On New Year’s Eve, John and Vanesa Galvan dropped their 5-year-old daughter, Samantha, off at her grandparents’ house in Colombia. They hoped that Samantha could become more familiar with her culture before she returned home to Edmond, Oklahoma by summer. However, the family never could have imagined a global pandemic extending that stay for ten months.
“It’s been a nightmare,” John told KFOR. “If you were an athlete or something like that and you needed to go somewhere, the government would bend over backward. I feel like a 5-year-old little US citizen was forgotten about.”
Last year, they thought spending a few months in Colombia would be a great opportunity for Samantha. The family tells KXAS that since Samantha hadn’t started school yet, she could learn more about the culture and learn more Spanish.
Their original plan was to visit in the spring and then bring Samantha back home permanently. When the pandemic began and their April trip was canceled, they thought they would still be able to bring Samantha back by summer. Soon, as more attempts to visit were canceled, they knew there was trouble.
“There were no dates,” John said to KXAS-TV. “That’s when we kind of started panicking thinking this is going longer and longer.”
Eventually, they found their only option to get Samantha back to the US was through a humanitarian flight. Upon learning that Samantha would have to travel alone, her parents’ hesitance grew.
“For both of us, that was just… you know, she can barely open a bathroom door, airplane door to go to the bathroom by herself, let alone fly by herself, sitting next to strangers, going through customs with someone who might be paying attention to her or might not,” John told KXAS-TV. They decided to wait until they could travel to Colombia to help Samantha come back.
In that extended period, they missed multiple celebrations with Samantha, from the Fourth of July and Father’s Day to her fifth birthday.
Thankfully, the family is set to celebrate the upcoming holiday season together as John is finally traveling to Colombia this weekend. They plan to welcome Samantha back with a new playhouse and a drive-by parade from their neighbors and of course, plenty of affection.