Through the plane’s porthole hung the eponymous Long White Clouds of Aotearoa, graphical evidence that I was indeed Home.

The second harbinger was the huge Samoan porter / helper at Auckland airport throwing my 35 kg bag around like polystyrene – “welcome home,” the Bro had said.

Then there was the bus trip from Auckland airport to the quarantine hotel – the Grand Millenium Hotel– beside the orderly and dull suburbs you don’t see in SE Asia.

The Hotel

Is vast, about 500 rooms on 12 floors, as far as I know containing only quarantine inmates.

It’s flash, featuring a huge open central atrium, and a clever modern layout, neither of which we can really fully enjoy, being basically confined to our rooms. There’s a concreted exercise yard, almost totally enclosed, where 8 – 10 people typically mill around in a circular fashion. There’s a “sun deck”, which needs advance booking of more than 24 hours, and which I haven’t yet been organised enough to enjoy. And there’s a small penned off area outside the hotel which we were told could be used, but which I haven’t yet visited.

There’s three free meals a day, on the taxpayer, as is the stay itself, so far be it from me to complain. I’m trying to make the best of it.

The Trip

Singapore Airlines was impressive. First, thanks to covid, on both flights I had a row of three seats to myself.

Second, thanks to the hobble remaining from the broken ankle recovery, airline staff bent over backwards to help out. I got wheeled and driven about, and given priority in boarding lines, almost to the point of embarrassment.

Release and Before

I’m released from here on Monday, October 5.

The plan had been to spend my time earning a small crust teaching online, but the low WiFi speeds at the hotel have thrown that into doubt on the first morning’s teaching today. Internet lag and cutouts can mean financial penalties from the teaching platform, and at the very least will annoy or warn off my students.

If that’s not viable, I have plenty I can busy myself with.

But it has so far, into day 3, been a challenge, with a lot of understandable, and some nonsensical, restrictions on what we can do here outside our rooms.

It’s gilded yes, but it’s still a cage.

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