The father and son landed on March 1, expecting to return home a few weeks later.
PRETORIA, South Africa — The videos and photos Joshua Nidever saved on his phone are what dream vacations are made of: walks along the beach, trips to see Baobab trees, all half a world away in South Africa.
“Just one big adventure from start to finish it seems like,” said Joshua, who arrived in the country with his father Cecil on March 1.
It was a return for Cecil. He worked in South Africa’s agricultural industry years ago.
“Over the years, he developed a lot of friendships with people here,” Joshua said. “As time went by and he got closer to retirement age, he decided, ‘We’ll take some time off from work and we’ll go visit my friends in South Africa for a little bit.'”
They expected to come home to Houston about a month later. Then COVID-19 started its spread across the globe.
“Towards about the third week in March, we started hearing news reports about the coronavirus and how it was spreading,” said Joshua. “By the fourth week, all of our attempts to fly back home were canceled either by airlines or, at the end, it was because the South African government had locked down the entire country.”
He shared a photo of the airport in Pretoria, where cars were blocked from entering. He’s had a similar experience with the U.S. Embassy, which he and Cecil tried to get into twice.
“I think many Americans think that if you travel abroad and here’s a U.S. Embassy and you can go in and be safe and secure. That’s just not the case,” Joshua said.
The Nidevers say the only communication they receive comes via press releases like one from Thursday, announcing the cancellation of a South African Airways repatriation flight. It notes “… we have no information on any other potential repatriation flights at this time … ” and “… We have no information on when commercial flights will resume.”
“We’re not exactly Priority No. 1 right now,” said Joshua.
He said, all things considered, he and his dad are doing well thanks to help and guidance from Cecil’s friends in the country.
“Other people who are trapped aren’t as fortunate as us. They don’t know people here,” Joshua explained, adding that they believe about 20 Americans are still in South Africa.
Though they’re staying positive and feel safe, there are two things that concern them: they’re growing bill (about $3000 a month for their Airbnb and rental car) and their business here in Houston.
“We’ve been getting more desperate to get home because we’re small business owners. Things are starting to get back up and running in Texas,” said Joshua.
While he and Cecil are in South Africa, Total Leather Care, the family business, is being run by mom Nadia.
“She is doing the best she can coordinating and taking care of things,” Joshua said. “She’s a bit worried about us, but she’s tough.”
The Nidever family has also been in contact with Sen. Ted Cruz’s office. They received an email yesterday, which said “… The State Department is still considering all options to assist U.S. citizens in South Africa.”
That help can’t come soon enough for Joshua, whose dream vacation is turning into a nightmare.
“Just one big adventure from start to finish it seems like,” Joshua summarized.