Alien in an alien land

Updated: Oct 6

Piercing the bubble of a Covid-free island

“Mask! Mask! Mask!”

The cashier’s yell pierced the quiet interior of the little grocery store. Startled, I realized she was yelling at me.

Once again, I had left my mask in the car and sauntered barefaced past the “No mask No entry” signs, the sanitizer spray and temperature gauge.

Moving from one of the few Covid-free places on earth to one that was beginning to surge anew was like learning to walk again.

After living in Yap for five years, I pierced the pandemic-free bubble in late June 2021 and flew to Guam, where I am now living.

Yap clanged its borders shut in March 2020 with the rest of the Federated States of Micronesia and remained under the bubble of isolation until a handful of stranded students, medical patients and essential workers were allowed entry in August 2021.

With the rest of the world crashing and burning, Yap remained safe. Why leave, I told friends who were hunkered down in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.

But I wanted to move on. Was I being reckless?

Pre-pandemic, flights from Yap to Guam were twice a week. Post-pandemic, with no passengers, the flights stopped. Mail and cargo arrived on another airline contracted weekly to take the commercial fish catch and betelnut to market. Supply ships were under strict protocols to prevent the virus from slithering in. Cargo and mail were quarantined for four days and sanitized before being released.