I was positive I was negative


‘But my Covid test said, “Not so fast.”‘

Was it the hairpin turns at 13,000 feet? The overturned tractor-trailer along the road to Buga? Or the super-sized snake being mobbed by birds?

Perhaps I should have appealed to Mary instead of taking her picture. (Note snake with an apple in its mouth at her feet not being mobbed by birds)

Nope. The scariest part of our trip to Colombia was when I got the results of my Covid test:

See, a negative Covid test is one of the many requirements to regain entry to the United States if you have been anywhere outside its borders, not just Colombia. And, yup. This triple-vaccinated person — along with two more of our group — tested positive.

No explanation for why this tree was studded with locks. Good luck for Covid testing, maybe?

(We were on the bus when this happened. Dude Man opened my testing lab email for me — my glasses were in my backpack — and there was a sickeningly long pause before he announced, “Alice is positive.” Our guide barked with laughter, thinking he was kidding.)

One of the places our bus took us was this way-high-up lodge surrounded by hummingbird feeders. We saw so many hummers — more than 30 — that we started saying “Oh. Another hummer” when looking for other birds

The Dude had warned us of this. “This test (the antigen one) has a twenty percent false positive rate,” he said while we were waiting to get our nasal passages probed.

The reservoir where we spotted a long-billed dowitcher — which is much rarer in Colombia than a positive Covid test

Turned out it was even worse. Though I was the first Bad News Recipient, three of the eight of us — which is almost forty percent — got nasty surprises in our inboxes. All of us, I must note, had been vaxed and boostered up the kazoo. And all of us spent a very rocky 18 hours until we could get tested again. To give you some idea of how stressful this was, the picture at the top of this post shows me enjoying a meal — something I absolutely could not do during this period. And forget about sleep.

Miles to go before I sleep. Good thing there were some chirpy distractions

Here I must give a grateful shoutout to Field Guides, our amazing birding company. Turns out Jesse, our guide, whom I lovingly call Hipster Birder (see “Gorilla My Dreams” and/or “Planes, Boats and Sorta-Kinda Automobiles” for previous Jesse stories) has a heart of gold and nerves of steel as well as birding blood running through his veins. He offered to stay behind if we had to stay behind.

Guide Man (sans man bun this trip) shares a birdy moment with The Dude

And our local guide, Daniel? He said that if the worst should happen and we actually had Covid, the Infected One(s) could use his company apartment in beautiful, birdy Manizales for the duration. He gave us a tour of the neighborhood on our way to our second test — which, thank the Lab Lord, turned out negative (whew!) for all three of us — pointing out grocery stores and parks for walking. Jeez. What a guy.

Our birding itinerary. Manizales was almost our new home

Well, “All’s well that ends well,” or so they say. We saw birds. Many many birds. I think 359 species. (Forgive me for not including photos of any of them. I am waiting for Dude Man to retrieve them from his camera. I am not, however, holding my breath.) Plus agouti, a red howler monkey and that aforementioned snake.

Better than the fanciest bird: a Big Fat “Negativo”

Best of all, our little band of eight contained not a single Annoying Person. I guess a Covid Test Scare makes for beautiful bonding.

Our merry band waaaaaay up in the Andes. Not a baddie in the bunch

They also say, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” Forgive me if this post is less than hilarious. There just hasn’t been enough time. Instead of a laugh I’ll leave you with this peek from a peak of the Central Andes:

Amagansett, New York (whew!) November 2021

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14 thoughts on “I was positive I was negative

  1. That is annoying! I hope my kids don’t get a positive read when they test tomorrow. They have their first speed cubing competition (remember Rubik’s cubes–they’re back) this weekend. I am looking forward to seeing your birds. What a gorgeous locale!

    • Rubik’s cubes are back?!? How cool! And yes, I hope your kids don’t have to face a “positive,” even a false one. Not for the faint of heart. I’ll try to wrestle some photos out of Dude Man’s camera for you xoxo

    • Thank you, dear Debi. It was super-scary there for awhile. We three found out about our positivos about 4PM. We had a couple more hours of birding to do, then dinner (a cup of spinach soup that I couldn’t even finish), then, when Wayne and I were finally in our room I threw myself on the bed and sobbed.

    • So sorry to have frightened you, Judy! It was indeed an experience I hope never to repeat. It wasn’t that I was so worried about having Covid (much) but that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get home. I don’t speak Spanish, even!

    • Oh! I guess I effectively buried the lede, Roy. We took the second test — a rapid antigen test — the next morning and got the results in 15 minutes: a big fat negativo for all three of us. Big fat Whew! Oh — I added a bit about the second test to the piece so (with luck) no one else thinks I’m still on testing tenterhooks (!)

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