The first few days of hosting my family were spent close to home–as within walking distance. My brothers’ arrivals were staggered, and each time a new part of the group arrived there was a day of acclimation and recovering from the day of travel. We spent most of our time shuffling kids and juggling nap times and walking around “La Carolina”. La Carolina is Quito’s “Central Park”, is 2.5 miles in circumference and is across the street from my apartment. My parents and one brother (+ his family) rented an AirBnb for the time we had planned in Quito which was directly across the park from my apartment.
We ate street food, explored the nearby markets, and my 4-year-old nephew played on all the playgrounds, and there are a lot of playgrounds. Little did we know that this was going to be the only time we had for any sightseeing. Sure, COVID was all over the news, but it still didn’t seem to be an immediate threat. There were no cases reported in Quito, and flights were still coming and going. I was in close contact with all of my providers who I had made arrangements with for my family and everyone was reconfirmed that all our plans were still on.
On the night of March 14th, the last of my family arrived in Quito (after a series of stressful events that are not relevant to include here). Within an hour of my final brother’s arrival in Quito, the government announced that they were closing the border and not allowing any foreigners to enter the country by land, sea, or air. Ecuadorian citizens abroad were given 24 hours to return home before the border was closed to them as well. We were concerned by that news, but still, our plans remained in place.
Sunday, March 15th, was the one day that we actually spent touring. And even then, we only spent half a day wandering Quito’s Colonial City Center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were limited by babies, our 4-year-old, and increasing anxiety amongst the adults. My brother who had just arrived 12 hours earlier received word that his (and his wife and daughter’s) flight home had been canceled. We returned to the AirBnb in the afternoon to sort out that situation and regroup.
Sadly, my brother, a doctor, decided that he and his family would be departing for home on the next available flight. They were concerned that they would get stuck in Ecuador and my brother needed to get home within 10 days for his job at the hospital. They were able to book passage on a flight that left the following night (Monday night). Despite our disappointment that part of our family would be departing early and missing the planned trip, we had a wonderful afternoon and evening in my apartment. We were all together, in Ecuador–that in and of itself was miraculous. My partner, A, gave a salsa class; the babies rode around on my Roomba, I ordered an absurd amount of Venezuelan food to feed the masses, and all was well….for a few hours….
As of Sunday afternoon, we were still planning on traveling to the cloud forest town of Mindo the following day; however, our itinerary began to deteriorate that night as I received a series of announcements. The first few cases of COVID had been detected in Quito, and, at that point, the government took swift and decisive action. On the night of the 15th (Sunday) it was announced that as of 5am on the 17th, the entire country was going to be locked down. Essentially, we had 24 hours to prepare for an indefinite and complete quarantine lockdown, and everyone, all 13 members of my family, were depending on me, the “baby” of the family.