What started as a dream for Kyle Sweet of Concord - to work remotely for two months while visiting family in Peru and discovering the rich ruins - quickly turned into a trip from hell. As news of the coronavirus swept the world, borders were closed, and Sweet became one of the thousands of Americans trapped abroad.
ABC7 News reporter Julian Glover spoke Sweet via Zoom video call as he sat on a bus in the capital city of Lima waiting to board a flight back to Miami.
"There's definitely times that were very tough mentally. Especially because I was in kind of in an outer area in the countryside. I couldn't quite do like a Zoom meeting like this or a video interview with my buddies," said Sweet.
CORONAVIRUS MAP: SF data shows which neighborhoods have been hit hardest by COVID-19
With little direction from the State Department and U.S. Embassy in Peru to get him back to the Bay Area, Sweet turned to social media.
"So, what impacted me the most is these just three amazing people who stepped up, like in a time where I was really in need," said Sweet.
The Facebook group Americans Stuck in Peru has more than 5,500 members and counting. Ainsley Katz is one of the admins. She stepped up to help others after helping get her father and his girlfriend out of Cusco, Peru several weeks ago. Katz said she had to help after seeing how overwhelmed the U.S. government was with repatriation efforts. She is a civilian and is unaffiliated with any humanitarian groups.
"I ended up creating a spreadsheet registry of everyone that I knew was stuck in Peru and it reached up to 3,000 people who put their name in the spread sheet" said Katz.
RELATED: How close was California to having a New York-level coronavirus crisis? Our interactive timeline takes a look
She keeps busy by mostly answering questions and connecting the stranded to resources within the country, but perhaps her biggest effort is arranging ground transportation to get stranded Americans like Sweet to the capital of Lima in order to board a flight back to the states. It took Sweet 27 hours via bus to make it from the quaint countryside to Lima. He'll catch a flight from Lima to Miami and then to San Francisco before he can finally return home. And he's already thinking of coming back.
"I'd like to go back to Peru and actually be able to explore everything instead of, you know, explore the interior of the house" he said.
Once Sweet makes it back home Wednesday morning he'll then have a 14-day self-quarantine to look forward to. He said he's glad to be coming home finally but wants to raise awareness for the hundreds of other Americans he estimates are still trapped in Peru who may not have the means to pay for the $2,000 plane ticket like he did.
If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.
Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here
RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- Live updates about coronavirus outbreak in US, around the world
- Coronavirus data: See how the curve of COVID-19 cases is bending in each Bay Area county
- Everything you need to know about the Bay Area's shelter-in-place order
- Coronavirus Doctor's Note: Dr. Alok Patel gives his insight into COVID-19 pandemic
- Stimulus calculator: How much money should you expect from coronavirus relief bill
- WATCH: ABC7's interactive town hall 'Race and Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation'
- What Bay Area tenants need to know about rent payments, eviction amid COVID-19 outbreak
- Here's how shelter in place, stay at home orders can slow spread of COVID-19
- Coronavirus Timeline: Tracking major moments of COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area/
- Coronavirus and the new normal of living in the San Francisco-Bay Area -- COVID-19 Diaries
- Happy hour goes virtual as people try to be sociable while social distancing during COVID-19 crisis
- Coronavirus Outbreak: Here's why you should practice 'social distancing'
- DRONEVIEW7: What the Bay Area looks like during the coronavirus shelter-in-place
- ABC7's drive around San Francisco shows empty streets, businesses shuttered
- Symptoms, prevention, and how to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the US
- List of stores, companies closing due to coronavirus pandemic
- Canceled late fees, free services available amid COVID-19 crisis
- Here's how you can help during COVID-19 pandemic
- How to maintain learning during school closures
- No masks but here are 100+ products that may help protect you against novel coronavirus germs
- Here's a look at some of history's worst pandemics that have killed millions
- Asian community fighting racism, xenophobia, bigotry as world fights COVID-19