• Liz Lopez - Mother, wife, daughter, writer, traveler

Quarantine life + Bajan COVID tests

We had it all planned out so we could get out of quarantine in two days, since you get tested after you arrive. Because of our misadventures with American Airlines, we had to wait four days in quarantine instead because it’s five days from your most recent COVID test.

Our condo was very nice, and we had a view of the ocean. You could hear the ocean after dark too, when the construction crew wasn’t 50 yards away building a hotel. The balcony was huge, which was a lifesaver given the condo was two bedrooms.

We spent an astronomical amount of money on food in quarantine. We ordered pizza one night; it was almost $100. We had no clue what our options were and internet searches aren’t quite as useful here as they are in the States. We asked Cyrus, our quarantine manager/contact, to shop for us once and we had no idea what the costs were and therefore paid an exorbitant amount on items for the first and last time in Barbados. IE, chicken, which cost roughly $14 USD for 4 medium sized chicken breasts. Hello fish and goodbye chicken! Also, goodbye beef (not that I care, but my family eats beef), goodbye pork, goodbye lettuce, goodbye cereal and goodbye many, many other foods that I took for granted at home. Hello again to bagels, cream cheese, bread, peanut butter, yogurt, cream cheese, fish, small gala apples and bananas. We’ll be seeing you every day for the next nine months.

We also ordered groceries from a service online once we realized we would not be leaving quarantine on time, because six people eat a lot in general, add on extreme boredom from being stuck inside your small area for 5 days and consumption accelerates. Faith and Aiden rotated sleeping on the couch and the babies slept with us every night. After the first night, I woke up with what appeared to be some form of small pox or similar eradicated disease, where my legs were covered in tiny itchy bumps. I asked Cyrus what had happened, and he said mosquitos, which I’d recalled reading online, but unlike at home, I hadn’t noticed being bit, I only noticed the aftermath the next day.

Taking our COVID tests was an experience in and of itself. When Lopez got his first COVID test, earlier in the summer, to rule out COVID after a plane trip, he said it was the worst pain of his life. Seeing as though we all know he’s a giant baby about even the slightest inconvenient pain or discomfort, we assumed he was exaggerating. Then when we got tested at home, our assumptions were confirmed. The test was nothing but a tickle and we all mocked him mercilessly. NOT SO in Barbados my friend. Apparently there are two tests; one, the milder one, (depending on your doctor/network), is less invasive for those without symptoms (travelers, probably athletes, you get it); there is the one nose molestation test that Lopez got and that one is far less palatable. We were picked up at 8 am for the test and drove in a non-air conditioned van (no AC due to us being in quarantine I believe, as we’ve used the same driver several times since then and there’s always been air since then) to the testing site. There were gates around the facility and after checking in, we drove onto the grass where about two dozen other taxis were lined up with people waiting to be tested. After about a half hour, we drove closer to the beach, through additional gates, to a new parking area. Here though, they had multiple little houses lined up, similar to what you see in old war movies. We waited for a nurse to collect our info, and about fifteen more minutes, we were moved to a line on foot. This was worse than the car, because it is HOT AS HELL HERE and I could literally feel myself burning. Who wears sunscreen to get a COVID test? After about ten minutes, they announced that they were sorry for the confusion and please go back and wait in your cars, they would call us in the order we arrived. Phew. I postponed my first sunburn.

We only waited another five minutes or so before we were again called to a building across the way. Here though, we could wait in the shade. A team of nurses in masks came round to everyone to verify name and DOB, and gave us our vials to carry in for the test. Within ten minutes, we’d all been tested in the small building that looked very much like the Ebola testing sites, with folding chairs and masks and face shields everywhere. The nurse had to repeat herself about four times because I, of course, am adjusting to the accents (for the life of me, I cannot understand accents; Indian, Spanish, you name it, can’t do it), plus I can’t hear anything with those damn masks on, plus the face shield on top of that! Then she took this huge swab and stuck it up my nose and counted far longer than the nurses at my two previous tests had. Faith and Aiden said they couldn’t feel it, but I had joined the ranks of wuss with Lopez and I had to admit it was not altogether pleasant. Penny Sunshine did great, being an expert COVID tester by this time.

One more day and we were free! We followed up with the Health Department first thing the next morning and when we hadn’t heard by afternoon (they said results would be in ‘tomorrow morning’, that being yesterday), I followed up with Cyrus as well. He contacted his lady at the Health Ministry and assured me he would keep me posted.

Then, like a light shone down on us in all our Bajan glory, there was a knock at the door around 4 pm. It was Cyrus (who also happens to be beautiful, and made me really nervous to talk to, FYI), and WE WERE FREE! He heard back and we were OUT! Wooohooooo!

So Lopez called John, the owner of our townhouse as we were asked to, so he could come meet us with the keys. Well wouldn’t you know it, all the rain that day made it impossible for John to make it to the townhouse, so he would call us in the morning when he left his house. Dun dun dun. Of course. Why would we want to get out of quarantine anyway?

But we didn’t care. Lopez skipped down the hall and into the ocean with the babies. Aiden joined him and Faith and I walked to our townhome, which was literally a 45 second walk from our condo. First thoughts were not super impressed. The street wasn’t the prettiest, but I’d known that already; across from the townhome is the Sandals employee parking lot. But the backyard of the townhome was nice and it was fenced in and every review said location, location, location. Five minutes to the beach was the key there; we could swim at lunch and be back for our next meeting.

We also stopped at Dover Market, which I’d read all about online. Pricey, but the whole damn island is. It would do in a pinch or for last minute items and I wasn’t planning on stocking my fridge with items from essentially a local convenience store. Unlike KwikTrip, it is not filled with savings. Regardless, Faith and I were just happy to be out and about. We bought some fruit and a liter of Coca Cola – Sugar Free (note, they do NOT have Diet soda here, something that now sounds familiar from my travels to Europe in college. They do have ‘Sugar Free’ soda, which is soda minus sugar, but also minus fake sugar, so it mostly just tastes flat/flavorless).

Next we wandered to the beach to watch everyone playing in it – mind you it was still raining, so they were the only ones on the beach. Then we dropped off our groceries and then I met Penny and Cal in the pool to swim. The guard came round to say hello and asked if we’d just gotten out of quarantine; my children’s screams of glee and freedom were unmistakable in this new quarantine country of ours. The pool was lovely, the surroundings were beautiful, with colored lights, and we spent an hour playing Marco Polo, having jumping contests and races in the pool. We slept well, knowing it was our last night in quarantine, enjoying the big balcony and listening to the waves lap up the sand. We all fell fast asleep thinking “Barbados, here were come!”