Reflections from COVID Purgatory
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | january 14, 2021
I’m writing this from Auckland, New Zealand, but it feels more like I’m writing from a state of suspended animation – or a COVID purgatory.
A couple of weeks ago I flew from Asheville to Los Angeles. It had been planned for months but, with the virus surging in California, I was concerned. I’d been taking zinc, vitamin D, and resveratrol for months and practicing pranayama daily. I wore two masks on the plane (an N95 underneath and paper mask on top), sprayed myself with essential oils every hour or so, and said a few protective mantras (because, hey, why not?).
Nevertheless, I do not harbor any delusions that I’m impervious or even protected, and I’m well aware that by choosing to travel, I was essentially running the COVID gauntlet.
Since LA is pretty much ground zero right now, to avoid contact, we rented a car (we usually just take Lyfts to save money and because when I have to drive in LA, I mostly want to scream like Cher in Clueless).
We stayed in an Airbnb down the street from my sister (fun bonus – we could see the Hollywood sign from the living room!), and socialized with her and her family mostly outside, always masked and physically distant, for three days.
I married a Kiwi 23 years ago – we often talked about living in New Zealand some day but never actually got around to it. Brett had left for NZ in the middle of December to get our rental house in Christchurch ready for us, and find a car, phones, wifi, and all the other bits and pieces.
Of course I love the guy, but little did I know that one day, I would feel like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory holding a golden ticket.
We went to the LA airport on January 2 to fly out to New Zealand. The international terminal was mind-blowingly vacant – as empty as a John Friend workshop in 2013.
My son had brought a pre-workout supplement in his carry-on bag that panicked the TSA guys. They sent his bag through the x-ray machine three times, called a manager to assess and re-test the substance, and then gave him a 10-minute pat-down which included making him stand in Warrior 1 on both sides (I’m not making this up) and excessive examination of his groin area.
He was unfazed, but the mama bear in me erupted. How dare they subject a 16-year-old to this nonsense?! Pardon my white privilege. They ignored me. Clearly, they had very little else to do than hassle a boy who wants bigger muscles.
When we arrived in Auckland, the typically busy airport was also a ghost town peopled only by nurses, customs officials, airport security, and folks in army fatigues. Everyone was kind and polite. They shuttled us through a series of short lines, asking questions, checking baggage, taking our temperature, reminding us to stay in our own bubbles, and then finally leading us outside to a bus.
Once on the bus they told us we would be going to a Managed Isolation (MI) hotel south of the city. We made a reservation for MI months ago but we had no idea and no choice about which hotel. It only took about 10 minutes to get here. At the hotel, a military guy boarded the bus and briefed us on what we would experience over the next 14 days, including expectations about testing, mask wearing and social distancing.
Managed Isolation is not Quarantine. We got tested almost immediately after arriving and had to stay in our room until the results came back. The next day we got our results back. Both of us were negative.
After that, they’ve allowed us to roam around the parking lot whenever we want between 8 am to 8 pm, as long as we stay away from others. We can reserve a spot to take schedule longer walks in a bigger parking lot down the street a couple of times a day if we want as well.
The parking lot is typically full of kids drawing with chalk, folks walking around for exercise, and every evening there’s a group of Samoan guys who hang out in a big socially distanced circle and crack each other up for a few hours.
Our room is fairly spacious and has a kitchen (another golden ticket).
Outside the window I can see a theme park – it’s called Rainbow’s End (which may be an apt name for the whole country at the moment). When I open the window (I’ve never appreciated having a window so much), we can see, and hear the elated screams of people spinning around upside down on the “Stratos-fear” ride.
Three times a day we get food delivered to our room from the hotel restaurant.
I’ve been getting up around 6 up or 6:30. I practice pranayama, meditation and asanas for an hour or so. Then, I take a walk in the big parking lot at 8. I come back, eat breakfast, and work for a few hours. After lunch I take another walk, answer emails and FB messages, make phone calls, and then watch a movie with my son. Then we sing kirtan and meditation and try to get to bed before 9:30.
New Zealand has decided to do things differently from other countries.
When COVID hit, they shut down hard and fast and did vigilant contact tracing. Since they are a remote island nation, they have pretty good control of their borders. Unlike countries that are depending on travelers to quarantine on their own, this country has decided to mandate it – and they use repurposed hotels around the country (helpful for the hotels because of the decline in international tourism) to house arrivals like us.
If we had tested positive at all (and we still have one more test to do tomorrow) we would be shipped to the quarantine facility here in Auckland with many more restrictions on movement and our 14 days would start all over again.
Since my son is a NZ citizen, our two-week stay in COVID purgatory is being paid for by the government.
Which sounds amazing, yet I wonder how much money they are saving by not having to care for sick people, not to mention avoiding most of the economic toll of an out of control pandemic.
Our only outside time is in a parking lot, so I look hard for beauty. I’m entranced by the huge flax plants that thrive in their home right next to the highway.
Flowering vines creep up the fence that borders our luxury confinement. A few wild peach trees laden with little green unripe fruit sprout up through the flax. The birds are pretty and occasionally seagulls visit. The kids chalk art evolves every day as different people enhance the creations. Yesterday I watched a graffiti artist chalk tag a wall and connect his tag to a previous drawing of Sponge Bob. He drew a spray can in Bob’s hand.
Our time in MI has forced me to slow down, rest more, be a little stiller. Somehow it feels quite appropriate for this time. CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera keep us up on the latest chaos in the states and we feel so sad and so worried.
We did not decide to come here to escape from anything – rather we thought it would be a good experience for our son to go to school here and COVID presented the opportunity for us to visit for an extended period – we don’t plan to stay for more than a year or two.
If the new strain gets out of quarantine and into the community, NZ will go straight back to lockdown – there is no Shangri-La on the planet at the moment.
Still, we are grateful to be here, and looking forward to getting out of MI on Monday.
P.S. A note about my meditation buddy, Jerry, the cat. He was adopted by some friends in Asheville who have two little girls. I miss him a lot, but he is loved and happy and doesn’t seem to mind being dressed up in tutus.
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Normally, I’m not an envious person. I’d trade places with you in a minute!! Glad all is well, hope you’re out of isolation and on your ways to Christchurch soon.
So good to hear from you. Happy to hear you are doing very well in purgatory! Thank you for the update on Jerry too, I was wondering about him. Every day I am grateful for the gifts I’ve gleaned from yoga, meditation, breathing practices and the ability to slow down and feel. All that slow yoga offers is a very essential basic form of care. So needed now. Hugs from way over hete!😗
Thank you Margaret – lots of love to you and Eddie!
All I can say, Kaoverii, is “bless your heart”😁
Please keep us posted, and very best energy to all three of you.
Very interesting read. It is strange times on our planet indeed! Welcome to this side of the world ( I live in Tasmania, Australia). I am sure you will love your time once you get out of being quarantined. Life is a bit more free in the places that don’t have many cases due to being so strict initially. I feel blessed to be in such a place as our lifestyle feels much less controlled than what I see happening elsewhere. Good luck and enjoy. Sending you and your family peace and love.
So glad to hear about your journey(s). Always so interesting to read about the adventures of others.
Especially excited that Jerry doesn’t mind being dressed in tutus. Crack me up envisioning that one. Humor is so essential right now.
We should not be traveling, as this is a vector for disease, and while some may not get ill in this spin of the dice, it increases risk for all. COVID has so far taken over 1.9 million people. I request that we renew our commitment to protecting others and doing whatever it takes.
Kia ora, Kristine! Great that you’re here. I’ve been volunteer teaching up in the Solomon Islands (at least up until Covid closed the borders) and used your calming contralateral neuro class there to great effect. Hope you do a workshop in Auckland when you find your feet.
Kia Ora, Kristine and Co. xx
Glad to hear all is well. I had read a report about a flight Dubai to Auckland. Was relieved you couldn’t have been on that flight as you went through LA. Here’s to you following the path.
Are you going to teach in Christchurch?
I’ll come of you are
Thanks for the blow by blow account Kristine, it was an interesting read. Im happy your time is almost up. Good luck with the last test 🙂
Thanks Sally! And thank you so much for all your support as we navigated the move here!
Welcome to NZ – it is great to know you are safely in the country and eventually heading to Christchurch (my old home town). Once you are settled, we would love to see you up in Nelson (top of the South Island) – you have a couple of fans up here 😊🙏
AW thanks Rose – I simply adore Nelson, and the forest around the area – I really wanted to live there but my son wanted a bigger city experience. We have some friends up in Nelson and I’d love to teach a workshop there sometime.
Hello Dear Lady! Wishing you a most Joyful experience, in this new endeavour. ♥️🙏🏻
Thank you Nancy!
This was quite a story. As tricky as travel is, it sounds like you are managing well. Good luck on upcoming test. It is an excellent time to be out of the US. It is so disheartening and frightening what is happening here. I don’t know where we are headed. Yoga has been a Godsend.
It will be well worth it. Namasate
yes I think so. Thank you Denise!
Very much and adventure and an eye opener. Thank you for the insight into other worlds.
Big snow and rainstorm, two for one event here in Saskatchewan Canada. Happy you’re finding a way to keep in touch and to keep us grounded. You will soon be in your NZ home and reunited with your Kiwi. I look forward to more chapters of your NZ life after Purgatory which is soon to be over. For those of us who may never be able to travel to NZ seeing it through your eyes and blog should be so fun. Love you, Cecile
Snow AND rain? Hope things have settled a bit. I am enjoying writing a bit of a travelogue for my blog these days, but I will also get back to yoga blogging too! xo
Thanks for keeping us grounded while sharing your weeklies and blogs. I’ve enjoyed travelling through other peoples blogs and hopeful that you will continue to share NZ with us. Happy your purgatory is coming to an end so that you may be reunited with your Kiwi in your new home.
Thank you Cecile! Just 3 days left!
Glad you are safe and well. Sounds like an unreal experience and hope to hear more about your life out of managed isolation. Loved the John Friend reference. LOL
Thanks Anne! I had to think of something that was really, really empty…
I always wanted to go to NZ to see Donna Farhi. Any interest in seeing her? Would love to hear what you thought of her.
Well, she certainly is the queen of yoga here! I hope our paths cross. Her books are really lovely.
You’re staying a year or two?? Wow, that’s amazing! Good for you!!
And best of luck with your remaining days in MI!
Yes, we are exciting to have a nice long adventure here. And my son will be going to school in Christchurch so it will be a nice adventure for him too I hope!
Many blessings to you and your family Kristine – I still want you to adopt me, I LOVE NZ! 🙂 Enjoy the transition and the beautiful opportunity (I know you will miss people too, it all gets balanced out)
Yes, there are positives and negatives to everything. I’m going to miss many things about Asheville and my home there.
Thanks for sharing your adventure. I have always wanted to visit New Zealand. During this time of very little travelling, I think you should count yourself as blessed.
I feel like I’ve won the lottery Sandy!
Mahalo (thanks) from Hawaii for sharing how NZ is handling this world problem. Be vigilante and stay safe.
Ngā mihi (Thank you) Marianette!
Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s fun to enjoy your adventure vicariously. Go boldly my friend. there is much to be lived while you are able. ❤️
Thank you Janie!
Stay safe! Enjoy your new surroundings.
Thanks so much Carol Ann!
A photo of Jerry in a tutu, please!!
Thanks for sharing, so interesting to read a first hand experience. I was struck by “ look hard for the beauty.” Definitely an opportunity to enjoy the small, meaningful things. All the best as you continue on to your destination and reunite with your husband.
Hi Kristine…thanks for sharing, it’s been a long journey for you and your family. The purgatory metaphor is apt. I had to LOL at being just next to Rainbows End, how appropriate. All the best and enjoy the wonderful hospitality and generosity of New Zealand.
Kristine! So great to hear of your safe arrival. It sounds like they have a very good handle on the virus down there and strict measures to keep it in check.
I am glad you have this time with your son and I wish you well in your time over there. Take good care, Diana
Would you be willing to share your pranayama practice – or recommend a resource to develop my own??
Hey Sandra, I have a free, 30 day pranayama challenge on my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/SubtleYoga/videos you may have to scroll a bit to find it but it’s all there. Hope it helps!!
Hi Kristine, I do hope you enjoy Christchurch as much as I…………. I lived there for three years back in the late 1980’s at the University of Canterbury. The park in the Central park of the City is nice and flat and great for going for walks there (once you get a chance.)
Will be thinking of you.
And thanks for sharing the Yoga. It help me. Cheers, Tricia
Thank you Kristine, having been trained by you and teaching SY, your description of the emotional and thoughtful ups and downs felt like we were once again sitting in Asheville over lunch during a SY break. Thank you for embodied resilience.
Aw thanks so much Cheryl! I miss you and I’m so glad that you are teaching – clearly helping so many people during these difficult times!
Curious as to what this means for your 300 hour training?
So nice to hear from you.
I announced in December that all of my workshops and courses will be online for 2021 (except if I do a few things in NZ or Australia) and that the 300 hour advanced training is on hold this year. We will reassess later this year and decided when to start the training again based on what happens with the pandemic and with my family. I will keep you posted though. sending lots of love and shanti
Just curious what this means for your 300 hour training? Am I going to have to come to NZ?
Thanks for the update Kristine and so glad you arrived safely. Am writing this from my home shielding in the UK which , well, less said the better really. Very pleased for you that you are in a safe haven. Do send some Metta out to the rest of us when you have a moment! Look forward to hearing about the next chapter in your new adventure and wish you all the best.
oh yes Neela! Every day! thank you for writing
Loved reading about your experience Kaoverii. I hope you and family are keeping well, safe and healthy. Congratulations on your new move and enjoy it! Blessings!
Thank you Radhika! I miss you and Ramesh. Hope you are both doing well! Take care. xo
Great to hear from you. What an experience! And congratulations on going, and doing it. Wonderful for you all. We heard in the UK on the World Service last night that one case of Covid has been tested positive in NZ but the details were just familiar words strung together with no informative image or conclusive story at the end. I’ll listen harder tonight knowing you’re there. Glad you’re safe and being looked after in the car park!
Thanks Shakti! I’m so glad we are out of the car park now – there’s a lot to do, see, and explore here – and many very kind people. Yes, there have been cases here, but they typically catch them in Quarantine and they don’t get out into the community. NZ has done quite an amazing job of controlling this pandemic. xo