MIQ Day 13 – end in sight!

Friday. Friday 13th – should we be afraid?

A day on which we were particularly idle.

Highlights

  • Our day 12 tests are negative! Not exactly sure why we thought that was ever in doubt, but very conscious that if you are going to catch covid in NZ right now, it’s going to be while you’re in MIQ! Good to know we’ve managed to spend nearly two weeks on the ‘high risk’ end of the border, and managed not to catch anything.
  • Friday’s chef is very fine, very fine indeed. Eggs bene for breakfast, fish & chips for lunch and filet mignon (as much as you can in a plastic tub) for dinner. Oh, with rhubarb apple crumble and custard for dessert. Very fine indeed. A couple of glasses of NZ bubbles to celebrate – decided to save the Tattinger to celebrate with Pip & Howard once we’re out.

Lowlights

  • No exercise outside today at all – foul weather, and not wanting to risk catching something by walking outside on the ramp in the rain. An online pilates class to make do – very much looking forward to getting back to my reformer!

Final reflections on two weeks of idleness

  • The less you have to do, the less you do. Honestly I cannot believe how little has been achieved in these two weeks.
  • When you’re confined to a tiny space, keeping things clean and tidy becomes unreasonably important – I’ve actually surprised myself! Although I must admit my zeal for the perfectly made bed diminished as we got closer to exit.
  • There is an unreasonable amount of rubbish on television – and the advertising, OMG! I can’t believe how awful most of it is. I’ll be very happy to get back to my mostly tv-free lifestyle.

And so, just one more sleep to go. Tomorrow we will be out… fingers and toes crossed that there are no last minute hitches. This whole adventure has taught me the true meaning of being “agile” – accepting that there is no certainty left in the way we live our lives.

MIQ Day 12 – Testing Day

Thursday.

The long awaited Day 12 Covid tests!

Highlights

  • Everyone needs feedback. Good to know I’m going to be able to share my observations with both the hotel (an invitation to provide feedback to the hotel manager by email), and the MIQ system (an online survey), which I will ‘park’ for now and fill in once I’m actually out, and have experienced, well, the full experience!
  • Chats with Alfie, Rob and Jenna. He is getting SO CUTE, and the photos of his first foray into solid food are just priceless! He is definitely his father’s son – Piggy Jnr in the making!
  • Pip to the rescue! Shock, horror – I miscalculated our coffee needs and had to share the final scoops with Peter for a half-cup each. Thanks Pip for the delivery from Kokako, even though you know nothing at all about coffee – great choice!
  • News that we are trying to ramp up our vaccination programme, with everyone aged 16+ eligible to be vaccinated from 1 September. Let’s get on with it people!

Lowlights

  • Aaargh! That testing swab up your nose just never gets easier. Spare a thought for our frontline workers, including MIQ staff, who are being testing regularly – it really is like someone is digging in your brain!
  • Missing out on the bookings for the rooftop terrace tomorrow (forgot to call them early enough!) – meaning we have one more day on The Ramp. Meaning the super-spreader-sneakers will get one more outing!

Observations on #FortressNZ as we prepare to head out into the real ring-fenced world

A lot of time today was spent watching the forum discussing Reconnecting New Zealand to the World. I’m still undecided about whether that is a highlight or lowlight – but certainly slightly reassuring to know that someone is even thinking about the need to re-connect. Now to get them to acknowledge that reconnecting families is at least as important as business re-connections, maybe even more so.

Of course, it’s all contingent on the vain hope that “everyone” will get vaccinated.

And as they say “hope is not a strategy!”

MIQ Day 11 – OUCH!

Wednesday.

A very full day with an early start. No time for breakfast (delivered late), as I settled in for an all-dayer on Zoom, starting at 8.30am.

Highlights

  • Nothing to do with MIQ, but rediscovering the joy of being part of Kiwinet, helping to accelerate smart science out into making a difference in the world. New Zealand’s great talent never fails to make my heart sing. The long day on Zoom passed in a flash.
  • A thoughtful hotel staffer who, on delivering our daily ration of 2 bottles of wine to the room, lurked in the corridor (yes, more than 2m away from our door) to enquire, when I opened it, whether we needed a corkscrew, having noticed that the bottles did not have screwcaps. Such a tiny thing to show he cares.
  • The arrival of our departure instructions along with the breakfast delivery. It did make me ponder how people less literate than we are navigate their MIQ experience – there are a LOT of instructions, all in very wordy documents. This one key point is highlighted – “Your Departure Time is confirmed” HURRAY! Note the capital letters… Departure Time is definitely worthy of capitalisation!
  • A late afternoon exercise slot on the (still-covered) rooftop terrace, with views of the setting sun over the harbour. Breathe out!

Lowlights

  • Missing out on being at my Kiwinet meeting in person, especially given the amazing venue in the Legislative Chamber at the Beehive! Damn!
  • Closer to home, my toe!
    The curse of the tiny hotel room is that the more stuff you put in it, the more things there are to trip over, and the rearranged furniture didn’t help. In my haste to head for the bathroom in between Zoom presentations, I kicked my toe not once, but twice (I know, slow learner) on Peter’s bike setup, and I’m pretty sure it’s broken. Oh dear. Only the little one, mind you… but not happy! Peter was unsympathetic, though he did encourage me to strap it up last night, which helped. Don’t even think about asking why we always have strapping tape in our luggage!
  • An a somewhat lesser disaster – tossing my bowl of muesli onto my lap and the carpet in the middle of my meeting! Which led to the hilarious, undocumented sight of Peter crawling around the floor under my meeting table picking up flakes of Light & Tasty, one at a time! Well, it gave him something to do.

Things that are bothering me as the end of our incarceration looms…

  • What if our Day 12 tests are positive? I mean, technically, I know what will happen next, but I really, really don’t want to think about that?
  • What if the one of the other 4 people who are exercising on the roof with us today tests positive – will we be classified as close contacts? At least when we’re on the ramp, we’re on our own.
  • Why has no one at any stage recorded the fact that we are fully vaccinated – surely that’s a key data point if they’re trying to learn from what’s happening in MIQ?
  • What if Koki doesn’t recognise us when we get home? Or doesn’t want to know us because we abandoned her?
  • Given how little of my planned activities I’ve actually completed while locked up with technically nothing to do, will I ever be productive again?

And given that I’m not usually a huge worrier, how do people who are worriers cope with MIQ? Because there really is a LOT to worry about in here!

And so, with a furrowed brow, and a resolve to worry less (and maybe try to DO more) tomorrow, I put my foot up on a pillow and fell asleep.

Postscript!

In case anyone is wondering, food is still excellent – even if today was a bit of a “fast food” day, with chilli con carne nachos for lunch, and great burger and chips for dinner.

MIQ Day 10 – Double Digits!

Tuesday.

Time to rearrange the furniture in the room so Peter doesn’t accidentally wander across my Zoom screen in a state of undress!

Highlights

  • A surprise delivery – cheeeeesy goodness “with love from London” the note said. Well, obviously the cheese itself didn’t come from London, but the love certainly did – thank you Rob, Jenna & Alfie!
  • Maybe the best food day yet (apart from the cold poached eggs in the late breakfast delivery. Seafood chowder for Peter, Rogan Josh for me at lunchtime, with buffalo wings, onion rings and coleslaw for dinner. Fried chicken is definitely our chef’s special talent!
  • More chalk drawings on the wall of the ramp – including from a kid (one assumes) loving hotel life (and, no doubt, more attention from their parents than usual!)
  • Regular updates from our lovely house-sitters – Koki is indeed living her best life with Keith and Tallulah, and I’m not sure she’s going to be all that pleased to see us back!

Lowlights

  • Having to keep the curtains closed so that my “zoomies” can actually see me (and not Peter) in the meeting – I hate living in the dark, and hotel room lighting is somehow always suboptimal!
  • Realising that OMG I really am going to have to take drastic action when we get out. Lockdown kilos were certainly real, but MIQ kilos are worse thanks to the double whammy of great food and terrible exercise opportunities!

Observations for future inmates

People want to know how you’re doing. Being in MIQ is not an everyday experience, and no matter how mundane and boring you think it is – well actually, it really is mundane and boring – your family, friends and colleagues (at least some of them) will appreciate a daily ramble. Surprising, but true.

And who knows, you may even look back on your ramblings yourself, if only to reassure yourself that this is indeed doable, and a small(ish) price to pay for reconnecting with whanau and the wider world.

MIQ Day 9 – a new week

Monday.

A day of sliding slowly back into some actual work conversations – nice.

Highlights

Today’s highlight was definitely a conversation with the security man up on the Rooftop Terrace exercise area.

Look, a crack in the roof!!!

So, I asked, do you ever open up the roof? (The area is designed to be an open air terrace, with a large circus-tent-like awning, one assumes, providing wet weather cover if needed. However, even on sunny days, the roof has remained firmly shut – I was wondering if we need to book an exercise appointment later in the day, when it might be open.

Oh no, he says, the Chief Medical Officer has instructed us to keep it closed. He doesn’t want us letting the virus out into open air, to waft down into the streets of Auckland.

He’s joking? Right? He has to be joking?
I laughed, he laughed… not for me to second guess the boss, he says. Maybe he’s not joking? OMG!

He pointed to the tiny area in the corner currently uncovered by awning – usually coned off because the tiles are wet, and therefore a slipping hazard – just as well the boss doesn’t know about that bit, he says. Wow!

I had speculated earlier that if someone had a death wish, it wouldn’t take much to leap up onto the handrail, swing off the roof strut and be out off the top of the building… but only quietly so. There are more hazards to worry about than the virus wafting down into the street, just saying.

Lowlights

Probably the realisation that the security man isn’t joking at all.

And noticing how truly filthy my sneakers are from walking on The Ramp… definitely going to the bin at the end of this adventure!

And a final thought for the day.

Is New Zealand slowly sliding into being a Pacific Island, where old people live and young people visit (though of course, not currently)? Power cuts, shortages of construction workers, and construction materials… shortages of medical staff to (wo)man our already tiny inventory of ICU beds… and sadly, an increasingly insular, “us against the world” mindset, that’s not just allowing this all to happen, but apparently applauding it.

I tag these post #FortressNZ not because I support the mindset, but because it is something I believe we need to rail against.

Just one woman’s view.

MIQ Day 8 – a day of rest

Sunday.

A day of rest (technically) and one on which the boredom definitely started to set in.

Highlights

  • The salmon for dinner, with cauliflower and broccoli in blue cheese sauce… definitely a highlight, although I am still wondering why Peter’s dish included a cob of corn, and mine did not?
  • The staff who go out of their way to be positive – from the cheery nurse who arrives at our door to take our temperatures each day, to the Army lady guarding the ramp who commented on my (I just want to drink wine and bake Christmas cookies) T-shirt, to the lady on reception who picked us the Chilean wine from our stash, because she’s from there… they all understand that this is not easy, and that a cheery comment makes a huge difference
  • One should of course be grateful that our booking to exercise on The Ramp was in the morning, before the horrible wind and rain storm that battered Auckland later in the day arrived! This morning the barrier at the bottom as again set up up against the end of the incline, and we made it our mission to nudge each cone just a little bit further out into the flat on each lap, as a public service to the inmates who had the booking after us. I called it the magically meandering road cone… and we certainly gained about a metre without being noticed by the not-so-watchful eye of the private security guard on duty, which was a small win for personal freedoms!
  • Clearly, the instruction to not touch the walls is being taken with a large pinch of salt by our fellow inmates (or maybe they would argue that they are only touching the chalk that they’re using to write on said walls…. tempted to get an order of pavement chalk to add to the display!

Lowlights

  • Boredom, definitely the boredom.
    Which caused me to reflect on the unavoidable fact that boredom has nothing at all to do with having nothing at all to do. My “to do” list is still very much there, with a range of large and small tasks that I could easily tackle. No, boredom is actually about motivation, about simply not having the interest in doing anything at all. Well, at least, not anything that I can do locked in a hotel room. Ended up watching Master Chef, which somehow slightly assuaged my need to cook!

Observations for future inmates

Having access to a wide range of news (local and international) is fantastic – you’ll have more time on your hands to be more informed about the world around you than ever before. But do not, under any circumstances, get sucked into reading the comments – evidence of how many stupid, ignorant and uninformed people there are in the world.

In fact, I was slightly worried that the steam coming out of my ears would be interpreted by the nurse as a raised temperature! Just as well she doesn’t measure blood pressure!

MIQ Day 7 – HALFWAY!

Saturday.

Halfway mark in our two week lock up!


Congratulations – a treat from our wardens to recognise that we are indeed AWESOME!

Highlights

  • A zoom call with all the grandchildren and their parents – love you guys!
  • The All Blacks winning game 1 of the Blesdisloe – well, only a very very small highlight, given how poorly they played, but as they say, a win’s a win!
  • Sushi for lunch – the good food continues – and pulled pork burger, with fries, for dinner.
  • Exercise slot on the rooftop terrace – definitely not as flash as it sounds, but nice to look out over the city, and bask in a little sunshine, even if the roof was still closed, and the guards had put orange cones out, one assumes to suggest that we shouldn’t be walking into the corners of the room (which I simply ignored).

Lowlights

  • Reading far too much news – I think I was happier when I didn’t know about all the unbelievably stupid things going on out there. The latest that hundreds of MIQ rooms are being held back for what one can only assume will mostly be government officials attending Expo2020 in Dubai! At a time when so many kiwis are trying to get home for Christmas, it simply beggars belief.
  • Domestic chores – laundry (which will take days to dry!), clean the toilet, wipe down the tables, counters etc… can’t believe I’m lamenting the fact that I don’t have a vacuum cleaner for the carpet!

Observations for future inmates

Actually, it’s not so bad. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but as a wise colleague, also currently in MIQ, says, we knew the “price on the can” when we signed up to travel, so no point in complaining now.

A positive attitudes goes a very long way to making the most of an opportunity to recover from your jetlag, get your email box back under control and, given that it’s almost September (in my case), start planning for Christmas!

Only six more sleeps to go…

MIQ Day 6 – Food Friday

Friday.

A day filled with food and family.

Highlights

  • Pre-dinner chat with Rob, Jenna and Alfie, just back from a sweltering Greece, to a somewhat less sweltering London. Alfie looking stern – I’m hoping the frown is a signal he was trying to figure out why Ouma is suddenly in Mum’s cellphone instead of on the couch!
  • From one call to the next – dinnertime call with the Gilbert family, with a very exuberant (if tired Isabel) celebrating a whole week at school, just 4 weeks on from major spinal surgery! Also celebrating Howard’s new teeth, and three flavours of ice cream for dessert (at their end).
  • At our end, the food, the food… I knew it was a mistake to order both lunch and dinner when I did the menu choices, but not being able to choose between fish & chips for lunch, and steak & veggies for dinner, I ticked both. Plus the cheeseboard for dessert! Good choices, but definitely more food than we needed… cheese will do nicely for cocktail hour tomorrow! I fear I might have made the same “mistake” for next Friday!
  • And perhaps the biggest highlight – a call from our Defence Force minders to make arrangements for our exit! Do we need flights booked, where are we going, do we have a plan to get there? So yes, it is booked – 1pm on Saturday! Beyond excited! (of course, contingent on health checks, and a negative Day 12 test still to come).

Lowlilghts

  • Well, yes… The Ramp, this time in the rain. Need I say more…
    Well perhaps just one more comment – made even worse by the officious private security guard who insisted that the barrier at the bottom of the ramp could not be extended down into the flat area and needed to be at the actual foot of the incline! On each lap, Peter and I nudged it a little further into the flat area – a small protest, but one which was unreasonably satisfying!
  • Watching the growing disaster that is the Australian covid situation – a consequence, at least in part, of a delayed vaccine rollout, because they didn’t have Covid so decided to “be kind” and give other countries priority. Sound familiar, NZ?

Observations for future inmates

The frustration of the small things can overwhelm you. Judging other people’s ability to manage a piss up in a brewery (or not) is unproductive when you don’t have any influence or power to change things.

A wee example – exercise booking slots, as you will have gathered, are apparently in high demand here at Rydges in Auckland (where there is actually no good option for outdoor exercise). Anyway, what is, is. But the system for getting your booking is absurd – every day, you need to phone security to get tomorrow’s booking. There are rules…

  • they will take your call at any time, but you can’t actually make a booking until after 8am in the morning – today I called at 7.55am and was told to call back after 8am
  • after 8am, the line is constantly engaged – of course, everyone trying to get a booking.
    Initially, the call was diverted to reception, who would take your room number and get them to call you back, but as of today, there’s a message saying don’t leave a message, just call back again when the line is free.
  • you are only allowed on the rooftop terrace every second day – obviously this is to give everyone a fair go, which I don’t have a problem with…. but every day they say “where would you like to book?” and then have to explain that you can’t have the roof again!

Given all these rules, surely it would make more sense to just pre-book slots for everyone when they arrive, and then have the ability to take requests for changes to timeslots by exception? After all, apart from the occasional Zoom meeting, it’s not like any of us have a full diary of appointments that we need to work around!

With that off my chest, I’ll park that issue for the feedback form, and get back to my busy diary!

MIQ Day 5 – the day of the bicycle

Thursday.

Today things will be better. We have the long awaited appointment to exercise on the rooftop terrace, AND there are positive signs that Peter’s bicycle will arrive.

Highlights

  • Day 3 Covid tests both negative. A small relief, given that there was at least one positive test amongst the people who arrived on the same plane as us. I’m assuming that had we been sitting close to them, we would have heard a bit more about it by now.
  • The rooftop terrace – not just because it’s not “the ramp”, but especially because the lovely AvSec man in charge of making sure we all keep 2m apart took it upon himself to add some bouncy, happy Kiwi and Pasifica music to our exercise experience. Such a small thing – and so much appreciated!
  • And yes, the arrival of the bicycle, along with a note under our door reminding us that….
    “All guests are to exercise quietly; and are to conduct exercise where the creation of noise is unavoidable only during daylight in reasonable waking hours”. Hmmm, not sure this is going to turn out well.
  • A good board meeting for me, and Peter making himself useful supporting a friend in need, all made the day immensely more interesting – turns out that being useful is a basic human need! (I knew that).
  • The chef is back! Great food again, with roast lamb and vegies for dinner, followed by a very scrummy chocolate brownie with berry sauce and ice cream! Yum!

Lowlights

  • Discovering that my fellow director in the morning’s board meeting, who is on Day 2 of MIQ, has a ground floor unit with a small garden and outdoor furniture to use! Definitely a better experience than we’re having – and no doubt his exercycle will be less of a noise hazard to others! But I am NOT complaining!
  • Unrelated to MIQ, but absolutely gutted to hear that Aaron Gate has broken his collar bone and is out of the Olympics. Bad enough to watch him crash out in the race for Bronze last night, but to miss out on his marque event is just SO sad for him. Sending aroha to him, the team and his whanau.

Discoveries for future inmates…

  • Take care when filling in your menu choices (not just because you might miss out on the feta in your greek salad!) If you want low sugar cereal, say so – the first option we got was 23% sugar, more like dessert really. Specify your fruit – within reason of course – but if you prefer apples to bananas, say so. That’s what the “Notes” field in the menu is for, it turns out!
  • Think about what you order in – once it’s in the room, it can’t be sent away until you leave. Not a problem for us (just yet), but worth noting.
  • You probably won’t get through your long list of things you’re planning to do to keep busy in MIQ. With a thir d of our time now gone, I’ve barely scratched the surface of my list. I’m fine with that. The “Daily Bubble” activity sheet that arrives every morning with our breakfast has received scant attention – probably only for the truly bored!

Decision for tomorrow – would it be presumptuous to book Bledisloe Cup tickets for Saturday 14th, on the assumption that we’ll be let out of jail on time?

MIQ Day 4 – The Ramp part 2

Wednesday.

Started with a late wake-up at 8.30am! Just as well we’d ordered cereal for breakfast.

Highlights

Frankly, not a lot of highlights today. The food was definitely below par, there were no interesting phone calls, no Zoom meetings, and just 15 minutes exercise on The Ramp before we were sent back indoors because a car needed to exit the carpark.

For your amusement, this is The Ramp – a full circuit takes 35 seconds! Apparently my 35′ video is too big to embed here, so meanwhile, here are rules, and a snapshot of Peter plodding up the ramp….

You might be able to watch the video here https://1drv.ms/v/s!AskxriGw9QtWg_NFAkGBqjA81cJp2w?e=6zcFIW

Lowlights

Petulant Peter.
Yes, definitely the single biggest lowlight of the stay so far.

Apparently we are “incarcerated”, and “without even a fair trial”. He’s only half joking.
This morning’s health check nurse kindly asked Peter is he had any concerns about his health. The answer “nothing that’s worth discussing with you”. Lordy!

After days of nudging from me to hire an exercycle (lack of real exercise being the real problem), we have got to this:

  • the online pilates classes that I’m doing are of no interest at all, because pilates is not “honest exercise”
  • there is no interest at all in looking at any of the more high intensity online classes I found for him
  • the MIQ exercycle package – which we could have got from day 1, for $150, from a supplier that delivers and picks up the bike at the end of the stay – is somehow also unacceptable (despite the fact that this is a solution that would work for me too), because it doesn’t (one assumes) connect to Zwift….

A small ray of hope on the horizon – our lovely housesitters will load up Peter’s Ritchie road bike, plus his Tacx trainer and bike shoes, with technical assistance from our neighbour Don, who knows about cycling stuff, and will deliver it to the hotel.

Meanwhile, I’m off to add ‘air freshener’ to the online grocery order!