After one month in California, coming to you live from my studio on HK Island, I present Day 5 of Quarantine! I am also celebrating the three year anniversary of me moving to Hong Kong!
It was a grueling 33 hours of travel to get here, but here I am, Covid-negative, reunited with my plants, holding down my easy chair, and determined to make the best of it. Let me give you the recap. I made a video of the whole process with some explanations, too, if you want to watch that here!
My flight left SFO after midnight on Friday. After giving myself some last-minute stress by not being sure where my apartment key was and having to go through all my bags, we drove to the airport, I held back tears saying goodbye to the dogs, mom and sister, and then breezed through check-in because it was a ghost town. I took two checked bags weighing 50 lbs each (mostly snacks) back to HK, and I flew Cathay, which is a pretty nice airline. Security was maybe three minutes to get through, and then in the international terminal, there was just one Japanese restaurant and one newsstand place open. That was it. There was one flight leaving for Taiwan and then mine to HK. In the entire terminal. At 9:30pm on a Friday night.
I was really happy to find that I had a whole row to myself again. I’ve gotten really good at plane prep – my tips are to have pressure socks, something to cover your face while you sleep, spray whatever that is with something that smells nice, have a removable tote with all your essentials, and don’t watch any intense movies. I had high hopes for consuming some pop culture, but true to my “falls asleep on all modes of transportation” self, I only managed to watch the new “Emma” in half hour spurts while sleeping the entire 14 hour flight. (Side note: didn’t like it? Hate to give anything to Gwyneth Paltrow, but her version is much better. Although two thumbs waaaay up for Mr. Knightley. Yum.)
I missed dinner but made an effort to wake up for breakfast because I knew I had a long day ahead of me. The Facebook group I’d joined that had tips for the airport arrival had been super helpful, and I had packed crackers, biltong, M&Ms as a last minute, and a canned coffee. There had been rumours of hot water available, so I had also packed a Cup O’ Noodles and instant mashed potatoes, and even a thermos to collect hot water. My mom had suggested packing an electric kettle and extra soups and starting a little lunch black market enterprise for all the unprepared people, but I didn’t have the space in my luggage.
We were the first plane that landed, and because I had tips from the online support group, I saved so much time! There was a health form to fill in online and then have a QR code ready for, and an app I had to have downloaded. With both of those ready, I saved at least an hour. My phone number was checked, I got my tracking bracelet, I did a lot of paperwork, received a lot of instructions, and then got my baggage before being bussed to the Asia World Expo, where I would live for the day.
We left our luggage and met with staff and watched a movie about how to do our spit sample, and then went to another room with booths to do the spit sample, which was kinda cool. After that, we walked through to the original room, were assigned a booth, and told to wait for our results! I was the sixth person tested, but I think they collect them all by the plane load before they send to the lab. The plane crews were expedited through and I think went straight to a hotel. Hk is having its third wave, and some of that is because pilots were violating their quarantines, so . . . please stop doing that.
I was super impressed with how quick the process was. There were signs everywhere, helpful and polite people. Everything was clean and orderly. About three planes came into my room during the day, and everyone was quiet and calm. No one complained. It’s a stressful situation – I started to panic towards the end about what would happen to me if I tested positive, or if anyone on my plane had. Knowing what to expect because of the Facebook group had taken a lot of anxiety out of it.
I set up my desk with my snacks and got comfy, changing my clothes and brought out my entertainment – Kindle, headphones, some stuff to blog about. There was weak WiFi and six charging stations to fight out in a room of about 300 people, so I didn’t internet too much beyond documenting the day on Instagram. I can be pretty happy for a long time just living in my head with music on.
I couldn’t help myself and definitely walked a few laps of the room, looking around for a quarantine cutie to make eyes at over our masks for the next several hours. But if anyone could have gotten over the look and smell I was serving after 18 hours of travel, they were probably put off by the not-so-sneaky deodorant application I shamelessly engaged in at about hour three.
In adorableness and “people are actually good” news, a man had thrown up a bat signal on the Facebook support group that his 83 year old mother, whom he called Por Por (elderly woman in Cantonese), was traveling by herself from NYC to HK, and could anyone check in on her? Well, cue a couple hundred bored people all in one room! We started posting pictures of her sweater vest and bucket hat (I caught her napping) and watched her walk around the room like a giant game of Where’s Waldo. She would go up to the guards and try to bribe them to let her out early, I asked the staff to get her a more comfortable chair, she made friends with the people around her, and we all let her son, who was waiting outside all day, know that she was doing okay. Feisty. But okay.
We had a huge thread going on the Facebook group with photos and updates, and it actually did make you tear up. People were offering her mats, blankets, etc. She looked slightly confused when I walked up to her and said I knew her from Facebook, and she was quite famous! But she seemed pleased. I would have wanted someone to look out after my grandma.
I made a list of things I wanted to do during quarantine to keep me sane, and texted friends, instagrammed, ate the “sandwich” the staff provided, and then hit a wall around noon and decided it was time to build my nest. People had tents and mattresses set up and were sleeping, or playing games with their family, and there was lots of just playing on phones. I wanted to lay down and read.
I had gone to Rite Aid and purchased a cheap pool floatie, so cheap that they hadn’t punctured the holes in the inflatable parts. So I had to dismantle a ballpoint pen and work at it to poke holes, and it was slow going. I nearly passed out. But then I put the raft under the table and a queen size sheet over it and voila! I had my blanket fort! It fit perfectly over my stretched out feet and I put my luggage cart at the head, so I was completely invisible! I read, snacked, and slept probably five hours like that. It was awesome.
Around 7:30pm, they started coming around to our desks, and once we showed our ID, they gave us our second sample collection kit and then release papers, and we were free to go! I packed everything up and then found the taxi station and headed home. I collected the license plate number and had gloves and face shield and mask on the entire time. It was so good to be at my apartment, I think by about 8:30pm. My dear friends Marie and Amie had done some grocery shopping for me and even left some treats, my helper had cleaned everything, and I wanted to have a dance party slash collapse and sleep for two days.
First I had to activate my bracelet. I turned it on through my app and was instructed to walk around my house for 1 minute so it could note my location. Apparently they can call you or buzz you through the app StayHomeSafe and check that you’re staying at your home through GPS or request a video call. Then I had THE most glorious shower, my forms to fill out and my plants to check on. Despite a kind of jetlag delirium, I made myself stay up for a few hours to unpack as much as I could. The problem with a studio is you can’t pretend all your luggage isn’t there – the space is too small to hide anything. I have the same issue with my snacks.
And now we’re here! Day 5 of Quarantine. I’ll have to submit my second sample in a week, and am just sitting tight until then. Thank you to so many who have checked in on me and if you have any questions, feel free to ask! I’ll post another blog with how I’m entertaining myself for the 14 days inside soon. Love and wear a mask!
Here’s the video I made recappingHKG -> SFO and back again: