Going Places: Traveling to foreign lands bears little resemblance to the way we live in Stephenville


Marilyn Robitaille

By MARILYN ROBITAILLE


This is the saga of my summer experiences to foreign lands where the whole response to COVID-19 bears little or no resemblance to the way we’re responding in Stephenville.


If you read the recent posting of “My Featured Pick” titled “With 27% of those eligible fully vaccinated, Erath County gets 42 new cases of Covid-19,” you know that we’re on the brink of more sidelines to our desire for “normal.”

Maybe you’ve hunkered down this summer and haven’t been anywhere or you’re of a mind that Texas brings such perfection, you don’t want to go anywhere. Whatever the case may be, you do owe it to yourself to be aware that the vast world has completely different protocols and better numbers regarding sick folks in hospitals than we have.


My first summer adventure in June took me to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. With few exceptions, everywhere we went in this beautiful city required that we social distance and wear masks. We were tested at the beach resort before we left, which happens to be a CDC requirement for reentry to the U.S.

We went through multiple layers of no-nonsense airport personnel who demanded barcode scans and details matched to our passports.


What we thought would be a quick stop at Walmart for sunscreen turned into waiting in a long line (socially distanced according to dots on the floor), so requirements for maximum capacity could be met. We were allowed entry only as other customers, who were duly counted, exited.

At the entrance, we were reminded to have masks firmly over our noses and our temperature taken.


Come July, I packed up and headed to Santorini, Greece. We spent a few days in Athens where everybody we encountered had on masks. If you walked into a store in the Plaka neighborhood, you’d be met with a stern reminder to mask up.


We opted to take a ferry to the island of Santorini and we stood in the boarding line along with several hundred other passengers wearing masks.

Two lines formed, and as fast as their scanners would work, the ferry officials admitted individuals to the boarding area.


In addition to scanning our negative tests, we had to show passports and our COVID vaccination record. It was a little disconcerting to see several people refused passage because they lacked the negative test documents or the Greek health certificate for proof of vaccination. Tears failed to persuade the officials.


Most of our island time was spent outdoors at the beach and in the water, so we were spared further masking most days unless we visited a shop or the grocery store.

Entry into any business meant we’d be met with a security guard whose demeanor was less than friendly as we dug through our bags to extract the required mask.


When we returned to the big city, we decided to treat ourselves and make a reservation at a fancy restaurant with a rooftop view of the Parthenon. At the time we called, we were reminded that we’d be required to show our vaccination proof to enter the restaurant.

Our trip to the South of France this month required much the same protocols, but the general attitudes of all the shop owners seemed overly stern.


In general, French attitudes toward American tourists at the height of the season have always been a little more reserved than my Texas sensibilities are used to.

After Aug. 9, a whole new set of protocols meant that we had to have a negative test in addition to our COVID vaccination card for entrance everywhere except the beach and the grocery store.


We left before this became an inconvenience, but until the French government manages a way for foreigners to be entered into their health pass system the way French citizens are, visitors will need a vaccination and a negative test every 72 hours.

By habit, I keep a mask in my bag at all times along with the hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.


To fly home last Friday, we were tested again, so as of right now, I’m negative.


I hope to keep it that way, so here in the land of the free where we do our own thing, I’ll be the one in the mask shooing you away if you come within 6 feet of me.