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Behind the scenes with ITC’s blogger, Hayley

Posted on 22/09/2021 by

A Kiwi exploring Canada, at the famous Moraine Lake (before lockdowns!).

Usually, I write about something that’s happening with ITC or SFH, chatting to incredible graduates and wonderful ITC/SFH staff, covering industry updates, or writing about the amazingness that is New Zealand tourism.

This time, the team at ITC thought it might be an idea to write about something a little more personal – me.

You see, I’m not holed up in an Auckland office (although that is how my writing career began). I’m not actually even in New Zealand (although I am a Kiwi through and through) – I’m currently living in Montreal, Canada. As such, I’ve had a bit of a different pandemic experience than most Kiwis.

Here’s my story!

Diving head first into level four

I actually got stuck in New Zealand for the first lockdown.

I was home for my brother’s wedding, and had a flight back to Canada booked for March 28 2020. New Zealand had gone into level four about a week prior, but the government had made it very clear that travellers could still leave the country if they had an exit ticket.

That changed at midnight on March 27, and I didn’t find out about it until I had said a tearful goodbye to my bubble early the next morning. I couldn’t board the domestic flight from Christchurch to Auckland to leave the country, and although this rule was reversed again just a few days later, my plane had well and truly departed.

So that’s how I ended up staying in New Zealand for another six weeks or so. Waiting for a vaguely affordable flight to turn up and living the lockdown life in a bubble with my mum, step-dad, and their two fluffy cats.

I managed to fly out during level three, and ended up being happy to have that extra unexpected time at home.

18 months of lockdowns and curfews

I made it back to Montreal in May 2020. I was immediately shocked by how relaxed the ‘lockdown’ was, how many places were still open, and how many people were mingling in parks.

While things opened up somewhat for a few months that summer (NZ’s winter), we went back into a deeper lockdown at the end of the year (similar to level three). In January they introduced an 8pm curfew.

More than once I got caught out on an evening walk and had to run home to get in the door by 8pm, and more than once I ran out of some important ingredient when making dinner but wasn’t able to pop out for supplies after 7.30pm.

I fostered cats, read a lot of books, made friends with a squirrel on my balcony, worked, and went for a daily walk every day for months, and months, and months on end. One time my mum went to a second hand book sale in Christchurch and I made her video call me so I could feel like I was actually doing something. I was so happy for my friends and family back home as they attended weddings, festivals, and events, and relieved I didn’t have to worry about them during such a devastating pandemic.

Our lockdowns weren’t as strict as New Zealand’s, but they were much longer lasting (and nowhere nearly as effective).

Vaccinations and the light at the end of the tunnel

I received my first shot in mid-May, and my second in early July as soon as I was able. Restaurants with outdoor patios were the first to be able to open in June, which saw a wave of construction as eateries hastily built small outdoor eating spaces at their front doors.

After that, things sped up and opened up almost overnight. Everybody was getting their vaccines, everything was opening up, case numbers were dropping, and suddenly, we could make plans again.

Europe opened to fully vaccinated travellers, so my partner and I were able to attend a wedding in France, after which I visited Denmark, where the vaccination rates were so high that they weren’t even wearing masks or distancing.

Like me, everyone went travelling the second they could – weekends away, trips overseas, and visits to long-missed family and friends.

Now, it’s late summer, and life is the closest thing to normal I’ve experienced since March 2020. Everything is open, Montreal’s famous Jazz Festival is lighting up the city every night, and everyone is excitedly making plans. You need your vaccine passport to enter bars and restaurants and we’re still wearing masks indoors, but with high vaccine uptake and so many things to see and do, these ‘restrictions’ barely feel like restrictions at all.

New Zealand: You’re up

 It’s been 18 months since I watched a 1pm update in New Zealand, but I keep an eye on it from afar every day. I check the vaccine rates each morning, and cheer you all on from afar as the case numbers drop and the vaccine numbers skyrocket.

From what I can tell, New Zealand isn’t too far away from finding a way to open up safely and start to get back into the swing of things. If it’s anything like it was here, the first thing people will do is get out and travel, go to events, and catch up with friends and family all over the country, and the world. It’s going to be an exciting time for tourism and travel and I can’t wait to see it.

Hopefully, that will include a ticket from Montreal back to Christchurch one day soon, so I can have a proper coffee, tick off a few more of my New Zealand bucket list must-dos, and give some of my favourite Kiwis the biggest hugs ever.

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