, in Ireland for the foreseeable and mentally prepared to spend a wee while longer here for sure. When I received my exemption notice I broke down. I was coming home. All the emotions I’d been subconsciously suppressing came flooding out.
Then started the repatriation.
The morning of leaving my Heysham hotel the Government called me and asked for full payment of the cost of repatriation… another £875 taken from my dwindling resources. To clarify, I am currently unemployed and not entitled to benefits so it’s hitting hard! This is money I had saved for buying a house.
I pulled out my debit card and paid the amount over the phone.
I met the other 28 passengers at the coaches, we boarded and were taken to the boat. There, at Heysham ferry port, we stood and had our temperature taken, we were given a sheet of paper and asked to decide our meal choice for when we arrived.
They were all super kind and friendly and made sure everyone was sanitised and following strict social distancing.
We had a few hours to wait so I spent the time sitting outside on my own, soaking up what I knew would be the last bit of sun for a while. They had a sandwich and some cans of Coke waiting for us in our segregated seating areas.
Off we sailed.
I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before so I slept the whole way.
I woke to the beautiful sight of the Manx coastline – home!
When we disembarked it all got very real and a little scary. Police met with us individually and we had to sign some disclaimers about the process. The reality of the situation began to sink in. It was all very serious and a little crazy. We boarded another coach. Under police escort we were taken to the Comis Hotel. Here we were met with more police and security… we all felt like convicts.
Standing more than 2 metres away from everyone while checking in, I was unable to hear the discussions being had, however, I was able to pick up on a few questions being asked. Requests for contact lenses and medication to be dropped off were made. They were told they weren’t sure if they’d be allowed and they’d have to wait to find out. Having just come back from Thailand I did not have a coat. Although the weather was nice, tropical almost for the Isle of Man, my suitcase full of beachwear wasn’t going to cut it.
My friends managed to have a bottle of (hotel) bubbles with a lovely note delivered to my room for which I was so grateful for – it really helped to cheer me up!
A couple of hours later there was a knock at the (alarmed) door and my dinner was delivered on paper plates, with plastic cutlery and covered with foil. The person delivering it had already made their escape.
We were provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner sheets which we were instructed to fill out and leave outside for the following day… much like you would do in hospital.
I quickly ate my food, left my plates back outside and decided to get into bed and sleep.
Anything to help bring to an end a very surreal day.
I was woken up with a loud knock on the door and my eggs were waiting.
I really struggle to eat first thing but I forced most of it down because I didn’t know what time I would next get fed.
The room and the bed are lovely so I had a wonderful sleep but the wifi has been terrible. I am struggling to stream anything so just watched a bit of daytime TV and checked in with friends and family.
I knew exercise was at 12pm so I got ready and patiently waited for the knock. I was super excited when it came and the security guard took myself and 2 others to the outside space for our 30 minutes of outdoor time per day.
Thankfully my companions were lovely and I was able to have a nice chat with them – at a safe distance.
These will be my only human contact for the next 2 weeks.
As much as the exercise was lovely, it would have been a bit nicer without being watched by a security guard and a police van with a camera on us at all times.
I returned to lunch – a ham sandwich and a bag of crisps. Thankfully I saved my breakfast fruit so I had that as well.
I tried to contact various companies to see what refunds I was eligible for but was met with answer machines and negative responses so decided to park that for the day. I want to try to keep my spirits up for the long slog ahead and hearing that the savings I had for buying a house would, in the best case scenario, be coming in the form of airline vouchers did nothing for my positive mindset.
I got a call from reception to say they had taken into consideration the concerns we raised at check in. We are now allowed one small package for the 14 days and these come with strict conditions – A small bag. No food. No alcohol.
I still struggle to really understand why we can’t have deliveries like everyone else on the Island. It could be performed in the same manner, delivered to the door and sanitised etc. Maybe they’ll ease off once they get into the swing of things.
Dinner arrived in the same manner as lunch. As much as it’s totally adequate, I’m already dreaming of being able to make myself some toast or even cook a nice dinner in my own home. The room, as I mentioned, is lovely but I’ve already paced every square inch of it. I’m going to have to come up with a plan for some entertainment once the wifi is working properly.
Another early night on the cards and planning my exercise routine for my much anticipated 45 mins outside tomorrow.
This has increased by 15 minutes. 1 hour is allocated to each group which originally included 15 minutes to get us outside, 30 minutes outside and another 15 getting us in. Turns out we can get out in half that so another 15 minutes outside is greatly appreciated!
I hope it’s sunny tomorrow.
I woke up today with the usual loud knock on the door, I couldn’t believe it was 9am.
It was a pretty long night but that was solely due to my 3 hour nap the day before… note to self, don’t sleep for 3 hours after the ‘danger’ hour. I was a little frustrated all night with the wifi too… I ended up watching Netflix on my phone using my data as it wasn’t strong enough for streaming anything.
Despite these minor setbacks, I feel really good today. I’m so lucky to have an ace group of people I call friends and I’m constantly on the phone or having a laugh on Whatsapp. Someone shared a great new tune with me that I love so I had a little dance in my room whilst feeling thankful for what I have.
The shower here is amazing so I spent tons of time in there and even managed to shave my legs for the first time in however many days. Life’s little luxuries.
I did my hair and my make up and put on some gym gear. I wanted to use my allocated exercise time as well as I could and I was excited to see my 2 exercise buddies. They are great fun and have great stories… It’s just so lovely to have some face to face conversations.
The security guards were great, kind and compassionate. I really do value their ability to show these traits in the midst of being performing a task that I’m sure they would rather not.
I heard that some other people from ‘the 29’ are struggling emotionally. I can totally understand this… it’s a very weird situation to be in. It’s not that we have to self isolate, everyone does this, it’s just the conditions that we’re doing it in. We all feel like we are being punished.
I hope this doesn’t end up like the Stanford Prison Experiment (google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
I read a few things on social media with people saying we deserve this or how it’s awful the Government are having the foot the bill(!!). I refute this wholeheartedly but there is very little point in arguing with people who have opinions with little logic to back-up; it’ll get me nowhere so I decided to turn it off and keep positive. The keyboard warriors can keep on going!
Anyway, I’m going to have a Zoom chat with the girls after dinner as it’s Friday…might even treat myself to a £20 bottle of hotel wine!