20th August 2020
Dear New Zealanders
In the last 5 months I have learned another meaning for many words. Bubble, physical and social distancing, a-symptomatic, Level 4 to 1 lockdowns, Click and collect, Novel Coronavirus shortened to Covid or the virus became topics of many conversations and are still continuing as we negotiate through a global pandemic.
To me the Government outlined, based on the best information possible, that the older generations are vulnerable. This has proved true and the effect of the virus on those in aged care homes, families and staff has been very sad.
In 2019 I travelled alone for 2 months in Europe but 5 months later I fell into the vulnerable category as announced by the Government and Covid guidelines advised that I stay home and ask someone else to buy my groceries. With the world now a different place I had to adapt to find my new daily life.
In New Zealand we have a reasonable right of free speech and freedom to live our life. However in March 2020 I am very thankful the Government of New Zealand made the decision to close the borders and lockdown the people. Over the next few weeks I turned off the news because as I listened to many of the experts I felt no decision would have been made and the virus would be much more widespread and consuming everyone’s worries, health and economy.
When the virus H1N1 emerged I was teaching English in China and wore masks home on the plane but felt safe on arrival in New Zealand. After New Zealand had its first case of the virus the community sensed there was more to the situation than with previous recent virus epidemics. Clubs and activities were closing and office workers were sent home to work and I was happy to start staying at home to keep well. Then a week later the Government announced Lockdown Level 3 then 4.
Although we didn’t know how long it would be, as an accountant I have worked from home for 10 years so I felt I could cope with being at home in Level 4 lockdown. I had no family my home town. However the kindness of others whom I got to know as a volunteer was gratefully received in case I could not go out or got sick.
The first week I was very worried about what would happen if I got sick. I had been doing activities in the community and in contact with others. Once the week passed I then felt safe in my bubble, and had the chance to keep out of the mix of people and contribute that to the slowdown of the virus attack. I realised I had been given a shock and needed to treat myself well and find every positive comfort. I needed to keep to a routine and find things to focus on and be thankful that I had one day at a time to make the most of. I needed exercise, outside in the local community, sunshine, sharing with others, creative activities, something new. Every bit of good news from family and friends was wonderful.
In this pandemic in 2020, the difference from 100 years ago was we had technology to keep in touch, watch meetings and films at home which were recorded round the world.
It is only a few years since I gave my father’s and uncle’s photographs of their record of World War Two to the Auckland Museum to record their sacrifice for the future of New Zealand and contribution of who we are. Never did I think that 2020 would create history.
From my bubble a great start to the day has been walking and standing near the trees in Hamilton.
These oak trees were planted over 100 years ago and as I dodged falling acorns I hoped the trees would draw in and absorb the virus as they may have done with the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic. In addition the community left fruit and plants at the gate, pinned up Anzac poppies and dressed teddies in the windows. I knew there were people inside doing the same as I was trying to let the virus have nowhere to go. I added to the daily walking interest by painting acrylic pictures of animals and showing them in my front window. In line with Covid guidelines I had gloves in my jacket pocket and a plastic bag to bring home the community sharing.
Since I was a teenager I have participated in Scottish Country Dancing. As everyone worldwide is
affected and in lockdown the headquarters of the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society in Edinburgh started weekly online classes. Although there are different time zones the feeling of sharing has been important to me and I enjoy seeing dancers logged in from all round the world. In the evenings I close the curtains, turn up the music and using technology invite dancers to teach from their living rooms and hear their story of their countries’ lockdown. Of course with no-one watching I can dance very well. There were online jigsaws of places I visited last year so I could dream.
For something new I tried weekday morning exercise in front of the TV and enjoyed sharing this with other New Zealanders in lockdown.
In Level 3 and Level 2 for 5 weeks I was sewing for a local childcare centre sharing my skills with the community. When the sewing was delivered we did the appropriate physical distancing of 2 metres at my front door.
Something old, something new happened with shopping. As a child in Auckland we had bread and milk delivered to the letterbox daily and groceries delivered from the local store when required. In 1958 I went shopping with my grandparents at the first supermarket in New Zealand at Otahuhu, Auckland. Shoppers took their own baskets and non-plastic bags. It was a new way of shopping which expanded to today's supermarkets. As an adult I bought supplies most weeks until supermarkets needed to limit people shopping at any time as per Level 4 and 3 Covid guidelines. From 26th March 2020 for 7 weeks my neighbours bought groceries for me and left them on my verandah. In Level 2 when I could get my own supplies I had kept out of shops and public places so I was not confident to go back shopping. In any case I didn’t need to because internet shopping had developed and the supermarkets wanted a spread of people so as few as possible were in the shop. The supermarkets opened early for essential workers and I was thankful to see that the Student Volunteer Army would get groceries for those who could not. So was it old or new, I could sit at my computer and order supplies by click and collect and delivery to my front door. I do wash my groceries as advised but know when they come out of my cupboards they are hygienic also from colds and flu. Internet shopping is continuing with the second lockdown period as I do not need to be in the general mix of people who have to feed families or go to work. To buy New Zealand and local as far as possible for winter comfort I treated myself to 2 online orders to my door with the buzzwords ‘contactless delivery’.
Many times during the night I thought of my family who have passed on. What would they have done in a lockdown pandemic? They volunteered to go overseas and fight in World War two leaving sweethearts in New Zealand and learnt more than they ever wished to tell me. I just needed to sleep in my own bed and cook what I needed.
Mostly I was able to get what food I required for day to day meals. The flour was in short supply as many bought extra to cook at home with no takeaways available and a creative activity for themselves and learning for children. After 4 weeks of not being able to buy flour I shook the bag of flour upside down and used every bit of flour dust to try a recipe. The TV showed cooking programmes which to me was sharing the presenters own home kitchen giving us some inspiration for trying new recipes of what we had left in our cupboards until next shopping day. I found this is a game of making everything as best I could from what I had.
Click and collect is still being used for my borrowing of library books, and the libraries online catalogue is very important for a continuous supply of reading.
I feel there were things that inevitably were missed or not done in the most efficient manner by the wider government people. Everyone scrambled to find their own path at home, at work and abide by guidelines and we are still learning. However I am very grateful and proud that I live in New Zealand. Level 4 and Level 3 merged together. It is hard to be out there doing everything again and I have taken outings in small steps. As Level 2 arrived I was able to drive further than my local area and since Level 1 in the last 7 weeks I have enjoyed dancing with others, days away at a beach and seeing family and friends again. As we go into a second round of the virus the worry returns of how long this will affect the world. The words may be often used at present but I know that this is an extraordinary and unprecedented time in our lives and I must make every day great. If I will be able to travel again is something which is beyond my control but I am able to contribute now by keeping to the best practice available.
Thank you to the essential workers who continue to keep our country working.
From one of the team of 5 million. We all have a different story. Thank you for this opportunity to add my experiences.