We’re officially halfway! Seven days down – and we’ve made it. After my restless night, I wake early to pale yellow light peeking through the blinds, before the meal pixies have even been past with their usual 7.15am breakfast knock. Two more surprise meals and we will be back on the 7-day food cycle. The hotel Facebook group has led us to believe that we’ll be fed the same meals that we had on the exact same day last week. If that’s the case, we might even try the butter chicken tonight.
The day is going to be long – a bunch of emails have come in overnight and I have a work call starting at 8pm as well as a lesson with my Spanish tutor at 5pm.
The phone rings and I answer. It’s Shirley the health nurse. She asks if Michael is with me and I confirm that he is. She wants to know how we are both doing. I tell her we haven’t killed each other yet and she makes some comment about these situations either bringing couples closer together or having the opposite effect. I wonder how many times they have been called to check on couples for whom the confinement perhaps gets too much, and whether they have a contingency plan pursuant to which one member of the couple, for the sake of the relationship as well as other hotel guests, is permitted to move to a separate room.
So far, we are in fact doing pretty well. I will admit I was expecting a tense environment at times, but thankfully the ambiance has been quite relaxed overall. Michael’s take is that we have been training for this kind of situation for years – a useful consequence of regular travel. What people tend to forget is the time commitment that travel necessitates on top of the 15 hour flight or the 4 hour train ride. You need to check in a few hours beforehand, sure, but you also need to factor in travel time to the airport/bus/train station. And with all of that travel and transfer and transit comes the Waiting. You wait in the check-in queue, you wait at security, you wait at immigration. You wait for a taxi, you wait after boarding, you wait wait wait. If there were Waiting Olympics Michael and I would definitely have a shot at the doubles tournament. And when you look at it like that, this two week period is nothing more than a long 2 week Wait.
We’re accustomed to waiting with limited entertainment or without items to keep us occupied. Without English speaking television and in some cases without decent internet. With limited food, or without a change of clothes or access to a shower. In cases where the effect of missing your connection has stressful and complicated repercussions and you might ultimately find yourself a) escorted to a hotel in a third world country, b) not allowed to leave to the airport, or c) waiting (again more waiting) for the next flight which doesn’t depart for another week. Thankfully the worst of those consequences have not (yet) materialised for us but the threat is always present (particularly with the ongoing pandemic) and as such there is the need to always plan for the work case scenario. So, when we accept this as simply a period of extended waiting, well, as Michael said, we are going to smash it.
Coffee service is great today – although when I call up initially there is no answer. I try again shortly after and speak to a lady who recites my order back to me. Our drinks are delivered within 20 minutes and are sufficiently warm. It’s definitely a halfway point win. Lunch today we are expecting tuna sushi – I assume it will be the tinned stuff, and it is, but I’m not disappointed. Plus it comes with a mini bag of Tiny Teddies flecked with 100’s & 1000’s, which we finish quickly during our post-lunch crosswords as the sun filters weakly through the window.
I’m not sure if it’s due to a change in the outside temperature, but our room is becoming colder and colder. This afternoon and evening is the coldest by far – I wear the same hoodie for the best part of each day and am beyond thankful that I decided to pack it, while at the same time am disappointed that I elected not to pack my uggs. They too would have formed part of the daily uniform. I make myself an extra cup of tea just to stay warm and am tempted to set up shop under the covers for the rest of the day, but now that we’re halfway through our stay I need to switch out the sheets.
I call up housekeeping and speak to the same efficient voice from the weekend when I requested a change of towels and a cleaning kit. She confirms that a fresh set of sheets will be delivered and tells me to put the dirty sheets in the red plastic bag they have provided for us and leave outside the room. The system of laundry/trash collection seems to be somewhat ad-hoc – the dirty towels we left outside in a plastic bag on Sunday were still there 48 hours later, intermittently unaccompanied by bags of bathroom trash and food waste from the evening meal. It seems somewhat unsanitary to simply dump our trash outside the door to start rotting, for someone else to deal with at some designated time, but this seems to be the system, and who am I to mess with it. Michael has seen them spraying the trash bags before they are handled, presumably to get rid of any traces of COVID so that is something I suppose.
Since landing in WA last week, I’ve received a bunch of messages from people in Oz whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in years, with video and book recommendations, and general well wishes. It’s nice to know that people are sympathetic to the reality of hotel quarantine given the space and the length to which we are subjected. We are no stranger to the concept of quarantine and have to do so regularly due to the nature of our work overseas, but the quarantine process implemented by our company allows it to take place in your own accommodation (after entry into the country with a negative PCR test certificate), for a period of only 5 days with a further negative PCR result required again on day 5 in order to exit.
As the Air Con blasts its Arctic breeze through the afternoon, I take a break from the bike and search for my new friend the online step workout. It’s still cheesy as hell, but it gets me warm and I achieve my steps for the day just in time for my Spanish class at 5pm. I’ve done bad, I’ve forgotten to check with Michael before arranging this session and he has a work call scheduled at the same time. We each have our headphones/ear buds but Michael relies on his laptop microphone so his team will probably end up hearing fragments of my terrible Spanish during their meeting. Luckily, 10 minutes into our respective calls, Michael’s is aborted – his meeting has been cancelled for today. I remind myself to check our schedules for the next few workdays in case anything needs to be rescheduled.
We shiver through the curry which isn’t bad but has been cooling on the coffee table for almost an hour, and would be much more satisfying hot. I quickly relocate under the covers to wait for my 8pm work call to start and catch a few minutes of Dancing with the Stars. It’s like stepping back in time, the hosts are the same, the judges are the same – they are even doing an “All Stars” series of “celebrities” that won the competition years ago – with the addition of “Wild Card” entries which somehow involves Schapelle Corby. The ridiculousness of the concept is such that I just can’t make myself look away. Unfortunately I am unable to get a glimpse of our Schapelle shaking her booty before my 8pm work call starts.
The work call goes longer than I anticipated and it’s after 9.30pm by the time I join Michael in bed for our end of day TV viewing. It’s time for an Aussie educational experience – two episodes of “Kath & Kim.”