08 June 2020

Level 1 tomorrow!

Today is an unprecedented time. We're supposed to be on Level 2 for a couple more weeks, but with the last COVID-19 case in the hospital recovering today and with zero new cases, the country has been declared COVID-19 free! We are now moving to Level 1 at midnight tonight.

What does this mean for us? No more social distancing, though it still pays to record where you go (the app is still being advertised). No more limit to gatherings, so that means church and church group activities can resume, and sports and concerts and lots of other similar activities can jumpstart.

In only a few hours, we will be at Level 1. I'm supposed to be working from home this week, but I have a meeting tomorrow so I'm reporting to the office. It might well likely be that I'll be continuing to work at the office for the rest of the week and beyond. I did enjoy working from home though, and since I already have a set-up for that, I might try to ask if I can spend some days working from home. I personally think it worked quite well.

The country's borders will still be closed though and those arriving from overseas will still be required to isolate for 14 days. There might be a trans-Tasman bubble in the works, but there's no concrete announcement about that yet. In the meantime, yay for this major feat!

26 May 2020

On the second week of Level 2 Lockdown

I have actually started going to work already last week. Also, we went to Level 2 lockdown last week and schools have opened. So it made sense for me to go back to the office as well. However, to ensure that there is business continuity, I'm alternating between working from home and reporting to work on a weekly basis.

Prior to going to work, I managed to grow 7 weeks' worth of facial hair. I've never grown facial hair this long so I took a photo for posterity's sake before shaving it off. If my beard or moustache were a bit thicker, I would have considered retaining one or the other, but it's a bit all over the place, so it had to go. It was fun while it lasted. Surprisingly, it wasn't itchy at all. My cheeks would itch when I let my facial hair grow but not this time around.

Not surprisingly, there weren't a lot of people in the train going to and from work so social distancing wasn't that much of a challenge. And the bonus? Bus and train fare is free! There's also lots of vacant spaces in the free parking right next to the train station. So it's pretty obvious that there are still lots of people who are working from home... or worse, they don't have a job to return to?

So under Level 2, gatherings of 10 or less were permitted. Yesterday, the government announced that this Friday, gatherings of 100 people will be allowed. We haven't had new cases for the past few days (with the exception of 1 yesterday I think and it was related to a cluster) so some restrictions are being relaxed. It's really good news because it means the curve has well and truly been flattened. We just hope that relaxing restrictions will not results in a second wave.

Winter has come. It was especially cold a couple of days ago. So seeing frost on the ground and on parked cars was a grim reminder of freezing weather ahead. I have started rearranging some stuff in the house so I can make room for potted succulents outside the house. Last year when my father passed away, it was winter time (July) and while I was in limbo I neglected my outdoor cacti and succulent collection. When I went to the garden to check up on them, some were already beyond recovery. I lost one of my favourites, the Desert Rose, which was growing especially well before winter but it succumbed to the cold and wet weather. I'm looking for a replacement until now.

My daughter still hasn't resumed going back to her swimming lessons, piano lessons, and gym. While she's now going back to school, we're still trying to manage her exposure to other people. Actually I'm not sure if her extra-curricular activities have opened already. There's other things we need to take care of, activities that paused while on L4 and L3 lockdown.

Discussions on whether the country can downgrade to L1 will happen a month from now. Currently borders are still shut, but there are talks on extending our bubble with Australia.

I hope you and your family are doing ok in these uncertain times.

28 April 2020

Day 1 of Level 3 Lockdown

Today, we start Level 3 Lockdown. The month-long Level 4 was extended over the long weekend to 33 days, and ended yesterday, ANZAC Monday.

The days seem to overlap each other, and when it's a long weekend it becomes even trickier to realise whether it's a working day or not. Not that I'm complaining. I was grateful for that extra day of rest as I work full time still.

Overall, New Zealand is faring quite well in the battle against COVID-19. These past few days, we've had single digit cases. Today, we have 3 new cases, 2 confirmed and 1 probable. There have been 19 deaths so far, sadly most are from the vulnerable people from rest homes.

This graph is from The Spinoff. There have been more recoveries as it appears we have flattened the curve.

Level 3 lockdown will last for 2 weeks. While school is open, only kids of essential workers who cannot work from home can attend. So it's home schooling for our 2 kids in the meantime. Businesses will start to open today, but with distancing measures in place, and most are for deliveries or pick-ups only. We're still pretty much being asked to stay at home and keep to our immediate contacts only.

We did another grocery run mid-last week and my wife said supplies are ok. The shelves don't look sparse. Although baking goods are still in high demand. Flour, especially, is hard to come by. At least that's more understandable now as people while the time away by baking. The demand for tissue paper at the start of Level 4 lockdown still boggles the mind.

We are officially in the middle of Autumn, so the days are getting shorter. At the start of lockdown, I still managed to get a couple of hours gardening after work. But now, at 6pm the sun is well on its way to settling in for the night. I would have wanted more time after work to do things outside and around the house.

We've started watching anime with my 2 kids in the evenings. We finished the first season of Dr Stone, and since the second season is still being worked on, we've started with Mob 100. My wife has taken interest in baking, and so we've had some nice morning and afternoon tea breaks lately.

After this post, I'm going back to my list of things to order and get delivered from the local warehouse. Here's to hoping I can get some time to work on other stuff.

20 April 2020

Day 26 of lockdown due to COVID-19

Actually, day 26 hasn't really started yet as I write this blog post in bed at 6am.

In my last post, we were in the middle of the Holy Week. I decided to take a break and spend the time with the family and also do some odd jobs around the house.

With the country under lockdown, travel was prohibited and all (save for essential workers) were housebound. But it's Holy Week, and really that's how I was taught to observe it when I was a kid in the 70s in the Philippines.

There was no cable TV back then, no internet, no mobile phones. Starting Maundy Thursday, broadcast stations shut down for the weekend. When you turn on the TV, you would see white noise and nothing else. We couldn't play outside because it's prohibited to make noise and laughter; the elders would say if we get injured, it will take a long time to heal. Come Friday, TV stations would start broadcasting, but only for the Seven Last Words, and also Easter programmes and religious movies. Sunday is when everyone celebrates. And for us kids, relief that Easter has finally arrived and that we can play and watch TV again!

As public gatherings were still banned, we celebrated Easter mass online at Vatican. This is actually the first time we have tuned in to Vatican TV, and we wondered if they are always broadcasting. We have attended online mass a number of times since.

We saw some Easter messages in windows as we took our midday stroll.

Easter egg hunts are a huge thing here in NZ. Kids took part in hunts held in their own homes. This is not a usual tradition in our home, so it's no surprise that we forgot to buy some when we did our groceries.

One of our more memorable walks is our night stroll. It was quite a lovely day with no wind and the evening wasn't too chilly. We tarried a bit so we started quite late but it made the walk quite different from our usual.

The number of cases here has dropped quite significantly. On a couple of days, we just had single-digit new cases. Yesterday was one of them, with 9 new cases. The downside is that the total number of deaths has risen to 12. Today at 4pm, the Prime Minister will decide whether we will downgrade the alert level to 3 mid-week.

08 April 2020

Day 14 of lockdown due to COVID-19

Today's 50 (26 confirmed, 24 probable) marks the second day of declining COVID-19 cases in New Zealand. As Washington Post declares that New Zealand is squashing the curve, we should become even more vigilant, because such a trend might cause us to relax our guard and become careless.

This morning the pantry did not have bread and milk, so we decided to go to the supermarket. It took a little more than an hour to complete the shopping, and then it's back to homebase.

Daylight Savings Time has ended over the weekend. The days are becoming shorter and the afternoon air a bit chilly. Last week I used to be able to spend a couple of hours after work tending the garden, but it's been a bit difficult these past couple of days because of the weather. I think it's also because of the cyclone that is battering the nearby Pacific Islands.

We are now in the middle of Holy Week. It's a very important time in our Catholic spiritual life. Friday through to Sunday would be a time of community gathering, of following His passion of the cross, His death, and resurrection on Sunday.

COVID-19 has changed the way we are commemorating this special occasion. This is the first time ever that gatherings of any kind are forbidden, including Church gatherings, in case community contamination may occur. But convene we must, and with the aid of technology we will.

07 April 2020

Day 13 of lockdown due to COVID-19

A glimmer of hope today - 54 new coronavirus cases, total 1160. This is a drop in daily new cases. But we have to soldier on if we are to sustain this.

While the vast majority are heeding the Level 4 lockdown rules, a few are not so cooperative. This is even more emphasized when the lawmaker becomes the lawbreaker. Just as the Philippines has Koko Pimentel who visited Makati Medical Centre while exhibiting symptoms and later tested positive, we have Health Minister David Clark breaching the Level 4 lockdown here in New Zealand.

Personally, I do not find lockdown and basically being told to stay at home bothersome. As my close friends know, I'm an introvert. I would prefer staying at home than going out. Case in point: In the more than 10 years we've been here in New Zealand, I've only been to less than 10 pubs with less than a total of 20 visits. I've only been to a dozen or so restaurants. When I get together with friends, I prefer going to their home, or host them ourselves, to lessen crowd interaction. I can be the most socially awkward person there is. The last time I emceed a Christmas party with a friend, it took me two days to recover from the sheer exhaustion.

It's also relatively quiet here at home, with the family giving me space to work. But at the same time we interact during stretch and lunch breaks.

Sometimes though, life throws a spanner in the works and you just have to deal with it. Which is why I sometimes amaze myself when I handle things I normally would not do. I've lived a lifetime of experiences that have challenged me in a lot of ways, and I think that, inspite of other people telling you what they think you ought to be, you should learn to accept yourself, your limitations and your capabilities.

I think this is one of the more important lessons I've learned during this lockdown.

And what motivates me to go beyond what I would normally do? I think it's the bonds of friendship I have forged, the respect I have for other people, and that Someone up there has given me worthwhile endeavours to work on.

06 April 2020

Day 12 of lockdown due to COVID-19

Thought I'd take a break over most things over the weekend and take it easy. It was nice just taking my time and spending time with my family.

We had fine, sunny days that made our lunchtime strolls quite enjoyable. Even my son joined us, and that's saying something.

We saw our neighbourhood in a new light as we would usually just drive by when we go to work and back. We explored its nooks and crannies.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Normally we would be at church for the blessing of the palms. This year, we attended an online mass and created our own works of art, which we hung by our door.
We brought out our old Wii console which had exercise activities. The last time I used it (which was about 3 years ago), I was overweight. Look what it said this time!
It's been another full-on day at work today so I'm really glad I took the weekend off.

There were 39 new confirmed cases, and 28 new probable cases today, bringing a total of 1,106.

Late last week, the worldwide cases have reached a milestone of 1 million.

03 April 2020

Day 9 of lockdown due to COVID019

Today's a Friday, and personally it's a welcome change because of my full time work. It still feels like the weekend, but there are many who would feel that this day is just another day as they face salary cuts, or even worse, unemployment. It's going to be a difficult time ahead, post COVID-19.

Even as I write this, there's a second wave of the outbreak near the Hubei province in China where this all began.

Today in New Zealand, the total number of new cases dropped to 71, bringing a total of 868.

To defeat this virus, the message is clear and simple: stay home and stay local. Walking for exercise is permitted, but keep the 2m distance when crossing paths with others, and stay in your area.

But staying at home doesn't mean isolating yourself from others. Use technology to look out for each other and keep in touch.

02 April 2020

Day 8 of lockdown due to COVID-19

The morning fog was a foreboding of things to come today.

I woke up and prepared for my usual routine. We managed to have our lunchtime walk, which was occasionally interrupted by light showers, but it was fine weather overall.
Later in the day, we learned that today has the biggest number of new cases yet: 89, making the total to 797. A major magazine company has also decided to close down, and Air New Zealand slashed 95% of its domestic flights.

With all these bad news coming at us left and right, we can't help but worry. And yet worrying will not really help much. We just have to comply with the guidelines set before us in order to stamp out this disease, count our blessings, and be a blessing to others too.

01 April 2020

Day 7 of lockdown due to COVID-19

Today was D-day. Or should I say, Supermarket Day. We drove down to the supermarket and my wife joined the queue while I waited in the car. The guidance is that only one person should purchase stuff, and if anyone else should stay put in the car. It was just as well that she went because I was having a bad case of hayfever. For sure people would go scrambling when I start sneezing inside.

We arrived at the supermarket at around 1.15pm, and she returned a little over an hour later. It wasn't that bad, she said. She managed to purchase the things we need and there was adequate stock for all necessities and food. The customers were orderly and it was relatively quiet, so I guess my concerns about experiencing or seeing some form of harrassment has, thankfully, no grounds.

It was a hot day today so staying in the car (and wandering a short distance around the parking lot) made me feel sleepy, so it was a challenge going back to work afterwards. But work I had to, and finished a bit later to compensate for the time we were out.

We had an online group prayer meeting that evening. It's good to have support in these challenging times.

We did not have a chance to go out for a walk due to the grocery shopping, but here's a photo of one of the more amusing stuffed toys display we saw.

Today there were 61 new and confirmed COVID019 cases, bringing to a total of 708 here in New Zealand.

31 March 2020

Day 6 of lockdown due to COVID-19

Nearly one week on to a four-week lockdown here in New Zealand. I think I'm getting the hang of our routine. Actually mine hasn't really changed much because I'm still working full time. I just changed location.

I started work again at 8.30 so I can log off earlier than I would usually do (I normally arrive home at 6.30pm on account of commute time). I am essentially regarded as an essential worker so I've been given access to work remotely.

Things are pretty much the same today, except for a few things:

My daughter has picked up a new hobby - knitting. My wife was looking for stuff that my daughter can do, and she found this knitting kit that I bought more than a year ago. She took to it immediately, and spent most of the afternoon working on her hat, which took just an afternoon to make!

She's already started making a scarf, which I'm assisting her with. It reminds me of my grade school project when we also knitted a scarf.

It may sound strange that we were knitting clothing for cold climates when I come from a tropical country. But I lived in Baguio City, which is a lot cooler than most cities in the Philippines since it's a city in the mountains. The temperature drops in December, and it can go as low as 8 degrees Centigrade in February.

It was a warm, sunny day so we were able to take our lunchtime stroll, and saw some more houses with stuffed toys on display.

In the afternoon, I was able to do some gardening too.

So yeah, things are falling into a routine somewhat, so there's some semblance of normalcy. Which is good, especially for the kids.

We are due for a visit to the supermarket though, so that will be another experience.

Here's a couple more photos from the day before the lockdown:
The regular rice we purchase have sold out, so we had to but Jasmine rice instead.

There was an extraordinary amount of people driving through McDonald's, which was set to close.

I'm a bit stressed out to go to the supermarket, actually, because there have been reported cases of customers abusing supermarket staff. These sort of situations can bring out the best in people, but it can also bring out the worst.

There's been 58 new cases today, bringing the total to 647.

30 March 2020

Day 5 of lockdown due to COVID-19

It's the start of a new workday, so I got up at 6.30am, prepared for the morning, then went to work at 8.30. It wasn't as hectic as last week so I managed to catch up with some of our backlog.

This week, I decided to move to our dining area. I was actually using my daughter's study table last week but I found the leg room too restrictive and was giving me back pains. I do wonder if the office table I ordered will ever arrive, since office supplies stores are categorised as non-essential. My online order did come through, so I was hoping it would be on its way. At any rate, the dining area has been transformed into an office for now. The added perk is that I'm only a few steps away from the pantry!

Today's also the start of free exercise sessions at 9am. I'm already at work by then so my daughter took charge of exercise duties.

The rain has finally given way to the sun and so we were able to go out for some exercise. We saw more houses with stuffed toys displayed by their windows.

It was back to work shortly afterwards, then I logged off at 5pm, which gave me time to do some gardening and re-potting of my growing collection of succulents. Here's one in a re-used ice cream tub:

After dinner, it's another episode of  a series we're watching on Netflix, then a bit of reading, then it's off to bed soon.

I'm liking this routine because I'm able to work early and finish early, and so I'm able to do other stuff afterwards. With the end of daylight savings time just around the corner, this is indeed something that I welcome.

I have also started searching for a way to get A Storm at the Sea of Galilee, be it by poster or by colour by number. I think I will prefer going by the latter; it will be an activity I can have with the family and display the result by the doorway. Obviously delivery will be a problem, so I'm bookmarking sites where I can order it from.

Today in New Zealand, we had 76 new cases of COVID-19, with a current total of 589.

29 March 2020

Day 4 of lockdown due to COVID-19

We normally go to mass at 10.30am but since all sorts of gatherings are now prohibited, we opted for the online version as well. We managed to catch an early morning mass from the Philippines.
It was looking to be another gloomy day so I was planning on taking it real slow today. The morning was uneventful. We played more XBox games and just spent quality with the family.
Lunch was special. We had a picnic. But since going to the park on extended periods of time is now allowed, we had it in the living room instead.
I had my siesta shortly afterwards. When I woke up an hour later, the sun was streaming through the window! We then decided to go for a stroll and stretch our legs. Other people had the same idea and we saw some families and other people walking their dogs, or going for an exercise. We'd wave hello to each other and keep our distance.

The other thing we tried to spot were teddy bears and stuffed toys that adorned the windows of our neighbourhood. My daughter had fun identifying the characters.

This one's different:
The family:

The sun was still out when we got back home so I decided to do some long-delayed gardening. I have a cherry blossom tree which my CFC household gifted me when we had our re-org last year. I potted it up, but I think it's time to be planted on the ground but haven't had time do so. I think the timing was just right because it had developed a healthy root system when I removed it from its pot.

I also have a Japanese maple tree, which has been living in a pot and needs to be planted on proper soil. I was thinking of making a bonsai out of it but I don't anticipate having much time for it, so onto the ground it finally stayed!
I've also planted some bulbs, in time for spring.
I thought it was a productive late afternoon overall. So it's back to work tomorrow.

There's been 60 Coronavirus cases today, making the total 476. There's been 1 death.

There are currently 8 strains of Coronavirus.

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