February 19, 2021

Ten years on

I have had little desire to write here for a few months - somehow dealing with the pandemic has been of more importance, and reading about elections, both here and watching the scenes from America too.

I know we have been lucky here in New Zealand - physical distance, being an island, good management, luck, and having well-managed isolation and tracing systems has shielded us from much of the Covid 19 impact. Yes I know there have been occasional managed Covid breakthroughs and that the lockdowns and lack of international tourists have been very hard financially on our tourism and hospitality sectors, let alone Air New Zealand.  However, I know we all watch how the rest of the world has been devastated and many here have lost loved ones overseas.  My son Liam returned to NZ from London in May and has worked remotely from here since, for which I have been immensely relieved, even if he is looking forward to returning to Europe soon. 

The first vaccines were administered to our front-line workers in the managed isolation areas today.  They expect the rollout across us all will take a year and we may still go in and out of lockdowns, but it is good to feel that the end may be in sight. 

On Monday, it is the 10 year anniversary of our February 2011 earthquake.  It wouldn't feel right not to acknowledge it and reflect on the changes we have experienced in the city.  This wonderful video from Deon Swiggs takes me back there and not always in a nice way, but he shows many of the new structures and the exciting ongoing plans for venues - you can see them alongside video footage of what used to be. We have certainly kept many tradesmen busy for the past 10 years. The city is filled with bars, markets, restaurants and activities and we continue to visit it regularly. Many people have moved into the centre.  I have watched Jade Stadium (Lancaster Park originally) and the Catholic Cathedral be demolished from my office window.  Perhaps the biggest change for me is that I appreciate what is there now and have stopped trying to remember how it used to be.

In other news, on Monday I started a new intake of students. We went into a semi-lockdown for three days on Sunday night after three cases were discovered in Auckland so it was an interesting start to the week, but we are back to normal, and after experiencing the earthquake on the second day of the 2011 class intake, I was just glad we still had a building to work from this year.

We have so many students attending our graduation next month that we can't all fit in the Town Hall - which has been rebuilt and is wonderful.  So it is back to the Stadium in Addington. Last year the ceremony was cancelled due to Covid. In 2019 we did hold a Town Hall ceremony when it reopened, but the graduand procession through the central city was cancelled because the Memorial Service for the tragic shooting at the Mosques was taking place in Hagley Park - security was too tight to allow spare police to manage our procession.   

While international travel is off the table, I have managed some trips to Nelson, Akaroa and Kaikoura. All so beautiful and great memories of the sea, mountains, friends and fun times.   I am aware that even small trips like these have not been possible for many of you overseas and that separation from your family for so long must be incredibly hard.  I found just one month of the full lockdown bad enough - really looked forward to taking the shopping over to Mum weekly and having an official reason to be away from home!  I found dawn walks along the river with Poppy were the only way to get out and be away from crowds of other dog walkers all day! 

May you stay safe, and well and let's all look forward to more normal times being possible again soon. 

Kia Kaha



May 24, 2020

Level 2 - Life in New Zealand

Dawn walk during Lockdown 
Lockdown is over and New Zealand is currently in Level 2 ... ( https://covid19.govt.nz/). We came out of a month at Level 4, with very limited bubbles, down to Level 3 for two weeks, then cautiously started to venture out again last Monday.  Now the government is waiting to see if there will be a new influx of cases.  We may remain at this level until we achieve a month of no new cases - but so far all cases are able to be tracked back to a known cluster of existing cases and community transmission does not seem to be occurring.

As at 9.00 am, 23 May 2020
Total       Change in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand1,1540
Number of probable cases3500
Number of confirmed and probable cases1,5040
Number of recovered cases1,4550
Number of deaths210
Number of active cases280
Number of cases currently in hospital10
We are all grateful for the steady leadership updates of our government, the daily 1pm media updates from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and MOH Ashley Bloomfield, and the input from microbiologist, Dr. Siouxsie Wiles.  Particularly for her collaboration with Tony Morris that resulted in a series of easy to understand graphics that helped the country accept the reasons for the lockdown and what to do - you can see them all here. https://thespinoff.co.nz/media/19-05-2020/the-great-toby-morris-siouxsie-wiles-covid-19-omnibus/

Liam has returned to New Zealand from England via Doha and Sydney this weekend - he is now in compulsory quarantine in Auckland for two weeks - working at his job from an assigned hotel.  Can't wait to see him :)
Alex will be down here next weekend and will be with  Liam in Auckland the weekend his quarantine finishes.   At least we can celebrate the long Queens Birthday weekend as a nearly complete family after weeks of social distancing, even if we still have to facetime Liam.

Because I was able to arrange deliveries or click and collect, and took supplies over to Mum each week, I haven't visited a supermarket for months. It felt weird to go into The Warehouse last week, and Mum and I actually went to a coffee shop.  Two wonderful catch-ups with friends in private homes and today in a spaced outdoor pub area. We have plans to do dinner and our regular quiz night this week.   Overall we have gone from FOMO to FOGO - so entering public restaurants is a big step.  We are still limited to groups of 10, not hugging, but definitely relishing the social contact.   To be fair, we had regular online wine parties twice a week throughout the lockdown so we were not starved of conversation, but virtual will never completely replace being there.

I am still working from home -with my faithful companion. Critical practical classes restart next week for some students under strict rules, but my zoom classes continue.  Work is now mainly regular class sessions, marking assignments and worksheets, writing exams to be open-book online versions, answering the many questions that arrive, and working out how to timetable next semester in a flexible, manageable way with this new way of working..... our main concern has been the lack of the usual work placement - there has been none possible for weeks and it will be hard for students to do in the future.  Internationally this is an issue for all students that need practical skills training - and in our case, I know how challenging the last few weeks have been for veterinary clinics dealing safely and legally with clients and patients.   Taking students is just not possible - but if we can reduce class time and increase options into our sim clinic area, we can do a lot internally.

For now, New Zealand will remain closed to tourists - and only returning Kiwis are coming in via quarantine.  Although daily life may return to normal, the financial impact will be a major issue - as it will be for every country.  I hope it might be possible for a managed two-week quarantine option to continue and let overseas people come here to travel, film, study for months/years - and maybe options for travel between Pacific Islands and Australia... but meanwhile, we hope many Kiwis will explore NZ.   I have my flights booked for Nelson in July :)

It has been hectic changing everything to online delivery, sometimes boring, sometimes frustrating - but we see the headlines from overseas and know that lockdown has been the right thing to do.  Poppy has loved the attention of having three people working from home.  Our daily red zone and river walks let me appreciate the changing colours of Autumn.  Definitely been a great source of soul food....

Wishing you all the best - stay safe.

April 4, 2020

Christchurch Lockdown Life

Just found these videos today.
I wanted to save them for future viewing - the diary of events this blog seems to be at the moment. I guess for the people of Christchurch this emptiness is eerily familiar from our post-earthquake lives in 2011. Just the army tanks and the roadblocks missing.

My mother lives on the West side, I work in the centre, and live on the East side..in the East video, all the shops at the start of the video are where I shop.... and the Avon river where I walk. The bridge is near my house....
Can't see a South side one yet... but you get the picture.

Like most of the world, as a non-essential worker, I am working from home - we have given the students time off and are working hard getting ready for the online delivery of our programmes.  We don't know how long we will remain in lockdown but the whole country,  the whole world, is facing the same reality.  Life has changed dramatically in such a short time - thank you to all the medical teams and the supermarket workers and the people keeping things running - the least we can do is stay home and make this lockdown work.

One son is still in London, as are many of our family.   My nephew and his wife are in Paris and my brother and his wife are in Vancouver. We get updates ...  The rest are in Auckland, or Tauranga or here in Christchurch... keeping in touch with emails and What's App and Facebook and last night, a family Skype.  Nice for Mum to see everyone and have a laugh.  We miss our regular get-togethers.... but we drop off shopping for Mum to wash and store and do our best to keep her safe.

Life is revolving around team Zoom meetings and planning what to do  - but this week I had two House Party chats with a bunch of friends (yes, wine was involved)  and we even had a zoom choir...  it pays to remind ourselves that we are physically distancing, not socially distancing. Now if the internet goes down we might struggle.

Poppy is frustrated that we are not going to work  - but we are lucky that our neighbourhood is filled with rivers, and rabbit scents to follow.  Today after her walk, she voluntarily walked into the shower for a warm wash ... totally unlike her! 

Meanwhile, we read and we worry and we stay in our "bubble" and hope we can flatten the curve, or eliminate the virus - as it's all we can do. 

Take care everyone and look after each other.


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