Like so many others, my battle with the virus has left me exhausted, mentally drained, frustrated and wondering, “When will this ever end?!”
But unlike so many others, my Covid-19 struggle is not one of health but of bookings.
Although foreigners such as myself are still blocked from entry into China, that hasn’t stopped me from booking my return ticket. If there’s a sudden lift to the ban, I want to be ready before my visa expires on Sept. 30 so I can speed back to my Chinese college. With airlines now waiving re-booking fees due to uncertain times, it’s becoming easier to change flights. But booking a ticket and holding onto it has become more and more of a challenge. Our US airlines flying into China have had numerous cancelations or changes. This is due to ongoing restrictions from other countries not wanting Americans to enter their borders. Our ability to deal with the virus still remains a huge problem as cases and deaths continue to rise. My flight schedules have gone as follows:
February 11: Canceled. September 1: Changed. August 19: canceled. August 31: canceled. September 9: Canceled.
Several people, such as my mom, are wondering why I’m bothering making reservations. “Why not just wait until the ban is lifted and get a flight right away?”
There are several reasons for this:
- Flight availability: There are currently only 2 flights out of America a week on Delta and United. Delta is following guidelines of leaving vacant seats in between passengers to social distance. Their seats are completely booked now until close to December. United is all that’s left, and their seats are available at last-minute notice because (according to what I’ve been seeing) it seems they are not following recommended guidelines of keeping people apart. We are packed in like sardines.
- Cost: There is a crazy array of costs that change daily, weekly and even monthly on both United and Delta . What used to be affordable for people of low incomes such as myself have now catapulted to millionaire status, so it seems. Last-minute bookings are impossible for me to afford unless I want to completely empty both my savings and checking account. Let me give you what I’ve been contending with for the past 8 months
a). On June 23, I booked my $583 one-way ticket to China for Aug. 31.
b) On July 14, I changed to an earlier flight on August 19, recommended to me due to a 2-week quarantine needed and my visa expiration date. That ticket was the cheapest I could afford at $1,560 as compared to other offerings topping $3,500. (Yes!! One way and in economy!).
c) On July 8, I was informed the August 19 was canceled so I booked a second affordable ticket for $1,600 on Sept. 1.
d) On Jul 23, I was informed the Sept. 1 ticket was canceled. The next affordable ticket was Sept. 9, at $2,200.
e). Now Sept. 9 has been canceled, leaving me somewhat stranded. Why? Flights have now skyrocketed to $6,000 and up for economy, one-way, to China. Those prices seem to be holding steady until late October.
It doesn’t really matter at present being able to enter China because foreigners are still banned. And my visa will expire soon, meaning a last-minute dash to China will be out of the question. I will be starting the visa application from scratch. This takes several months, with a mandatory physical exam completion, official documents of invitation from my college and the Amity Foundation, forms to complete and appointments to be made at the Chinese Embassy in D.C. (Currently, that is the only place where visas are being processed. A majority of Chinese Consulates, including the nearest one to me in Chicago, is not open.)
Despite all the above frustrations, I trust that eventually, I will get back to my college. I have been told that the leaders are eager to have my return and are willing to process any visa requirements needed. I am now their only foreign language teacher, a role which I have treasured and cherished for 13 years. I would never abandon them, or my Luzhou church community, unless absolutely necessary.
Here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn, Peace) for your day as I hold fast to my 3 Ps: Patience, perseverance and positive thinking!