• brooketietjens


Updated: Sep 3, 2021

The tails of an Emirates aircraft and an Air New Zealand one mark the view to my Auckland seaside dinner. But this is one with a difference.

It’s a teasing glimpse of the jumbo jets’ great capacity to transit and in turn transform me. But now a tall steel fence lies between us. I am at a sudden standstill behind an equally grey mesh curtain. Barely visible beyond it lays the clear blue skies through which I’m used to spreading my own proverbial wings.

Air Security guards in full regalia greet me with authoritative form whenever I enter reception. They needn’t worry. High jump was never my strength in school.

They roam the section. Given the number of yellow florescent vests and power walkers’ en residence, I had anticipated large sweeping grounds to explore when I first ventured out for fresh air.

I got a small section; a view of Auckland Airport’s international arrivals and departures terminal, directly across the road. It started pouring winter as an influx of messages from friends’ overseas spoke of 37 degrees Celsius.

I’m not in jail. I’m straight off of my latest flight from London and in the luxury equivalent for a fortnight – one of New Zealand’s best quarantine hotels, Novotel Auckland Airport.

My first dream job was to be a pilot. When I was five years old, Mum used to take me to the airport in my birthplace of Palmerston North, New Zealand, just to watch the planes fly in and out. Eventually, when I went on one, I was allowed to walk around the cabin with a basket of Air New Zealand’s famous sweets, for passengers. I used to pretend that my ears were badly blocked, just so that I could have two.

I look longingly at the waves that roll between me and the endless possibilities that lie beyond them. It’s a metaphor for my quest to base myself in London, but divide my work between NZ and the UK.

My waterfront tea with a twist is nutritious and delicious. All of the meals here would turn anyone’s cheeks rosier than Mum’s garden. On my makeshift office desk alone, I currently have four mandarins, four apples, four kiwifruit, a pear, and four bottles of pureNZ Spring Water. I love pears, so I’m minus three. I tend not to order one of my mains per day, opting instead to create a healthy salad with my sides from the others.

I’m conscious of wasting food and the world around us – a sweeping statement that I don’t always succeed at. But increasing awareness and the drive to do better lies within me. I admire the hotel for using biodegradable utensils and dishware by BioPak, as it’s a hygienic and efficient way for the hardworking kitchen staff to stay as safe as possible whilst looking after hundreds of people in my situation.

I request sufficient but smaller food portions. At home, a doggie bag never goes astray with our old but perpetual puppy. Here, and everywhere, I recognise and appreciate that somebody somewhere took the time to prepare my food, and somebody somewhere wishes they had it, be it in a third world country or even a first one. In these trying times, many people are struggling for their essentials. So mine don’t belong in the garbage. I’m grateful for what I’ve got. As Audrey Hepburn said, “For an attractive figure, share your food with the hungry.”

Check in was far from a bag drop and swim up bar magic. I was quite literally transported across the road to a room full of masked strangers, where I was instructed to fill out paperwork and then rotate around socially distanced booths. They asked me more questions than any rag.

It was there I met Nurse Bella, who alongside her indescribably skilled and kind colleagues has been pivotal to my stay.

I fell very ill on my second day here. I’d been struggling with the same health issues on and off for some time. Thankfully, they are fixable and not related to COVID-19. I’m so much better now.

Bella took unsurpassed care of me. I was literally bedridden. She had to get the spare key to my hotel room, only to discover a hideously un-showered me in yesterday’s shirt, in the early hours of the morning. Many have read about my encounters with doors opening and closing. On this occasion, I couldn’t even walk to my own door to open it. I felt so weak, in so many ways.

As her name suggests, Bella is very beautiful from the inside out. So is her colleague Jo, who also took close care of me. I’m an advocate for unique style. Well, being butt naked in front of two nurses is one quick fire intro to naturalism. Basically, you just go to bed without pants, and wake up too sick to put them on.

The nursing staff met my every need, which included a well organised ambulance trip to Middlemore Hospital, where I was seen right away. The staff here and there are flawless and thorough. I hope I never have to wear isolation gear again, though. It’s vital but really hard to pee in on request of a urine sample.

Quarantine, in my opinion, is far from a masquerade. But given my passion for unique style, I admire those who have found self-expression through their masks. This is one occasion where I’ve chosen to blend into the masses with a stash of $2 ones. They serve their purpose. They cover my face, which is usually doused in Bobbi Brown. My skin and hair are on hiatus, and ironically both are glowing because of it.

A lot of people dread quarantine. But for me it has been a blessing. I have developed what I call my Qua-routine. I’ve brought my life back to basics – to eating healthily, exercising regularly, and talking to my loved ones; the ones I really love and who really love me. I’ve organised and re-motivated myself to share what I love with them, first and foremost, and the wider world too.

Along the way, I have made a post quarantine friend in a team of people who went out of their way to help me function at full capacity again. I’m so grateful to all of them. I’ve pretended to be a nurse on screen. But they do it for real.

Being in self isolation has inspired me to volunteer with a charity that involves giving an important gift to more senior people who often are or feel isolated for many reasons. That gift is my time. I am interested, if not mesmerised, to hear their stories of times bygone, or even experiences and observations of the times going by. I, like so many others, never expected to live through such a colossal world event, and one that has changed almost everyone’s world in one way or another, potentially forever.

Sometimes it takes some sitting in silence to really listen.

Outside my window, the planes keep coming and going – a throwback to being five years old with Mum in Palmerston North Airport. I get to board one soon, as today I found out that I have thankfully tested negative for COVID-19.

This blog post goes to those working tirelessly and selflessly on the frontline, and those who have lost their lives due to coronavirus, as well as their families and friends. They don’t go in vain for me, nor my own family and friends.

If you’re blessed enough to still be standing in the current situation, then you really can spread your wings at a standstill. You can do nothing. Or you can ask yourself, “What can I do?”