Invigorating is how I would describe my migration. I’m leaving a country called home for the land that is my home, Aotearoa New Zealand. Current life in Los Angeles is a contained life – rarely leaving home and longing to see family and friends during this COVID-19 pandemic.
On a summer evening, I departed from an empty LAX airport along with doctors, lawyers, bankers, families, and even actors, all en route to NZ. I couldn’t help but notice subtle smiles from the passengers, knowing we were leaving a debilitating global pandemic and were now Pacific bound to our homeland. We all settled into a long flight heading into a welcomed unknown – isolated management and quarantine. Having been sheltered in place in Los Angeles since March for almost four months, I was actually OK with it.
A 5 am touch-down came with a huge sigh of relief and a round of applause for the crew. Sadly, it was their last flight for our national airline. After we grabbed our belongings and deplaned, we were greeted with smiles and “Kia ora – welcome home!” and “It’s good to have you back!” That cold early morning we moved through a health check, immigration, then onto buses to a destination unknown. We had no idea where we were to be quarantined. Then we arrived at The Rydges Auckland.
The friendly smiles, warm welcomes, and caring conversations continued as we were left in the company of government agencies, armed forces, police, and our pleasant hotel staff. Our fellow New Zealanders passed by yelling, “Welcome Home!” to our travel-weary bodies. I’d returned to the values-driven society that has shaped who I am and I have carried those values with me to all the countries and cities I’ve lived and visited. I was proud to be a New Zealander.
The 14-day quarantine flew by and the health checks, testing, and precise management of our comings and goings came off without a hitch. I made new friends and even though we had just met, we could all sense how paramount our responsibility to safety was to each other as well as to all our fellow Kiwis. The memorable years of my youth washed over me upon my return to Aotearoa after 25 years of being abroad.
I humbly say, thank you, my friends, for welcoming me back with open arms. It feels good to be home again.