Our big trip startet off with a lot of excitement and drama of a kind we did not anticipate: my Covid test came out positive one day before departure.

We had received the results in the afternoon before we were due to leave for The Gambia. Only my result was positive, everyone else’s negative.

After a few panic fuelled phone conversations I learned that the ct-value of my test was so high that I counted as „highly likely to be not infectious“ and that this result is not unusual with someone who has had Covid. We all had it in mid November and I was the one with the strongest symptoms. The virus (or minor traces of it) therefore still detectable by the sensitive PCR test and there was always going to be the possibility that it was a false positive.

Having spoken on the phone to one person, who said flying shouldn’t be an issue under this scenario, then someone else who said it would. I realised this scenario was quite new to everyone, and that the decision would probably lie with the person at the desk, checking me in. It still wasn’t clear either way, most importantly all that we had heard and read described that, I myself was not of risk to other passengers. The issue was getting confirmation that we had had it and a responsible body to confirm my ability to fly, which we learned was our local authority in Berlin. So, it was by then late in the evening but we still saw a possibility to fly and decided to travel to the airport very early, to see which authority we could contact and then see what happens at the desk.

We managed to get confirmation over the phone from our authority as we had thought but getting something written to give to the desk was a different matter. These hours were probably some of the worst I have ever had, moving to Africa as a family was always going to be a somewhat scary adventure, but the thought of the boys starting this -our!- big adventure without me, while not knowing what would happen to me, just made me feel sick, nervous and scared.

Unfortunately the person checking us in decided that he simply could not let me fly with only the positive test result (despite the circumstances, in hindsight, it was, I guess fairly obvious). So we had to decide pretty quickly on a plan B (to all re-book), then plan C (our youngest would stay with me) and then eventually plan D, after assessing the actual extra costs of all the new tests, re-bookings and the rest. So with a heavy heart and with about 10 minutes to spare we re-booked just my flight for two days later.

The farewell was very emotional, mainly due to the stress and exhaustion after a sleepless night, but also for not knowing when I would see them again. The boys being quite positive and excited, after the many weeks and months of preparation and talking about Gambia, made it easier to say goodbye. We were all very much ready to go!

I sat at the airport for a long while before I decided to do another test for my flight on Friday, I mean what else to do, there was no way I could go without one and just maybe it was false or just borderline or something. So I did and then travelled all the way back to my parents, who thankfully welcomed me despite having been tested positive, knowing what the health authority and documentation we had read said. That I was just in an unfortunate post Covid case.

Fate must have decided to take pity on me because luckily this time the result came out negative and for a few hours I felt confident and happy that I would be travelling. There was now though a part of me waiting for the, what next and questioning it, I had a constant feeling that something else would happen or someone would ultimately tell me I can’t. So this second journey to the airport was again filled with nervousness and stress. When I finally got to a check in desk, the lady wanted to see my test result straight away and made a phone call because of a note in the system under my name. She couldn’t quite work out what the issue was. I felt this phone call lasted forever and I thought my heart wouldn’t make it, but just before it collapsed they both decided to check me in.

One might have thought I could relax a bit by that point, but I wasn’t taking anything for granted anymore and wasn’t convinced it was over yet, despite feeling a little less nervous than before. Time went past and the passengers gathered at the gate for the flight to Brussels. The team started to prepare the gate and as it happens the first announcement was a call out for my name: „Can Anja Rigamonti please come to the gate“. There we go, I thought, defeated and weak I obeyed. „Sorry, but there seems to be an issue with your Covid test, can I please see it.“ Surprised by this question I showed her my negative result and we both agreed there was nothing wrong with my certificate. She apologised and confirmed that EVERYTHING WAS OK… ??!!’##’!!

When the plane took off I had a little meltdown. Luckily the plane was half empty and I had space and time to let go. Goodbye Germany! Finally!

When I arrived late in the evening the air was still warm. So nice. The airport was already quite an experience with only one desk/ queue for everyone, and all looking very improvised. It took a while to get through, but at the other end Dan had arranged for our landlord to be there and he was duly waiting for me to drive me home to our place in Kartong.

Not directly though, on the way we quickly stopped by at the hospital because our landlord’s wife was giving birth… !! and he insisted I came with him to meet her. Having given birth twice I knew this is the last thing she would want right now, but my ‘no’ didn’t get anywhere. I suggested he stayed with her and I took a cab but I learned that men generally are not present at the birth of their children and instead leave it up to their mothers in law to look after their wives.

When I arrived the boys were fast asleep and I cuddled up to them, exhausted and happy.