After a successful first day in the Nexcess booth for WordCamp Europe, the team had gathered at Belos Aires for dinner and conversation. I was exhausted, which I chalked up to the full day of having my booth face on and the multiple days of pre-parties and networking that had been filling my schedule since I had arrived in Porto two days before.
But then, right at the end of dinner, I felt a little tickle in my throat, and coughed slightly a couple of times. I figured it was probably just all the talking, but when I got back to my room, I pulled out the box of rapid tests I had brought from home.
Yeah, it wasn’t just the talking. The test started showing the positive line almost immediately. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
I texted my team right away. Clearly WordCamp was over for me, but they needed to test, and they needed to figure out what, if any, of the last day of WordCamp could be salvaged for them.
By this point it was after 10PM local on a Friday night and there wasn’t anything else to be done, so I resolved to sleep as best I could and figure out the rest in the morning.
The issue with testing positive for COVID while abroad is that in order to fly into the US, even as a US citizen, you have to be able to present either a negative test taken within one day of departure, or documentation of recovery, which consists of a letter from a health care provider clearing you from isolation AND documentation of your positive test date. The CDC-recommended isolation period is 10 days, and the date of your documented positive test is usually counted as day 0. So in order to (eventually) be able to get back home, I needed to:
- Get a test with a documented date on it.
- Figure out the process for getting the recovery letter.
- Move my flight home 11 days out.
- Figure out where I was going to stay for those days and how I was going to sustain myself: food, clean clothes, wifi, etc.
The hotel I was staying in, while beautiful and having incredibly kind and helpful staff, could not get me a working wifi connection, so that was right out.
My company rousted as quickly as they could to help me, but since Porto is 6 hours ahead and I had to get this all figured out in a single day, I charged ahead and figured everything out using the last of the data on my international cellular plan.
- “Official” positive test result: I used one of the eMed test kits I had brought from home. These are proctored via video call so I knew the report it would generate would be sufficient as documentation. ✅
- Recovery letter: You pretty much can’t even apply for these things until you’ve finished isolation, but I reached out to my doctor at home to see what it would take to get a postdated one. ✅
- Rescheduling flights: I actually managed to do this via the Air France app and it was ridiculously easy. ✅
- A place to stay: I booked an AirBnB in downtown Porto. I had the choice of an entire beach house and was sorely tempted, but I reasoned that if I was going to be sick and unable to go out, I should be centrally located for deliveries and proximity to medical care. ✅
I spent the rest of Saturday (Day 1 of isolation, though might be counted as Day 0 since that’s when the “official” test was) resting. I took a long nap, ordered room service, watched some TV I had downloaded to my iPad, and that was pretty much it.
Sunday morning, I packed up the rest of my stuff, checked out of my hotel (contactless!) and transferred everything to the AirBnB apartment.
Here’s the thing about this AirBnB: I am clearly the first person to stay in it. It’s sparsely furnished, which is fine, but the strangest things are missing. There’s a hand soap dispenser in the bathroom, but no soap. There’s a flatware organizer in the kitchen drawers, but no flatware.
But it has pretty good wifi, and a beautiful terrace to sit on, so I set about getting some lunch delivered and figuring out which groceries I needed.
There is nothing quite like figuring out how to feed yourself in a strange city, without being able to leave the house to just go find what you need, having to squint at pictures in the Uber Eats app because you don’t know what the descriptions say, and you can’t search for what you want because you don’t speak enough Portuguese to get a result, to really bring home that you are, for all practical purposes, completely and utterly alone.
This was the point where my gumption abruptly evaporated and I had a little bit of a cry.
But, you know, I was hungry, and I am stubborn, so I sat there and figured it out eventually.
Lunch arrived, and that’s when I noticed the lack of flatware. The only thing I had to spoon my soup with was this thing:
But salvation was at hand, because a coworker who doesn’t fly out until tomorrow was out shopping and texted to ask if I needed anything. She brought me flatware! And a wooden spoon! And a pair of kitchen shears to get those damn knives out of their plastic clamshell packaging. Plus pasta, canned tomatoes, and a package of Cup Noodles. Truly, a blessing from heaven, y’all.
So I’m trying to take it easy. The only things I’m doing right now are the ones absolutely necessary to caring for myself. I’ve let my team know that I’m not going to be working while symptomatic, no matter how mild the symptoms are. (I fully expect I’ll be both feeling better and bored at some point, so no doubt some work will get done eventually.)