Hi Mounties! Welcome back to another #MountMartes blog post. Today, April 7th, 2020, is officially the 2-week mark of all Cuenca study abroad students coming home due to the coronavirus. Since we are officially through the 14-day quarantine in our homes, I thought it would be interesting to explain the process of leaving Ecuador and going back to Maryland.
We first left the beautiful city of Cuenca at 6 a.m. We took a 3-hour car ride to our first airport, the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil, in Ecuador. At this point, Ecuador was already taking major steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, so there was no one allowed in or out of the country. But there was a relief flight for Americans who were in Ecuador to come back to the United States. We got tickets for this flight as well as 235 other passengers. When we got to the airport in Guayaquil, we had to get in a line outside the airport with the other people from our flight. Once inside the airport, it was pretty crazy to see an airport completely empty at 10 a.m. This was the fastest I have ever gone through the security check-in points because there were no lines at all. Once we got through security, we waited in the airport for about 3 hours then got on our flight at 2 p.m. and flew to Miami, Florida.
Once in the Miami International Airport, the second airport, we picked up our luggage and got private transportation to where we would be staying for the night because we were flying out of our third airport, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airport. We took off at 6 a.m. to Orlando to wait for our layover. In addition to the circumstances, this flight was memorable because it had only 20 people on it, so the flight looked basically empty. We arrived at our fourth airport, the Orlando International Airport, at around 7 a.m. and waited until 10 a.m. for our final flight to BWI. The Orlando International Airport was my personal favorite because there was a Chipotle, so I got to have my favorite comfort food in the middle of trying to get back to Maryland. By this point, all the airports we had been to were very empty. There weren’t many people or things open in any of them. One of the things that I noticed in the United States over Ecuador was the lack of masks and gloves that the Americans were wearing. In Ecuador, it was mandatory that if you went outside you had to wear a mask and gloves. We all continued to wear masks and gloves in the airports in the United States as well, even though most other passengers did not. On our last flight from Orlando to our fifth and final airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, there were only 40 people on this flight, and the flight crew made sure everyone sat in their own row. On this flight, there were about 15 pilots who made up the 40 total people who were flying to BWI. While flying, we flew right over my house where my mom was waving to the plane from our porch. We landed in BWI at around 12 p.m., and we were able to get our luggage quickly, so we were on our way home in no time at all.
Being in Ecuador was one of the best experiences of my life, and I am very sad that my time was cut short. But flying home during a global pandemic was one of the craziest experiences of my life. 5 airports, 3 planes, and over 2,800 miles to get back to Maryland, and it surely was an adventure. Everyone reading please continue to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19. Stay healthy and stay safe. Thanks for reading my blog this week. Check back next week for more memories of Cuenca!