On March 13, Wanda and Bob Diachuk left the little village near Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, where they’d been spending the winter, just a few days before Canada advised its citizens abroad to get home as quickly as possible.
The Diachuks drove their motorhome north to Canada, through Mexico and the U.S. through increasingly bizarre and surreal scenes as the Covid-19 pandemic hit home.
The Diachuks, who are from Prince George, arrived at the border at Kingsgate on March 22, and headed immediately for Cranbrook — their home away from home — and two weeks’ quarantine and self-isolation.
“We’ve been in our motor home for seven years now, but we’ve spent the last four summers in Cranbrook at the Mount Baker RV Park,” Bob said. “We wouldn’t have come here if we haven’t met such wonderful people in the summers that we stayed here.”
The Diachuks are now ensconced at the Mount Baker RV Park, living in isolation in their motorhome. While they are unable to go anywhere — even outside, really — they are effusive in their praise and gratitude for the help the community has offered with such a good heart.
“Colin and Lois who run the RV Park have done nothing but help us,” Bob said. “They’re not going to be able to open the park for the season. But Colin said to stay as long as you want.”
“Renee from the Post Office, who said she’d personally deliver mail and packages,” Wanda said. “Devon at Save-On is personally delivering groceries — on foot.
“Donna and Leigh, and Leo and Emily, our friends here at the RV Park are amazing. Rosemarie at the Mission Thrift Store and her husband are helping us out with groceries, and getting our Shaw Cable hooked up. We’ve just had such a positive experience here.”
The Diachuks’ friend Gary helped get the high speed internet hooked up, and dropped off a box so they could watch TV.
“We’re in a motorhome,” Bob said. “It’s not like regular quarantine, where you can go upstairs, downstairs … We’re less than 20 feet apart at all times.
“But what this community has done is a testament on how to be able to do this properly.”
The Diachuks were witness to the effects the Covid-19 pandemic was having on two countries on their nine-day drive back to Canada.
“You have no idea,” Bob said. “In Mexico, very strange things were going on. We paid tolls. Local people had been allowed to take over the tolls and were taking ‘donations.’”
The money was going back into the communities, Wanda said, to help appease the people.
“Our little village had taken it upon themselves to quarantine themselves,” Bob.
“And there were a lot of bare shelves as we were coming up through the States. There’s a lot of panic going on.
“It’s a different world in the States. You should see the stores.”
But the Diachuks have been taking this very seriously from the start. “We were social distancing [from the outset]. We’re very confident that neither one of us carries the virus, but from what we’ve learned, if we are, I don’t want to be that guy who hurts the people that we love. We’re taking extreme measures in quarantine. We’re staying put.”
Upon arriving at the Canada/U.S. border, the Diachuks were told to do an immediate grocery shop, stock up, go home, and quarantine for 14 days. Shortly after they crossed the border, the directive was to go into immediate quarantine — no stopping to shop.
“We did as we were told,” Bob said. “We were very cautious when we shopped. We wiped down the handles of everything when we were done. Neither of us are symptomatic, but I wish we’d been told differently. But we’re in a motorhome. We don’t have stores of food that most people have.
“People coming back from other countries have to be diligent,” Bob added. “Assume you have this. This virus is different. If this was influenza and I was spreading it, I would affect 33 people in the community. But the rate of spread that this can do, I can affect 58,000 people in the community. This is serious, and we need to take it seriously.”
The Diachuks quarantine will be lifted on April 6.
“We’re pretty sure we’re going to make Cranbrook our home base. We want to thank the community for the support, the wonderful friends we’ve made here, and the caring.”
And while they have spent their winters in Mexico, Bob doubts that sojourn will figure as much in the future. The world will have changed. “Social distancing is here to stay,” he said.
But nonetheless, the Diachuks believe much that is positive will emerge among all the changes the novel coronavirus and the Cover-19 pandemic have wrought.
“I believe we’re going to have a better world when this is done, with more recognition of our environment, a better sense of community — we’re all in this together. We all go down together, we all go up together.”