MIQ: Week 1
7 August 2021
It's Saturday, and we've been here exactly a week. Halfway through MIQ and we're still talking to each other. Blimey.
I'd planned to write this every day to give me something to do. But the truth is that most of our time is spent eating and sleeping. I've been waking up once or twice in the night, but other than that, it turns out being forced to stay in a hotel room for 23.5 hours a day is a really good way to deal with jet lag.
We've been lucky this first week as the Olympics have been on. While TVNZ is showing some events, the hotel telly also has Sky Sports. It's really strange to watch a huge sporting event where the coverage is completely uninterested in how the Brits are doing.
That's not the only reason MIQ is weird. You're in a 4* hotel, with three generally delicious meals a day brought to your room. You can order as much coffee and little bottles of shampoo and body wash as you like. But you do your own cleaning, no one makes your bed and you have to ask permission to leave your room. And unless you have a very good reason, like a COVID test or pre-booked exercise session, you won't be able to.
Your blue band is your golden ticket. You get these if your day zero COVID test comes back negative and you have to show them every time you leave your room. In theory, there's no limit to how many times you can exercise outside a day but that's not how it is in practice. Apparently, 130 people checked into MIQ here at Rydges on the same day as us. That means the three exercise areas are often oversubscribed.
Area 1 is the forecourt of the hotel. It's surrounded by metal barriers and plastic sheeting to protect Aucklanders from any potential threat we pose as they go about their daily business. Five or 6 people at a time are allowed to walk around in a circle for 30 minutes, with each bubble keeping 2m apart while members of the New Zealand airforce keep watch.
To one side of the hotel is the ramp. This has to be pre-booked and you can't use it two days in a row. We've managed to get a slot three times so far and it's great – they only allow one bubble at a time and it's on a slope, so you actually feel like you've had some exercise if you walk at a smart enough pace. You're not supposed to run as you mustn't get sweaty. This is no hardship at all for me.
The final area is the roof terrace. This is mostly covered, but has a small open area at the side where you can breathe fresh air and look up to see the top of the Sky Tower looming over you. The only time I've managed to get up there it was dark, and it was mesmerising watching the white lights of the city's traffic snaking up and over the Harbour Bridge in the distance.
When MIQ started, residents at Rydges Auckland were bussed to green areas to exercise. Then someone from another hotel reportedly got COVID after travelling on one of the buses so that's been stopped. In truth, the exercise options here aren't great for either mental health or vitamin D and if, like us, you don't have a window that opens, it's particularly tough.
But one good thing about being in the centre of the city is that people you know can nonchalantly stroll past the hotel and wave at you from the street just as you happen to be exercising on the ramp.
We got to say hello to Phil's mum this morning during 'ramp time', which was lovely, even though we had to communicate through the medium of mime due to the ever present face coverings, the fact we were standing 30 feet away from each other and the wind chose that moment to swirl loudly around the ramp. The young man from the air service who was on fence duty kept an eye on us to make sure no one got too close but apart from that, left us to it.
It's fair to say that the people keeping us safe here have been exceptional. Whether they're service personnel, medical or hotel staff, they're universally friendly and even though they're all wearing masks, I'm pretty sure they're smiling at us behind them.
They're constantly taking in emergency packages for residents, food deliveries from Countdown or takeaways from Uber Eats. On our first night we ordered a bottle of wine and it arrived virtually before I'd put down the phone. With so little contact with humans outside your bubble, any extra social interaction quickly becomes the highlight of your day, whether it's the person taking your temperature during the regular health checks, or having a conversation with reception to ask for your dirty pants to be collected for washing. (You get two laundry pick ups during your 14-day stay, which is exceptionally welcome.)
Passing the time in our room has been less of a challenge than I imagined so far, although I suspect the novelty of guilt-free binge watching Netflix may wear off next week.
I've read three books and danced like a crazy woman to 70s disco for half an hour each morning. We even completed a jigsaw called Moving the Cattle together. Sort of.
At one point, a huge bouquet of flowers arrived from my new employer, welcoming me to the country. Our room is very brown and to suddenly have this big bunch of bright yellow blooms to enjoy was totally unexpected and such a lovely gesture that I immediately started crying. In a good way.
The room decor may be dark but the view is generally light and bright. Despite arriving in winter, we've been lucky to have had blue skies and sunshine for most of our stay so far. Which is why it was so unsettling yesterday when silver fog descended and the city turned monochrome in front of my eyes. I knew aliens weren't about to land, herd us onto their space ship and pluck out our brains to place in cyber suits to create a platoon of human-bot hybrids to take over the world, but I was definitely relieved when the sun broke through.
Maybe this isolation thing is getting to me after all?