• Laura T Petersen

Home in a Strange New World

By some gift of fate, John had found an amazing deal using our airline miles to return home from Colombia on March 1st. We spent the last 6 weeks of our 6 month trip in Colombia, primarily studying Spanish in Medellin and then traveling along the Caribbean coast.

The weather changed our original flights from Cartagena to SFO via Panama and we were re-routed via Miami. John was able to get us into first class on the route to Miami. Keegan was ecstatic.


John had procured these return tickets in early February and I realized a couple of weeks before our departure that we would be arriving home on the eve of the Family Fun Weekend. This 7th annual event at the California School for the Deaf has been my “baby” and this was going to be the first year I would miss it. Upon this realization, I checked in with my coworkers and the talented person replacing me during my leave of absence. They urged me to attend. It was a treat to see both familiar and new families, with their Deaf children, enjoying the weekend. I loved jumping back into my California life and connecting with my beloved coworkers.


John was thrilled when the timing of our return was proven even more miraculous when we were informed that our newly ordered Tesla 3 would be ready for pickup on our first day back. Our dear friends Steve and Mary hosted a lovely gathering of our neighborhood Santa Cruz mountain friends. It was wonderful to see everyone and share stories while drinking, much-missed, Californian wine. Our slideshow of travel pics was appreciated by most, but we did manage to put one person to sleep. Oops! Coronavirus was on our collective radar and we greeted each other with hip bumps in lieu of hugs.

It was overwhelming to be in our spacious house on the top of a hill with hardly a neighbor in sight. It was quite a shift from our city life in Medellin, and our travels in general. We bought this dream home just a couple of years ago. We rented out our beloved house to a Sharks NHL player for the 6 months we were traveling. Serendipity hit again when he ended his rental agreement at the end of February upon buying a nearby house. We were fortunate to be able to come straight home.


Our second week home coincided with Naomi’s Spring Break from Gonzaga University. She was able to come home and much to her pleasure, sleep in her own bed. Keegan was enjoying time with friends, away from his parents (finally!). He had a few friends over who did the nordic experience of challenging each other to stay in our frigid 50-degree pool before hopping into the hot tub. He was thrilled to connect with his peers again. John and I were happy to have both kids home although we were missing the cutest member of our family, Rieta. Luckily John had plans to go to Seattle the following weekend to see friends, family, and most importantly pick up our dog from my sister and dad.


Naomi’s Spring Break week was the week that normalcy departed our area of California. Santa Clara was now rising as the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak in the state. On March 2 there were 9 cases in Santa Clara. We were cognizant that we were coming home to a more dangerous area for Coronavirus. Colombia had no known cases when we left. By March 12th, gatherings of 35 people or more in Santa Clara were banned. Naomi was looking forward to returning to Gonzaga and resume practice with the Rugby team. Keegan had a friend that was going to stay with us for a week. But then Universities like the University of Washington began canceling classes. Other schools followed suit. Gonzaga decided to extend Spring Break by a week in order to decide what to do and prepare to go online if necessary. Keegan’s friend canceled his stay. After much deliberation, John flew to Seattle, on planes with less than 15 other travelers. He visited my family in Seattle, including my 82-year-old dad, and returned with our beloved dog, Rieta.


Naomi had a friend visiting her while she was home for Spring break whose school in San Louis Obispo was canceled for the rest of the school year. She has since moved in so they can keep each other company during the mandated shelter-in-place. Our “adopted” daughter Taylor had come down with CV19 symptoms, I helped her navigate the challenging medical system to finally get a test which took two weeks! After self quarantining she tested negative and is feeling better with antibiotics. This unprecedented outbreak is going to test our infrastructure and our resilience. It’s a strange new world where the future is uncertain. We are keeping ourselves busy by cooking, checking in on local senior citizens, tackling home projects, doing puzzles, going for walks and bike rides. The kids are doing their courses online and Rieta has the challenge of choosing who to snuggle with, she has so many choices with us all home.

I think back to the places we visited in the last 6 months and wonder how much they have been impacted by this pandemic that knows no borders. I think back to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Bali. There are many families whose livelihood depends on tourists. Eighty percent of Bali’s GDP is based on tourism. They will be forever changed. Yet innovation continues amid crisis, check out Vietnam’s latest export, their handwashing song. I hope the remoteness of Fiji and Moorea will keep the pandemic at bay. The numbers in most places are going to continue to rise before they improve. We are all in this together. The world is smaller than it has ever been.


Please stay healthy and take care of yourselves and your families at this critical time. I have enjoyed connecting with many of you through your responses to my blogs.



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