Marian Hughes, United States
How did I come to get stranded in Chile? Here is the back story. I have always liked to meet new people and experience new landscapes, so when I was sixteen I joined a group of international exchange students and lived with a family in Colombia S.A. That was a wonderful experience being part of a new family and a good way to improve my high school Spanish. I fell in love with the Latin culture. So fast forward thirty five years to 1997,when I volunteered to assist as a booth manager at an International book fair in Santiago Chile for the Urantia Foundation. Our mission was to present to the people of Chile the Spanish translation of The Urantia Book, which I had found in Hawaii in 1968 and have been studying ever since. We had moved to Oahu so my first husband could develop a new department and teach photography at UH.
There were hundreds of vendors at this well attended and popular Santiago book fair which was held in the old converted Estacion Mapocho, an old railroad station that hosts many exhibitions. As I glanced through the many coffee table photo books of Chile, I was captivated by the diverse beauty of Chile, especially the Lake District and the Patagonia area. When the book fair ended and I had a week to travel that is where I headed. I wanted to go to The Torres del Paine National Park, but time would not permit, so a travel agent booked me a flight six hundred miles to the south and gave me an address of a hotel and told me to give it to a taxi driver. I had no idea where I was going. I ended up in Puerto Varas which is a lovely little town on the side of the second largest lake in Chile with a view of snow capped Osorno Volcano.
I quickly met a nice group of young people who were quite interested in El Libro de Urantia, so I held a study group where I introduced about 20 people to the text. One of them took me horse back riding the following year when I returned to further explore this area after I finally was able to hike Torres del Paine. I immediately fell in love with this location. On that fateful ride, I discovered a gorgeous piece of property for sale in an old growth forest with a magnificent view of Osorno for only $10,000 for a few acres. I thought, what a perfect place to have a second home. You can't buy land in Hawaii that cheap so I jumped at the chance. Having lived on The Big Island since 1973, I had what we call "rock fever". So as a midlife adventure, I found an architect and builder and constructed a second home there, which I named La Casa de Vistas Divinas- The House of Divine Views (HDV). This became my sanctuary and vacation home. I owned a spa at The Mauna Kea Beach hotel with eight therapists to manage, so it was the perfect place to get off the rock, focus on my spiritual life, hold study groups, and enjoy my new found friends who were not only Chilean but European and USA expats. My husband was busy teaching science at Hawaii Prep, so he didn't start to join me at HDV till he took early retirement in 2005.
So how did a couple of old gringos from Waimea Hawaii ended up "stranded" in Puerto Varas, Chile? Granted this is not your typical stranded 6,000 miles from home story but it is my story, and many good experiences resulted from this period of isolation.
We had been closely watching the progress of the Covid19 from our Waimea home since late December. We had already decided that we wanted to journey back to Chile via Rapa Nui, ( Easter Island). We were due to depart Kona on March 6. We not only wanted to see the Moai but also to meet the Mayor of the island, since he was a reader of The Urantia Book. The book mentions the island in an interesting way. Also, I wanted to donate the book to the local library there. The only way to make that connection easily from Hawaii is to take Hawaiian air to Papeete, Tahiti and then wait three days for a connection to Rapa Nui. All our flights, hotels, and tours were non refundable and paid in advance including later flights all the way back via L.A. to Kona. As we watched the virus advance from Europe to the USA, we had to make the decision to take the trip or not. Do we throw caution to the wind or forfeit thousands of dollars? At that point there were no cases in Tahiti or Rapa Nui and only one in Chile, so we decided to mask and glove up and go for it. We thought that certainly Chile would contain it if there was only one case. People gave us strange looks on Rapa Nui as we always wore masks and tried to warn the people we came in contact with, especially in our hotel that had a Chinese tour group. We refused to go on the same tour bus to see the Moai or eat in the same breakfast buffet room with them. We had Internet so we could follow how fast the virus was spreading around the world. We were the only people to use masks on the rest of the flights. They soon found out what we were warning them about and within a week of our departure closed down both Tahiti and Rapa Nui.
When we finally arrived at the Puerto Montt airport on March 14, in the south of Chile, our older and dear friend greeted us with a Namaste Day bow, usually the kiss is the normal greeting
between friends. Ah finally someone who knows what is going on, we thought. Since we have a chest freezer at HDV, we decided to stock up on a lot of foods that could be frozen and buy enough fresh food to try to last two weeks since we planned to quarantine. We wore our masks in the supermarket and sensitized our shopping carts, even though we wore our gloves. Again we received a lot of strange looks. Many friends said "let's do barbecue" come for lunch. We said "no we are going into self quarantine for two weeks to protect you". They thought that we were alarmists. We were glad when the two weeks were up, but by then we wanted to protect ourselves from them, since the virus was rapidly spreading in Chile. It was still hard for some of our friends to believe what was starting to happen.
We couldn't even imagine how fast the virus was spreading in Chile and soon the borders were closed, the international flights stopped and the country went into lock down. When lock down didn't even work, probably because most people have maids, the country got serious. Masks were mandated.The Minister of Health had to resign and the government said anyone over 75 could not leave their home. That was me! At least we could take walks on the remote roads in our development. The hardest part was not insulting our close friends who kept us supplied in fresh food, when they wanted to get together to play Mexican Trains or have dinner together. They really took good care of us old folks. It was getting cold (March 22 is the first day of autumn in Patagonia and the average temperature is in the low 50's and sometimes below freezing at night) and to stay warm my husband Matt had to chop a lot of firewood. Our only sources of heat were an inefficient fireplace and a small wood stove. We also had small space electric heaters but electricity in Chie is more expensive than in Hawai'i. The house has very high ceilings so it is quite hard to keep the temperature warm. We didn't want to use the gas heaters in case we should run out of gas which we needed for cooking. We were starting to miss the tropics since we have never spent a winter in Patagonia. All our return fights kept getting canceled. It was very cold and rainy and dark. Hawaii kept calling and I thought I will never get island fever again if I can get out of here.
I adjusted and started taking online courses in The Urantia Book Internet school and I also started a zoom study group about Part 4 of the book. It is 2,000 pages so there is lots to learn. We all appreciated talking and zooming to study together once a week on Sunday. We did miss our family on the Big Island but they were in lock down so we wouldn't have been able to see them even if we were there. We had no TV or newspaper so the Internet was our lifeline. Our zoom group is still going strong and we look forward to getting together to share stories from our favorite book. That is probably the best thing to come out of our isolation.
It looked like we might be stuck in Chile all winter, then we started to see that Hawaii was letting some flights land, now only if we could get out of Chile. My travel agent friend had to book the tickets since her company was the one who had booked the original flights. We kept telling her to try this or that route, which she would do only to have the trip cancelled one week before departure time. We had a whole house and guest cabin to close up before we left, so that made not knowing if we were really leaving harder. After having our departure hopes crushed four times, we finally found a flight out to Miami. We locked up the HDV in the dark and headed to
Puerto Montt. In Puerto Varas, a young friend, who's father we leave our car with, joined us to take us to the airport to catch our Santiago flight. The flight was packed as people had been stuck in the south waiting for the airline to start to fly. We had to sit on the plane for two hours before it took off to process all the people on the flight as they had to fill out forms for tracking them. By this time we had not only our N95 masks but also the added protection of plastic face shields. We booked a hotel room right across from the Santiago airport, so not to have to pass the nine hours risking exposure while waiting in the terminal for our late night flight. From Miami we used miles to book tickets to SeaTac via Charlotte N.C. and then on to the west coast where, the next day we could get a flight to Honolulu and then one to Hilo on the Big Island so we would not have to wait for 5 hours to land in Kona. Fearless friends picked us up in Hilo and drove us home to Waimea. What amazed me most on the whole trip was when we disembarked in Charlotte and saw all these people sitting close together in bars and restaurants, and at the gate, with no masks. I know that they had to have masks to go through TSA and on the flights but they obviously were very cavalier or you might say stupid and removed them.
If I had done a survey I am sure it would have revealed that those who wore masks were Democrats that believe in science and in keeping their fellow man and themselves safe.
After 66 hours door to door we made it back to warm, wonderful, Waimea, and started another two week quarantine. My son had stocked our fridge for us so we were all set to "hang tight" in our home, which by that time was in need of a very deep cleaning. We are both very grateful for all the help we received along the way. We both remain healthy but doubt that we will be traveling anytime soon. We wish those who are still stuck in distant parts of this crazy blue planet Urantia, all the best trying to get home.
Kensha Andrea B. Gardingan, Philippines
“New normal” might be the term of the year, based on how frequently it is being shown in the news or being talked about everywhere. I’m pretty sure everyone has heard about it already by this time, and everyone has their own take on it. But how do we deal with this knowing that we are in a state where even the health experts worldwide are having a difficult time wrapping their heads around it? How do we embrace this as we move forward with our lives? I really do not know the exact and factual answer to these questions, but I may use this platform to share my thoughts to ponder on.
Recently I posted a photo of myself on my Instagram account where I was filling out forms declaring that I have a clean bill of health and that I am not a threat to contaminate anyone in the vicinity. In that photo I was wearing a mask, as it is mandated by our city officials to do so. I composed a number of sentences to prove a point on the said picture:
So this is how we dine-in the #newnormal way. After being greeted with a footbath, a temperature check, a guestbook, and a sanitizer, we also need to fill up forms before we do our thing at the table. It does feel weird, but going through these protocols may be the least we could do as someone who takes empathy and common sense into consideration amidst the whole situation.
This pandemic, it sure changed the course of our lives. Our anxiety level may be heightened and may go off the charts but we have to make a choice not to let that happen. I guess we just have to deal with it making sure not to go insane. Besides, even if the risk is still there, this experience may somehow allay the threat of getting cabin fever (which is real).
Breakthroughs in treatment and vaccine may still take time, but yeah life goes on, along with patience and prayers.
This idea of posting a photo on social media with the intent of talking about it is one of many ways to cope with this whole thing. I can say it is therapeutic, and it sort of goes within the current culture that we are in – the day and age of being vocal with our opinions. Catharsis surely helps as this site proves to be a tool for it, not to mention the convenience it brings whether we are stuck elsewhere at the moment or we are able to go out under relaxed rules.
Apart from the photos and the words that are coming out because of this pandemic, may we stay on course with the path that we choose to take, not forgetting that this is a continuing story that will keep on unfolding before our eyes.
Gail Fischer, USA
And what if we were born
Without a sense of touch, if
Everything there is, was
Seen and heard and full
Of taste and smell so we’d be
Overwhelmed with all the world
Brought in, and in our eyes, our
Ears, our nose, our mouth?—and
Even a fifth sense in our gut
Would tell us what the other senses
Had left out? Still, nothing
Everywhere is full enough of you
Amanda Cooke, The Netherlands
Monday 11 May 2020
Today, for the first time in two months, primary schools opened again here in Amsterdam. The first step towards loosening our lockdown. Its Spring too. The city is coming out of hibernation and the natural impulse to throw open the shutters is difficult to resist. The streets are humming again and the sound of children playing on the school square just now felt reassuring yet strangely unfamiliar after the stillness of past weeks.
The decision to send our daughter to school today wasn’t easy though. We knew that everything possible was being done to protect her and yet there is still so much we don’t know about this virus. Trying to find a level of comfort and a way forward in amongst all of that remains a work in progress.
So much has changed over the past two months. Life has suddenly become simpler and yet so much more complicated. Something that I approached as a sprint has definitely turned into a marathon. Anxiety has given way to feelings of peacefulness, at least some of the time. Just when I think I’m doing great, I realise I’m clearly not. Thankfully, I’ve also remembered that when I feel the walls closing in, I can always find the space I need inside myself if I allow myself to get quiet enough.
The past two months have been a masterclass in remembering. What I can and can’t live without. That writing keeps me sane. Knowing when to act and when to surrender. That the challenge continues to be finding a way forward that allows for both, sometimes at the same time.
Today’s relaxing of the rules feels like the end of something but also the beginning of something much bigger. This unsettling period feels far from over and I have so many more questions than answers.
How do I want to go forward now?
What do I want my ‘new normal’ to look and feel like?
How do I continue to find solitude in an increasingly crowded life?
How do I learn to relax in the midst of ongoing uncertainty?
I do feel like I’m slowly getting onto the track of the answers. That if I take care of inside, the outside will take care of itself.
In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to make decisions moment by moment. That’s all any of us can do. One decision at a time. One day at a time.
With love, Amanda x
MaryAnn Burrows, Canada
During the quarantine
art gave me
a place to play.
Things unfold beautifully,
if we stop overworking them,
and allow them to flow.
Colors find their way to
the perfect, imperfect.
There is beauty in less,
abundance inside of nothingness,
and real gold inside silence.
Watercolors showed me
what my life had been trying to say.
Quinn Therealone, Switzerland
Julia* was bored. It was becoming an issue. Like everyone we are stuck at home. She misses her friends from school and doesn’t understand why the playground is closed. She wants to watch TV all day but this is not an option, Julia’s mom is strict. She is bored but doesn’t want to do anything. We tried comic books but she is not interested. We tried to teach her to bake but she is not interested. We even did some Yoga classes together but she is really not into it...
My girlfriend (Julia’s mom) gave me the task to find something to keep Julia busy.
I only know graphic design. So I taught her, I taught her everything I know (it’s not much). We started by sketching a few ideas on paper. I just wanted her to draw but after a couple of days, we had a banana cat design that everybody loved. We really loved Snowflake* (the banana cat). Julia was so into her new project we wanted to continue. I taught her how to use a computer to digitalize her design and she loved it. She loved it so much she wanted to show it to her friends once school will open again. So we decided to put the design on a T-shirt that she could wear on her first day back to school. I taught her everything about printing. We are now all really invested in our little project. We built a website together and even did a photoshoot.
Julia loves photography and is very talented for it.
She shot our first “promo shot” a couple of weeks ago. She told us where/how to stand and even framed the shot like she wanted. We told her she couldn’t show her face so she came up with the idea to use her Ecuadorian mask (Julia’s mom is from Ecuador). She even learn how to adjust and color correct the image on the computer.
Now Julia* is a 9 year old with her own fashion line. She loves her project and we are so proud of her. Me and Julia’s mom have a lot of time on our hand lately, so we can help. We are working on new designs and ideas.
It’s been 4 weeks now and she is great at it. Much better than I ever was. She is now teaching me. I’m learning about what is a good design. It’s not just a couple of T-shirt and a hoodie. It’s Julia’s project, it’s our quarantine project. She wants people to know about what she did during this important time in our lives. She is proud of her work and more importantly, she is not bored anymore.
My story, much like everyone else, involves staying at home. I was sent on a Furlough from my place of employment back in March, we were told that there wasn't enough work coming in right now to keep us working. I obviously felt the same panic mothers and fathers felt across America. We are all wondering how am I going to feed those eager little mouths back home? But thankfully we are able to and we make it day by day.
My first day home, I thought to myself well now this is a change, we don't have a roster of errands to run or places to go it was just “us”!
Then boredom and cabin fever sets in with two children at home from school and a husband at home. I had to think of a way to entertain us all and keep the kids from killing each other. As I went to the store and filled my cart with food I began to think, you know what - NOW is the opportunity to do the things we always say we haven't had the time to do! Channeling my mother's down home country cooking, I started to think about what she did with my sister and I as children. Those wonderful memories of her inspired me to be like her, I've taught my kids how to bake a Boston Cream cake, a cream cheese french toast roll (it was my first time yikes!). I taught them how to juice fresh fruit into sauces for cheese cakes. We invented new smores combinations, I taught my kids how to sew a hem line on a dress. My kids have taught me how to play their card games and we even made up some. I slowly began to realize that this is what motherhood must have felt like back in the 1940s and 50s, I'm a stay at home mom for now which I have never had the pleasure of knowing before! I'm home for all their meals, I can hear all of their little ideas and watch them play for the sake of playing.
For the first time in my life, I actually have the time to spend quality time with each of them, instead of worrying about bedtime, homework or getting them to school on time. We now worry about what movie we can watch together, who gets to choose the board game and I'm not so exhausted from work that my energy is gone. I have never had the leisure time before now to literally sit and smell the roses. I cannot tell you the affections that my husband and I have had for one another is more than it was before, blowing each other a kiss on the way to work before has now become an hour long conversation with my head on his shoulder and his arm around me, we never had found the time before, every part of our lives was constructed and planned for each minute, dinner time, shower time, bed time, time to get up, time to eat, time to work etc.
When you have nowhere to go and nothing to do you can fill that time with love.
It's absolutely amazing to me that family time at the dinner table can be more fun than at a restaurant when you're not working to the bone. Without rushing out the door for appointments and school functions, you have time to be silly .This has brought the value of time to my attention. When you're going 65 mph all the time, life flashes right before your eyes. We tend to forget about others when life gets in the way. We forget birthdays and anniversaries, life does have a way of getting in our way but this has opened my eyes to the importance of that no more missed meals because of work, I'm here now to help with homework, it's a lot easier to get through when you're not watching the clock all night. We have the chance now to see that there's so much in life that we were taught as children that we are not passing on to our own, those old school values of family and hard work, the value of making a meal from scratch and showing your daughter how to cook, the value of saving money, so mend the dress instead of replacing it, the value of memories.
This quarantine has made me realize that our society is missing out on what this country used to have. My mother used to tell us stories about her childhood on the farm, family meals and laughter and love, we live such fast paced lives now people don't realize how important that human connection is that we pass by with each other. We are in such a hurry to get to where we need to be, we don't stop and smile at our neighbors or wave to the local grocer anymore. We don't know our mailmen - people used to give the mailman and milkman Christmas gifts, no one sends an old fashioned hand written letter anymore. They say they don't have the time , email is faster. Handwritten letters are so much more personal, they tell their recipient that you cared enough to sit down and take the time out of your day to actually say hello. An email is a few taps and a send button. It takes all of a minute to do, not very personal if you ask me. It seems now the world cares more about that human connection than we did six months ago, the old saying goes “ you don't know what you've got till it's gone.”
We have found more ways to connect with each other now more than ever has before. I seriously hope that when this pandemic is over, we all realize how important that human contact was to us when we did not have it, maybe the world will actually pump the brakes every now and again in remembrance of the utmost importance of togetherness.
I know I will always value this time I got to truly know my children and husband all over again, as people with hopes and dreams, jokes and full of life. I will always remember going forward how this may have been a terrible pandemic, but if every cloud has a silver lining, my little family will always be it.
Sandy Lamb, Colorado Springs, USA
"If you don't become the ocean, you'll be seasick every day." - Leonard Cohen
What a great realization and ability to put what I”ve been feeling into true perspective. To live on the surface of life, where we allow our inner joy to depend on our outer circumstances, can be stormy.
Not long ago, my daughter bought me a bracelet that said “I AM THE STORM.” So it seems only fitting, that my inner warrior chooses to become the ocean. A wide open expanse presenting unlimited opportunity. Every human connection I’ve made this year has helped to ground me in love and peace. I am wading through life with reckless abandon. Every place I’ve been, every mind I’ve opened, every heart I’ve touched, has been purposeful. For it was not my will, but God’s will be done.
If you are riding the waves and things are getting rocky, you may be looking for a lifeboat and seeking the company of others to endure this storm. It feels lonely to do it alone and so we try to bring our loved ones along on our emotional trip. Once we allow others to have their feelings, without it affecting our state of mind, we can be free of the seasickness. If you become the ocean, you don't need the boat. You can heal yourself from the inside out. Know that whatever circumstances you are experiencing right now, they are the exact, perfect ones made just for you and will deliver you to the other shore better and stronger than you’ve ever been. Resilience will allow you to withstand this storm. To ride out the waves, while letting the emotions of others wash over, not drag you to the bottom of your ocean. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. YOU ARE THE STORM, my friend, and I’m proud to float alongside a fellow warrior.
Connor Miggan, England
The schools are closed, not really.
He used just enough words to make a headline for those who won’t read further down, and enough to complicate it.
First they asked for volunteers. I said no. I was tempted at one point to resign in the name of safety. I can control everything within the walls of my own home. It’s a peculiarly first world problem to want lockdown. But, with lock down I can keep everyone safe.
Once we knew what it was to be “essential” it was no longer voluntary. We were called to work. It felt a bit like a draft. At that point I was pretty suddenly finished being upset. There’s nothing to be conflicted about now.
So I’m gonna take the necessary safety precautions, if an exemption for people living with vulnerable people lets me out of my essential status then so be it. But I won’t do it underhandedly. No phoned in fake sick days. If it’s got to be, it may as well be fun. So I’m going to make an idiot of myself to make the children laugh.
We millennials are taught to own our feelings. Sit and dwell in our feelings. That, “It’s ok not to be ok” and that you get space and time out till you’re ready to go on. That’s not going to get the job done right now. You can get down and sit in your feelings, then what? It’s still there.
It’s Saturday, the weeds are coming back in and there’s whiskey. Apparently you sink to the level of your training. Apparently mine is Catholic.
Thinking about the grocery store workers and the delivery drivers. Those of us working in education, first responders and medical professionals have always felt a sense of calling and fulfillment to what we do. If there are people working for Asda who feel that same sense of fulfillment from their work then I’ll hold me hands up and apologize but from personal experience I can’t help but doubt it. Now they don’t even have a choice.
Thinking about plans I promised to reschedule 3 weeks ago, when April was open and full of promise.
Sunday night my son got a fever, and kept it. Parents will know this, the nights that feel like they’ll never end. Dave and Ava’s nursery rhymes at 2am, we don’t listen to it anymore unless he’s sick. Nursery rhymes are bad for their language development apparently, but nothing soothes better.
14 days the doctor said.
A spectrum of short lived emotions: fear, guilt. Worry.
I didn’t expect to be frustrated though. What do you even have to be frustrated about? You didn’t want to go anyway.
Lea Vida Del Moro, Philippines
“You will never look more beautiful than when you stumble from the destruction, and smile at surviving the chaos.”
It was started when the Coronavirus disease began to strike in Wuhan, China in December 2019 then last January 30, 2020, DOH (Department of Health) reported first case of COVID-19 hit in the Philippines after that on March 7 2020 the first local transmission of COVID-19 was confirmed. Until the president Rodrigo Duterte declared the entire Luzon area under ‘enhanced community quarantine’ which is effectively a total lockdown. It is the most horrible situation of our lives, my mother trapped in Bulacan with the care of her sister and we are left here in the island with my father and my brother. I am a workaholic Public Elementary Teacher and i focused with all my paperworks at home without knowing what happened to my family. It’s quite boring for staying almost couple of months but little by little i opened up my eyes for most precious things. FAMILY… i appreciated the love and care of my father especially my nephew and niece they showed me that simple things last in our memories if only we cherished those moments with our love ones.
I felt pity for those who suffered in other towns without foods and money to supply their needs because of insufficient numbers of relief good and requirements for those whose qualified in the financial benefits but somehow we look forward to it, i realized the quotes of Madalyn Beck “You will never look more beautiful than when you stumble from the destruction, and smile at surviving the chaos.” I’m broken and sad that my mother was apart but I look at the bright side, after all the disasters still the world is more beautiful than any other, we live…we breath…and God gave us strength to overcame those destructions and he keep us standing still no matter what happened.
I knew from the bottom of my heart that he gave us all those trials to test our courage and how strong our faith was. We maybe sometimes confuse with our decisions, broken-hearted, empty-handed but we are still alive and I am grateful because I was lucky enough especially my family because he gave us strong defense system and we fought diseases than the other people who fought life and death also the frontliners risk their lives to serve and other people seek help.
We are still hoping for the cure to break the darkness hiding in our lives to continue the journey for seeking a new beginning…..the sun shine rose again higher in the sky scatter its lightning for a new life.