Staff Writer: Tzu-Hsun Hsu
In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 rapidly spreading out in the United States, which accelerated the increase of the confirmed cases, the NCAA decided to cancel the spring season. During the pandemic, I took a long-distance and tough flight back to Taiwan.
On the afternoon of March 12, 2020, when we were spread out in different courts practicing, our coach suddenly gathered us on a court and told us that the NCAA decided to cancel the 2020 spring season. At the same time, we also received an email to inform us that the university had decided to suspend for a week and all classes will be changed to online.
Before everything happened, I always told my parents that everything was good. But at this moment, I had to tell them that I needed to buy a ticket to go home. While searching for the ticket, I kept communicating with my parents because many flights were canceled or too expensive. Finally, I bought a flight from Charlotte to Dallas on March 16th, from Dallas to Narita, and from Narita to my city, Kaohsiung, on March 17th.
On March 14, I received an email from the airline saying that the flight from Charlotte to Dallas was canceled, so I changed the flight from Charlotte to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
At 6 a.m. on March 16, I arrived at Charlotte Douglas International. On the flight to New York, each passenger had three seats, which was the most comfortable domestic flight I have ever taken. After approximately 14 hours, I arrived in Narita, Japan. Due to the pandemic, I was planning not to use the lavatory on the plane, but it is impossible to stay out of the lavatory for 14 hours, which made me feel the struggle. At 5 a.m. (6 p.m. Japan time) on March 17th, I was going to take the last flight home.
When I was about to board, all the passengers were stopped by the ground crew. Taiwan had issued a new COVID-19 policy on the afternoon of March 17 (early morning, US time), no flight from Japan to Taiwan could land at any airport in Taiwan after 5 p.m. that day.
Many people argued with ground crews at the boarding gate. Some people said that Taiwan did not allow any Japanese flights to land in Taiwan’s airport; some people said that Japan unilaterally canceled the flight; and some people said that if we stay in Japan, we will need to quarantine when we return to Taiwan. After arguing for about two hours, Japan Airlines arranged for all passengers to stay in their transit hotel for one night. We took the bus to the hotel and I was assigned a single room.
Fortunately, I met a girl who reached the same flight as me. We exchanged WeChat (a Chinese chat app like WhatsApp) and she told me that she is a nurse working in Boston’s prison.
After having dinner and watching television in the hotel, I fell asleep. At 7 a.m. on March 18th, Japan time (6 p.m. on March 17th, the U.S. time), we arrived at Narita Airport by bus. After four hours of flying, I finally landed at Kaohsiung Xiaogang International Airport at noon on March 18th, Taiwan time (midnight on March 18th, the U.S. time).
At that time, there were many people at the airport, and everyone needed to fill out forms and take their body temperature. Roughly three hours had passed after landing at the airport to see my parents in the hall.
Unfortunately, on March 17th, the Taiwanese government released a new policy that required passengers entering Taiwan to be quarantined for two weeks. Since I stayed in Japan for a night, it meant I needed to be quarantined for two weeks.
In conclusion, COVID-19 has affected many international students and student-athletes, especially the seniors at the time, who were unable to play their last season. It also gave me a special experience. Despite the process of going home being difficult. The only thing that made me excited was that each passenger had three seats and I could see my parents earlier than planned. I did online education in Taiwan to complete the spring 2020 and fall 2020 semesters. During this period, I got my first part-time job in a five-star restaurant and experienced a different life. I am glad to be able to return to school in spring 2021 to complete my last season for the Wingate Tennis Team.