We were now at Monday, April 18th, 2022. This was our last full day in Rome, Italy. We would be flying home on Tuesday. That meant that we were required to get a proctored COVID test today. Well, we could get one Tuesday morning, but it’s better to be prepared.

As things stood right now, Jenn had tested positive on the Oceania Riviera on Thursday, when Mom and I tested negative. Jenn had been taken Friday morning to the Golden Tulip hotel in Rome. Saturday morning they’d tested her and said she was negative.

Perhaps Jenn was actually now negative, Mom and I were still negative, and everything would be good. We could all test negative today and be fine.

Or perhaps Jenn was still positive but had only tested negative at the hotel for some reason, and had infected the other two of us, and we’d now all be sick. We could all be stuck in Rome for another week or two in a COVID hotel somewhere. Our apartment contact had let us know we could have this apartment for a few more days (i.e. nobody had rented it right after us). However, I’m not sure she meant it was available for two more weeks, or that she’d be happy with us hunkering down with COVID in here.

And how would we eat?

In any case, we had to find a COVID test.

I woke up Monday morning to find Jenn and Mom were awake and a little tense about finding a place to get COVID tested on Easter Monday. They’d been trying to contact a local hospital, it seemed. I’d done a bunch of research before we began the trip and all the posters had said it was easy to get tested at a pharmacy. I wasn’t concerned about the process.

I came out to the living room and tracked down the local open pharmacy. Unfortunately, when I called them, all the recorded answering prompts were in Italian. I WhatsApped our apartment contact (who of course speaks Italian) and asked her to please call that pharmacy to confirm they were open and doing COVID testing. The woman responded promptly, did so, and said that we were all set. The pharmacy was indeed open and was doing COVID tests. It was just a short walk away. Everything was fine.

While I was doing that, Jenn contacted someone at the Golden Tulip hotel. It turns out, since Jenn had stayed there, that the hotel would be happy to do tests for all three of us. So we could also just walk to the Golden Tulip and get the tests done there. We had two easy COVID testing options.

After some discussion we decided to go with the Golden Tulip option. After all, they had cared for Jenn and given her the negative test on Saturday. That way we would have all the testing done in one place and keep everything Oceania-related. It might mean if we tested positive that we would have more of a direct contact with the Oceania hotel and have more support with any next step.

The walk there would take about a half hour. We decided on a plan to walk fifteen minutes, eat lunch at a restaurant Mom liked, and then finish the walk to the hotel.

While we were having all of these discussions, Mom teased Jenn and me for being so optimistic about everything. And I’d respond by saying, “Look! We even get to walk by a big pretty park! It’ll be lovely! It says it’s a sanctuary!” And Mom said something about elephants, so now I started talking about being near an elephant sanctuary and how delightful this was.

It was also time to start electronically checking in for our flights. Jenn and Mom were all set. My flight was a strange mixture of United and Lufthansa. So far I’d done everything from the United side, but the flight home was wholly Lufthansa. I tried using my normal logins from United but it had trouble finding the Lufthansa flight. So finally I just created a new account directly with Lufthansa. From there I could see the flight but it was in some sort of a hold status.

I couldn’t reach our US-based travel agent (it was still early in the US). Jenn suggested I try calling her contact at Oceania Travel who had been helping her while she figured out her COVID flight change options.

It took me a try or two, but I found someone at Oceania to talk with.

It turns out when Jenn had been taken to the Golden Tulip with COVID, Oceania had NOT cancelled Jenn’s flight. Instead, they had put a hold onto MY flight. So MY flight was the one which was now invalid.

Oceania said they’d need some time to sort this out. They said they’d call me back shortly.

This was sort of funny, because people often comment on how Jenn and I look like sisters. We’d joked about us sneaking Jenn off the ship pretending to be me, or Jenn flying home using my passport or so on. And then here they did actually SWAP us for no good reason at all.

In any case, at this point I had two challenges – the upcoming COVID test and the lack of a flight home :).

Still, one step at a time. It was time to head toward the Golden Tulip and get some food along the way. We departed in beautiful weather for our walk.

Even the graffiti here was in support of Ukraine. Cheez is apparently a well-known graffiti artist.

The walk had some stairs and went through some residential areas. We couldn’t see into the “elephant sanctuary” as it was behind buildings, but I knew it was there. I waved to my elephants.

Soon enough we reached the half-way point and the Tempio de Mecenate, a lovely restaurant with a patio. We sat under the canopy. It was beautiful weather and relaxing.

Jenn and Mom both got giant (to me) uncut pizzas.

I got fettuccini with porcini mushrooms. When I want comfort food I have pasta. I admit that in the back of my mind was still lurking this looming COVID test. If any of us tested positive, we could be back in turmoil again. Plus I didn’t have a flight for tomorrow.

I didn’t want to make phone calls while away from the apartment wifi. Bob had warned me continuously that roaming phone calls were REALLY expensive. Somehow $25/minute stuck in my mind. I wanted to avoid that if at all possible. So I just kept waiting for my phone call from Oceania.

Finally we were done with lunch and ready to move on. This area of Rome is where Mom had stayed in the past, so she pointed out all sorts of sights to us. For instance, she’d stayed in this building:

Finally we were at the Golden Tulip hotel. They have a small lobby. The front desk person asked us to sit at the far right-hand side of it and wait.

While we waited, Mom and Jenn prodded me to call Oceania again. At the same time, Bob warned me in our texts not to rack up phone bills. I finally explained to Mom and Jenn the $25/minute cost issue and they eased up. But I gave in and called anyway to touch base with Oceania. They said they’d call me back. I got a call ten minutes later. They were still working on it. So still no news.

It took quite a while before the hotel doctor came out. He asked if he could test us right here in this lobby. We said sure. The swab was only in my nostril for maybe one second tops. Then we waited some more.

At last he came over and gave Jenn and Mom their negative-results paperwork. Mom heard him talking on the phone with someone about ‘negative’. The paper was an 8.5×11 piece of paper which folded in half then in half again to form sort of a booklet. It had all of the patient’s identifying information on it, plus details about the test, and a QR code. The front said it was a “EU COVID Certificate”.

But I didn’t get one.

We waited and waited some more. I of course was feeling a bit stressed. Finally I went over to the front desk. It turns out he’d gotten the final email and just hadn’t checked it. I was negative too. He printed my certificate.

Now all three of us had negative certificates in hand. We could fly out. Those of us with plane tickets, of course!

We walked the same route back, looking into rolling luggage for Jenn. Her luggage was already overstuffed and she needed more room to make it home. We found her a nice luggage from a street vendor. I liked how many shops had a place by the door to clip dogs, so the dogs could wait outside while the owner looked around.

We stopped in a church on the way home. It was quite lovely. I felt a little uncomfortable, though, being in there on Easter Monday when services were being held. I enjoy visiting churches during non-service-hours, but when people are in there listening to their mass, I feel ‘out of place’ with visitors walking around and making noise and so on. So I sat on a pew until we left. I had a pretty view.

Soon enough we were back in the apartment. Back to the wifi. I called Oceania again. They said they had to coordinate with Lufthansa – it was technically someone at Lufthansa who had to release the hold, as it was a COVID hold. So they were waiting on Lufthansa.

We waited. And waited. I did my Monday tarot card drawings. The card I drew for myself was the Six of Cups about working together with a trusted partner. It represented me and Jenn figuring this all out and finding solutions.

Finally two hours later I got the call. Everything was now set. The hold had been cleared. I could breathe again :).

At this point, I discovered that the cost for my roaming phone calls was 25 CENTS per minute. TWENTY FIVE CENTS. I was adding enormous stress to my life for TWENTY FIVE CENTS. I was worrying about making critical phone calls because of TWENTY FIVE CENTS. I admit that now I threatened to the universe that I would kill Bob for making me worry about phone call costs in the middle of all of this. Then I would resurrect him and kill him again. I have a feeling I was releasing excess stress at this point :). I would not kill Bob.

Whew.

We all had tickets home. We all had negative COVID tests.

Did we believe the negative tests? I’m not sure I did, but it also didn’t seem fruitful to go running around to pharmacies getting additional tests specifically trying to DISprove them. We could do our very best to stay masked and socially distant until we got home and then take fresh tests there. As I mentioned, the entire experience was feeling very surreal.

I was still feeling perfectly fine, so I had no symptoms. Neither did Mom. Jenn was feeling better.

I believe by this point Jenn had heard from other patients that they had left (been kicked out) of the Golden Tulip, found another place to stay, didn’t feel well, and gotten tested by another location. They’d tested positive again. So we didn’t have warm and fuzzy feelings about the negative tests from the Golden Tulip.

I’ll also note that it turns out the Golden Tulip did not charge us for our COVID tests. They probably put it on Oceania’s account since we were doing this as part of the overall cruise process. So we ended up saving about 90 euros by going with the Golden Tulip.

We decided to stay in for the evening and eat through our ample leftovers. We had pizza to eat, wine to drink, tea, Easter bread that our apartment people had left for us as a present, and more. Plus packing to do.

My teen class was from 11pm to 2am Rome time. By that point Jenn and Mom were asleep. I put on my headset, fired up the class, and changed my name to Lisa Shea the Silent :). I ran the entire class without verbally talking. I just typed in things to the teens. This is a writing support group so they all have a blast sharing news with each other, so the three hours went quite smoothly and they had fun. By the time 2am came around, I was exhausted and ready to sleep.

So today involved a fair amount of stress for me, but with patience and determination we got through everything. We were now all wholly set to fly home Tuesday morning. We had negative COVID tests. We had tickets. We had our cab ride all set up. All we had to do Tuesday morning was finish packing, finish cleaning the apartment, take out the trash / recycling, and climb into our cab.

It was time to sleep!

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.