I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Auckland almost two weeks ago. I expected to be quarantined; I didn’t have any idea what that would mean on a day-to-day basis. But I had to get to New Zealand first… I wasn’t prepared for the empty airports and half-full airplanes. It was eerie. I encountered this novel way of traveling the minute I walked through security…wait, no lines! Then, walking in an empty San Francisco Terminal. Weird. The short flight to LAX, and then a long walk to the International Terminal, passing just a few a people instead of thousands. Crazy! And at the LAX International Terminal, where I had dreams of a nice dinner and Duty Free Shopping, I was instead met with…empty.
I kept expecting, as I peered around the corner, to see zombies heading my way; it was like I was in a movie set.
There are, fortunately, few airplanes arriving from overseas to New Zealand. I say fortunately since the several hours long process of customs and immigration at the airport would have been much longer if more jets had offloaded hundreds more people. But our half-full flight from LAX to Auckland was sufficient to test the limits of how long a line of weary travels can stretch in a hallway. I will go on record saying the entire process was incredibly well organized. When I cleared the last hurdle of a customs inspection, I was ushered onto a waiting bus, and then whisked off to a hotel in Auckland with about 40 other lucky travelers. We were let off the bus, one bubble at a time, and checked into the hotel. It was very efficient, and very organized. Suddenly it was easier to understand why the COVID19 virus didn’t fare well here. There are, on any given day, about 200-400 travelers being quarantined at this hotel. On alternate days I get either a phone call or a visit from health screener. I’m asked a litany of questions about possible symptoms, and by week 2 I was regaling the health care worker with my knowledge of the list by reciting it first. On those days when my room is visited, my symptoms are monitored (that list again…) and my temperature is checked. My meals are delivered to me three times a day in a little handled grocery bag…did someone say room service?! I was given an empty laundry bag, and told I had two ‘free’ bags of laundry that would be done during my stay. This will be better than college!, I thought.
We are given a menu twice a week to fill out…there are 2 choices for each of the 3 meals a day. My liver has embraced the ‘no alcohol’ delivery policy. It’s not that Nz is against drinking…but rather I think someone, wisely, thought that giving a bunch of quarantined souls unrestricted access to alcohol might not be the healthiest thing. I think they were right. On day 3 of quarantine I was COVID tested (a nasal swab, which is brief, but low on the fun scale), and then again tested on day 11. Thankfully, I was negative on both days, else my luxurious stay might be extended. We are allowed to pick one 1-hour slot for ‘outside’ exercise. It’s actually not all outside, as this wonderful respite time is spent on level 13 of the hotel’s parking structure, and most of the space-but blissfully not all- is concrete covered. One lap of the circuit is about 150 yards, with six 90 degree turns for each lap (yep, I counted).
I thought the time would go by slowly, though in fact each day has a nice little routine and pace to it. Wake up, make some coffee, stretch, do some Headspace, have breakfast, read and write, go out for the 10am one-hour outside time, back to the room for inside exercises and stretching, do some more reading and writing, have lunch, read and write some more, do a little more exercise, have dinner, watch some Netflix and go to bed. Intermixed in all this are calls, texts, Skype and FaceTime with my family, who I miss very much.
Very soon I will start work in Dunedin, and my little holiday will end. I look forward to the challenges, but I have grown quite accustomed to my little room and routine. Maybe…I’ll start coughing and see if I can get one more week here….
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