American teacher stuck in Italy takes travel ban, lockdown in stride

Published: Mar. 15, 2020 at 3:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In January, Kenneth Rasmussen, a teacher from New York headed to the Adriatic Coast in southern Italy to teach English.

He has enjoyed Italian culture and Italian life. Now, he is forced to stay there at least a month longer.

“I’m basically stuck here,” Rasmussen admitted in a Facetime call with WIS.

President Trump announced Wednesday night that all travel from Europe to the U.S. would be suspended for 30 days starting Friday at midnight. Not only is Rasmussen stranded, but he is also restricted in where he can go, confined primarily to his apartment.

As coronavirus swept across the European nation, and Italy in particular, the entire country went on a mandatory lockdown.

“Here in the South, at first restaurants, bars and cafes were open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. so you could still go out and have a social life. But the nightlife was shut down. It wasn’t until a few days ago that the prime minister shut down all of it. Only grocery stores and pharmacies are open,” Rasmussen said.

He said it’s strange to see the country on lockdown. He added it is the exact opposite of Italian culture, which he said is based on socializing and affection.

Additionally, Rasmussen said he is required to have documentation anytime he leaves his residence. If stopped by authorities, he would be forced to furnish a signed form that proves he is allowed to be out.

School has been canceled in Italy nationwide, leaving Rasmussen to resort to teaching online, which is providing him some income.

Rasmussen said he could not afford a $1,200 flight to get back to the U.S., but said he is just trying to take the inconvenient reality in stride.

He said he is spending time catching up on Netflix, cooking, and learning to speak Italian.

“It’s wild,” Rasmussen said. “You have to look for the silver linings. Otherwise, you’d go crazy,” he said with a laugh.

Rasmussen said his tourist visa expires on April 3, but believes the soonest he will be able to fly back to the U.S. would be April 13.

He said he is working with the U.S. Embassy to arrange accommodations. He does not have a wife and kids, but he does have parents and siblings waiting for his safe return.

In the meantime, he is doing his best to stay healthy and staying positive, waiting out this inconvenient hiatus.

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