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Stranded Montanan returns home from Peru

 Photo courtesy: Necia Erickson
Photo courtesy: Necia Erickson (KFYR)
Published: Apr. 2, 2020 at 9:42 PM CDT
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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in countries closing their borders, leaving many Americans stranded around the world.

Necia Erickson had been planning a trip to visit a friend in Peru since December, but she never expected that this reunion would result in being stuck abroad.

On March 12, it was wheels up. Erickson started her journey from Bozeman, Montana to Lima, Peru.

"It was right before everything went really crazy, and at that time, Peru had only a handful of cases," Erickson said.

Then, after traveling to Cuzco, Erickson realized she was stuck.

"By Monday, all public transportation was shut off," Erickson said.

She had few places to go for help.

"We went to the embassy in Cuzco, and there was a note on the door that said it was closed. So, at that point it felt like, ‘Okay, what do I do?’" Erickson said.

Erickson and other Americans in Peru reached out to who they could.

"We started trying to get a hold of our state senators, and making noise on social media," Erickson said.

It's through social media and photography that Erickson began to document her quarantine abroad, but in a unique way.

"We had to wear a mask, and the only places that were open were grocery stores and pharmacies. So, I started taking pictures of doors," Erickson said.

Doors that were closed because the businesses behind them had shut down. But Erickson used the closed doors to open a window of creativity and hope.

"That's what kept me going every time I went out. I was like, 'okay, I can go look for doors!' because I can't really walk around and be a tourist,” Erickson said.

Erickson passed a lot of time playing board games, but also taking in the unusually empty streets.

"My heart just started breaking for the people that live day-to-day in this world that this is going to affect on a scale I don't think we're going to understand," Erickson said.

And through it all, she has remained thankful.

"I'm not a refugee, I have a home to come to. Peru was not a war zone. It was a safe place to be quarantined. Just realizing how much I do have has made me super grateful," Erickson said.

Finally, through efforts made by Montana Senator Steve Daines' office, the State Department, and the U.S. Embassy in Peru, Erickson was able to get a repatriation flight back to the U.S. after nearly three weeks abroad.

Erickson returned home Wednesday night, and she will enter what she calls “round two” of quarantine. She will self-isolate for two weeks, but she says she is thankful to everyone who played a role in getting her home.