#StrandedInParadise

March 26, 2020

 

My finger hovering over the "purchase" button, I linger there, examining the consternation on my husband's face - full of conflict, pressure, worry that we're making the wrong choice, and pressed.

The page loaded, full of flight details on the only route left available: Bali to Singapore to London to Tel Aviv. Forty hours of travel through four international airports teeming with Corona. I enter our credit card details. The page reloads.

A little box pops up:

"Singapore will be closed to transit passengers as of tomorrow, March 23rd."

Our last option - gone.

 

Malaysia is already closed, we can't get to Bangkok, and we can't risk getting stuck in a country where we're not allowed (we have Israeli passports with us, and that's risky in many parts of the world, especially in this "neighborhood".)

We email the Israeli foreign ministry - they actually have an email address "911@mfa.gov.il" and let them know we're here.

We call the people we know with connections. The people who make decisions. The people who know.

Everybody tells us to get out.

 

We can't.

 

We talk to the Israeli embassy in India.

They tell us there are no plans to send a plane into Indonesia; flights are rescuing Israelis from Peru, India, Sri Lanka and potentially Thailand.

But not Indonesia.

We are here on American passports, not Israeli, since Israelis are not allowed in Indonesia.

We've put ourselves in this position.

And now we're stuck.

 

We spent the last two weeks debating. Hours, days of debating every possible scenario.

Safer here or safer in Israel? After endless research and deliberation, we decided that it's safer here. More isolation. More distance. We can afford to sustain ourselves here, without work, for longer, since our living expenses are less than half of what we spend in Israel. The only reason the situation would get scary is if we got ill enough to require medical attention. We are young (ish). We are healthy. How big is that risk? How does one measure that? Where is the actuary when we need one?

 

But last week, we got a phone call from my parents. 

Their neighbor heard that the Israelis were sending a rescue plane to Indonesia.

I felt like I could breathe for the first time in weeks.

And I knew.

I knew it was time to go home.

 

When you take a pregnancy test - that initial, visceral reaction tells you what's in your gut.

You find out that you're pregnant (or you find out that you're not) and you're either immediately thrilled beyond... or gagging from revulsion and fear. You find out right quick what your gut wanted the answer to be.

I thought I wanted to stay. It was logical to stay. All the spreadsheets and the pros and cons lists we made and logistics and finances and emotional well-being pointed to staying here.

But as soon as I heard about the (fictional) Israeli flight home, I wanted ON THAT PLANE.

And now I knew. I knew my gut was telling me to go home.

But it was too late.

 

Getting out of Indonesia is complicated. The visa extension process (to remain here legally) requires giving up your passport to Indonesian immigration for two solid weeks. When we could still get out, we were not in possession of our passports; they were in the middle of the extension process. The risk was - cancel the extension process, risk being here illegally, and try getting on a flight. 

Once my gut was in charge, we did exactly that. Called the lawyer, cancelled the extension process, asked for our passports back immediately. She said they could be returned to us within 48 hours.

After 12 hours of trying and failing to get on a flight, we realized there was no way out - in the meantime - and cancelled the cancellation of the process. Our Indonesian lawyer wanted to throttle us. Yes, no, going, staying. Pack, unpack, find a house to self-isolate, go to the pharmacy, go to the grocery, stock up. But for how long? Three days? Three weeks? Three months?

 

I found myself in a foreign supermarket - all four kids in the car with my husband, since they've proven that they must touch every surface available and we have to minimize risk of getting sick since the healthcare here is (cough) minimal - and I tried to stock up on groceries while people on Facebook were calling me an idiot for hoarding. I stared at the cans of tuna. They looked like tuna. They didn't say tuna. Was it tuna? Was it in water? Oil? What if the kids didn't like it? Should I still buy eight cans? What if we get on a flight in three days? Should I really be spending $400 on groceries? What's smartest?

 

We simply don't know. We didn't yesterday, we don't today, and we still won't know tomorrow.

 

We rented a house. It's fabulous. We have a private pool and if we squint our eyes and have a few beers, we can pretend we're still on vacation from life. We kind of are. We see no one, the plants are lush, and we have Cheerios. We are doing yoga online, the kids are rotating teaching classes (massage lessons, flossing class, how to draw a dinosaur) and our youngest is still pretending that clothes pins are trucks. On the surface, we're vacationing.

 

But what if we get sick? Like, really sick?

 

During any given 12 hour period in the last three days, I am experiencing this exceptionally wide range of emotions and actions:

  • panic that we have no options

  • smugness that we are here in a great house, spending very little, potentially waiting out the nightmare 

  • relaxation when sitting in the sun and meditating

  • worry that I'll panic the kids - attempting to balance sheltering them from information which might scare them vs. not giving them enough information so they feel they are being "punished unfairly"

  • frantically searching for flights

  • turning off the phone because I'm overstimulated

Are we geniuses having the last laugh here in Bali while the world melts around us?

Or are we the dumbest people on the planet who could have gone home a month ago... and chose not to?

 

Our passports come back next week from the visa extension process. This means there are no decisions to be made today.

So I'm going for a swim.

 

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