A Birthday in Lockdown and Updates

Kia ora!

I am writing from day 27 in lockdown. Originally, the lockdown was scheduled to end on day 28, April 23rd, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern decided to extend the lockdown to 11:59 PM on Monday, April 27th. This weekend is an important holiday, Anzac Day. This holiday is celebrated on the 25th of April and it is a day of remembrance for New Zealanders and Australians who have served and died in wars and all of the commitment and contribution of those who served. The holiday is celebrated in a similar way to our Memorial Day in the United States. There are barbeque parties, gatherings, and celebrations. It makes a lot of sense that Jacinda Ardern decided to extend the lockdown through this holiday weekend to prevent people from gathering and ruining all of the progress that the lockdown has made! After the lockdown ends, we are moving to level 3 for at least two weeks. After the two weeks, the government will evaluate the situation and see if we can move to level 2 or if we need to stay at level 3. 

A bagel with avocado, cream cheese, and smoked salmon on a white plate on a white tablecloth
A delicious lunch of a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and fresh avocado! We have been getting avocados fresh from the tree, and after tasting them, an avocado from the grocery store will never be the same!

Level 3 is going to be really similar to level 4, at least for me. Some people can go back to work, like construction and forestry workers. However, the government is encouraging us all to work from home if we can, and stay in our “bubbles.” We can extend our bubbles a bit, but we have to be exclusive with those who we let into our bubbles! Meaning, we have to only extend to each other and then stick to that! We can get take out food, which we are all excited for! We can also travel in our regions, but are being urged to stay close to home and stay away from activities that could lead to emergency services being called. Schools are being opened for young children whose parents have to go back to work, but, if children can be kept at home, they should be. 

Yesterday, I celebrated my 21st birthday in lockdown! This was truly a birthday that I will never forget. We had homemade pizza for dinner, my favorite, and delicious pudding for dessert. I got to talk with my family in the United States, which was very nice! It is hard being so far away from family and friends who are familiar and comforting during this uncertain and overwhelming time, but I am really thankful for technology so that we can talk, especially because mail is not really being delivered during this time.

Overall, it was a nice birthday and I feel very thankful. I was supposed to be in Australia during my birthday, so I am definitely still dealing with some disappointment with the way that things have turned out, as we all are to some degree, but I am doing my best to just be thankful and positive. 

A slice of white pudding/cake with chocolate chips
The delicious pudding dessert for my birthday!

A few days ago, I got to try a delicious, classic Māori meal! The meal is called a boil up, and it consists mainly of a green that grows wild here, called puha. There are also bacon bones, delicious little dumplings, potatoes, and pumpkin, all in a delicious broth. It is not a soup though, and is eaten on a plate with a fork. I loved it!! I really enjoy trying new foods and I am glad that I have had that opportunity during the lockdown. 

I am hoping for good news from the University of Waikato that I will be able to return to campus during level 3 to see my friends again. I really want to be able to finish the semester and enjoy New Zealand as much as I possibly can. I hope that you are all staying healthy and safe and keep washing your hands!


Living in the Lockdown

Kia ora!

I am coming to you from day 20 of lockdown in New Zealand! Due to being in lockdown, I have not gotten to have any big adventures, but I have gotten to have a sort of “host family” experience here. Many of the study abroad programs that Linfield offers have a host family component, but New Zealand is one of the locations for study that does not have host families. Because there is no language component of study in New Zealand (but believe me that at times, I feel like New Zealand English is a foreign language), there is not an immersive language aspect of studying here. This has its pros and cons of course. I did not have to learn a language in order to study abroad here and living on campus in the dorms makes it easy to make friends and feel integrated on campus.

However, living on campus means that I miss out on the chance to have the immersive cultural experience of living with a Kiwi family and being a part of the home life. Well, thanks to Covid19, I have been able to have this experience! It is important to look at the positives during this time, and I am so thankful that I have been able to stay with such kind people! During this scary and overwhelming time, it feels so much better to be staying in a comfortable home.

A beautiful, full rainbow over the backyard and a grey sky.
A beautiful rainbow; a positive sign during a difficult time!

I have gotten to learn new card games and try new foods. We watch movies, make desserts, and work on projects together. I am getting a host family experience, staying with a kiwi family and learning about New Zealand in ways that can only happen living in a home.

I learned that I have eating habits that are distinctly American, like eating cake with a fork instead of a spoon and holding my fork in my dominant hand, which is backwards from how they use their fork here! I also learned to make a pudding, which is actually a steamed cake, not at all like American pudding that we make from a box and then chill. I love to cook, so it was a lot of fun to make a new recipe, and it was DELICIOUS! 

A pudding (cake) sitting on the counter.
The delicious pudding that I got to help make!

I am still getting used to online school, but all of my professors are doing their best to make learning online as easy and interactive as possible. The Prime Minister has said that she will make a decision on April 20 about the future of New Zealand after the lockdown. The lockdown will either continue or move to a Level 3, which still has restrictions, but we will be able to move more freely through the country. I still have hope that I will be able to finish the semester here in New Zealand and perhaps do a bit of traveling and sightseeing around the country!

The people of New Zealand have been so cooperative with the lockdown. During the Easter weekend, there were police checkpoints around the country to look out for people potentially breaking the lockdown and trying to travel for the long weekend. There were a few people who tried to break the rules and the police did have to give some charges and fines, but it seemed that people behaved themselves for the most part. It is incredible how much the number of cases has gone down in New Zealand and how the lockdown is working. I am so thankful to be here during this time and have the Prime Minister working to protect the country and help New Zealand heal and overcome. 

Green fruit on a plate in the sunshine on a white tablecloth.
It is easy to stay positive when eating delicious fresh feijoas!

I hope that all of you are safe and healthy! Please stay in and protect those around you. Thank you for reading!


Getting home during Covid-19

By now, we are all likely to be in the same boat regardless of where we are currently calling home. Everyone is presumably stuck inside and doing classwork through computers with our pj’s on, no makeup, and very little motivation to do any of it. But please keep doing exactly that, stay home for all of our sakes.

Computer laying on bed.

Since I last wrote, many things have changed. For starters, I am home in the states, a place I wasn’t planning on seeing for two years and now I am back trying to find normalcy in the most none normal of times in my generations life time. Having been a very independent person since birth, mixed with my studies abroad and living on my own, coming home and being forced to stay in with hiking trails and the like shut down hasn’t been the easiest.

I, of course, am beyond lucky to have a healthy family near by even if I can’t visit them and a roof over my head with a mom whom I love dearly, it can just be a little overwhelming at times, haha, but the majority of the world is in the same shoes so I can’t complain. Plus, it is a relief to be home rather than stuck elsewhere.Girl and her mother.

Getting home was stressful to say the least. It took around a month of wanting and trying for me to get home, which I have to thank Linfield for all of the credit. I had a gut feeling really early on that school wouldn’t be opening up in a few days or weeks after the outbreak in Italy happened. There was simply no logical way that it would be possible, even though my university and classmates were sure the “problem would resolves quickly”.

So while I headed to France to quarantine with one of my roommates, I knew I wanted to come home and not be stuck in Europe if borders started shutting down, which as we all know, they did. But, I wasn’t going to come home just to return to Italy for a week of exams in a few months and then have to find somewhere to live for a month and then move to an internship somewhere in Europe as well, all while a pandemic was hitting the world… not an ideal situation to say the least.

While waiting for word in France if classes would be moved to online, I tried to see if I could take my exams back home with a proctor at Linfield, however the responses I received were very straight to the point that I would not be allowed to do that, even though the US had sent our travel restrictions and told its citizen to not travel to/in Italy. So on top of quarantining boredom, my optimistic happy self continued to disappear with every email interaction.

For my reality, I didn’t have a place to live. I was quarantining with my roommate in her holiday home on the coast of France, but they were in the middle of selling it so we couldn’t stay there for long and I knew she hadn’t lived at home for a few years and was really not wanting to return. So as the days got closer to the end of our two week period, my stress level was just continuing to rise with the rain levels outside.

The internship that I was planning to do in the summer said I could go there early to work and live, but after having a bad experience with living at my internship in Portugal the thought of being stuck at a winery in the middle of the country without being able to leave for months did not sound like a good idea for my mental health, but was really the only option I had until I messaged Linfield and was completely open and honest with my concerns and feelings regarding the matter. My mind fixated on the idea that the internship would be the same situation it was in Portugal and, while it is more likely that it wouldn’t be, I wanted to come home.

I got an email a few days later from my European University saying that Linfield requested I come home and that they had to oblige since the schools are now partners. THANK YOU LINFIELD. Waking up to that email felt like I was able to breath for the first time in a while, I was beyond relieved. So when our two weeks were up in France (11 hour car ride from Italy) we drove some more to my roommates family home where they welcomed me with open arms. The sun started coming out more and while we were still mostly isolating and self distancing ourselves, we were able to enjoy some walks to nearby vineyards and she gave me the tour of her city, tours, and traditional French food. I had eaten vegetarian for the past month but that quickly disappeared as I was introduced to all the meats of the region.

French food

My large suitcase hadn’t fit in the car with us while we left Italy, so my other roommate who had decided to stay in Italy longer, had it in her car. But when school was switched to online she left Italy to quarantine in the south eastern part of France, and I was in the north west of France, so after literally hours on the phone we found a way to ship my suitcase (it was way more difficult than you would imagine) and after spending a week in Tours, I left for Paris where another friend of mine lives and a flight home.

Belongings from a suitcase in a small room.

My original flight kicked me off of the flight because I had recently been in Italy and while I got another ticket, I was worried the same thing would happen again and again. My stress level never went away. But, the nice thing about getting kicked off the first flight was that I had more time to spend in Paris. I wore a scarf around my face riding the buses and trains or when surrounded by a lot of people to help train myself not to touch my face. I got a lot of stares but I couldn’t have cared less. But I was in Paris, there were no restrictions at that point and by golly I was going to visit the Eiffel Tower.

Student with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Now at this point I had a lot of pent up emotions of all sorts imaginable which may have had something to do with it, but as I walked around Paris and got the first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, I couldn’t contain any of it any longer. There in front of me stood a structure that somehow solidified all of my little girl dreams and desires while standing as a symbol for having reached them as well; I balled the happiest tears of my life. In all of the chaos and sadness happening in the world, that may have been one of my happiest moments.

But the day hadn’t started happy, I didn’t think I would be able to enjoy it at all and even questioned making an attempt. I woke up in the middle of the night at my hotel to the strongest cigarette smoke coming through the vents and around 25 messages asking if I would be able to come home and if I had seen Trump’s announcement.

no??? hello more stress

It was 3 am and I was confused. But then I started reading the headlines and what people were sending me. At that point there was no word if US citizens were exempt from the travel restrictions, and I was scrambling trying to find more information. After a stressed/teary/tired phone call with my mom we decided that since my plane was arriving in the states on Friday (the day it was starting to be enacted) that I should be fine since I would have already landed. So still stressed, I took some melatonin and tried to get some sleep.

My new flight itinerary had me fly into Ireland and stay there for a night before I could get on a plane that would take me to the states. And while it didn’t allow me time to enjoy Ireland I got a room in a nice hotel for the night, had some nice wine, and woke up to an Irish rainbow outside my window and I was one step closer to home and one stress level down from the day before.

Girls in a glass elevator.

After a full security pat down search from a red headed Irish man, only to decide it was my earrings that set off the alarm, and a look through all my carry on luggage that had been placed together like a puzzle, I was through security and enjoyed an early lunch with a beer at 11 a.m. and I don’t even like beer in the slightest but it was Ireland and frankly, I deserved it haha. Then 30 minutes before I was supposed to start boarding, there was an announcement for all US directed flight passengers to do additional screening on the other side of the airport. YAY… In short, I made it because our plane had electrical issues and was delayed. Still stressed.

Border check point at the airport in Dublin, Ireland.

I landed in Chicago, and while the airport was insane I was there at the right time. The pictures there a few days after me were INSANE and oh my gosh was I happy to have flown when I did. I was originally told I didn’t need to go out of security and that I would just need to get my next boarding pass at the gate but that ended up not being true because in order to get to the other terminal, I had to take a shuttle which required the boarding pass. So… I had to go all the way out just to turn around and come right back in again with not very much time in-between. I’m obviously home, I made it, but I sincerely feel for everyone who flew into the states or anywhere for that matter after I did.

So now I am home, behind in my school work unable to concentrate typing this instead, hoping everyone is safe, healthy, and not visiting with friends. My roommate, whom I stayed with in France, picked up her grandma from the hospital (not Covid-19 related) and have both been now confirmed to have Covid-19 and are not doing well, lets keep others in mind.