After two weeks in quarantine at a managed isolation facility and three COVID tests in Auckland, we were released into normal society on November 23. Our journey before, during, and after had many twists and turns, but we were able to execute our plans to travel to New Zealand. I am extremely fortunate to come here with my husband, a New Zealand citizen, to join our daughters, who are both New Zealand citizens.
In this country of 5 million residents, Jacinda Ardern, the current prime minister, is known here and throughout the world as having managed to keep New Zealand free from many of the world’s woes over COVID-19. There is still much caution and work to be done, but we are witnessing how these efforts have translated into big differences from those of other countries.
It didn’t take much adjustment, as our long-term memory guided us to the familiar past easily. Without masks or social distancing, we could conduct ourselves just as we had done pre-pandemic. We could go to shops, supermarkets, and restaurants. It didn’t seem as surreal as our short-term memory flashed a vague feeling of anxiety and wistfulness.
We left Auckland and drove three hours south to Tauranga, located in the Bay of Plenty. It is a large beach resort similar to Santa Cruz or Newport Beach on the California coast. As the weather was turning into summer, the balmy breezes, warm days and cool nights reminded us of our coastal weather. We took a short walk through Mt. Manganui with beautiful , crisp views of the bay.
Our Air Bnb was located a couple of blocks from the extensive Papamoa Beach. With over 10 mile stretch of pristine sand beach, residents of this small community of 20,000 have no problem with parking or access to it.
New Zealand is better at acknowledging its Maori culture and history. Substantial progress has been made in recent years in promoting the country’s first inhabitants. Maori names and language are being integrated into daily life. We encountered some students at Papamoa Beach practicing for an upcoming event.
Small-scale farming is ubiquitous throughout the country. We stopped at a strawberry patch and a lemon and avocado farm to enjoy the spring bounty. The header above is where daughter Julianne is living.
Most of this first week has been consumed with our arrival and joyful family gatherings, so my comments on New Zealand are brief. Please stay tuned for more to come over the next few months!