New Zealand heads into a complete lockdown tonight. At midnight the shutters will come down and like Hobbits, we will all stay inside. Movement is limited to a local walk, a quick trip to a supermarket.
Socialising is via devices, which seems quite normal actually.
Chatter online suggests we are now living in a new reality, that this pandemic will change life as we know it. The reappearance of prophets holding signs seems ominous, although Dude With a Sign lacks the madman vibes of his sandwich board predecessors.
Schools are now shut, teachers are getting to grips with teaching to their charges via Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Glitches and all. So far there’s a lot of texting and group chats going on in year 6. Emojis are still in fashion. Tik Tok moves abound. Parents are realising how patient and advanced teachers are at crowd control and wonder if they can sign up for some training. Online of course.
One can only wonder whats happening in year one.
Extreme times call for extreme measures and New Zealand has always had a sense of extremity about it. So far away from the rest of the world. The little toe to the world’s brain.
Our two craggy islands were settled by resilient seafarers. Maori Polynesian in hand made Waka. Sailing the Pacifica vast distances and landing on inhospitable coastlines. If you haven’t visited Aotearoa, the rough seas can only be marginally described in writing. It’s a tough land, beautiful, but a far cry from our neighbours of Fiji, Samoa and Rarotonga where soft white sand is caressed by turquoise warm waters. We have beaches, but it takes a certain strength of character to swim in antarctic fed temperatures.
People do. Wetsuit booties and all.
Kupe famously pulled this rocky fish of a place up from the icy depths of the pacific. If that wasn’t dramatic enough, his brothers made quick work of beating it up, thus giving rise to such steep hills and mountains that our cars precariously cling to the streets. Our sheep seem to have antigravity talents as they graze on near-vertical farms.
Our capital is Wellington and an exercise in resilience. The wind is strong enough to blow trucks over. We ski on active volcanoes. On the Ring of Fire with earthquakes and tsunami a very real threat, a large fault runs right under the CBD.
We have to wait for weeks for Amazon purchases to arrive.
Now New Zealanders are retreating even further from the world into their homes. It began yesterday with our prime minister Jacinda Arderns announcement raising of our status to level four by tonight. In line with the national character, the Kiwis have rushed out to buy paint. Apparently there’s a lot of home DIY about to start.
Media has also reported ‘panic’ shopping at the supermarkets. Its better described as stoic shopping. Here people were reported to have not been quite two meters apart. One man complained the hand sanitiser was on the wrong side of the door. Standing in a line is a novelty here. The queue at I stood in yesterday comprised of ten people. It was the largest supermarket in Wellington.
Our Australian counterparts have had fistfights in the aisles. As an Australian, one might prefer to blame this toddler-like behaviour on the Australian heat, but in all honesty, Kiwis are just behaving better.
Australia too has had its fair share of recent dramatic crisis. Each year the fires are bigger, hotter and more devastating. A comparison of struggle isn’t the most progressive conversation yet a distinction of leadership is informing.
Leadership in New Zealand has been, especially since Jacinda Ardern, robust. A leader who is at least half the age of many of her colleagues and comparative people of power, her image lit up the worlds tallest building after the Christchurch atrocity. Donald Trump featured as an inflated baby in a nappy outside the UK parliament in his early days of leadership. My own prime minister, Scott Morrison, forced an exhausted woman to shake his hand on visiting her fire-ravaged town. He then made a quick exit, perhaps wishing he hadn’t come back from his Hawaiin retreat.
The differences in style are palpable.
Ardern surprises us. Tested with some of the most trying scenarios in recent memory, she seems more than capable. Defiant even. She embodies this Kiwi steadfastness without kicking a rugby ball or being a middle-aged white man. She features in glamourous women’s magazines one day, the next plunging New Zealand into complete lockdown.
Jacinda Ardern possesses the important traits of leadership: kindness; generosity and intellect. But she also has the crucial ability to be decisive.
A poll today reports almost universal support for the impending shutdown. Remembering the announcement was only a day ago, the adoption of policy has been swift. Kiwis seem to be able to adapt at short notice.
Most Kiwis have a certain amount of emergency supplies due to the turbulence of the islands. We are encouraged to ‘be prepared’ for post-quake infrastructure breakdown.
Living here feels like living on the back of Kupe’s fish. Out at sea on the edge of the world, New Zealand is alive, thrashing and rolling in the waves.
Its citizens are riding that fish and truly able to stay aboard.
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***Since the time of writing the lockdown has been brought forward and New Zealand is at level four. There has also been an argument between parents at a playground.