Day 7 of the Quarantine Chronicles

TGIF! We both had online class today, Grant talked to his sis this morning on Skype, “cookie lady” came through again with a brownie delivery (sent from her apartment on the second floor to the property manager in the lobby to us on the tenth floor), and Grant made goulash for dinner.

Images from Alison’s online class – DNA extraction from strawberries! Students were engaged and excited to try the lab at home – it is quite easy to do with materials found around the house!

When our quarantine began, Grant made a goal to cycle 30 minutes each day. Bonus points if you can guess what movie he is watching! HINT: The movie has lasted 5 days thus far πŸ™‚

Goulash for dinner πŸ™‚

Quarantine chronicles – Day 6

Day 6 here in the apartment quarantine and all this went down –

1. You call your sister for the BeachBody workout and this is what you get:

“When you watch The Bachelor, you are reminded that your day wasn’t so bad after all.”

Camry and her new toy: Birdy

Where’s Birdy?

2. Skyping Hil a.k.a. muffin tin, and seeing sweet Gus River πŸ™‚

Gus is too sweet!

3. DNA extraction of strawberries πŸ™‚ This is prepping for online class time tomorrow when I will show my students this lab demo. Please note the “reuse” of many items previously witnessed from an earlier post.

Prepping the lab … with vodka?
Strawberry DNA πŸ™‚ Science is TOO cool!
I subsequently tried with potato DNA and banana DNA. No dice on the potato DNA extraction but here is the banana DNA.

4. “Scarlett’s pasta” from the movie Chef – made by the best chef in the world, Grant

All that parsley πŸ™‚
Scarlett’s pasta – again, this is literally AS good as it looks!

5. While the victories seem to outweigh the challenges, we cannot deny some points of stress/hardships along the way. This morning, an HR personnel from our school helped Alison to get some Starbucks coffee delivered to the house.


However, this was followed by some negative comments from the property manager. We are 100% dependent on the workers in this apartment complex to bring us EVERYTHING that we have delivered to the lobby (did we mention that we aren’t allowed to leave the apartment?). They are overwhelmed with the amount of deliveries they have to make, as shown in this dialogue below.

This back and forth between us and the property manager (to bring items up that have been delivered) happens on a daily basis. They are clearly swamped with the number of people quarantined in the building, and scramble each day to keep up and organize what goes where. We are all stressed. We understand these are stressful times.

Quarantine Chronicles – Day 5

Three themes for today:

  1. “Workouts without borders” – Sarah skyped me in for her workout so I could join along. Grant has been cycling on the indoor bike each day, and I have been doing a variety of cycling/online videos/ZUMBA to keep active.
  2. Work
  3. General Tsao’s chicken from scratch – believe me, it IS as good as it looks!
Workout twerkout πŸ™‚ with BeachBody
Camry @ Sarah’s house – she also likes the BeachBody program!
Grant has an online class time with his students 3X per week, and I have class 2X per week. In addition to the class time, we assign students work through Schoology, and give them individual feedback through WeChat. We input scores from the work into PowerSchool, and communicate with their tutors (similar to TA or advisor) about their progress so that they can (in Chinese) inform parents of progress. This is a whole new ball game – for both teachers and students – to familiarize ourselves with the online platforms we are using and provide timely and efficient feedback. I also call my students individually on WeChat weekly (a few students each day) so that they can ask questions personally. The learning curve has been steep and the shift to the online world has its unique challenges, but overall we have been impressed with the persistence and diligence of our students.
…after πŸ™‚ Don’t be fooled, folks, Grant was in the kitchen for 2+ hours making this divine dish from scratch!

Quarantine Chronicles – Day 4

Skype calls with family and friends back home are, more than ever, SO important and appreciated. I told my mom we ordered some apples but that we were being cautious to eat raw foods so soon to arriving back in Qingdao. She suggested I make applesauce. Applesauce and latkes were the breakfast choices this morning πŸ™‚

…and after!
I heard somewhere that you’re not supposed to put hot foods into a blender….oops. Seriously though the blender made this applesauce amazing πŸ™‚
Breakfast is SERVED!

Work time was in full swing as well today…

Even Jedis have to do work!
“Cookie lady” came through. Our friend downstairs, a.k.a. cookie lady, made some brownies and bacon-biscuits, and had the property manager deliver them up to us πŸ™‚
When the AQI (index of air pollution) is low, we can see the mountains in the distance from our apartment window. πŸ™‚ When the AQI is too high, the mountains begin to fade away. On some extreme days with a high AQI last year, the buildings in red/grey in the close distance also faded away into the smog.

Day 3 Quarantine

This morning, our school’s DR department delivered some materials to keep us healthy and safe. We are loving this Chinglish (word that seems to translate from Chinese to English but misses the mark by a bit) word on the side of the alcohol disinfectant. This “vodka” actually came in handy to clean around the house.

Disinfecting outside the body… and inside?

For dinner, we decided to order some pizza. We weren’t sure if it would work because we had heard that the “kangaroo people” (delivery guys on motorcycles) might be hard to find due to the virus. Here is Grant placing the order:

Grant translating the food choices to make sure he orders the correct pies.
Grant paying for the food. 169.30RMB is about $24. 2 large pizzas and onion rings.

Once we placed the order, it took a couple minutes, but then a kangaroo guy was assigned to pick up the pizza. Once it arrived, we had to tell the property manager to bring it up. They were a bit swamped with many quarantines and deliveries around dinner time, but, 40 minutes later, we had a knock at the door indicating our delivery had made it up to our floor.

Extreme packing situation we agree. Boxes inside styrofoam aluminum heat pockets inside a plastic bag. Free Sprite was nice πŸ™‚

Quarantine Chronicles (Day 2)


We caught up on some work (document camera for making videos featured below), puttered (that’s a Cindy word for sure) around the house doing laundry and cleaning, and Grant made some BOMB chilli.

Doc camera πŸ™‚ Who says you need an expensive technological device?
Grant’s chilli – seriously one of the BEST he has made – the mushrooms and baby red hot peppers made it amazing!
Twice a day (9am and 4pm) we have to take our temperatures (thankfully we had a working thermometer in the house from when Alison was sick LAST May) and send them to the property manager and HR at our school.

Qingdao Quarantine – making the most of an …interesting situation

I am writing this blog post for two chief reasons:

  1. I have A LOT of time on my hands. Read on to understand why. This is more to keep my sanity than for your reading purposes πŸ™‚
  2. I feel that the world outside China should have an example of an on-the-ground couple and their experiences – challenges and victories. The media is known for painting pictures of global events – whether true or not. By reading these subsequent posts, I hope you will have more information to make a personalized/educated opinion about the current coronavirus situation and how it affects us living in Qingdao, China.

Upon buying our tickets from Auckland-to-Shanghai-to-Qingdao, we were most anxious about a horror story a fellow ex-pat shared with us – a Seoul-Qingdao flight had arrived and all its passengers were quarantined under government supervision in a nearby hotel. This is the NOT the outcome we wanted (we wanted to be *home* in our Q-city apartment). We flew anxiously hoping that this would not be our fate.

We arrived to a deserted Shanghai airport early Saturday morning. Prior to departing the plane, the overhead requested that everyone take their seats for the medical officer to board. I have never seen people sit down so quickly. A couple of Chinese girls were screened by the fullbody-hazmat women, but nothing further.

In the Shanghai airport, everyone was wearing a mask/goggles/face shield/all three and kept distance from each other. In the Shanghai airport, I joked with Laura via Skype: “Wow! A much-needed behavior change experienced in Shanghai – people are actually giving each other the bubble they need!” Despite our full-knowledge that medical masks do little to prevent a viral infection (they aren’t a tight seal, duh. If you are breathing, particles are getting in the sides), we wore them to avert strange looks. Here are some Shanghai airport pics:

This woman is wearing eye goggles, a face mask, and a hat with a plastic shield to cover her face. Did she wash her hands after using the toilet?….no.
Ghost town in Pudong.
“Grant smile!….no seriously, smile!”
Airline workers in masks and gloves.
Steampunk? Full plastic goggles and face mask.
Airline workers waving goodbye at the Shanghai airport
Eye goggles, face masks, gloves and …. rain poncho? As the flight to Qingdao progressed, we could see the droplets of condensation forming inside the ponchos. You do know your temperature is going to be checked soon, right?
Health paperwork on the flight to Qingdao

We arrived back to TAO/Qingdao; to the part of the journey we were most anxious about. We walked RIGHT by the international arrivals gate (consciously keeping our heads down); where medical officers were wearing full hazmat suits, carefully screening arrivals, and loading buses going…somewhere. We walked downstairs and took a taxi back to our apartment. At this point, we let out a deep breath. We had avoided the worst-possible scenario.

In our apartment complex, our temperatures were taken and we wrote on names on the sign-on sign-out sheet. We thought we were clear, until…we were told we needed to do a 14-day mandatory quarantine in our apartments. We spoke with the property manager extensively explaining that we had been to a “safe zone” in NZ and Shanghai, not Wuhan/Hubei province. She got someone on the phone and sent us on our way to the elevators, but messaged us within 5 minutes – we were to do a 14-day mandatory quarantine in our homes.

1:11pm on Saturday 29 February 2020 – the quarantine has begun

Panic/depression/sadness set in quickly, and we took a few minutes to process what was happening. We came to grips with the situation in different ways, but both agreed to do the quarantine and get it “over with” – we couldn’t avoid the unavoidable.

We began frantically messaging HR at our school – How do we get water? Groceries? We actually can’t leave for two weeks? What about other things that we need? Are people allowed to visit us? Temperature readings; what’s this about? Between HR and the property manager in our building, everything got sorted. Now, it’s just us and filling our time for 14 days.

The following will be the chronicle of how we have maintained sanity and filled our time in these 14 days. We are children in this apartment building; 100% dependent on the property manager to deliver items from the lobby downstairs up to us.

DAY 1 QUARANTINE – a small but necessary victory

We ordered groceries in the Hippo APP. Groceries were then delivered from the Hippo store to the lobby of the apartment. When the groceries arrived, we messaged the property manager to please bring them up. 20 minutes later, a knock at our door indicated the groceries had been delivered outside. We put our masks on, opened the door, and grabbed the bags from outside.
This looks MUCH better πŸ™‚

New Zealand – Weeks 3-6 aka Sweet as bro!

A&G at “The Mount”

As mentioned in the previous post, we intended to be in NZ for two weeks to see the major sites. However, we ended up in NZ a total of 6 weeks due to the progression of coronavirus in China. Remember, during this time, we are doing online teaching via several platforms and communicating with students on a regular basis in hopes of keeping on track with the curriculum. We each had a phone and shared an iPad to complete daily tasks. There was a daily “fight” for the iPad, but the materials we most needed were back on our hard drives/laptops in Qingdao. A “working holiday” simply became “working and living,” but we did our best to try and achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Kerikeri Aroha Island sunset

Week 3 – By this time, Tom-o (Charlotte’s partner-in-crime) had arrived in NZ after hearing the news that we weren’t returning to school for an unknown amount of time. Grant and I rented a car and (by the good graces of Charlotte’s family) borrowed a tent, air mattress, and sleeping bag for some camping up in the Northland. We based ourselves in Kerikeri and took day-trips to epic sights:

Waitangi Day on February 6. This day celebrates the Treaty of Waitangi, and exhibits aspects of traditional Maori culture such as the haka and canoes (waka).

Tane Mahuta and Puketi Forest

Yes… these trees are THIS tall!
Puketi Forest
One of the largest Kauri trees in the world.
In the Waipoua Forest
You must clean your boots going in and out of the Kauri forests to protect the trees from dangerous fungus.

Sand dunes and Cape Reinga

Dune boarding is hella fun!
Getting ready to shred some gnar!
The entrance to 90-mile beach
Cape Reigna: the northern most point in New Zealand

Russell Island

Long Beach on Russell Island
Russell Island looking over to Paihia
Meat pie…it’s as good as it sounds!
Kiwi crossing
The evening view from our tent site in Kerikeri

Week 4 – Whakatane, Marton and Wellington

At the start of this week, Ali completed the Tarawera half-marathon. Here is the finish line:

Again, by the generosity and unfaltering chivalry of Charlotte Morris’ family, we spent the next week primarily in Whakatane and Marton. The Whakatane homestead of Charlotte’s parents is situated on a dairy farm and the Marton home (Charlotte’s older sister and husband) is on a sheep/beef farm. Between online learning work sessions, we were grateful for the tour of the Marton land to learn about sheep farming and see how they are coping with the current drought.

“No ham for you” – Henry
We enjoyed our time on the Morrison Farm, especially the “add it to the queue one-hit wonder music game” that kept us going till the wee hours.
Morrison Farm
Sheep farm tour
Beef cows waiting for the fence to be opened πŸ™‚

Tom, Charlotte, Grant, and I spent a couple additional days in the south of the North Island in Wellington. This is a “sweet-as” city featuring the sites of Weta workshop, Cuba street epic diners, and Te Papa museum.

WETA workshop
WETA workshop front entrance
Giving a little heart to an Uruk Hai on Valentine’s Day
Cuba St in Wellington is amazing!
One of the sculptures from the Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibit in the Te Papa museum. The giant sculptures were made by Weta Workshop and were unbelievably detailed! Te Papa was one of the best museums we’ve ever been to. Very informative and interactive.
“Mistletoe” in Wellington
Wellington Harbor

Week 5 – Grant and I rented another car and over to Raglan for the week. We stayed in a great Airbnb, cooked some awesome dishes with ingredients we’ve been missing in China for the past 1.5 years, and continued online learning. The much-missed routine and schedule were achieved with work in the early morning, a break at lunch to call friends/fam back in VT, and then work again in the late afternoon when our students were awake in China (-5 hours from NZ). We got out to see some of the Raglan highlights – The Wharf, Bridal falls, and Manu Bay, a famous surfing spot.

Surfing Paradise
Sweet as bro!
Raglan downtown
Grant in Raglan Airbnb making a *creation*
Ali @ Raglan Roast
Raglan views (you can’t see the wind farms but, believe us, they are there)
Bridal Falls, Raglan

Week 6 – We worked and lived in Whakatane. We achieved routine and schedule, but still felt the “pull” of our long-lost laptops/hard drives in Qingdao. We were able to do work and maintain baseline requirements for online teaching in NZ, but not to the degree that we expect from ourselves as professionals. After many long talks/debates, Grant and I decided to return to China. We expected that there would be a quarantine/other precautions, but we were willing to accept those in exchange for being *home*. Regardless of the situation in Qingdao, it is still our current home.

Lamb…it’s what’s for dinner

A few parting words to N.Zed.:

We will be back! Thank you for the crystal blue skies, “no way thanks”, red wine dealt by Gary, sweet words from Rosemary, an average AQI of 5, and the best hospitality the world has ever seen. Thank to you all who helped make our trip so memorable. A special thank you to Morris family. You were incredible hosts and we can’t thank you enough for tolerating us for weeks longer than you intended to. We love you and miss you already, but we will see you again soon. Until then….

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -A. A. Milne

“Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”
Richard Bach