No, my tour guides are not locked down in a jail or in a psychiatric unit – albeit I think at times they felt a little bit like they were during the 5 weeks of Alert Level 4. Tour guides spend most of their days travelling and are used to being out and about amongst people, lots of people – not locked up at home in a “bubble” in total isolation.
Coronavirus aka COVID 19 had been lurking now for some months in China and we were on vigilant watch for its arrival in NZ. Our borders had been closed to China for some weeks now, but other international visitors could arrive. Being a tour guide hosting passengers from cruise ships made us vulnerable and cautious but we continued to be a fabulous host of NZ until eventually our Prime Minister (PM) closed our international borders to tourists completely. Poof – there went our employment – stopped dead in its tracks – we were all sent home to prepare for the country to go into lockdown. Panic buying was rampant throughout the country – the toilet paper shelves were stripped – sales became restricted, flour disappeared – bread makers were dragged out from back of cupboards, Janola was impossible to buy and hand sanitizer was like hens teeth- local breweries started manufacturing for us, and as for PPE – not a mask or gloves could be purchased. We went from a Level 2 Alert to level 3 for 2 days, schools out, then into Level 4, where we are ALL at home in our newly created “bubble” – No time to ponder this – just make it happen – Kia Kaha – stay strong NZ – we are all in this together.
Week 1 – was cleaning, cleaning and more, cleaning, and washing our hands and washing our hands all day long. Don’t touch your face and sneeze into your elbow were the messages we were heeding; emotions ran all over the place. Spending 24hours every day with your spouse or partner was a new normal, thankfully we have no teenagers living in the house with us. Lucky, we had already subscribed to Netflix – to help pass the time away.
Week 2– house is clean – super clean, let’s start outside in the gardens – oops made a mess, can’t go to refuse tip, never mind pile it up until we can. Paint the fence and complete all those DIY jobs which we have tools/supplies to complete as no shops open other than supermarkets & pharmacy. The 1pm PM announcements each day were compulsory to see how we were trending and compare ourselves to Australia / Italy / USA / Korea / Singapore. Gosh – we now needed a few essentials from supermarket – some of us were classified as “high risk” people as we had a pre-existing medical condition or were “older”. This meant we were not allowed to go to supermarket so our neighbours or family or spouse had to go, and we had to stay at home. Waiting for groceries to arrive became a highlight of our days. Some of us live in rural areas so a Vege truck would come with fresh vegetables – he drops the boxes in middle of driveway and runs so he does not catch this COVID thing, just another highlight for the week. The small things now became especially important to our daily life.
Week 3 – time to try our hands at something new- baking. The wife makes me scones for morning tea, we had some apples to use so we stocked the freezer up with apple pies and bacon & egg pies – because I like pies. When I am working, I would get up at 5.30am and be kept busy until about 7pm when I returned home, and days went fast, now my days are very long and slow. We walk each day which is great for fitness because I am not allowed to play golf, good for mental health and passes a good hour or two of the day. We now must learn to write Blogs (stories) and use Zoom for staff meetings. But we draw the line at virtual tours – we are real tours guides – and we love people – we thrive with direct interaction – enjoy sharing our culture with their culture, love the banter and laughter we share on a tour. We are currently missing people; tour guides are inherently very sociable personalities and we are suffering in isolation somewhat. We will cope with social distancing but not isolation.
Week 4 – The most excitement we have had in our ‘bubble’ for the past 2 weeks is again waiting in eager anticipation for Countdown to deliver our grocery order……then having to wait and stay indoors while stores are put on front door step… feeling like an escaped convict!!………….. then spending the evening wiping everything with Dettol… including bananas…. and cabbages. . Another exciting moment I can share was yesterday I had to go to chemist to collect prescription medication… (Chemist suggested I wear mask.) I took my mask I had bought from Bunning’s years back. I put it on, the strap broke as it had perished, so tied knot in it, put mask on again and the thing split in two, ended up wearing tissue over mouth!!!!!!!!!!!!! Looked like I was off to rob the bank.
I have decided to learn a musical instrument whilst in lockdown – only thing I had on hand was a tin whistle. It’s called an Irish Penny Whistle; the wife hates it as do all the neighbours.
My car has hardly turned a wheel in weeks and if you thought my life as a tour guide was tough you should try avoiding the VIRUS.
Wonder what excitement our Level 3″ bubbles” will offer us – we are allowed to expand our bubble a little – stay tuned for more confessions from my tour guides.