Everyone points to March 2020 as when the pandemic started. When we saw an abrupt shutdown of everything worldwide.
While that was startling, everyone has warned that we’d never truly know when it would be over.
I’ve been looking for clues and maybe we’ve reached it in Costa Rica. Not an end to COVID, but at least a transition to living with it in a non pandemic phase. The pandemic has been a rollercoaster in terms of travel. My work heavily depends on the travel sector and it was one of the first to shut down and one of the last to reopen, reclose, reopen etc etc.
The last two years have been me looking ahead 3-6 months and seeing all this activity lined up to only end up doing about 20% of it when the time finally came around. We’d come off a wave and things would be looking good only for it to come back up right when optimism was building.
It got to the point where my mindset became that I had to see it to believe it. I just started saying yes to everything knowing the odds weren’t good and whatever happened in the end would be more than manageable.
Things were looking up again though, and the buzz was that 2022 would be the year travel returned, however right at the leadup to Christmas the newest variant emerged. Oh boy, here we go again, I thought. At this point though, I was more worried about how governments were going to react versus how bad the variant was going to be.
Costa Rica throughout the pandemic was/is never a problem to get into. The problem was for travelers leaving and returning to their home countries. Was there a quarantine, was there testing, did I need to be vaccinated? etc.
At first it was enough for people to say “Forget it, it’s too complicated to travel.” However, after the lockdowns drove us crazy, we began to hear the horror stories of situations people found themselves in out of desperation to travel for their own sanity.
Once again, I braced myself for a round of lockdowns, quarantines and cancellations. I even had a nice stroll on the beach New Years Day not wanting to get my hopes up, however, little-by-little things began to happen.
The university group came, the high school exchange went, travelers began arriving and before I knew it, it was April. Looking back on it though, things went from on to off pretty quickly.
Online teaching and travel are the two industries I work in and they tend to compliment themselves and sometimes even overlap which thankfully means I always have something to do. The pandemic led to a hard swing towards online teaching and looking back just to Nov/Dec my calendar was packed with classes.
It’s almost astonishing to see how that came to an abrupt halt in January.
I’ve covered the start to my new year previously and how crazy my first groups of the year went, but it paled in comparison to how I grinded out weeks of teaching to then cool off into the holiday break. Once the holidays hit, online teaching goes way down and I remember thinking if I’d be bored waiting for it to pick back up after the holidays.
Well, it’s now May and the total classes I’ve taught online in the first 4 months of this year are not even half of what I taught in December. Finally, those long range forecasts for travel started to hit 70%, 80% and now well over 90% of arrivals coming as planned. Now, my time balance has returned to pre-pandemic levels and I really hope it stays that way.
Not only has work rebalanced itself, but Costa Rica is getting back on track too. This year we were able to have Holy week processions and the horse parade (tope) was brought back to San Ramon after a two-year hiatus.
Those were encouraging events, especially the horse parade as about an hour in it started to rain torrentially, but nobody complained. They were just happy to get their horses out and see people they probably hadn’t seen in years.
They say hindsight is 20/20 and you never know if you’re in or out of something until after the fact and this is some of the clearest evidence I have of a return to normal. Looking back on the exchange program from January, it turns out we traveled during the peak of the biggest covid wave of all time and lived to talk about it. I’m forever grateful to all the participants in that effort as it proved travel can be done safely.
We’ll still never have a clean end date to the pandemic and will probably have the last of the restrictions linger on and off for years depending on which countries are in a pandemic “phase” or not. Costa Rica has done well trying to put the pandemic in the past, while still protecting the population.
I really do hope it’s not completely forgotten about because that likely means some other worse global crisis*, has happened.
*it appears that may have already happened, however here's hope that when we look back a few years from now we’ll be able to say it didn’t get any worse than this and everyone is debating the safety/necessity of an 8th COVID booster.