It’s Day 2, and on day 2 we get the first of our PCR tests for the quarantine period (fourth in the last 10 days). I’ve lost count of the number of sticks I’ve had up my nose and down my throat over the last 12 months. Even just in the last week, we’ve had 1) a test on compound prior to leaving, 2) a test on arrival at Dubai airport, and 3) a test 72 hours before leaving the UAE. At Dubai airport, all arriving passengers are required to undergo a PCR test before clearing immigration. The process has become very efficient; booths are set up where qualified “swabbers” wait dressed in PPE, a machine scans your passport so that your results are automatically linked. Last time we came through Dubai the whole testing process including the wait was over in less than 15 minutes.
It’s been 12 months, so many swabbers have had ample opportunity to perfect their swabbing technique. Some are able to insert the whole stick deep inside the chosen orifice gently and with minimal impact whereas others will leave you coughing, sneezing and with a sore nose for 30 minutes afterwards. I’m partial to the throat swab myself, whereas Michael always comes away from it coughing, choking and gasping and thus tends to favour the nose swab.
We hear movement in the corridor late morning, so Michael peers out our peephole. He confirms they are testing, a team of two methodically moving room by room. Eventually, there is a knock at ours and we are greeted by a cheerful Aussie guy in his blue PPE and white mask, “We might look a bit scary but nothing to be worried about!” I’m once again struck by the attitude of the individuals that do this kind of work – how they manage to always come across chipper even though they must be sick of shoving sticks into peoples noses and mouths and fatigued by the pandemic routine generally. It’s a good strategy – it’s hard to be grumpy with someone such as that even when they are coming at your face with plastic rods.
Our Aussie swabber asks that we hold out our passports and then spells out our names for his colleague so she can record. We are directed to pull down our masks so that he can swab both nostrils as well as the throat. They are mini-swabs apparently, so they don’t go very deep into the nose – they are in fact, barely noticeable. We’ve been told that no news is good news, so if we don’t hear anything within about 3 days, we can assume we’re negative.
After the swabs are done, I decide it’s time to treat myself to my first proper Aussie coffee. The information pack provided by the hotel says they have a cafe downstairs so you can call up and order and they will deliver to your room. I dial #2, speak to a soft voice on the other end and order a large almond latte for myself and a large chai latte for Michael. They are left outside the door about thirty minutes later – not as hot as I would like but it tastes almondy and good. Michael’s chai is also given the seal of approval – after the Dubai chai-drought, we’re finally back in the land of plenty.
Straight after lunch, we break out the Lonely Planet travel-themed crossword book – a last minute purchase to help with the anticipated quarantine monotony. We do 3 crosswords – 1 easy, 1 medium and 1 hard. I know the Italian word for “hotel,” Michael knows the Channel Islands, but we both struggle to name a city in Uzbekistan. Strangely, the medium and hard crosswords seem easier than the easy one. I then logon to my work laptop but sitting at the desk with sunshine drizzling through the window, I start to feel antsy. The novelty of quarantine living has definitely started wearing off on Day 2. My body feels like it has been sedentary for too long, and I wish I could go outside for a walk to shake down lunch which is sitting low and heavy in my belly.
When we were in self-quarantine last year in the UK, we were lucky that we were able to stroll around the property in the late afternoons/evenings. I also had an app downloaded so that I could do Barre and HIIT workouts if I wanted something more challenging. I even did a couple of Body Combat classes on YouTube. My back’s probably not quite ready for that kind of intensity yet however, so instead, I google combinations of “low impact step classes for seniors” and find a a very basic 30 minute aerobics session targeted for beginners/the unfit. I put on my Garmin watch so at least I can get an idea of how many steps I do as a result. The steps are basic, and as long as I hold my core strong, my back holds up pretty well. The class including the instructor are both cheesy as hell which means I can’t help but chuckle. Afterwards some of the antsiness has dispelled and I feel pretty good.
The lull of the afternoon descends into work tasks and calls. Dinner is delivered at 5.15pm so I reject it – it’s too early for dinner and I don’t fancy eating chicken that has been sitting there for 2 hours. I have an hour class with my Spanish tutor at 6pm – I give him the lowdown on our recent travel/quarantine capers and he tells me about the new house he has moved into with his girlfriend. They have had no hot water since moving in ten days ago so have been heating up water on the stovetop for makeshift sponge baths. I am grateful that despite our temporary absence of liberty there has been no shortage of hot showers or hot water for washing our mugs and cutlery at any point since we arrived!
Work calls take us through to around 9.15pm. The timezones between WA, EG and Houston are challenging, however I’m not prepared to participate in calls all through night. When we’re finally done we turn on the TV and try to stream Fisk on ABC i-view. It connects, but for some reason the sound won’t work. After 15 minutes of troubleshooting, Michael finds a workaround and we get sound, but there is an error message in the middle of the screen. We finally give up and flick through the free-to-air channels before settling on a couple of old South Park episodes.
Tomorrow is Friday. It’s almost the weekend.