Thomas à Kempis said it in Latin: “Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit” (Man proposes, but God disposes),
Robbie Burns said it in Scottish (“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley” – that second line translates as “go oft awry”),
And here is my own plain-English version: DON’T pack your bags ‘cos you’re NOT going to fly – today, tomorrow, perhaps not for the next six months or more – as my family have learnt to their cost (quite literally).
Here’s a summary of travel plans ruthlessly thwarted in the last couple of weeks:
My son and daughter-in-law were supposed to leave for Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia on March 20. On the 19th they were told their Azerbaijan visa had been “annulled” – so that put paid to their holiday dream of relaxing, visiting cultural landmarks – and gourmandising!
They were also booked to fly to Venice, Croatia & Montenegro in August; but for the next few months I’d wager they won’t be venturing much further than their own front gate.
My grandson Liam is in quarantine for a fortnight. It’s a long and tangled tale! He was on a gap year in South America after graduating from University. While relaxing on some idyllic beach in Brazil, he discovered to his horror that without warning his hostel had closed, as had all other hostels in the area.
After frantic efforts – and prayers! – to get him out of that remote town to Sao Paolo, circumventing overbooked flights, missed flights, cancelled flights, etc etc, he finally managed to arrive at Sao Paolo, and from there back to Melbourne via Santiago. He is confined within the walls of his home for fourteen days – as was my grand-daughter Eliza, who only yesterday came out of isolation.
She was on a six-month semester in France, earning accreditation toward a double major in French and Politics & International Relations. In her mid-semester break she took off with a friend for Italy, which was perhaps not the most prudent move.
My fear was that she might be quarantined in Rome, unable to return to France; but she did get out just in time – only to find on her return that the University of Lyon had shut down. Months earlier her parents had arranged to meet her in Lyon for a fortnight before doing a bit of touring themselves.
Their travel agency made many last-minute changes (this was at the height of the volatile flight situation), and when they were informed only the afternoon before that their flight had once again been amended to early the following morning but could not be confirmed, my daughter immediately cancelled their booking – a fortuitous move, as it turned out, because Eliza managed to secure a flight back to Melbourne in the meantime and arrived home the next day.
I can only be grateful that my own overseas travelling days are over. At times like these, truly there’s no place like home!!
While we have been bemoaning the cancellation of overseas travel this year, there have been many positives too. Our families have been finding joy even in self isolation.
My daughter said she happened to glance into Eliiza’s room while going past, to see her dressed in a sombrero and flamenco outfit brought back from previous holidays, playing her saxophone and simultaneously executing some interesting hip-swivelling dance moves!
Now that her time in isolation is at an end, she and her siblings celebrated yesterday, sitting around and opening the gifts she’d brought them from France. Her video post showed them all dressed in Christmas jumpers – the spirit of Noel well and alive at Easter time! – although I did also observe quite a few chocolate bunnies and eggs along with other treats filling the festive tray in front of them. Ah well, any time is party time in Oz!
With social gathering prohibited, our family have been communicating via WhatsApp, with apt GIFs being exchanged with much hilarity. Today we’re all going to hook up via a brunch-time video call. Dress code: “Come as you are”; I intend staying in pyjamas!
And always, everywhere, there is a spirit of generosity and goodwill. One daughter who lives nearby has been doing my grocery shopping so I don’t have to leave home. Neighbours are constantly enquiring if we are okay and offering their help.
Our parish church has been emailing the Mass Readings, and even though I’m sorry I won’t be able to participate physically in Easter services, I’ve been hearing a televised Mass each Sunday. A copy of the Bible sitting near my computer is also being opened more frequently these days!
We’re not faring too badly in Australia, with government rolling out enormous benefits. At the time of writing, social security recipients will soon receive an additional $1500; working parents are entitled to free child care; for six months, an extra $550 per fortnight is being paid to “recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Parenting Payment Partnered, Parenting Payment Single, Sickness Allowance, Farm Household Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance, Youth Allowance for job seekers and students, ABSTUDY and AUSTUDY” – you name it.
We really are being looked after in a non-partisan manner, with all political parties standing together in an uncharacteristic demonstration of unity.
COVID-19 then, has brought out the best in us – albeit there have been a few demonstrations of “the worst in us” behaviour too, mainly panic buying and blatant flouting of social distancing introduced to contain the pandemic.
By and large, however, I have to say Australians are proving model citizens – and we in our own family are patiently biding our time till we can resume our favourite leisure activity – up, up and away!