“When I eventually came off the plane and felt that hot sun on my skin, I said ‘Yes! Ah home’.”
Che Richards finally touched down at Piarco International Airport on Sunday, a couple months after graduating from the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, with an LLB Hons degree.
Richards attended Edinburgh on an Open National Scholarship, and was keen to return home after four years of studying law. However, closure of Trinidad and Tobago’s borders as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic forced the talented long jumper to remain in Scotland. It was a tough time for homesick Richards. Last Friday, though, he got some good news.
“I found out about the Caribbean Airlines (CAL) repatriation flight from Barbados,” Richards told the Express, “and sent an email to the Ministry of National Security and had my family at home call. Because it was such short notice, I had to rush to book a flight from London to Barbados. Luckily, that flight was not too expensive.
“Also,” the St Mary’s College old boy continued, “because I had a refund voucher from British Airways (BA) for my cancelled flight, I just had to pay the difference for this new flight. After that, I had to organise a flight from Edinburgh to London on Saturday. Because my flight to Barbados was at 11.20am on Saturday, I got a 7am flight to London.”
On Sunday, Richards checked into Cascadia Hotel, in St Ann’s, for 14 days of state-funded quarantine.
“It’s good,” said Richards. “I can’t complain. We’re getting breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’re not allowed to leave our rooms, but there’s Wi-Fi, TV and AC.”
Richards is excited about seeing his family at the end of his quarantine period.
“What I’m looking forward to most is just being in their presence and talking, laughing, smiling. And I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to mummy’s food. Being with family will also concretise for me that I’m officially done with my undergrad degree.
“For now, I’m just happy to be home after all these months of waiting. Yes, I’m not home with my family, but at the same time I am in Trinidad, and that’s more than enough for me at this time. The 14 days of quarantine is me playing my part to stop the community spread that’s occurring.”
Richards had some words of advice for the T&T Government.
“With regard the repatriation of nationals, I think the government should try their best to give advance notice of repatriation flights. I got mine on Friday with the repatriation flight being on Sunday. There are Trinbagonians around the world, and it’s not as simple as booking one flight and reaching Barbados.
“I had to organise two flights to reach Barbados. A lot of people have to do the same, if not more flights. The advance notice is important because it allows planning ahead. We all know flights are cheaper when you book in advance. Those nationals abroad already have depleted funds,” Richards ended, “so having to purchase a flight on short notice will just add to their catalogue of worries.”