Week 38 – Escaping ‘Freedom’ to Home Sweet Home

Greetings from Singapore.

If you have been here with me since week 0, thank you for spending precious time to follow me on my journey. I had grand plans for my final week in New Zealand. I wanted to catch the musical ‘Book of Mormons’ and go for a last solo trip up to Northlands. None of these plans came to fruitation as everything had been wrecked by covid-19. I know I don’t deserve to whine as I’m one of the lucky souls who managed to reschedule my flight 5-days earlier. While I was on the plane, Singapore announced a compulsory 14-day Stay Home Notice for everyone returning from overseas. 2 days later, New Zealand announced that international visitors will no longer be allowed in the country and just today, Singapore announced the same thing and short-term visitors will not be allowed to enter or even transit in our country. This is such a painful announcement for our economy but I guess it’s a necessary measure in order to contain the virus.

Alright, so let me conclude on my final 2 days in New Zealand.

On Tuesday, it was a date myself day where I spent the entire day alone, doing a lot of happy things like feasting and shopping. I started off the day eating the best bagels ever at ‘Best Ugly Bagels’. Apart from the bagels, the latte was one of the best coffee I ever had because of the milk they used. The day continued with a visit to the art museum which I got in for free because I told them I was living in New Zealand and showed them my bank card as proof. I love visiting musems and it was enjoyable to have a quiet afternoon. I had some time to pass as the box office for ‘book of mormons’ only opened at 4pm and I enventually ended up at the library. I settled for a seat at the travel section and ended up reading a book on the great walks of new zealand, none of which I attempted. But it was nice reading about them anyway. At 4pm, I found myself at the box office only to receive news that the musical had been canceled for the whole season, in response to the government imposing a ban on public events more than 500 people. I kind of saw it coming when I checked the capacity of the musical hall which could accommodate 2,000+people. I’ve heard many good things about the musical but I guess it will be next time or never..

To uplift my spirits, I decide to have tea at this fancy dessert place called miann. As I walked along the CBD streets towards my destination, I was distracted by shopping – bought earrings, top and a pair of jeans – and ended up at the dessert place at 6pm. This was the first time in New Zealand I actually ordered a pot of tea. I usually opt for coffee as I find tea being not very value for money as you can easily brew it at home but I wanted to complete the high-tea experience. I ended the day with a candle-light dinner eating a $25 steak at a restaurant near my accommodation. I wasn’t hungry but I just wanted to eat a fancy dinner. Alright, I was trying to empty my bank account but it was no longer possible with the 5-day travel reduction.

As I had my own room, I ended up watching netflix till late as there was no one to talk to and the room wasn’t comfortable enough for me to do anything else.

Wednesday was the last day I had in New Zealand. A friend decided to drive over to have a farewell lunch with me. It was a little sad to say goodbye as we had originaly planned to visit Hamilton for the Hot Air Balloon festival that weekend. When the festival got canceled, we wanted to visit Waiheke Island for the vineyards but none of these plans materialized as I made the decision to return home early. I ate ‘Best ugly Bagels’ again, this time at a different outlet, as my friend was sold about my recommendation. As expected, she wasn’t disappointed. After the lunch date, she dropped me off at Dressmart, a place I visited the week before and bought a dress and a pair of shoes. I wanted to do a more thorough shopping but I somehow ended up with nothing. Then, I went to the cheapest grocery store ‘Pak n Save’ and made my final purchases. It was crowded, not sure if it was just the usual after work crowd, or perhaps there was indeed some kind of panic buying. I remember feeling a little cringy when I took my favourite ‘Puhoi Belgian Chocolate Milk’ from the fridge; it was gonna be my last bottle in a long while. I also bought gold kiwis and a box of kiwi berry as I couldn’t think of what things to spend my money on. I also bought a lot of whittakers bar chocolate, as they could be souvenirs for friends expecting something. I even dropped by the pharmacy to see if I could get my hands on some hand sanitizer but sadly they said the stock hasn’t arrive.

I had a poke bowl for my final meal in New Zealand. It was a super value for money bowl and they gave you a whole lot of side ingredients with no extra charge. With that, it was time to retreat back into my room, pack up and wait for the timing where I had to be at the airport. Instead of getting a friend to send me (well, I had none in Auckland that was free), I opted for Ola, a uber equivalent service, which charged me $19 (after $10 discount) for a 15-min ride to the airport. I reached the airport 3.5 hours earlier, thinking that I should be early so I could enjoy the lounge benefits from my priority pass card but.. guess what, there were already queues forming at the check-in counter! I was also surprised to see so many people in line and that the flight was almost a full-flight; at least for economy class. Half of the people wore masks and.. perhaps less than 10% were Singaporeans. I’m pretty sure 90% of the people in my plane were using Singapore as a transit destination. When I was making flight bookings 3 weeks ago, there was no demand for air travel and the prices were really low but.. I guess many things have changed since then. Prices are skyrocketing in view of flight cancelations. On a side note, my original flight had been canceled by the airlines and.. I would have been rescheduled anyway.

After clearing the immigration, I proceeded straight to the premium lounge. I did research prior and found out that they had shower facilities so I opted for a towel and went straight for a shower. It was my first time taking a shower at the airport and gosh the water pressure was so good. Throughout New Zealand, I’ve been in a lot of accommodations that do not have good water pressure for their showers (unsure if it was deliberate to save water or.. an issue with the pipes) so this was kind of a luxury toilet for me.

Alright, so I didn’t take a plane for 9 months, and I somehow forgotten the rules and regulations. I left a powerbank in my check-in baggage and they had to open my bag to remove it. It was a xiaomi powerbank I bought back in 2014 or 2015 christmas and it came in a limited edition colour and print. They informed me before I entered the aircraft. I was pretty upset about the loss but there was no one to blame but myself. Now that I look back, not being on a plane for 9 months does seem a little long in all my travel history. I usually fly once every few months.. Oh wells. The only consolation was that I was using a TSA lock so my lock was intact and zips didn’t get ripped open.

My flight was at 01:20 and for whatever reason, our actual arrival time was 50 mins earlier! My friend was saying that perhaps it was the lack of planes in the air which resulted in an easier airline path and not much waiting time on the runways. I wore a mask in the plane but I had to remove it for my meals and drinking of water. On the other hand, the person who sat beside me kept his double-masks on the entire flight duration. He rejected all food and water offered by the SIA cabin crew and he didn’t even bother with the in-flight entertainment. I tried to watch movies but ended up dozing off as it was naptime anyway.

During my second meal, I looked out of my window and I could see the entire milky way, together with the southern cross. It was really cool to be able to star gaze from the plane. The view would have been perfect at the cockpit. I spent quite a while appreciating the view before it got out of frame.

As we were about to land, I started seeing the street lamps and the flickering lights and.. I knew I was home, to city life and my comfort zone. At the same time, this also meant that it was the end of my freedom and independence. It has been a good 9 months and I don’t regret a single bit of my working holiday (except perhaps for purchasing a crappy car) and it’s the start of my uncertainty for the future.

Although I had not been issued a Stay-Home-Notice order by the immigration (as the rule had not taken effect when I landed), I have not stepped out of my house for the past 4 days. I know it’s kind of useless as I am not restricting myself to my own room and my family members are still going out as per normal but I guess this self-isolation is just a small part I can play. I am missing my food cravings and apart from that, I haven’t found a concrete excuse to make me get out of the house; yet. I haven’t started applying for jobs and neither have I found a feasible part-time job.

I have not adjusted to the heat and humidity of Singapore weather and perhaps I’ll never be able to adjust to it because it’s too hot. On a side note, my face is not as dry as before and I think I my hair quality has improved (the water in NZ seems unsuitable for my hair). Oh wells, it doesn’t matter if I can adjust to it or not as.. I’m here to stay and I’ll have to suck it up even if I can’t adjust to it.

It has come to the end of my working holiday diary entries. Through this 9 months, I’ve missed many family events, friends weddings and events; plus some happy and sad milestones of the people around me. It was a good ‘trial’ for overseas working experience and I don’t think I am ready to consider working overseas in a long-term perspective. There are many things that I can’t let go of and even though I rate myself high on adaptability, I do question whether I can find the happiness equivalent if I were to stay away from home for long term.

Adios; for now (and this casual blogging style). I’ll continue to write about my New Zealand travels but it will be more information-driven (with photos; hopefully), less emotional and hopefully more useful.

Once again, thanks for sticking around. You, bothering to read my post, mean a lot to me as I feel I am too long winded, even for myself.

Now, let me get rid of my pathetic 5-hour jetlag which keeps me tired all day.

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    • Hi Diane! So heartwarming to see your comment and thanks for being such a loyal reader. Really happy to know that I have readers enjoying what I write. Definitely gives me the motivation to keep writing! Have a great day =)

  • Thank you for sharing your journey. I never find you long winded. It was great that you can express your emotions well. Consider it a gift. Looking forward to your future updates. Oh… can you do a filming location of CLOY? Heehee…

    • Hi Grace, Thanks for leaving a comment again! I was actually thinking of doing up a guide for CLOY but it was a little inconvenient when I was in NZ. Now that I am back, I will definitely get it done but it might take a while.. The locations in Switzerland are so beautiful!