This time last year, COVID-19 started spreading around China, and eventually made its way to the rest of the world. At the beginning of 2020, I had no idea that my tour in Africa would not end as I expected.
I expected to return to my wonderful cozy apartment in Dalian, China, where I would begin preparing for the next semester after recovering and regaining my strength.
That would’ve been done the end of February since our semester would begin in March.
Well, things didn’t quite go as planned.
I still remember the day.
It was a Saturday morning and I was sitting on my Kenyan brother’s couch when I received the email notification that flashed the title across my screen.
The Dreaded Email
“CANCELLED FLIGHT SCHEDULED FOR…”
Instantly my heart sank and I anxiety began to take over.
I opened the email and the message informed me that my return flight to China had been canceled and I needed to make other travel arrangements with the airline.
I was distraught.
What I decided to do
With tears in my eyes, I contacted my HR department (yes, on a Saturday) and told them what was happening. Their advice was to go back to America for a few weeks until the border reopened and I could come back to China.
Discouraged and frustrated, I decided to extend my mini African tour by adding Egypt to the itinerary, prior to flying out to London and then America.
That was 10 1/2 months ago.
It has been a full 10 months since I have been on a plane…since I have been outside of the United States.
And in about 23 days, I will be on my way back to China.
I’m sharing the story with you because I have no idea what to expect. I haven’t been on a plane since the end of February – February 27th to be exact.
The past three years have been absolutely unbelievable for me. Since I travel extensively, I’ve grown accustomed to being on a plane every so often.
But now, after having not been on a plane in 10 months, due to the global pandemic that has claimed the lives of countless people, I am embarking upon a journey to return to my second home.
And if I can be transparent and honest, I have a mixture of emotions. Obviously, I’m super excited to be returning home but after having been in the states for so long, I’m a little sad.
Honestly, I only thought that I would be in the states from about the end of February to maybe April, possibly May or June but I never thought it’d be for almost an entire year!
How I felt vs. How I feel
My initial emotions about being in the States were ones of excitement and happiness to visit family and friends. It felt great to be able to check on everyone and make sure that they were okay.
But after a few weeks of still not knowing when I’d be able to return, the uncertainty took a toll on me and I became frustrated and impatient.
One day around the end of June, there was a pivotal shift in my perspective. As I was complaining to a fellow expat who has been temporarily displaced in North Carolina just like myself, something happened. As I complained about being stuck in the states, she started telling me about her and her family’s roadblocks that they were facing regarding their return to Shanghai.
It was at that moment at I realized that I really didn’t have anything to complain about. Other expats reported their loss of jobs, homes and being separated from their families in our WeChat groups.
Some of them were evicted from their homes, even with their belongings still inside.
Some of them have been separated from their significant others, and their children.
Some have been fired and have no other jobs to come back to.
So as I began to take these things into consideration, I realized that God’s grace and favor has kept me even though I’ve been in an uncomfortable situation.
Fast forward from June to now in December, and my university has been trying to get as many teachers to come back as quickly as possible. They have been creating incentive programs, volunteering to assist us with the return fees (including reimbursements for tickets, accommodations, etc.).
My Valid-Expired-Valid Residency Permit
Many expat visas and residency permits expired during this year. Before I left on January 15, under the advisement of my HR representative, I renewed my residency permit since it would expire during the time I’d be in Africa. I’m so glad that I listened to the voice of wisdom!
Around the months of March and April, the Chinese embassies in America stopped issuing visas and for a period of time, all of the residency permits were canceled, regardless of expiration date.
Well, in September the Chinese government reinstated all of the valid visas and residency permits!
As long as it hadn’t expired during the period of reopening borders, the permits and visas would be reinstated. Since my permit does not expire until January 31, 2021, I was fortunate enough to avoid having to go through the whole visa process again.
The steps to start the return process
I emailed both consulates in Washington, DC and New York at the same time because I wanted to see which one would respond quicker. At first, there was an immediate response with generic details but after I emailed back indicating that this case-specific, I was able to get a human response within moments from New York.
I wanted to know how to plan for submitting my COVID test results to receive the health form. Well, it turns out that they’re no longer doing health forms where they send you a stamp back. Now, they’re giving you a color-coded QR code to be scanned.
For one, I’m excited about going “home” to Dalian.
However, on the other hand, I feel a bit anxious because I have no idea what this experience is about to be like.
The journalist in me says, “well, you have to document the whole thing. If you feel this way, think about the other expats and roadrunners who miss traveling that may want to stay up to do with what’s happening.”
So, I’m glad that I have this internet space to share my experiences, because, this experience is not just about it being shared on social media.
In order for me to share my entire experience – COVID testing, results and health code application turnaround time – I need to have my own blog space for that.
Not to mention, I’ll be sharing my quarantine experience, too! I’m going to share where I end up staying, what the facilities are like along with my other Hospitality and Tourism content that I love sharing with you all.
So how do I feel about going back to China in less than four weeks?
But I’m also nervous.
And I think it’s okay for me to say that.
I think it’s okay for me to be able to express that. Yes, while I am bold and brave. I do have a bit of apprehension about what I am walking into because this this experience is truly the unknown.
So, if you haven’t done so already, join me by becoming my travel bestie where I can unburden my heart and my cares about this entire process here on my travel blog.
You can become my travel bestie by signing up to be on my email list. Usually, I plan to post on this blog once a week, however, because I’m going to be documenting my return to China, the posts and updates may be daily or several times a week.
Thank you for being with me, and I guess I should say, “buckle up, boo” because we are definitely in for an amazing ride.