Making it home from Mexico

Thu, 03/26/2020 - 8:00am

For Nikki and Jimmy MacDonald of Boothbay Harbor, life in Oaxaca, Mexico, was the beginning of a new adventure. “We’d been there for about two months and planned to stay indefinitely,” said Nikki MacDonald.

The MacDonalds teach English as a foreign language online and, when living in the U.S., were struggling on their incomes. But in Mexico they could afford to live well. “We loved Oaxaca, we were enjoying learning Spanish, the people were great,” MacDonald said.

But when the coronavirus began to impact the U.S., everything changed.

“We’d been keeping an eye on things,” said MacDonald. “And when we heard that the border was likely to close we called the U.S. Embassy. First they told us it was already closed, then they didn’t know when it would close. We decided it was time to go home.”

In the weeks leading up to their departure, MacDonald said, life in Oaxaca seemed to be mostly the same as ever. “The President was still out campaigning, kissing babies, meeting people, and saying everything was fine,” she said. “But there was a sudden change just before we left. We went to the supermarket one day and there were long lines of people all stocking up on water and toilet paper!”

The journey home was stressful, said MacDonald. Their landlord drove them to the airport. “There were some roadblocks but we got through OK. The airport in Mexico City was crazy. The day we left, President Trump had announced that the border with Mexico was closing at midnight and so everyone was trying to get out. When we arrived at Newark it was the opposite. There was no one there!”

They were met by immigration officers who asked where they were coming from, how long they had been there, and if they had any symptoms. But, said MacDonald, “We were surprised that no one took our temperatures or gave us any instructions.”

Since arriving home, the MacDonalds have been keeping away from people. “We didn’t want to go home to family because my nephew has cancer and we felt it was important to self-isolate for the recommended 14 days,” said MacDonald. “Our original plans fell through but Tom and Patty Minerich provided us with a place to stay where we could be responsible citizens and stay inside. It was such a kind and generous gesture. They really went above and beyond any expectations of helpful neighbors.”

As for the future, the couple would like to return to Mexico, but they’re also applying to English Program in Korea (EPIK). “We’d be teaching in state schools in South Korea,” said MacDonald. “Who knows when all the travel restrictions and border closures will be lifted, but we’re definitely looking forward and planning for the best.”