Quarantine in St. Thomas and A22 begins

A tale of love by Ali Siddiqui

April 22, 2021

As the A20 was underway in the North Atlantic, simultaneously, there was a bunch of people from all over the country scrambling to get to the end point of the 1st leg, which was St. Thomas island. 

The second leg (A22) of this expedition left dock on April 20, 2021. Just like the 1st leg, we were also asked to be in quarantine for 2 weeks, before we could even board the ship. In this post, I will try and paint a picture about how all of us managed to complete our isolation.

Like most places that call themselves home to a population of around 50,000 people, St. Thomas has a small airport, which for some reason was situated right at the south-west corner of the island. The thrill of entering the island, was soon overshadowed by a split second of fear, when I thought that the plane was going to land in the water. Such is the makeup of the airstrip, which is located right at the edge of the island. Meanwhile, once you enter the airport, you can see people who look like they’ve dressed for a carnival, greet you as you enter baggage claim. Propped up on stilts, they were dancing for the incoming passengers. I remember thinking to myself whether this was a traditional welcome dance or were they just excited to see tourists coming back to the island after the longest year that anyone of us had ever managed to live through.

I soon realized that even though the island is a United State territory, its soul belonged to the people of the Caribbean. St. Thomas, like other island communities in its vicinity, seems to be in love with the surrounding ocean. Even as we finished our quarantine and set sail, we were able to spot a number of boats out in the open ocean, with a single occupant, bobbing and drifting away to sea. It almost felt like long lost lovers meeting each other after an eternity, only to be separated with the passing of a wave.

I still had to find my way to my accommodation. The only glimpses that I could capture, as I rode in a taxi towards my Airbnb, were those of hills with tropical growth, among which were scattered houses, all of whom it seemed to me, were built to capture the best possible view of the ocean. As I understood, some of them even succeeded in doing so. Since I too wanted to witness the beauty of the island, I made sure to book my Airbnb, which overlooked the ocean from the northeast part of the island. It was the least I could do, given that we had strict instructions to not even leave our apartments for a midnight stroll.

And so quarantine started. Armed with food and grocery supplies for two weeks, we were all hoping to finish it as soon as possible. The euphoria of staying on the island with a spectacular view, soon turned into debilitating loneliness. It was as if the only friends I could see were the birds and the bees outside my window. And they often came to visit. Just like good friends. Life in quarantine soon became a race to finish my pending research work and coursework before boarding the ship. It also revolved around taking our temperature, twice a day and logging it. However, possibly the best day of the week used to be when we were allowed to go for Covid-19 testing and could meet other members of the A22 leg, even if for a few minutes, with social distancing. As we would drive back and forth to the testing center, we would catch glimpses of the beautiful harbor with sailboats humming in the distance.

St. Thomas is undeniably beautiful, but to stay inside an apartment for two weeks straight without any outside interaction, made us all wish for getting off this island at the first opportunity.

Now, that we’re all safely onboard, maybe I don’t want to be unreasonable to the island. In fact, in retrospect, it is with absolute certainty that I think I would love to come back here and explore the markets of Charlotte Amalie, the golden sand of the Magens bay beach, and even the mysterious Blackbeard’s castle. I think I might be falling in love.