Strange Circumstances

Strange Circumstances

Nina Dorighi & Grace McClung, journalists

For some, quarantine means staying in their homes all day trying to keep busy and stay safe. It may seem like a hectic time because none of us could’ve prepared for a global disaster like this. However, some have it worse than others when it comes to our odd lives. No one has lived through something quite like in our day in age which is why we find cases of people stuck in strange circumstances due to the pandemic. From a stranded couple stuck alone in a beach resort to staff locked up on a cruise ship to astronauts returning from months in space, there is no shortage of oddities during this time. 

A lot of people think being isolated at a beach would be the ideal situation in this terrible pandemic. However a South Africa couple stranded in the Maldives are living out this idea and it’s not as relaxing as it might seem. Olivia and Raul De Freitas were on their honeymoon at the Cinnamon Vilufushi Maldives and were given the clear to follow through with their plans from their travel agent regarding the virus. Their plan was to only stay six days in the resort, a short trip to launch their new life together seeing as they had never lived together before marriage, but they were surprised to hear it would be much longer than that. When things got more complicated, airplanes closed and they were unable to fly back to their homes leaving them the only couple in the entire resort with a whole staff of employees. According to the New York times,” The couple reign like benign yet captive sovereigns over their islet. The days are long and lazy. They sleep in, snorkel, lounge by the pool, repeat. The resort’s staff are all stuck there because of the couple.” Government regulations won’t allow any Maldivians to leave resorts until after they undergo a quarantine that follows their last guests’ departure. Every night, the dining crew makes them an elaborate candlelit dinner on the beach. Performers still put on a show for them in the resort’s restaurant: Two lone audience members in a grand dining hall. “We’ve started playing a lot of table tennis and snooker,” Rachel said. This may seem like a dream, however there is a financial toll weighing down on the couple given that they were splurging for their honeymoon, not planning on spending weeks there. Their bill goes up everyday and the money is now ,”a chip taken out of their savings that had been set aside for a house down payment.” And while the couple is grateful for their “extra time”, they have realized that vacation is only good because of one reason: “Everyone says they want to be stuck on a tropical island, until you’re actually stuck,” said Ms. De Freitas. “It only sounds good because you know you can leave.” And the couple explains that it’s strange and eerie to be in a place that is supposed to be full of other people. The staff feel it too. The snorkel guide begs the couple to go snorkeling with him and waiters constantly circle their table in a desperate need of human interaction. This paradise turned nightmare is going to affect the rest of their lives together, as they have nowhere to go until flights open back up and they can return homeTravel has been banned all across the world, however many cruises have been stopped in their tracks leaving thousands of crew members stranded and locked in tight quarters for over 40 days as US officials refuse to let them disembark. 48 days of living on the Holland American cruise ship because of the fear of contamination. Safety is a priority over the release of these crew members. Likewise, the living situation is less than ideal. Twenty-five year-old Melinda Mann of Georgia made a video talking about  “her prison-like life” saying  “I spend 21 hours a day in my cabin.’” With no place to go everyone had to stay within their quarters with only the things that they brought to keep them company. Manns is not the only one living through this stressful experience. According to the New York Post, “ At least 80,000 other crew members from more than 120 ships around the world are also stuck in U.S. waters”  Plans to disembark these crew members are limited due to the expense and potential threat. “ The CDC, which must approve requests for the crew to disembark at U.S. ports, said the Holland America refused to “attest to safe disembarkation conditions.” Melinda along with many others are furious with the lack of progress being made to send them safely home. “I can’t live on this ship forever. It’s not just me that deserves to go home.” Manns not only believes this has violated her civil rights but she also thinks it is against the law to keep so many people stuck at sea. Crew members hope that with a decrease in cases, they will soon be able to go home. 

While some of us struggle to spend a few weeks in isolation, others choose to do so for their career. For American astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, isolation is nothing new in space. However, isolation on Earth is a very different experience. As a part of Expedition 62, the two astronauts arrived back on Earth last month on April 17 after spending more than 200 days in space only to see the drastic changes that had been occuring while they were away. “It really was this stark contrast, because, of course, the Earth didn’t look any different to us,” Meir said. “It looked just as gorgeous, equally as stunning, as it had before everything happened. And to then think about what was going down on the surface and that every person, all seven-and-a-half billion people on the planet, were being affected by this and only three of us who were in space at the time weren’t. That was really difficult to comprehend, as well, that we were the only three individuals that it wasn’t affecting our lives in some way.” Getting Meir and Morgan home was almost as difficult as getting them into space. Due to all the travel bans and border closures, the pair could not follow standard recovery procedures and instead of being given time to get used to gravity, they were whisked away on a helicopter, a flight that began their complex journey back to Houston, Texas. There, they had to quarantine themselves for a week, unable to see their friends and family in person after being away for so long. “Here, it’s just so different, because you’re not used to being isolated on Earth. That’s not the way our society is built. So, to me, this is a lot more difficult to deal with, particularly after being gone for so long,” Meir said upon returning. And surprisingly, she wishes she was back in space. “I wasn’t really ready to leave. I would have loved to stay up there longer, and especially coming home to a completely different planet like the one we’ve returned to. It’s an interesting transition.” It has definitely been an interesting transition for all of us, especially these astronauts. As of now, Meir and Morgan have been released from quarantine but must follow any stay at home order or restrictions Houston has put in place. Like the rest of us, they have been navigating a new way of life that is not unlike the isolation they had to cope with in space. 

Isolation is challenging for all of us, especially those of us who were wildly unprepared for it. For now, we should all be thankful we’re not forced to pay for weeks alone in a resort, stuck in a cramped cruise ship, or wishing we’re back in space.