Building goes on as wife quarantined

Not long ago I received an email asking me to go back to the States to visit family. As it was the first such request in 30 years of living in New Zealand, I pushed aside all barriers to go. A gracious new employer allowed me to use up leave and then work from quarantine. Big Boat Man generously supported me both financially and emotionally in the chaos of making arrangements. The only consolation in it all was that I knew secretly he was looking forward to having house and time to himself again. The cat would take my place in many ways and not care when or what BBM ate.

All went fairly smoothly. Adult son Kai arrived at his aunt’s house before me and assisted with painting and other pre-sale tasks she requires before selling her house post retirement. He then drove me to Idaho where I had a wonderful, unrushed time with my own mother and other family members. It was a relaxing and wonderful period of being able to spend quality time without a specific event for which everyone was occupied preparing for, as in previous visits for birthdays, weddings, etc.

I enjoyed sitting side-by-side with my mother as we watched game shows and tried to out-do each other with answers, or playing scrabble with the same competitive focus as when I was young. It reminded me of when I was a young adult and introduced my then boyfriend to my mother’s grandmother. She was 94 years old, slow yet mobile, and sharper than my relatively inexperienced brain could keep up with. Over the years I’ve wondered if it was this influence of strong women which has driven me over the years. When I mentioned I was going to do a doctorate in my mid-50s, one brother asked if I was really that driven? Was I not happy with who and what I had become to date? Well, no, actually. What kind of a life would that be? I cannot imagine not striving for something. Life is working toward something. If not further academic or research understanding, then spending time with grandchildren such that we can better understand them, their needs, their dreams, and how we can be one of their stepping stones. If we stagnate, what use then? What fun then?

BBM continued his work on the St. Pierre boat and my son and I returned to help my sister with further painting and gardening. I talked to several family members who had traveled since the covid epidemic and they all assured me that I simply needed to go through a drive through testing station locally to get my pre-boarding covid test. The day I needed the test to be done per travel guidelines, I discovered that things had changed. Bookings were required and bookings only opened for 3-day windows. This meant the first available testing would be the day after my flight left the area. I panicked. I warned BBM and Brynn that things looked to be going badly. My thoughts were on the thousands of dollars we had already spent to facilitate my visit. My thoughts were also on my credit card limits and how much new tickets would cost.

We found one testing station deep into the next state over which had a booking available for a sizable cost. We booked it and continued to look. My sister found a commercial testing site at the airport, I paid through the nose before being tested through the nose, and cancelled the test in the other state.

Landing in LA, I found a general lack of information and informed people available. After wandering the airport and asking directions of several people, I found that no airport lounges were open, few shops were open, and the gate for the flight would not open for several hours. This caused me no little concern since I had been told to get my boarding pass for the final leg when I arrived in LA. So, after two hours of further walking to try to find an AirNZ representative, I gave up, exited the secured area and went to the check in area.

There I found a long line where representatives were roaming up and down the line asking randomly for covid test results and proof of quarantine bookings. I was told in the first instance that my covid test, for which I had paid another $200, was not sufficient. By the time I arrived at the front of the line, I was told that the test was sufficient, the other person simply had not looked at the finer print as my clerk was required to do. However, I was told, there was a problem with my passport and I might not be able to board the flight. What? After some delay and a call to immigration, the clerk decides that the problem was all of my own doing because I had used my American passport to book the flights. Well, customs had told me on previous trips that I was required to use that passport. The online booking only allows a person to use one passport, so I’m starting to understand why people with high blood pressure should probably dope up before considering any kind of modern day travel. Four hours after landing in LA, I finally am free to find something to eat. I forget the caffeine headache which had been brewing and go straight for a burger and beer. Then I remember my need for caffeine, order a large iced drink at the internationally known coffee brand. I’m told that it doesn’t come with caffeine shots, however I can pay for two shots to be added.

Waiting for the flight I suddenly remember that it is my last chance to get anything I might need during a 14-day quarantine. It’s after 8.00 pm and even fewer shops are open. I stride confidently into the convenience shop, find the low dosage aspirin, and decide against buying a full bottle. I look for a shop which had just sample sized packets but it has already closed. Back to the convenience shop to buy a full bottle of aspirin. Now I remember the boredom which is looming and look for puzzle books. The convenience shop has a limited collection. The bookshop on the other hand has many books, for many dollars. I contemplate what my future needs might be. If I get all of one variety of puzzle, I will tire of it quickly. I settle on a variety puzzle book which contains puzzles I have never heard of.

Landing in Auckland I overhear the airline staff musing about no police coming onto the plane before we are allowed into the custom clearing area. It is a sign that none of us are headed to Christchurch. Word also spreads that Rotorua and Taupo quarantine are closed, so we are confident in an Auckland stay. I am pleased to note that we don’t have to collect our luggage before being herded onto the buses. Then the bus driver announces we will sit locked on the bus until our luggage is cleared before we leave the airport. We must have all had non-threatening bags because we were on our way within an hour.

Arriving at the hotel, we are asked to choose our meals for the next two weeks. That, my friends, starts a saga that I cannot even begin to hope to put into words. Suffice to say that, in spite of paying $3100 for the privilege of staying in a 5-star hotel for 14 days, everything except the clean dry bed has been outsourced. The food arrives in a brown paper bag, stone cold if it was originally hot. This explains the need for every room to have a microwave. There is no brewed or cafe style coffee available from the hotel. Only instant packets of coffee and tea, with tap water and a kettle provided.

I was brave and was eating these stodgy meals with horrid salt content, gravies, and high carbs until the indigestion was down right painful. I broke down and got apps for Countdown and Uber Eats so that I could supplement my diet and get something to counteract the indigestion. Apple cider vinegar and coke appear to be the most effective so far. Unfortunately, because I wanted to avoid additional sugars I ordered no sugar coke. This appears to have something else in it because I now have swollen fingers and toes.

Each day I ring BBM. Each day he gives me a rundown not only on the progress on his boat, but what he is cooking for himself that day. Short ribs. Shepherd pie. Steak, chips and eggs. Oh, yes, and he forgot to get the salad he had planned from the shop. He laughs when I explain the need for ordering from Uber and the shop. He says he has just given the cat a new special kind of food. It sounds better than what I’m having.

But I tell BBM I really cannot complain. I was just online with a friend whose parents went back to China for the first time in four years. It appears that it is a lottery for their quarantine, starting with which city they fly into. The quarantine periods range from 2-4 weeks there, with your movements checked to ensure you don’t go into a 4-week city prematurely. It seems his parents were assigned to an inexpensive hotel. In the first couple of days the hotel fire system had a fault which meant they were hosed down with everything getting wet for no good reason. He said the bright side was that their food was good.

BBM agrees that I really cannot complain. His boat is progressing and he looks forward to my being home again. He cannot find the chutneys for his meats. I tell him they are in the storage cupboard. Really? Oh, yes, well, that’s me sorted. All the best with your quarantine, Love. We’ll see you soon.

As I type this, a second lunch is delivered to my room. I check it in hope that perhaps others are getting something different from my own fare. Nope. I call out to those delivering the lunches. I certainly don’t want to keep it. Some other poor soul may be waiting with bated breath for it.

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