LEAD staff member Melissa Robbins and her husband Jonathan are safely back home in Nashville and under quarantine after being stranded in Peru for three weeks.
“We are really excited to be home. The hardest part was not knowing how long it would be until we could come home,” Melissa, a former LEAD Academy Math Teacher and current Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator, said, “Being in a developing country, we were worried what would happen to us if we were to become sick without top of the line medical care.”
The Nashville couple are avid hikers and world travelers and planned to hike the Inca Trail and Machu Pichu in the Andes Mountains for Spring Break this year. But while they were on the 30 -hour bus ride to their destination, the President of Peru issued a 15-day nationwide state of emergency and border closure.
They were fourteen hours away from the closest international airport in Cusco. By the time they arrived, the military police would not allow them in the airport because they did not already have a ticket.
Thankfully they eventually found a hotel owned by a warm and welcoming family who allowed them to stay as long as they needed. The couple could go outside of the hotel for food and drinking water one at a time and the hotel owners allowed them to use their kitchen, recreation room, and laundry facilities.
“We were very blessed to be taken care of by this amazing family,” Melissa said.
Melissa said they also had support from so many people at home. Family, friends, and Melissa’s LEAD co-workers reached out with words of encouragement, prayers, and helped her connect with their contacts in Peru.
“We were overwhelmed with the amount of people who were trying to help,” she said. “Thank you to everyone for praying for us, thinking of us, and helping us get home.”
By week three, the Robbins had applied to the U.S. Embassy in Peru who was arranging flights out for Americans. But they weren’t sure when they would be able to get on one of those flights. They decided to take a risk and try to see if they could get on standby.
Once curfew was lifted at 5 am on March 31st, the hotel owner drove the Robbins in his personal car to the airport. The police were not supposed to allow them in without a ticket, but they waited for 5 hours outside until at last they were allowed to board a flight.
“It was really emotional,” Melissa said. “We were trying to convince ourselves it was real.”
Now back in the safety of their Nashville home, healthy and relieved, the Robbins say they are not taking the little things for granted.
As of April 7, the U.S. Embassy has repatriated approximately 6,050 Americans from Peru.