Posts Tagged ‘2020 pandemic’

I’m in the midst of a big change. I’ve taken the plunge. Decided it was time. Decided if anyone has a problem with it, it says more about them than it does about me. Still a bit nervous, but not enough to stop doing it.

It was the lockdown, you see. Seven weeks when I only saw my husband, or neighbours on walks, or friends/family on Zoom. Gradually, as the weeks went on, I got used to it. Became fascinated by it. Realised I quite liked it, in a strange – to me, at least – kind of way. Then our lockdown ended, our communities declared COVID-free, and I had no reason to be shy, to stay inside, to stay away from people. I took tentative steps out, feeling a little exposed.

I hoped it was obvious enough to seem deliberate. I was aware of the double standards around it. Fine for men, but questionable for women. Fine for blonds to show theirs, but not for brunettes. I waited a bit longer. I was coping so far, and the longer I waited, the more it became something that seemed doable. Great reactions from a friend the first time we met post-lockdown encouraged me to continue.

Winter helped. Cold weather encourages hibernation, scarves and hats, shoulders held high around our necks keeping us warm. But that made me wary of taking the next step.

Finally, last week, it was time. I couldn’t delay any longer. Time to see if I could really do it, or if I would backslide, leaving the big decision for another day, month, year. So I took the plunge, dived in, got rid of the old, and emerged anew. Looking fresher, younger even, which was unexpected. Looking authentic. Surprisingly, to me at least, feeling authentic. Feeling free. I didn’t see that coming.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I have embraced the grey/silver/white. It first started appearing in my mid-20s, so it has been with me a long time. I don ‘t regret colouring. I’ve heard (and seen) a few self-righteous mid-50 year olds possessing only a smattering of greys and silvers in amongst their mostly dark hair criticise those of us who have coloured. But they didn’t have to face that in their 20s or 30s or even 40s. So I don’t criticise anyone for colouring. I just always knew it was coming. I didn’t want to be my aunt, who coloured her hair jet black into her 70s. When she finally grew out her dye, she had beautiful soft white hair. It was rare to see a Thai woman with grey or white hair, but the black hair on 70-and-80-year-olds never looked natural or right to me.

Ultimately, colouring perpetuates the image that ageing is a bad thing, that women need to be young or appear young to remain attractive. I knew that of course. But peer pressure and judgement is powerful. I’ve read people who have said they are embracing the grey because they don’t care, using a hashtag #greyhairdon’tcare. It’s not that they don’t care about their appearance, as implied by judgemental others. What they don’t care about is society’s obsession with youth, particularly for women, and society’s obsession in controlling how women should look and behave. They – perhaps I should now say WE – don’t care about the peer pressure, the double standards (the “men look distinguished, women look old” lying distortion of beauty), the way our appearance is so often related to value. It’s so wrong. It’s so sexist. It’s so discriminatory. I’m so over it all!

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Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite thing to do is to travel. Right now, of course, there is no chance of travelling internationally. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, I immediately told myself that I wouldn’t be travelling until the rest of the year, and made my peace with that. Not long afterwards, that got extended by about a year, and so since then I have been hoping for travel in 2022. But I am not relying on that, and I know there is no guarantee, especially as I see cases skyrocket overseas in developing countries that will struggle to contain the virus. Worse, I see the cases still skyrocketing in developed countries with educated citizens that should know better. So there is considerable uncertainty as to if, not when, this situation will ever resolve.

Ironically, the EU and other countries would welcome New Zealand tourists right now – Fbk was advertising Greece to me today (ads I’d never seen before). But the reality is that most Kiwis will not be risking travel, as to get to Europe or many other places we have to take at least two long haul flights, sharing planes with passengers from countries that have not contained COVID19 as we have.

So, the reality of the situation is settling in, and I am starting to feel a little trapped. We’re here at the bottom of the world in the little dinghy lifeboat, with a few other little dinghy lifeboats in pockets around the world. And together those of us in the tiny lucky lifeboats are watching the rest of the world go down with the COVID-19 ship. This analogy is not mine, but courtesy of a cartoon I saw recently. (I’ve been trying to find it online to give credit to the cartoonist, but I can’t.)

So, for the time being, we are socially distancing from the rest of the world here in NZ, yet with full freedom of movement and the comfort that – almost certainly – there is no COVID-19 out in the community. That means that we can travel domestically, so our only travel options are here, on the islands of New Zealand. (There is talk of opening up a “bubble” with other countries that are effectively COVID free, but these seem a long way off.)

I remember a NZ Tourism promotion in the 1980s, exhorting us to travel in New Zealand before we took off to see the world.

Now of course, we don’t have any other option. New Zealand is a relatively small island country – bigger than the UK, but slightly smaller than Japan or Italy. The advantage of New Zealand though is that we have very different terrain (and therefore, experiences). This is not true of many other places we have been. The US might share tropical islands and volcanoes and deserts and mountains, but not as close together as in NZ. Switzerland or Norway are both stunningly beautiful, but they don’t really vary. Yet here we can drive through rain forests with glaciers followed by lush farmland, cross desert plateaus or mountain passes,  visit vineyards, and end the day in lakes surrounded by snowy mountains. Nowhere is more than a few hours from the coast. You can see an example of this in my Favourite Road Trip post about a particular route driving around the South Island here. Even in winter, the north has mild temperatures barely requiring a coat, and the south (or the mountains and plateau in the north) has snow and freezing temperatures. This gives us a great choice of destinations and things to do.

But our landscape’s variety means that it is easy to drive past some wonderful areas that are worthy of exploration – especially if we have time constraints. The road trip I wrote about could take months if you stopped at each place to truly investigate it and enjoy what it had to offer. So although I’ve driven past a lot of places in the past, I now have the opportunity to explore destinations in more depth. I can simply relax in different environments, or take trips that are usually dominated by overseas tourists, and support our local, suffering, tourist industry. Right now it is winter, which means I won’t be sitting out in vineyards sipping on wine, but maybe I’ll be inside enjoying a glass beside a roaring fire. I’m not a skier, though I’d love to be, but maybe I can take advantage of the temperatures to travel to the mountains to enjoy some snow for a change.

Whilst some people might suggest that NZers are smug about our country (as a British rugby writer recently pointed out – out of jealousy, if you ask me!), there has always been a tendency amongst us of “cultural cringe” or thinking that “real life happens in other places.” Despite our distance from the rest of the world, Kiwis travel a lot. Many of us are having to put international plans on hold, and look inwards. Perhaps for this reason, some internal destinations have begun advertising themselves to NZers as if they are international destinations, knowing that we are all having to refocus our travel aspirations for the rest of the year (at a minimum). Dunedin, for example, is one of our main cities, and sits in the south of the South Island. It is known for its Scottish heritage, beautiful surroundings, and university-town vibe. It has come up with a slogan, “Not a Bad Plan D.” Its tongue-in-cheek humour compares its hills with the pyramids, its beaches with Bali (“but with a wetsuit”) and its buildings with Edinburgh (“It’s not exactly Edinburgh, but it sort of is”). Another region only four hours north of Wellington is taking a similar stance. Hawke’s Bay, one of our largest wine regions, compares its offerings with wine regions around the world, including Sonoma (California), Barossa (South Australia) and Tuscany, and urges us all to take a Baycation. I like all these regions, but I have to say that my favourite parts of this country are uniquely New Zealand, and that’s what I love the most.

School holidays start in about a week, so we’re staying at home for most of July, both because Charlie and parents are coming to visit, and to avoid crowds. But in August or September, we intend hitting the road and enjoying our fabulous country. We can’t go away for too long at any one time, because of elderly parent care. But that is the joy of not having to fly across the world to our destination. We can come and go to different destinations much more easily here.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue going somewhere when I am actually going nowhere. There are lots of ways I can do this. As I write this, I have a video going beside me of one of the safari drives I’ve already talked about. And over the lockdown, I’ve taken some YouTube trips on some great rail journeys (courtesy of Mel’s blog here), and (also thanks to Mel and Google street view) have “walked” around one of my favourite towns in Italy reminiscing about my visit seven years ago. I haven’t visited the dozens of online museums yet, or got into planning future trips (as they feel a little too distant right now), but they are all options for me to travel when I’m going nowhere. Of course, visiting international blogs and talking to friends on social media exposes me to other countries and people and makes me still feel connected to the world. The wonderful aforementioned Mel also introduced me this morning to WindowSwap, and that makes me feel like I’m somewhere else. I can almost smell the flowers, and feel the heat from the northern windows. And I haven’t yet mentioned reminiscing. That’s always a good way to transport myself to other times and places, when I can remember the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of exotic destinations.

The great thing about travel is that it is all about opening your mind to possibilities and experiences. And that’s the way I’m going to travel during this pandemic – both domestically in person AND internationally, thanks to photos and technology. For the rest of the year, at least.


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Today, New Zealand has moved from its highest COVID alert level to level 3. It seems that we no longer have community transmission, though we are still getting a few new cases every day. (Today there were one confirmed and two probable new cases.) The difference is that businesses that can operate safely are allowed to open (contactless retail, construction, for example), though most people are still asked to work from home, and schools are partially open (to children under 14 whose parents have to go out to work). We have a little more freedom in terms of leisure – we can go further to exercise now – but essentially we are still on lockdown for another two weeks, but with takeaways.

Apparently this morning there were queues outside KFC and McDonald’s. Actually, just as I wrote this, I heard that major queues* are requiring police to direct traffic. I find that a sad indictment on our society, but understand it. I saw a comment on the page of a local deli/coffee shop, thanking them for opening for takeaway coffee this morning, and declaring it the best cup of coffee they’d ever had! I can relate to that too, as I haven’t had a coffee in the last five weeks! I’m going to wait until the novelty wears off before I head for a takeaway barista-made flat white.

Anyway, to mark the beginning of the lifting of restrictions here (though they are still stronger than in Australia or Canada or many other places), I thought I’d be really lazy, and give you a some photos I’ve taken – on my phone and with my camera – over the last five weeks on lockdown.

Even though I haven’t been baking a lot, I’ve been doing a bit.

Early in lockdown, we had an eerie misty morning. My husband alerted me to a kereru (native wood pigeon) on the lines at our gate, and I dashed out with my camera. We were up in the clouds (or the clouds were down around us), there were no cars and just the odd jogger, so I was able to stand in the middle of the road and snap this beauty. Later, he/she moved to our trees, and you can see that the mist had lifted.

All around the world, I understand, people have been putting teddy bears in their windows, to help amuse children on their walks. Around my suburb there are bears and other stuffed toys in countless windows, as well as cars. They don’t only amuse children, as one enterprising family on a steep street on our (almost daily) walk has kept us amused. I missed the photos when I first saw their teddy – dressed as a cricket player complete with bat and pads, and another day as a skier with woollen beanie and skis and ski poles – but have snapped a few others.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been watching andbeyond travel’s daily safari game drives via Wild Earth or Wildwatch Live both on Youtube, or andbeyond on Facebook. It has been a joy. I kept wanting to be there to take the photos, then I realised I could take screenshots. These are the photos I’d have taken if I’d been there.

First there were the birds:

Then the animals:

Then the sunrises:

As we’ve been on lockdown, autumn has arrived. So I’ve changed my blog header, and snapped a few leaves from our oak tree.

It’s a beautiful day today, we’ve been on a walk up and down my neighbourhood hills, all the windows in our house are open, and it could well be the last day we are able to do that before winter arrives. But I am daring to say the long cold winter ahead of us, which looked very gloomy this time five weeks ago, doesn’t look quite so gloomy today.

IMG_20200426_124522 yellow daisy


(edit) * of cars, queuing for drive-through orders




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