Eyewitness: Coping With the Pandemic in Antigua and Barbuda

Sisters at work: Marley and Ella (center) help Lucia (right) with her online reading comprehension lesson. 

Editor’s note: During the coronavirus pandemic, our 50 Kid Reporters around the world are covering the news from home. We’ll share their experiences on our Kids Press blog in the weeks ahead. Stay safe! 

My family was scheduled to stay in Antigua and Barbuda for five days. Our trip to the tropical island in the West Indies was planned as part of my younger sister Ella’s homeschool geography curriculum. It also was meant as a much-needed respite from New York City, where my family lives.

But if I’'ve learned anything from current events, it’s that nothing is set in stone. These days, plans are like the Caribbean sand, easily washed away by the oceans of destiny. 

My family left New York on March 12. Fears about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, had already taken hold. The airport was devoid of travelers, and the few people we saw were clad in face masks and gloves.



When we arrived in Antigua, my worries melted in the warm tropical sun. As our vacation began to wind down, though, news from New York City flooded in. Schools were closing, major events were canceled, and people who may have been exposed to the virus were being urged to quarantine. Friends and family back home advised us to stay where we were.

We extended our stay, and our flight home was eventually canceled. With the local airport closed, we have found ourselves stuck here for the time being.

As of May 2, the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda reports 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19. In late March, the government issued stay-at-home orders, with a set number of hours allotted for food shopping and emergency services. On April 23, the guidelines were relaxed somewhat, but a curfew is still in effect.

Nonetheless, all hygiene practices must be observed. My father said that during a recent visit to a local retailer, in addition to wearing his mask, he had his temperature taken and hands sanitized before he was allowed to enter.


Tonkotsu ramen made by Marley’s mother


Restaurants are slowly reopening with drive-thru windows and curbside pickup and deliveries. Before this change, my parents, two younger sisters, and I searched for creative ways to bring our favorite culinary flavors from New York City into our new home.

While most products from the United States are available here in Antigua, you cannot walk around the block or down the street to your local bakery, ramen shop, or pizzeria. My parents made homemade Chinese takeout, complete with lo mein, fried rice, beef with broccoli, and egg rolls.

My mother prepared pork broth over the course of three days to create my most missed New York specialty, Japanese tonkotsu ramen. As part of my art preparatory program, I have been keeping a food photo diary to commemorate these delicious delights. 


A blue land crab, or cardisoma guanhumi, on the wet sand


My two sisters and I work on our homeschool curriculum, draw, read, and listen to audiobooks. Our art, dance, and math classes are held via Zoom. We study the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda for social studies and have made the most of being in a tropical environment by researching marine biology. 

Coastal wildlife is thriving without tourists and boats entering and exiting the bay. In the weeks after tourist areas were closed, we observed more shoals of fish in the shallow waters near the beach. We saw schoolmaster snappers, stoplight parrotfish, and sergeant major fish, and monitored a queen conch grazing in the sea grass during low tide. 

Crabs skitter across wet rocks and sandy dunes. My little sister Lucia caught an Atlantic ghost crab (ocypode quadrata).

At dusk one day, a large blue land crab (cardisoma guanhumi) surprised my mother on the beach. And the sally lightfoot crabs (grapsus grapsus) are always sunning themselves on the rocks splashed by the surf.

After sketching the sea creatures, documenting their size, color, special markings, and any other unique qualities, we can use the internet to identify them. That’s how we knew a spotted sea hare (aplysia dactylomela) had washed up on the beach. My story would not be complete without reporting the jelly fish sting I received during my stay!


Marley’s sister Ella holds a Caribbean avocado. Marley photoshopped the image as part of her art studies.


Every day, I’m grateful for the fact that we’re here in Antigua. I wake up with the ocean outside my window and go to sleep with bright stars over my head. I’m able to go outside and observe nature, take walks, and swim.

I have not forgotten about my friends and family back home, including my grandmother in Revere, Massachusetts, who is quarantined in her living facility, and her brother, who was recently hospitalized with COVID-19.

My friends in New York City who are expecting baby siblings, worry about contracting COVID-19 and wonder if they will ever make it to high school. Mostly, I miss life before the pandemic when I knew what to expect and had a schedule to follow. I wonder when we will return to New York, and what will be waiting for us when we do.


Photos courtesy of the author