On Long Flights and Appreciating the Outdoors

Greetings from New Zealand! It has been quite a week so far, let me tell ya. The first day or so in San Francisco was nice, I particularly enjoyed the scheduled outdoor time where we were allowed to go out on Monday evening, walk around the hotel, and get some fresh air. I’m definitely glad I went out that first night, little did I know that would be the only outside time I would get until Friday night. As I mentioned in my last post, we were all tested for COVID the morning after we arrived. Unfortunately, there was a positive test which meant that the decision was made to keep everyone isolated in their rooms until all of the test results came back. Fun fact about how they run the tests, they do them in batches and compare it to a control sample. If there is an error with the control sample then they have to retest the whole batch. As our luck would have it, this happened with the final batch of our cohort and we didn’t get the results back until Friday so everyone got a lot of indoor time. Fortunately the decision was made to let us have outdoor time again that night, it was nice to get to breathe some fresh air again!

During the week, the program had us sit in on Zoom meetings for orientation. Typical new hire stuff, briefings on safety, sexual harassment, and the like. It was nice to have something to do during those days but we still had a lot of free time. I took the time to do a few time lapse videos, play with my camera, play some video games, and just relax. I was very excited to be on to the next stage though.

Saturday we checked out of hotel rooms, settled our tabs, and did a bag drag of our checked luggage before heading back up to our rooms to wait for our designated time to get on the bus to the airport terminal. The program booked a charted flight for us so that we wouldn’t have to risk additional exposure to other people on flights to New Zealand. Everyone was socially distanced and got their own row/section on the plane. It was nice to be able to spread out a little, especially since we had to make a stop over in Honolulu to refuel before heading the rest of the way to NZ.

Once we arrived, we waited on the plane as groups of 10 were allowed off at a time to go get new masks, have their temps taken, and go through the customs process. Although it took longer to get everyone through, the process was nice and efficient and not as much of a headache as I was worried about. It probably helped that I made extra sure I didn’t have anything I shouldn’t have had in my bags (I’ve seen that show Border Patrol, no way am I gonna let myself be charged 400NZD because I forgot I had an orange). After that we were put on a bus and brought to our managed isolation facility, The Crowne Plaza in downtown Christchurch.

The check in process was very streamlined and efficient, they even mentioned that they’ve gotten a lot better at the process over the last few months of doing it. One of the new processes they’ve implemented is what they are calling a “Day 0” COVID test, meaning we get tested the same day we arrive at the facility. One of the precautions with this test is we aren’t allowed out of our rooms yet, but fingers crossed that’ll change soon.

I had originally planned on doing this post yesterday, the same day as we arrived, but needless to say I was pretty darn exhausted. I ended up taking some pictures, taking a nap, and just relaxing. There’s a bunch of new pictures posted over on the photos page so go check them out! I’ll probably post another update next week, half way through my stay in managed isolation. I hope everyone is doing well and I’m so excited to be in New Zealand, even if I can’t go outside and sight see.

— Matt “what do you mean that’s south, there’s mountains in that direction” Butcher

3 thoughts on “On Long Flights and Appreciating the Outdoors

  1. How long will you be in New Zealand? Will you be able to do some sight seeing?! Is New Zealand similar to Australia in their quarantine? I know in AU everyone quarantines (at a hotel) for 14 days and they limit the number of flights and people in.


    1. The New Zealand Government is doing a similar 14 day managed isolation for everyone coming in to the country. After we get through the Govt managed one, we’ll be given back to the US Antarctic Program where we will continue isolating until our flights down to Antarctica. Unfortunately that means no sight seeing but hopefully I’ll get to on the way back!


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