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  • Writer's pictureAlicia Dione

Freedom Day

Today I woke with a thick head and an hour of memory missing. As it turns out, when you have survived 10 days of quarantine and it is your last night with the gin, you make the most of it. We didn't drink quickly, we didn't do shots or act like it was spring break... we did however drink pretty consistently from 3pm until 10pm... and you know what? I was awesome! It really was a party in quarantine to remember (ironic) and we didn’t waste a single drop of gin! Now that's a success in my eyes. Now that it's morning it's going to take two ibuprofen and lots of water to get going.


After lots of tidying and packing I was able to fit in a 45 minute call with mum and a hot bubble bath! There's something so pleasing about a hotel bathtub, I don't know if it's the fact that you don't pay for the water bill, the water gets hot so quickly or the fact that you don't have to wash and hang any of the towels... but I'm a fan. Time rolled on and I was praying that the transport for the airport wouldn't arrive until my quesadillas had arrived (priorities).


To my triumph, food arrived and I began to wolf it down in attempts to finish it before our door knocked in three minutes time. We were supposed to be collected at 13:00 but 13:20 rolled around and we had heard nothing. Trusting the well oiled machine that was MIQ we didn't panic and finished our amazing lunches. To stress the importance of this I will describe briefly... ahem... Hot and fluffy sweet potato quesadillas with melted cheese in crunchy wraps. Served with a side of paprika dusted, salty wedges that burst into creamy potato with every bite. Mid meal the phone rang and our first cause for concern arose; our transport was not here and they had no idea why it had not arrived. Watching from the window we saw military men in full camo gear run to all of the buses to see if there was any space to take ourselves and six others to the Auckland Airport. As I washed my last bite down with scruffy ginger and lemon kombucha... the door knocked. It was freedom.


The energy on our small minibus which totalled 8 people was electric. We were all ecstatic to be leaving MIQ and one woman in particular was “not going to miss that carpark”. The effects of walking in the same circle over and over had clearly had an effect on people. I for one had burnt quite badly on only one side of my neck and the man behind me claimed that one of his legs was now shorter than the other. I don’t even doubt it. A short bus ride later and we were at the airport. As I disembarked from our small ride, I looked around me in the glorious sunshine and it must have taken me a whole two minutes to notice that no one else was wearing masks... not…. wearing…. a mask? No…. mask…. allowed? As my alien brain computed this information, I reached my hand up to the back of my right ear, pulled the white elastic and released the bottom half of my face into the elements for the first time in 12 days! It was glorious. Breathing fresh air through nothing but my nose and sunshine bouncing off my cheeks, lips and chin. I feel truly spoilt. The party didn't last for long. Now I am back in my mask and sat at gate 32 awaiting for boarding to commence and if all goes to plan we will be in Windy Welly in two hours time. We will be back in the glorious outdoors in two hours time. We will truly be free… in two hours time.


I can’t believe.

I can’t believe I am currently soaring through the New Zealand sky on my way to a new city that I will call home.

I can’t believe I made it through MIQ without so much as a scratch.

I can’t believe I have a tan in January!

I can’t believe I’m starting a new life that could be straight out of a movie.

I can’t believe this is my life.


***


After being picked up at the airport, Ben’s boss kindly drove us around Wellington to help us get our bearings. We went to the top of mount Victoria and looked down on many important land marks. Cricket stadium, rugby stadium, parliament, rowing club, the harbour, war memorial, ferry port and so much more. We also had a quick trip to the beaches in the area, one of which was in the city centre and has sand imported from the south island! Apparently it is a popular spot for people working in the city to enjoy their lunch breaks and possibly even go for a dip.


As soon as we got to our room, I was thrilled to see we had a washer dryer, a sweet relief after my ridiculous outburst over missing the laundry service in MIQ. As we dumped our bags we had but one priority... eat food, on a plate, at a table with chairs, in the sun. A quick costume change and we were out the door and walking towards the water front. The music could be heard before the restaurants were seen and the sky scrapers and yellow cross walks reminded me of my short time in New York. Wellington is better than New York though, on first impression anyway. It’s all of the excitement and shop fronts and bustle but there are fewer people and so room to breathe. There is also a sea front two minutes down the road and a much friendlier culture.


Without second guessing for a moment we knew exactly where we wanted to eat…. Rosie’s Tacos. Our favourite cocktail was the main event on the menu and Mexican food is our all time favourite treat. Enchiladas, tacos, fajitas and quesadillas are all time favourites for Ben and I. As we sat at our table in the glorious evening rays and removed our masks, we sat in disbelief that we had made it. We are in Wellington! We ordered some ‘monster nachos’ which was the most apt name for the dish as we shared it and physically couldn’t finish it. A margarita and an apple cider later and we were ready for some wine and digestion. We basked in the sun for as long as we physically could but our bodies had acclimatised to a hotel bedroom. As soon as the rays dipped behind the horizon, we moved our bottle of wine indoors.


Surrounded by actual people, we drank our wine and reminisced over the journey that had been; making it to this point. We looked back to the date when we found out that we had a place in MIQ: 30th November 2021. We honestly thought we weren’t going to NZ on the morning of the 30th November. I had applied and secured two jobs in the Bristol area, we were looking at apartments online and Ben was deciding whether to revoke his notice at his current job… NZ wasn’t going to happen for us. That night I went to work at the pub and Ben went in for yet another MIQ lottery. We got it! In the space of 49 days we have left our jobs, packed our bags, completed unfathomable quantities of paperwork, said our goodbyes and caught a flight to NZ. Madness. Now, we are sat in a bar, in Wellington, as far from home as we have ever been in our lives and toasting to the future.


Tomorrow has its own mini adventure within it. We will be meeting two of Ben’s colleagues for the first time and they will help us with admin such as banks, phones and drivers licences. Once we have all of that, we will be set! We will exist within the system and society of NZ and actually be able to buy things… like suncream! Also, I’ve herd that absolutely no one here drinks coffee from Starbucks- “Only tourists and kids. That right there, is the only Starbucks in the whole of Wellington”. Suits me and Ben just fine and I am happy to hear that coffee is such a locally respected trade here. Supporting small businesses is so important and to hear that a whole city is united on supporting local coffee shops makes me smile and gives me a little more faith in humanity as a whole.

Signing off from Wellington, New Zealand.

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