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Quarantined in Peru: an unexpected spring break extension

When their Airbnb host in Peru knocked on the door two days after arriving, three young men had no idea that their spring break vacation would become a 15-day quarantine.

Senior engineering majors Michael Kuzma and Jeremy Rapp, along with Bradley alumnus Charlie Barchett, said they’d been planning the trip to Cusco, Peru for over a year. When the trio left the United States on March 13, the COVID-19 outbreak didn’t seem very threatening in the United States.

“Although we should have known,” Rapp jokingly said. “It was Friday the 13th.”

On March 15, Peru’s president Martín Vizcarra declared a state of emergency and announced that the country was closing all international travel in and out of Peru beginning the next day at midnight. 

Peru enacted a State of Emergency on March 15, and closed all incoming and outgoing flights for 15 days at 11:59 p.m. on March 16 due to COVID-19 concerns.

When the group’s Airbnb host, Veronica, told Kuzma the news, he translated it to his friends.

They instantly began packing and making preparations to catch the earliest flight possible. When they arrived to the densely packed airport where all were attempting the same, the three instantly knew they wouldn’t make it.

“We got to the airport super early in the morning and were there all day long,” Rapp said. “We just couldn’t get on a flight before midnight.”

Instead, they booked a flight for April 2, when the 15-day quarantine is supposed to end.

While they could’ve gotten on a flight to Lima, Kuzma said they made the choice to stay in Cusco, where Veronica had promised them her Airbnb.

“She said ‘Do anything you can, and I’m here if you need me, as long as you need to stay here,’” Kuzma said. “Plus, there aren’t going to be any more tours coming through. We’re able to stay here as long as we want. She’s joined us for dinner, and she’s been answering any questions we might have.”

Before the quarantine was announced, the three only visited one major site: Humantay Lake in the mountains. 

“We’ve been kind of joking between us if that one trip was worth being stuck here for the foreseeable future and all the money we invested,” Rapp said. “In my opinion, it was.”

Despite the situation, the three said they’ve been making the most of their time. 

“We enjoy our daily walk to the market,” Kuzma said “You’re only allowed to leave to go to the bank, go to see a doctor and to go get groceries. That’s really it.”

They’ve also connected with other travelers stuck in similar situations.

“Our next-door neighbors are French and we’ve been hanging out with them, playing cards and such,” Rapp said.

Barchett works in accounting at Caterpillar Inc., and said he’s been able to continue working from the Airbnb since the company has adopted a work-from-home policy internationally.

“Because we have internet access here, there’s really not much at all of any difference between me working from Peru or me working from my apartment in Peoria,” Barchett said. “So I’ve been doing normal meetings and working normal working hours here.”

Kuzma and Rapp said they plan on continuing classes as usual when they start up again online on Monday.

The three also reached out to U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, and received a confirmation that the U.S. will continue to “monitor the situation.”

“We’re just waiting it out for now,” Rapp said.

Barchett (left), Kuzma (middle) and Rapp (right) FaceTime from their Airbnb in Cusco, Peru.
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