Saturday, March 28, 2020

Life in Isolation, Report #1

Welp, we're on day 3 of national lockdown. NZ is up to 451 cases. The majority of them are still associated with overseas travel, but a few "clusters" of transmission have happened within NZ. One such cluster was an international cattle conference that took place in Queenstown 2 weeks ago; several infected people from the conference then attended Wanaka's agricultural & pastoral show, one of the biggest local events of the year, which had a crowd of 40,000. (Doh!)

So far only a dozen people are in hospital, but that's certain to change. The government's best modeling indicates we'll reach several thousand cases in the next week or two. After that, if the lockdown is working to stop community transmission, we'll hopefully start seeing a decrease.

Boy do we all hope for that. This has led to some community arguments over what is and isn't allowed in lockdown. What is the definition of "going out for exercise" in a town full of climbers, marathon runners, mountaineers, and other outdoor enthusiasts? The local coast guard has asked people not to kayak and boat on the lake, to spare volunteers from having to mount rescues in case of trouble. But what about mountain biking the multitude of trails accessed from town? Or driving to more remote but still "local" trailheads? Or surfing the Hawea wave? The debate rages in local Facebook groups, with some arguing we should all stick to neighborhood walks, others insisting mental health is important, and so long as distancing is kept, other activities should be fair game.

Our household is playing it safe and keeping to short walks down to the lakeshore. Well, plus a lot of time bouncing on our backyard trampoline, and occasional games in the empty lot next door.

For my own sanity, I worked out a daily school schedule for my son, and we've settled into a reasonable routine.

We get up, have breakfast, I shower and do a 20-30min yoga workout using free youtube videos. (I just finished "30 days of Yoga with Adriene", which I really liked, so now I'm on to another 31-day set of her videos called Revolution. I can't recommend these enough. Adriene is a terrific instructor, very practical/pragmatic with a nice sense of humor, and she's great at explaining different options for beginner/intermediate/expert in each pose. For me it's been a total sanity saver.)

9am: My husband heads into his home office for work. (His company has always worked remotely, so his routine hasn't really changed!) For me and the kiddo, the "school day" starts. From 9-10, my son works on a range of activities assigned by his classroom teacher. His school has done a spectacular job of setting up tons of online learning, for which I am tremendously grateful. While the kiddo works, I write.

10am: Free time, with the caveat of no screens. I play with him if he wants.

11am: The kiddo does another block of schoolwork, and I work on my algorithm project.

12pm: Lunchtime! And chores.

1pm: Music lesson: I'm teaching him piano, since that's the instrument I play best. I wish I had been smart enough to buy some beginner piano books before the lockdown, but oh well. Instead I print off beginner exercises and music I find online.

1:30pm: Japanese lesson! The kiddo and I decided to learn Japanese together, in hopes we can visit Japan someday post-pandemic. Our Kiwi friends tell us the powder and tree skiing there are epic. We're using Rocket Japanese, which I like so far. We have a lot of fun trying to beat each other's scores on the various games & quizzes.

2pm: "Physical education"...aka, get active for an hour. We trampoline, practice cricket bowling, run sprints, dance to music, whatever the kiddo wants to do that is active.

3pm: School day is done, now the kiddo gets screen time. He plays video games and Skypes with his friends or watches favorite shows. I catch up on news, email friends, do more chores (we are still trying to stain the outside of the house!).

530pm: My husband's usually done with work, so we make dinner and then go for a family walk to the lake, or watch a movie together, or something family-oriented.

Evening on the lakeshore

All good so far, but the lockdown is yet young. I keep thinking about how hard it must be for parents of very young children or rebellious teenagers, especially if both parents are also trying to work from home. It's been a touch exhausting trying to keep my energetic 11 year old from climbing the walls, and replacing all his in-person social interaction; yet I know I'm lucky compared to so many others. Hugs to everyone out there struggling to make it through another day.

This will all be worth it if NZ can stop this virus. In my dreams, the lockdown works and thousands of lives are saved. Domestic restrictions get lifted after a month or so, and within NZ we can return to socializing and domestic travel and tramping/climbing/kayaking/etc, even if our borders have to stay closed to stop new cases. This is perhaps too optimistic a dream, but hey. Hope is a nice thing to have.

In the meantime, for anyone looking for distraction, I've got books to recommend. I've been re-reading Sangu Mandanna's A Spark of White Fire, an engaging YA space opera that I've mentioned here before, in preparation for reading the sequel, A House of Rage and Sorrow. The first book definitely holds up the second time through; I'm just as captivated as I was before, and really looking forward to seeing how the story continues. If you want to escape the world for a while, definitely try this SF adventure with sentient space ships and difficult family relationships plus magic and meddling gods.

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