Voices of the Kea Community: Offshore Kiwis living life through lockdown
As the pandemic continues to have far reaching effects in 2021, we reached out to our offshore Kiwis across the UK and Europe to share their personal experiences of living life through lockdown.
Sara Fogarty – Kea New Zealand Regional Director UK & Europe
If a year ago you had told me that we wouldn’t have been on a plane, tube, bus or been outside of our house for longer than a couple of hours at best in 10 months, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had said that our 5 year old would be navigating Zoom like a Silicon Valley tech wizard, as he attended ‘Zoom School’ from 8.30-3.30pm, I wouldn’t have believed you. We have had one dinner out at a dear friends restaurant since March 9th. We have virtually shared birthdays, weddings, and special occasions with friends and family in the UK as well as at home. We are fortunate to have employment, both having started new jobs in 2020 – this has all been virtual, from the recruitment to appointment and now the crucial time of building relationships with our colleagues, key stakeholders and customers: our 2020/2021 reality. The issues we face seem trivial, compared with what so many are facing. We take it one day at a time, one week at a time. As 2020 finished with more last minute changes and trying to navigate what we could and couldn’t do, who we could and couldn’t spend the festive holidays with, we re-adjusted to new lockdown tiers. This time it came with added uncertainty of how long this next one would last for, alongside the fear of the numbers we receive each day and the devastating news that goes with this.
Our son is adaptable, having grown up chatting and sharing with grandparents and family in New Zealand on Zoom. He is confident at school, putting his hand up and sharing his stories or answers to his amazing teachers questions. But others are not, via the visibility of Zoom and being a part of the millions of parents home-schooling their children, we get an insight into the kids and teachers in class, their personalities and their worries. We find it fascinating to see how they are being taught, and are full of admiration (growing each week) to the teaching staff for their caring nature and going beyond to keep the kids feeling safe. Who would want that role with potentially 40 parents watching/listening in as they also try and work from home while making sure pens, paper, water, food, mute buttons are navigated. We are all sharing this and at present we don’t really have an end date in sight.
We have baked @whats_for_smoko forgotten fruit muffins each week, had zoom dinner dates and drinks with friends, discovered the joy of Nano-girls podcasts and Les Mills ‘Born to Move’, but ultimately spent time all together, the three of us. We view it as bonus time, prior to Covid-19 we were rushing around, flying here and there missing each other, but now we have the time to be together, enjoying that extra game of Ludo.
Although we can’t jump on a plane home when we want, the need to connect with what is happening at home has never been greater. We are extremely proud of what New Zealand has achieved and what home continues to do, but there are frustrations at the negative sentiment of those who have remained offshore, perhaps amplified by ‘UK Variant’ headlines in some New Zealand press. Vaccine rollouts bring a ray of hope. This will take time, so to the opening of the markets, face to face events, and a return to life as we knew it here, all will be slower than we wish for. We are very conscious of how fortunate we are. We are healthy, happy and safe. Our greatest purchase in the past year was a chest freezer, we know the joys that London, UK & Europe offer after almost a decade here. It really will return, the spring bulbs are starting to push their way through the ground, the days are getting longer and even in the first flush of snow today, brings joy, but we just have to wait it out. There will be more weeks of reassuring our son that one day he really will be able to play with friends in the park again, he will have sleepovers and be able to give his best buddy a hug, but just not now…12 months ago I wouldn’t have believed you.
Alex Reedijk – General Director, Scottish Opera
As photos showing off idyllic summer life in New Zealand start to pour into my social media feeds, it’s hard not to reflect on the contrast between life in my birth place and our current life here in Scotland.
It is possible to argue that prior to the arrival of Covid-19, the socio-economic and, to a lesser extent, the political divide was loosely similar in both countries. However, 10 months on, the gulf couldn’t be greater. One of the differences I see is that New Zealand has shown both political courage and genuine commitment in taking a strict approach, whereas in the UK this has been a flip-flop path of political least resistance leading to the terrible toll that has been inflicted on the population.
The world of the performing arts here in the UK is having its own special version of ‘a long Covid’ as a consequence of the necessary social distancing guidelines. What helps us through the long winter days and reminds me there will be a new normal, is the evidence from our recent outdoor La bohème of the tremendous resilience and ingenuity shown by our artists and a deep desire from our audiences to come to live performances as soon as it is safe.
Julia Maile, London. @merrygoround_uk
We’re now in our third lockdown and it feels really grim. We’re required to stay at home, again. Schools are closed so we’re juggling homeschooling our daughter with work. Our favourite pubs, restaurants and shops are closed and we’re not allowed to meet our mates. We’re not supposed to leave our local area, let alone travel overseas.
Yet despite all these restrictions, the statistics continue to get worse by the day. I’m really fortunate that my little family is healthy and our jobs haven’t been impacted. But it’s heartbreaking to see the toll it’s all having on others within the community. The UK daily death toll is one of the worst in the world, families are grieving, businesses are closing and people are really struggling with mental health, especially young people.
The vaccine does give us some hope that the worst of it will soon be over. There’s talk of a ‘Roaring Twenties’ when we emerge from it all but I’m just as excited about the prospect of a normal day out. Meeting up with a group of friends, hugging, having a glass of wine in a pub, visiting a museum. Everyday things that I used to take for granted now feel like the biggest luxury. I promise I won’t even complain about going to the gym. I can’t wait.
Genna Elvin, Chief Tada Officer, Tadaweb, Belgium
As a Kiwi living in Belgium and running a company in Luxembourg since 2011, Covid-19 has definitely made things… well, interesting. In our company, since day one, I have worked hard to integrate the Kiwi mentality of “work hard, play harder” which has meant our culture has always revolved around the notion of “being together…” in our office.
So when the Government insisted on working from home, it created a bit of a shock to the system, both for our company and for me personally. However, if there is one thing I have learnt more than ever over the past months, it is our incredible ability to adapt to change.
Within days we were at home, but each of us were very dedicated to ensuring our culture, work ethic and comradery remained strong. As a team, our company has adapted, and we are just as strong as ever. We are now leveraging this opportunity to make communication between our global offices stronger and we will never again take for granted the power of being together and having fun.
Melanie Brown – Specialist Cellars & The Laundry, London based.
We opened the doors of a 120 cover restaurant, The Laundry in Brixton, November 2019. A lifelong dream had now become reality. Having had the support and guidance of an incredible group of investors we fell into our rhythm as we prepared for the summer months, early 2020.
As Covid-19 unravelled, I never anticipated the brutality this virus would carry, crippling our industry with force. Sadly hospitality has been given little support, the independents left to fight their corners whilst spending 12 months in survival mode. The government has contributed minuscule amounts to assist with our survival, but it is never enough – overheads continue and the revenue has stopped. The furlough scheme helped to protect our employees, but its narrow minded rules meant we couldn’t utilise the skill set of our employees willing to build and grow our business.
Strangely any other businesses could employ our employees on furlough, but we couldn’t – absurd. We pivoted more times than I care to remember, from groceries to takeaway food, but as we launched into Lockdown 3.0, enough was enough. The brutality had affected not just our bank balance, but equally the livelihoods of our entire team. How was I meant to lead a team and motivate a team when I was broken too?
Since we opened in November 2019 our doors have been closed more than they have been open, as a small and brand new hospitality group in London, this breaks our souls. The last 4 weeks we’ve remained closed, no pivoting, no takeaways, no life, we’re letting our little restaurant sleep whilst we take hold and control of our business. There has to be a silver lining I say – and if the last 4 weeks have taught me anything, there are plentiful silver linings…
How many restaurateurs have the luxury to stop, asses and reset before re-opening their doors? Yea, well I do – and we’re not resting on our laurels. We’ll be back much stronger and more committed to London hospitality than ever before, our fighting Kiwi spirit will make sure of that.
Monica Tong, Artist, Momo Production
I am a Kiwi Asian living in London, an ex-banker who has become a ceramic artist running a studio called Momo Production. During the lockdown in the past year we had very limited access to our studio, however I was fortunate enough to participate in three exhibitions in Shanghai, Auckland and London. However in tier 5 what we are currently under in the UK, everything is closed. The way I’ve learned to cope with it is to share my art journey on zoom with various community groups, including Clay for Dementia, Online Life Drawing and online teaching to people aged between 10-90. I believe lockdown enables us to learn skills and share skills globally and by releasing our creative mind, it improves our daily mental wellbeing and see the world from a different angle.
Would you like to add your experiences of living through lockdown? Email us at [email protected] – we’d love to hear from you
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