Hi! I’m in Quarantine! It’s Day Five! Of Fourteen! I’m just a little crazier than normal! Wrote a song about it, which you can even hear me sing if you click audio for the podcast of this post:
HERE I am aGAIN on my OOOOOOoohohohohwn Surviving another quarantine all alooooone I'm so grateful for the Olympics and my phooooone Going out of my miiind Just wasting all this time. But here I am again . . . Here I am again.
If I were in my apartment right now, I would pen some more lyrics, record it with my guitar, go viral and get on talk shows but alas, I write this from the 12th floor of a three star hotel in Wan Chai, which is luckily pretty soundproof because I did just wail that out at top volume and no one is complaining on our hotel Whatsapp about it (yet).
Last summer, the two weeks quarantine upon arrival were in my apartment, which was hard for a laundry list of reasons, but I gotta hand it to the HK gov’t – they know how to make things much, MUCH harder! Luckily (I guess), after a year of going nowhere, even with the mandated hotel quarantine, I was desperate to get home so I took the plunge. In a way, I was almost looking forward to the adventure of returning to Hong Kong and trying out the new system. If nothing else, some character building and a good story, right?
Oh, Rachel, buying those plane tickets and thinking those thoughts in April. You sweet summer child.
While I am grateful for and was hashtag blessed by every moment at home (wanna see like, a thousand pictures of my nephew and my dogs? Wanna hear, in detail, about every kind of Mexican food I ate?) it was tainted by constant nervousness about the process and possibility of being able to return. I spent hours each morning reading rumours, going over the arrival stats of different countries, seeing the bans on flights, watching the Delta variant numbers rise, trying to figure out where to get all my paperwork. I have friends stuck in transit in Spain and Dubai. There were horror stories of people denied boarding because their middle name wasn’t on one sheet of paper, or testing negative before departure and testing positive upon arrival, or hotels with bedbugs and food poisoning.
Worrying about returning while knowing that I won’t be able to get back home until next summer also made the last few days at home extra stressful. Throw in some friend and family drama, my mom’s car getting towed while I was using it in Tahoe, SIX visits to the dentist, worrisome political climates in HK and a huge frustration with Americans who just won’t wear a mask and get vaccinated to help curb this thing, and I was absolutely abuzz with anxiety. Abuzz, I say.
But now I’m here in my cozy (read: tiny as heck) hotel room, waiting until August 10th when I can interact with humanity again! Here’s a recap of how the last week has been:
- To board the plane to leave SFO -> HKG, I showed my vaccination record, proof I had a hotel booked, my passport, HKID, and a Covid-negative test from a licensed laboratory, a copy of the lab’s license. I sent the paperwork to the airlines in advance and they informed me that my middle name was missing on one document, so it was unacceptable. I had to redo the paperwork.
- My flight was at 1am on a Monday, so I was super stressed out that if something was wrong, I wouldn’t be able to contact an open lab, so I am grateful I was able to send the paperwork in early to get checked.
- I had my own row again (yessssss) and as per usual, slept for most of the flight and missed meals. I did watch “The Father,” and criiiiiiiied. Everyone was obviously in masks the whole time and several people in hazmat suits. You love to see it.
- Arrived in Hong Kong to begin the fun! We showed all our paperwork again, filled out a health form for a QR code, got a numbered badge, and queued up for testing. Last year it was a self-spit test, this year it was a nasal and throat swab.
- Line up again to get paperwork checked for my hotel stay and get a quarantine order and more paperwork.
- Assigned a numbered chair to wait for test results. They are now using the boarding gates to arrange people by flights to await results. 7-11 grade sandwich provided.
- Fourish hours later, got results! Negative!
- Last year I was in the convention center for 17 hours before I could leave, so this is an improvement. You can read/watch a video about last year here)
- Raced to baggage claim and then run over to bus lines. We were arranged by which hotel we were at and waited maybe 45 minutes for a bus.
- Attendants sprayed down the luggage with disinfectant, then we boarded bus with all our luggage (it was comical). Rode bus for an hour or so to hotel.
- Hazmatted hotel workers collected us, we checked in, and then were put in individual elevators to our rooms. Hazmat helped me carry luggage, and then I was in! 26 hours after leaving home in California.
Answers to FAQ:
- Because I am vaccinated, I have a 14 day quarantine. Unvaccinated have 21 days.
- The government changed from home quarantine, which I did last year, to hotel quarantine because people were inviting friends over and also violating the quarantine rules. Upside – I don’t have to wear a gps bracelet.
- The government has a list of hotels to choose from, the options range from about $500HKD ($65USD) a night to as much as you are willing to pay. My hotel stay is costing me $1700 USD, which is about what I pay for a month’s rent.
- I chose this hotel for the view, proximity to friends who could drop things off, promise of good WiFi, and because I could rent a treadmill, which is essential for all parts of my health at the moment.
- Meals from the hotel are included in this price, but mine were so terrible I made a bargain with the management to get deliveries on credit. They allowed $150HKD per day, which is about one meal. I’m supplementing with some veg friends have dropped off and I made a grocery order.
- There is no laundry or housekeeping service, but the hotel has provided extras of linens in advance. I clean my clothes in the sink but with the constant AC running, it takes a while to dry.
- The windows don’t open, which is mentally kind of tough.
- I will get Covid-tested three times while I’m here, which is my only interaction with a human. After I’m released, I will do two more tests at community centers (that’s 7 tests in three weeks, if you’re keeping count).
- There is a kettle and a mini-fridge provided. So I can make instant coffee, tea, keep milk and yogurt and vegetables fresh. The hotel provided reusable cutlery, a bowl, and a plate, which makes my meals feel more “real.” They also give toilet cleaner, dish soap, a sponge, and even a plant!
- I have to bag up trash and place it in the hallway at 2pm every day for someone in a hazmat suit to collect it with tongs.
- Some things I brought to make it easier – a cutting board that also folds up to a washing bucket, hot sauce, Everything but the Bagel, lots of quick-dry clothes, travel candles, a coffee mug, paint, dry erase boards and markers, laundry soap. Amanda dropped off a knife, puzzles and colored pencils, and Esther has kept my veggies and oat milk stocked, so I’m well fed.
So far, it’s been pretty okay?! I went all out while I was home for four weeks, went to Tennessee, Tahoe, the city, saw friends and family every day, knowing I’d have these two weeks to recuperate and also that I wouldn’t be home again for another year. So on top of jetlag adjustment, I’m napping to recover some sleep.
The treadmill I rented has been a lifesaver, as I plod along on that while watching world-class athletes compete in the Olympics. My view is interesting, friends zoom in, or come by and wave at me, I rearrange furniture every day for good feng shui, and am taking care of some life admin. I am starting to go a bit stir crazy but getting to watch about 8 hours of volleyball a day isn’t too bad. It’s almost, dare I say it – nice?
But I’ve still got nine days to go so . . . talk to me next week. I’ll be talking to my new plant friend, Wilson, a whole lot until then.
Hey! You can follow the adventure on my instagram – @racheldangerw