Emotions high as flight home approaches

After nearly eight months away, Rona Solomona, is finally homeward bound.

She is on this week’s repatriation flight, with a brand new crossword book to while away the upcoming two week quarantine period.

She will get out of quarantine exactly eight months to the day that she landed in Brisbane for a 12-day holiday with her children, that turned into her longest trip away from Samoa.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer on Wednesday, Ms. Solomona said when she got the call confirming her seat on the next flight, she “just bawled.”

“I don’t think I have cried so hard, it was almost like something lifted off my shoulder that was weighing heavily on me," she said.

“When they called to say I was on this flight, that I need to organise my tests and medical examination, I just bawled, I just cried. For so long I have been yearning to go home, and it’s finally come.”

Getting back to work, eating traditional Samoan food and being close to her husband, mother and wider family again are just some of the things Ms. Solomona cannot wait to get back to in just a few days.

After her planned flight home from Brisbane was cancelled, Ms. Solomona relocated to her cousin’s family in Sydney so that she could be closer to the Samoan Consulate offices there.

They said her best chance of getting home, as she is a New Zealand citizen, was to travel to New Zealand and wait for a flight from there.

She had to reapply for a passport, which finally arrived in June and she made it to Auckland in the first week of July, where she has been staying between her cousin’s homes and her brother’s.

It has been a blessing to be with family, who she usually only spends short trips with. They have all been thrilled to have her stay but understand the desire to get home to Samoa.

Most days started early. Ms. Solomona said she has spent much of the last eight months sitting outside watching planes go by, wishing she was on them bound for Samoa.

She has been through two significant lockdowns in Sydney and Auckland where going outside wasn’t much of an option, so getting back to COVID-19 free Samoa is exciting.

“I miss the freedom in Samoa, people are still able to visit with their parents. I definitely miss the weather, because it has been winter while I am stuck in both countries, and I miss my family and my work.”

Between reading, doing crosswords and weeding in the garden, she is trying to maintain her business, Advanced Security and Protection Services.

She lost a lot of clients when diplomatic residents in Samoa were recalled to their home countries at the start of the lockdown, and said she has struggled to sign up new clients from overseas.

Her husband and staff are doing their best to maintain operations but as Director, a lot of work relies on being in Samoa, Ms. Solomona said.

“We had contracts that needed re-signing, decision making was hard from here because I am not there to oversee what is happening. It has been one of the main reasons I needed to get back.

“Hubby has been a big help but there are still important things I needed to attend to myself, and that was very difficult being so far away.”

One major contract she feels she has missed out on is the security at quarantine facilities for returning citizens and residents.

She did not travel with a laptop, so keeping up with work requirements was a challenge at first. Then there was the matter of her small summery holiday wardrobe lasting the winter.

“I had to store the summer clothes away and buy a whole new wardrobe for winter… they are all going to stay in Auckland,” Ms. Solomona laughed.  

Being stranded overseas has been tough emotionally too. It is the longest time she and her husband, married for two years, have spent apart. And when he was hospitalised in June for a week, the distance felt even further away.

“That was very, very hard not being able to be there for him. It’s an ongoing medical issue but he has come out of hospital and he is trying his best to keep to what he is supposed to do as instructed by the doctors.”

Throughout all the challenges of being away, and the missed opportunities to come home earlier on cancelled or postponed flights Ms. Solomona said the Samoan foreign affairs team were always gracious and helpful. 

“Every time I would break down I would be emailing them and there was always someone answering in a way that would make me feel a bit better.”

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