Au pair life: how coronavirus changed my plans (part 4)
Few days after my host family banished me, another interesting part of my US departure started: coming home in the middle of a world´s pandemic. What a nice caption, isn´t it? There was my one-way trip to Frankfurt ahead (finally I was in Germany!) and from there I had to make it on my own to Bratislava, Slovakia.
March 23rd 2020
Since I got a feeling that they forgot about me in the agency, I texted my LCC how was I planning to get back home from Frankfurt with all the details for the Travel Department asking her if they can book everything just like I wrote in the email and I will (should) be all right and they won´t have to deal with me anymore.
From the morning I was on a phone with my family and we were discussing all the details about my journey home, I did several screenshots and downloaded offline maps (because in my Slovak phone I didn´t have a sim card and so no mobile data). I was getting nervous more and more by every minute, I didn´t have my things done and I was optimistically thinking that if I wash up my hair at 9am, they will be dry by 11am. Trust me, you can´t imagine how did they look like at the time when I came home after almost 48 hours of traveling with them being half-wet in a bun because during my whole travel I had a respirator on my face and that bun held it perfectly. I was packing, then I forgot to pack something to my carry-on and it was already in the suitcase, then I messed up some stuff again… When I was finally brushing my teeth, somebody knocked on the door. Since I still had a toothpaste in my mouth, I couldn´t shout not to come in and suddenly a scared cleaning lady appeared in the door. I spit it out and asked her to come later. But by later I meant the time of my check out at 11am, not 20 minutes later as she did. Since I was more stressed as Mr. Monk would be if he was walking during coronavirus through the San Francisco´s streets, I opened the door, yelled at that nice cleaning lady saying that the check out was at 11am so come at that time and smacked the door right in front of her. Yes, this is exactly what I did. And yes, I still feel guilty for doing so. But you know what people say: she was just in the wrong time at the wrong place. And my adrenaline was rising up rapidly.
At 11am I did my already mentioned check out and during that one nice man warned me that my respirator was put wrong (I was so happy that not everyone was so mean as I was today) and wearing gloves with a disinfection in my pocket I sat into my airport shuttle bus. It was quite impossible to explain to the driver that even he has more money than I do and I really couldn´t afford to tip him at this moment and after he unloaded my suitcase, he angrily walked back to the bus. If he knew… Well, and then it all had started.
I have never seen such an empty San Francisco airport. Almost no people, at TSA control there was just one lady and I and during 4 hours I met probably about 70 people (maybe even less). Our flight was on time (which is very rare at this airport) and we landed even earlier than we were supposed to. Then I found an email from my LCC saying that my agency books only the flights and the bus to Vienna I have to book and pay on my own and then they will reimburse me. First of all, I don´t remember when I was texting her about some buses but okay. It was interesting because until our last conversation she was still texting about buses (even when I sent her the copies of the train tickets). Another interesting thing is that two days after I left, my friend from Boston flew to Frankfurt as well. From Frankfurt she was taking a bus to Prague. She was in the US with the same agency as I was and they booked and coordinated her whole trip. And so I´m asking – who is doing job interviews for the Travel Department? I think they have a small mess over there…
I came to Frankfurt at 9:45am and during the whole flight I slept exactly for an hour. And this happened after two glasses of wine that I drank as it was just water and during watching Star Wars. When I finally connected to the airport´s wifi I found already mentioned email about train tickets. LCC said that they will reimburse me all the public transportation except cabs which meant that from Wolfstahl I will probably walk on that cycle route to the Slovak borders… Through the German borders they let me go after answering several questions including: “Do you already have your train ticket to Vienna?” with my desperate smile saying: “No.” I went to buy my train ticket that was leaving straight from the Frankfurt airport to Austria´s Vienna. All together I met about 50 people and the desk worker told me that I might be in troubles once I reach German-Austria´s borders since I wasn´t an Austrian citizen and he said that they can suspend me from the train. On the other side, there wasn´t any other option how to make it to Slovakia and so I bought my train ticket and two hours later I sat into my train. Into a train where was about 10 people and on our way one girl walked in and turned out she was a Slovak too! They told us that the borders controls might last 20-30 minutes. We stayed there for about 5 minutes and no one was checking us. Not even the conductor. At 6:45pm we arrived to Vienna and came up to a conclusion that Germans and Austrians are crazy. Nobody but us was wearing face masks and they were staring at us as we were a walking Black Death. Around 8pm we arrived to Wolfstahl, my new friend took out her GPS (thanks God that I didn´t have to use my half-(not)working offline maps and screenshots) and we decided to walk to the borders. Because we knew that we were going to be stuck in a two weeks long quarantine and so it would be nice to make a beautiful almost three miles long evening walk. After half of year in San Francisco where the lowest temperatures were around 46°F, I experienced a temperature shock. Cold wind was blowing into our faces, cycle route wasn´t lightened at all of course and I was really happy that I wasn´t there on my own because I´d probably pee my pants. On our way we met only one man with a carry-on pulling behind him. Let me tell you that I felt like being in some kind of movie about refugees. With the face masks on, rubber gloves instead of the regular ones and with our suitcases we were walking for about one hour next to the woods and meadows to Slovakia. We had a beautiful view on the Bratislava Castle and actually it was pretty romantic. When we came to the borders, the police officers asked us to show them our Slovak IDs but they were okay with passports too, told us that we had to go to the two weeks long quarantine and asked us if we had a way how to get there. We were all set within two minutes (okay, it lasted a little bit longer because I couldn´t find my ID in my mess). By the way, my new friend wanted to go to the quarantine in Gabčíkovo because she didn´t have her own place to go. She called to the embassy asking them how she was supposed to get there. They told her that they don´t provide buses for individuals who want to go there and so she should take a train. But if she does so, she will break the law and she can be ticketed. At the end she solved her problem on her own and completely different as she was intending to but what impresses me is how the law works in Slovakia. Also, they didn´t check our temperature on the borders. There is nothing better than being back in your safe country where everything works!
My family pulled over a car for me over there. After I survived the first claustrophobic shock (it´s been a while since I was in such a tiny little car) and realizing that my left leg was just relaxing next to the clutch and that it´s impossible to move a manual car by stepping your right leg on a break, I successfully moved the car. And I was actually surprised that I didn´t forget how to drive a manual. I drove to my new home where I was spending my following two weeks. It was such a relief when I finally could have removed the respirator from my face (my skin was itching from it so much and just for the record, sleeping with that thing is difficult too), I took a shower and went to sleep and wait. Wait to find out, if during my travel across half of the world I got the virus or not.
What happened next…
Classic: jetlag, lots of administration and calls with Bureau of Labor, health insurance… Unsuccessful trying to cook something edible which after eating I wouldn´t feel like being food poisoned and texting with my agency. I texted my LCC that I made it home and asked her about the financial reimbursement. She told me to send her copies of all receipts for the train and the bus (I still don´t get it why was she mentioning that bus) saying they will reimburse me. With a little hope I sent her not only my train receipts but also receipt for my accommodation and guess what – suddenly they didn´t have a problem to pay me back for that! But no one was responding either… And then I realized that no one was also asking me about my bank details. So I texted them again and turned out that if I was just waiting in a silence, I´d be probably more successful in cooking of something that wouldn´t taste as a salty burnt sh*t than expecting someone to reimburse me.