Change of plans

LISZT FERENC AIRPORT — The next post here was meant to be about a day trip to Bratislava six days ago. Today’s trip to the airport was originally planned to get a LOT flight to Krakow, Poland for the weekend. I’m still at the airport, but I’m not going to Poland and this post is not about Slovakia. To put it simply, this has been the most unbelievable and quickly-escalating week I can remember. I am getting ready to board a plane that will take me to Helsinki, where I will get a plane to London, where I will get a plane to New York, where I will stay overnight before flying to Pittsburgh early Saturday.

It’s shocking. A week ago I could not have believed this outcome was possible. Three or four days ago I knew the rest of the semester would be far from normal, but I didn’t think it was a certainty I’d be coming home this soon. Wednesday I knew I had to plan my return within a week or so. And 2 a.m. CET Thursday morning, when Trump addressed the nation in prime time EDT, I received a total shock along with every other American currently in Europe.

I watched him say, live on television, that “all travel from Europe” would be cut off, effective in about 48 hours. Now, it turns out this does not apply to U.S. citizens, and Trump badly misrepresented his own proclamation on TV that night. But I didn’t know that, and nobody else did, and though it seems crazy to think they would bar U.S. citizens, nothing is off the table with this administration.

I started frantically searching Twitter and news sites for answers to two basic questions. Does ‘midnight Friday’ mean the beginning of Friday or the end of Friday? And, Will U.S. citizens be able to enter after this deadline?

The second, and more important question was answered about an hour after the speech, when the Department of Homeland Security posted an online notice that essentially cleaned up the mess of confusion caused by Trump’s fumbled words. U.S. citizens can enter whenever they please. I am still not sure what ‘midnight Friday’ means, though it’s clear the world is taking it to mean the end of Friday.

Still, this order will deal a crippling blow to the transatlantic airline industry, and there’s no telling how hard it will be to get a seat on a flight after Friday. Thanks to some help from an extended family member I was able to get home today. But the brief hours of panic (I was up from the time of the announcement at 2 until 5 a.m. trying to get a flight) were horrible, and it’s a feeling Trump inflicts on groups of people all the time. I’m relatively privileged so it doesn’t directly hit me very often.

After packing my things quickly and taking a last walk around the city and the Buda hills — Thursday was, cruelly, the first beautiful day since we arrived here — I charged my Kindle (I think I will be needing this a lot during the upcoming precautionary self-isolation period) and left for home, more than two months earlier than I expected.

Is it horribly disappointing that my semester abroad has been cut so short? Yes. But I am definitely looking at this from a different viewpoint, thankful I’m able to return home smoothly and to a house where there’s space for me to try to avoid becoming sick or making others sick. I’m sure once this all starts to get better everyone’s perspective will change, but right now I’m just hoping for the best for everyone.

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