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  • Writer's picturewanderingmiles

Covid-19 in New Zealand 🇳🇿

Updated: Feb 26

On Monday 23rd March, in the final week of what felt like the longest month ever, New Zealand announced that the country would be going on lockdown at Midnight on Wednesday 25th March. Like most other countries worldwide we had to respond to the fast and imminent spread of Covid-19, unlike most other countries we acted incredibly fast, before we had even 1 death from the virus. Jacinda Arden gave the public and businesses just over 48 hours to prepare for 4 weeks of complete lockdown. People had to get to somewhere they wanted to spend the lockdown and so all guests who arrived at our hostel by Wednesday evening were going to be stuck in Nelson for the duration unless they got a flight back to their home country. And so lockdown began.

The UK went into lockdown the same day and the outcomes at the time I am writing this are very different. As of today (4th May 2020) New Zealand has 0 new cases and 20 deaths compared with the UK of approx 28, 466 deaths.

On Monday 20th April, Jacinda announced we would have an extra 5 days of lockdown before we moved down to level 3 on Tuesday 28th April. This means very similar restrictions but more businesses could open - cafes and restaurants for takeaways and tradesrs such as construction workers can go back to work. Social restrictions still apply, we still have to stay in our bubble, social distance outside our bubble and only go out for exercise, grocery shopping or essential work etc. This is the level we are at as I write this so for people at the hostel, not much as changed between the levels other than the ability to get takeaway coffee and food which wasn't available at all during full lockdown.

Living in a hostel during this crazy time is a completely different experience to what everyone back home is having. We have been able to socialise in our bubble which has meant I've actually made more friends with hostel guests than I would have in normal times as usually I don't bother getting to know guests as they only stay for 1-2 nights before they leave again. Now I know every single guest and I have had some of the most memorable experiences of my time in New Zealand so far. At times I feel so guilty that I am not suffering during this time, I am still being paid from my job despite not being able to work and I have been able to keep my work for accommodation job meaning my only spending is on food and my main sacrifice is weekends away and getting out the hostel to go to work. This is been a very difficult time for a lot of people, frustrating, scary and worrying but my family and friends are all safe and being sensible back home and my grandparents who are the most at risk people in my life are safe and as healthy as they can be and I am very aware that I am very lucky to so far not have been personally effected by the virus. I think Cambodia also really prepared me for this kind of situation. I lived in a rural village for 10 weeks with very little freedom, no access to a vehicle, limited wifi and very basic food. I have gotten very used to finding things to fill my time and not being able to do stuff I usually would so this hasn't been as hard for me as it maybe would have been. Plus I couldn't get my brows and lashes done there and I can't get them done here at the moment either so I can get through this.

I have been FaceTiming home weekly as usual but we have been doing a weekly quiz too, Eve wrote one which I used for the first week and then the loser each week has been writing one for the next week. It's been great fun and I would have been FaceTiming them whether Corona was happening or not so that's not been a change for me either.

I am also lucky that I live at Bridge Backpackers. Some hostels were extremely strict and only allowed guests in the kitchen to cook, they then had to hang out and eat in their rooms. We put rules in place of a max of 2 guests per dorm, and 6 people in the kitchen/at a table/ in the TV room at a time. If these rules were respected by guests we didn't have to get any stricter and we have been so lucky that we have not had to just spend time in our rooms. Cleaning shifts changed and we went from 5 shifts a week to 6 shifts split between 3 different times of day, then when Tommaso left we went to 7 shifts each a week. Majority of my shifts are with Lur who I love so much, we a re a dream team and she makes me smile even when I'm in a a bad mood. I have been able to cook and bake a lot because the kitchen here is amazing. A lot of guests have been baking and sharing their food and I have become a pro at banana cake - the most basic baked good that everyone has been baking during lockdown but it just tastes so good. The weather has been amazing, and we have an outdoor area which has meant I've been able to get out in the sun alongside my daily walk so I've been able to keep on top of my tan - priorities. I am also so lucky that Nelson is the gift that keeps on giving with its beauty. I have been able to explore and fall more in love with the place I now call home and I still haven't seen all of it. I've found the oldest preserved street in New Zealand, incredible views and Nelsons amazing street art. Nelson is known as 'Sunny Nelson' and it has proved that to be the case with the Autumn weather so far, although I am still not ready for winter temperatures, turns out I just love the sun and warm weather.

Initially I wrote this blog with paragraphs of my fav memories of lockdown, but I've changed it to list days with my fav events.

Day 1 (26 March) - Chatty guest from Florida baked cinnamon buns for the whole hostel with donations welcome for him to bake a banana bread for us - they were delicious and gave the idea it would be a regular thing...he would never bake for the whole hostel again

Day 2 (27 March) - Started getting to know the people I would be living with and cleaning up after for the next 4 weeks at least, some people I wouldn't actually have a conversation with before they flew home...

Day 3 (28 March) - tried to balance on the side of the wooden ramp at the hostel and fell off onto Alex and the chair she was sat on and scraped my I have 3 scars down my left leg...

Day 6 (31 March) - had a full day of sunbathing down the side of the hostel (away from everyone else of course) keeping on top of my amazing tan, priorities.

Day 7 (1 April) - Me and Taylor made chicken tikka masala and homemade roti and had a cute meal together. Also Ashleigh and Michael cycled past and dropped me off some of Michaels banana bread and it was amazing - saviours

Day 11 (5 April) - We are watching Lucifer as a group (Me, Lur, Taylor, Tomasso and Tim) 2-3 episodes per night and tonight Taylor had an emotional breakdown because Lucifer and Chloe almost kissed

Day 13 (7 April) - there was a beautiful sunset tonight so of course we went outside and had a photo shoot

Day 15 (9 April) - Taylor learned how to do keepy uppies or what she calls juggling (?!) and I watched her practise for over an hour...

Day 16 (10 April) - Sien, on of the guests who is also a tattoo artist finished her amazing mural painting on the wall in the TV room and it's beaut (picture below)

Day 17 (11 April) - Played Skyjo for the first time and loved it - made a mental note to buy it when I can

Day 18 (12 April - Easter Sunday) - one of my fav days in the hostel, we had a hostel brunch in the morning and then the woofers cooked a roast chicken dinner. We took lots of photos of our food and Taylor made me remove my bottle of vodka from the table so that it didn't ruin the photos. Because we had a mixture of cultures with Taylor from the US, Fanette and Solen from France, Lur from Spain and Tommaso from Italy we had bread on the side of our roast dinner, strange but it worked

Day 20 (14 April) - made my first banana bread and it was amazing. Cue the start of the obsession of baking banana bread.

Day 21 (15 April) - Me and Taylor took a walk, found a mosaic bench and did a photo shoot

Day 22 (16 April) - While I was cleaning I noticed a woman had walked her poodle down the side of the hostel. She then got it to sit and pose infant of hr graffiti wall and I have never seen a more patient or photogenic dog in my life. It was amazing so I went outside and had a conversation over the wall with the woman who hadn't realised I was watching - she had been taking pictures of the dog infant of all the artwork murals around Nelson as part of her daily exercise.

Day 24 (18 April) - on an unusually wet day in Nelson I managed to split my head open while running to the laundry as it was raining - ran head first into the corner of the metal frame of one of the windows. Hurt like a bitch and resulted in a trip to urgent care and 4 stitches

Day 30 (24 April) - Me and Taylor took another beaut walk and I fell more in love with Nelson

Day 31 (25 April) - ANZAC day - me Taylor, Lur, Jona, Mark, Max and Theo had day drinks, took a lot of photos, baked drunk chocolate chip cookies and we finished series 4 of Lucifer but some of us (me and Lur) couldn't remember the ending so we had to rewatch the day after

Day 33 (27 April) - 11 year old me's dream was relived as we began our Pirates of the Caribbean marathon. Curse of the Black Pearl will forever be my fav and my love for Will Turner is as strong as it ever was.

(We (Me, Taylor, Max, Kat, Yinon and occasionally Nils) have also watched the Frozen films, Toy Story 1-4, Mamma Mia 1 and 2 and both Guardians of the Galaxy films) Me and Taylor want to watch Cars next but it was vetoed by the rest of the group

Day 34 (28 April) - found the oldest preserved street in New Zealand - less than a 10 minute walk from the hostel - wonder if I'd have ever found it if corona hadn't we moved down to level 3 and are a step closer to me being able to get my brows waxed and tinted

Day 35 (29 April) - Played cards until the early hours with Nils and Yinon and laughed so much because I am the queen of shithead and kept beating them

Day 36 (30 April) - went on a walk with Taylor, Kat and Max...Kat ate an entire tub of ice cream on the walk and we took a lot of photos

Day 38 (2 May) - Thessa organised games for everyone for Kings Day which she would usually celebrate in Holland. It included getting a biscuit from our forehead to our mouths without using our hands and tying a piece of string with a nail on it round our waists and squatting to get the nail into a bottle - totally normal

Day 40 (4 May) - maybe my proudest moment to date as I converted Taylor (my fourth conversion so far from my time in New Zealand) to Derry Girls and we watched the entire of season 1 and it is still hilarious the 5th time round. We bicker like actual sisters now and I don't want to imagine the time when she leaves me to explore more of this amazing country because she is one of my main rocks here. 

No idea what day this happened on but one of the funniest moments of the hostel was one morning when a guest from Florida stormed out the kitchen demanding to know 'who the fuck ate his banana bread'. Turns out what had happened was the night before all us woofers had been in the kitchen and the banana bread had been left unlabelled out on the main had been shared out between everyone earlier in the day so after a good 5 minute discussion as to whether or not it had been left out for people to eat...we decided it would be fine to have some so I had quite a large slice and the others had a bit and then we moved it out the way. So naturally I walked in on the chaos of the missing banana bread and had to go and own up to the theft as another guest was being was delicious so was totally worth it and we have since remembered that people left donations on day 1 for him to bake us all banana bread so any guilt I had has completely gone haha - this was before I started making my own and lost the need to turn to theft.

I am so glad that I chose to stay in New Zealand for the duration of the Corona pandemic. This will be a part of history that we will all be discussing for years to come and I have had a very unique experience. It will be weird when everything goes back to normal and my new friends leave to continue their travels. Thank God Lur and Tim plan to stay in Nelson for a few months like me and I'll have Taylor for hopefully at least an extra month once she can go back to work. I am lucky I had a job which has paid me throughout this and have looked after me alongside accommodation and a family at Bridge who have also looked after me. When I split my head open it was the first time I felt homesick while I've been here but my hostel family looked after me so well and made sure I was OK and checked on me every day for about a week after until I got my stitches out. Alex kept me hydrated, Taylor and Tim checked on me every 30 minutes and Taylor did my washing up and made me breakfast, Lur did my laundry for me and Laura and Tony drove me to the hospital and waited for me to get my stitches in AND drove me back a week later to get them out - ANGELS.

Everyone here has kept me sane throughout the past 7 weeks and they have all given me memories for life. It's been amazing to be here and I definitely don't say that I'm 'stuck' in New Zealand. But I am so excited to be able to meet up with Ashleigh and Michael again and go for a drink with them and have their brummie accents back in my life.

My initial plans for the rest of the year may have changed and there is uncertainty as to what will happen in the next few months but I am interested and excited to see how it pans out. And it won't surprise you to know that I am excited to compare the reactions of different countries to the threat of Corona and see how the different handlings of it have worked out. The social history during this period will be huge and hopefully we learn in the future how to better handle global pandemics...

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