I wake up with a start before any light has started to wash the sky. It’s only 5.30am, too bloody early to start another day in quarantine. I mould myself around Michael’s sleeping body and tuck my head into the pillow in an attempt to try and sleep for a bit longer. It doesn’t last long, by 6.05am I realise the night is done, and there’s no going back – Day 8 has started. Michael berates me as I roll over to check my phone again, “why do you wake me up so early” so I take that as assent to pull back the curtains. The horizon is now pale pinky-yellow.
Two whole weeks today we left EG, and we still won’t arrive in Brisbane until Wednesday next week. It’s been an absolute journey to get this far, and although we are technically only 2/3 of the way through, at least the stress levels have totally transformed. We flew out of EG to Dubai despite our onward connection to Brisbane being cancelled and while still waiting to hear whether we would have to wait another 2 days to take a connection to Perth, where we would be required to quarantine on the complete opposite side of the country instead. This pandemic has made traveling just so damn uncertain and after finally making the decision to fly to Australia and suck up the 14 days lock-up, it seemed that we (like so many others) might be foiled at the last hurdle. Ultimately, we made it onto Aussie soil, albeit two days later.
Life in quarantine is generally pretty even – everything feels somehow dulled. There really isn’t that much to get excited about, so if you can manage your anxiety and ignore the reality of being effectively imprisoned in a confined space for two entire weeks, you may just be able to ward off the caged tiger syndrome. It makes me wonder if any studies are being undertaken or data collected regarding people’s experiences in quarantine or the effect of quarantine on people in government-run facilities around the world, such as this one. I received a video this week from a friend I worked with many years ago in Melbourne, who returned to Oz last year after living some ten years in London. The video was a project she worked on while she was in quarantine in Sydney and will definitely resonate with returning Aussies subject to the same. It’s hilarious, and the characters are totally recognisable – if you’re up for a laugh, definitely take a look!
Today we win the lunch competition and fish & chips are delivered. We’re resolute – the “paid” meals at the hotel are clearly of a higher standard than the “free” ones although as I’ve observed previously, not especially healthy. They do really good chips here – fat and salty. The fish & chips is enough for us to share and we stash the delivered “turkey poke bowls” (the turkey is that sliced, processed stuff from the deli that you put on sandwiches) in the fridge as contingency for dinner or tomorrow’s lunch. The state of the mini-fridge is getting slightly worrisome – we have just about enough yoghurt tubs to feed an entire office cubicle of middle-aged women for morning tea, and the juice boxes too seem to be breeding (we’re hoarding at least a day’s worth as the juice they deliver every morning is always warm invoking the need for a stock rotation system).
Back on the arts and creativity theme, for today’s challenge I am supposed to recreate a famous artwork. My friend refers me to the Gettys Museum Instagram page for inspiration – apparently these challenges became really popular during pandemic lockdowns last year. We scroll through the Instagram images but it’s Michael that comes up with the idea for Magritte’s “Son of Man.” All it takes is a green apple we’ve been saving, my red bra, and the black bin from under the desk. I send to my girl group and we bask in their rave reviews.
It’s that point in the afternoon where restlessness starts to niggle at me. I have a couple of things to do for work and a call with my physio as well, but I’m tired of sitting at this shitty wooden desk waiting for time to pass. I would love to have a glass of wine or a couple of beers but we’ve been trying to take it pretty easy and not fall into a routine of regular drunkeness while in quarantine, so I’d rather save it for the official weekend as something to celebrate. I decide to do a quick cycle on the bike – at least this way I’ll be warm for my physio session. It means I end up joining my work calls in my headband and workout gear but since the normalization of remote working, I’m beyond caring. I don’t even bother with those virtual background filters – I understand they may be useful in certain situations but I have no reason for pretending to be somewhere (or something) I’m not.
It’s nearing dinner delivery time and we can hear voices outside in the hallway. Michael puts his eye up against the peephole – they are training a new guy to deliver meals but he seems to be having difficulty. The boxes of food must be packed in each bag in a precise order – upright, so there is no leakage, and the cold salad and dessert items must not be packed underneath the hot main meal. The trainer is impatient and rejects a number of bags, “this can’t be served” because of the learner’s incorrect technique. Michael films the drop process through the hole in the door – it’s a dump, knock & run situation, by the time you stick your masked head out of the door, the food pixies are nowhere to be seen.
Dinner is a giant chicken maryland same as last Wednesday with cubes of potato and pumpkin. It’s lacking gravy again, but it wasn’t too bad last week, so I grab a knife and hack into mine. Unfortunately, the chicken is pink inside – too pink for my comfort – so I decide not to touch it and focus on the veggies instead. It’s lucky we had the fish and chip lunch as compensation today.
We’ve eaten relatively early – it seems we are slowly coming around to the hotel’s geriatric feeding schedule – and neither of us have late work calls, so it’s movie/documentary time. Michael has “Collectiv” already downloaded for us on the hard drive – an Oscar-nominated Romanian documentary exposing the country’s corrupt healthcare system following a nightclub fire in which so many people died in 2015. We get under the covers – the room is still freezing – and watch as people with moderate burns die in hospitals due to bacterial infections with maggots in their wounds. Hospitals run by corrupt managers purchase disinfectant which has been so diluted that it doesn’t kill the bacteria. A young, idealistic Minister of Health is subsequently appointed and recognises the system is “rotten to the core” but ultimately is not reelected, thus leading to the disheartening conclusion that change will not happen quickly.
It’s a movie length doco, but it seems to go relatively quickly. There is nothing on free to air afterwards so we continue with a few more episodes of “Kath & Kim” before lights out.