Arriving in Bermuda
”Do you have a fever, a cough or flu-like symptoms?”a uniformed Bermudian customs agent asked.
”No”, I answered truthfully.
That was it. My quick and efficient entry into Bermuda. I had arrived on March 6, 2020 on a quick three hour flight from Toronto to Bermuda. After a 45 minute taxi drive I was relaxing in the “warmer than Canada” weather on my suite’s balcony overlooking lush palm trees, the empty pool and other cottages. Walter and I planned to meet up a week later on March 13 at the Fourways Inn right next to the school where a team of us would be doing a school visit.
Meeting Up With My Team Colleagues
I was there to work with a team of educators who would visit a school to see if it was ready to be accredited to be a Council of International School (CIS) school member. We were a group of practising and retired international school educators who were thrown together by the CIS head office to come up with a report that would determine whether this school demonstrated the expected practises.
School visits are hard work! I always wonder why I involve myself in this experience now that I am retired. I continually berate myself for joining yet again for another visit usually around Monday. Then as the week unfolds and particularly around Thursday at the final team meeting, there is an exhilarating sense of accomplishment that comes at the conclusion of a challenging task. It also is a remnant of the exciting life we had lived as international teachers. Of course, it was particularly special to be included on a team that would be going to the exotic island of Bermuda.
Then right according to plan, Walter arrived. This guy is not easily impressed, but Walter loved the friendly, exuberant taxi driver who dropped him off at the Fourways Inn. By the end of the forty-five minute trip, the driver had filled Walter in on Bermuda’s history and “must see” sites. That friendliness continued to be the theme of our whole extended week in Bermuda. Walter was also invited to come for the final celebration dinner hosted by the school. As we overlooked the pastel colours of a Bermudian sunset reflected in the harbour, and snug in the cushioned lawn chairs at the school director’s home, we downed our pre-dinner drinks and chatted randomly about whatever struck our fancy. Then we all jumped into vans for a trip into Hamilton at an Italian restaurant tucked inconspicuously into a back lane. It was an idyllic ending to the first week.
Willowbank was to be our home base for our holiday. Since Bermuda is a very expensive island to visit, we had carefully selected it even though it was still more money than many other places we had stayed in the past. As at Fourways, Willowbank was a collection of cottages. We stayed at Tamarisk 5. We had incredible views of pastel sunrises and sunsets from our balcony all reflected in the calm still waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Breakfast with the chef was always a joy. He loved preparing a variety of local and North American dishes that he served with friendly pride. On Sunday, we were treated to a local traditional breakfast of boiled codfish and potato. Sounds rather bland you say? The chef showed us how to use the toppings of local bananas, avocado, boiled eggs, and tomato or buttered sauces. It was quite a unique treat.
We quickly learned how to navigate the island using the local buses. Had we not chosen to use the bus which cost us abut twenty US dollars/day for our return tickets, it would have cost us approximately $100 a day for taxis to do our explorations. Locals were helpful to give directions; store salespeople were friendly; food was delicious and tasty even if it was only take away. We enjoyed the Bermudian fish chowder that is stewed and then served with black rum and sherry pepper sauce. Our travels took us to historic St. George where the island’s roots were preserved, to island’s capital city of Hamilton, and to the Dockyards.
However, due to the expensive cost of living we quickly drained our supply of US dollars. We had mainly spent money on bus tickets, a few taxis and mostly modest food. We escaped with a few hundred dollars still in our pockets.
Television reception at Willowbank was excellent…..perhaps too excellent. As our holiday week progressed, we were drawn to the Canadian channel’s coverage of the spread of the covid 19 virus. On his daily update, Justin Trudeau was on TV appearing outside of his home in Rideau Cottage, citing statistics, needed safety measures and warning travellers that they needed to get home immediately. When Thursday came, we knew something was amiss when the bus didn’t come. We hailed a taxi. The driver told us that if we had listened to the news we would have known that all the bus drivers were in a meeting to inform them of the fact that bus service would stop the next day. That sealed our Thursday plans. We stayed at the resort and had take out delivery for our meals. We did enjoy Bermuda but this dark covid virus cloud dampened the enjoyment of our time there.
Finally Time to Go Home
With confirmed places on our flight home, our collegial taxi driver Danny took us to the other side of the island for our international flight home. He reminded us that we needed to come back when this virus was all over. We agreed that it is a very relaxed and friendly island to visit even though it is so expensive.
At the airport door, we had to show our Canadian passports before they would even let us in to join the extremely slow moving check-in line. An hour and a half later, we were still there waiting for our boarding pass. During that time, we learned that this was the final Air Canada trip out of Bermuda. Air Canada had sent a larger plane to evacuate all of the Canadians. It felt like the final trip out of a country preparing for a war. Bermuda now had its first two cases of covid 19, and the government had closed its airport to both incoming and outgoing flights for foreigners. A wise move since Bermuda has very limited medical services for its people. Finally, after a three hour delay with us sitting on the taramack, we were allowed to take off.
Arrival in Toronto
Our arrival at the airport seemed normal enough, except we had to declare that we knew we had to self-isolate for fourteen days. Our pre-arranged limo driver arrived. Our driver gave us hand sanitizer and opened the door for us to take us home. He drove us on the 401 normally packed with cars past many closed businesses and restaurants.
Welcome to Canada! Definitely a much different place than the one we had left a few short weeks before.