Our HUUUUGGEEE Life Update: Part 2
In part 1 we covered everything leading up to us leaving Canada, and in part 2 we will fill you in on all the rest. We had 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine where we couldn't leave the room, after which we travelled to surprise most of our family and some friends, and finally we are settling into our new home town.
First on the list is to tell you all about our quarantine experience with two kids for 14 days in a room that we weren't allowed to leave...
Time for quarantine
Touching down in Sydney international airport after a 14hr flight from LA, the family was surprisingly well rested. We all had gotten 6 to 8 hours of shuteye on the flight, which is a stark contrast to the usual 2 to 3 hours we'd usually get on those long-haul flights.
Given there was roughly forty-odd people on the entire flight, we had the luxury of being able to spread out and occupy a whole bank of seats each. The seat configuration was 3 either side and 3 in the centre, so we all had ample room. Well, sort of... With me being six foot five I couldn't fully lay down flat but it was more than comfortable for a plane ride.
It was an eerie feeling being in an international airport with barely anyone around. The airport had all the passengers from our flight, a few medical personnel for Covid screening, and a handful of customs officers. That's it.
After clearing all the checkpoints and listening to the instructions of government officials, we were cleared to collect our luggage and proceed to the coach bus waiting just outside to chauffeur us and a few other families to our unknown quarantine destination (yes, we didn't know where we'd end up. It's a complete lucky dip.). And look at this little terror taking a selfie!
The coach bus was escorted by two police vehicles through the city of Sydney and parked just outside the Meriton Suites on Pitt Street. We'd hit the jackpot. If anyone has stayed there before you'd know it's a 5 star hotel experience and it definitely didn't disappoint.
I stayed downstairs and checked in while Allanah and the kids were escorted up to where we'd be staying for the next 14 days. It didn't take too long to check-in and I was also escorted up to join the family. I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the 30th floor, disembarked the elevator and entered our room.
We lucked out and landed a 2 bedroom fully self-contained apartment. This was the quarantine dream result. There was enough space in our home of 14 days to separate ourselves from the kids when needed, which let's be honest, the separation is needed when you're cooped up in a hotel room for a fortnight.
Here's a quick little video tour:
We made the most of it though and got into a bit of a routine after a few days. I hadn't exercised since the day before Christmas so I made a commitment to workout most days. A circuit of pushups, situps, lunges and resistance band rows did the trick to get a little sweat on. We even did yoga every few days to soothe the soul and relaxed outside while watching the construction activities.
Our meals were catered 3 times a day so we didn't have to lift a finger in the kitchen. It was basically a holiday where we couldn't leave the room. The catering company was fantastic and 95% of the meals were delicious. They served quite a variety too which was nice.
The one thing we ordered and had delivered was beer and wine. I'll be honest, we probably drank a little bit more than we should have throughout the quarantine stay, but hey, we don't regret it. Like I said, it was like a mini-holiday so we made the most of it!
One thing we also got stuck into was good old Aussie TV. We had 4 years to catch up on and it was like we never left. There is a a classic programme on at 5pm weekdays called The Chase, which is a trivia gameshow and we like to yell out the answers and hope to get a few right. Cringeworthy, I know, but we enjoyed it.
We did suffer from boredom from time to time and had to get creative and invent our own games to pass the time by. The kids had a bit of fun with most of them and so did I. Nothing like a friendly family competition to pass the time.
The game pictured below involved setting up markers like bowling pins and then sliding one of those exercise slider thingies to knock over the markers one at a time. This was a few hours of fun. You can even see Cal in the background using a toilet roll as a bowling ball!
The next game had the kids rolling a ball with only their nose down a "race track", competing for the fastest time and the title of ultimate nose-ball-rolling champion!
Checking out after our two week stay was filled with mixed emotions. We were super happy to be leaving and getting on the road to see the family, but we were definitely going to miss not cooking or having to lift a finger. We even got these snazzy wristbands which were mandatory for us to wear.
Surprising family and friends
It was a bit over a half hour taxi ride from our hotel to the car yard where we picked up our "new to us" Mazda CX-5 family car. Oh yeah, I hadn't mentioned that yet. We bought a car while in quarantine, without even seeing it in person! Covid has made some things in this world a bit easier.
This was a first for us, but to be honest, seeing a car in person wouldn't sway our decision to buy it or not. We aren't really mechanically minded, so looking over a vehicle in person doesn't really mean much to us. The most we would have done would be to take the car for a test drive and we knew that one test drive wouldn't raise any red flags, even if there were any.
I'd called the dealer a week prior to our pickup date and we went back and forth on the price and a few other details. We landed a sale for $21k and locked in a pick up date for the day we were released from quarantine.
It was a quick stop at the dealership (literally less than 20 minutes) to sign some papers and we were en route to a little town outside of Canberra called Murrumbateman, after a quick haircut of course!
Murrumbateman is where Allanah's younger sister ,her mother and her mother's husband lives. They obviously had no idea we were coming, well, because no one did. We decided to record everyone's reaction as we surprised them which we will compile into a short video at some point. It was safe to say the reactions were priceless.
We pulled up in the driveway, walked inside without knocking and found no one in the house. Awkward! But alas, people were home, just not inside. Allanah's mother - our kids "Ma" - was outside with her new born dachshund puppies.
When she noticed us walking closer, she dropped tell her knees and cried in excitement. Her reaction was unbeatable. It was a genuine mix of shock and happiness. Ma's husband had just gone to bed to get some rest for nightshift, but the moment warranted a wake up.
The next several topics of discussion centred around how we managed to get back in the country and not tell anyone. The secret was tough to hold but well worth it when we saw each persons reaction to our return.
From Murrumbateman we travelled to Dubbo to surprise grandparents, an aunt, my sister, and Allanah's dad who was travelling through the town for an appointment. Each persons reaction was unique. Some had screams, some had stunned looks and some even looked scared. One thing they all had in common were the smiles after the initial shock. It was pretty magical.
Our final stop before heading back to our new town of Orange, was our original home town of Cobar. My mother, other sister and most of our friends reside in this little mining town of a few thousand people. I was concerned that my mother would have a heart attack when she opened her front door to find us standing there. Thank god she didn't but she sure took a few minutes to contain her tears!
We were in Cobar for 3 days and had a chance to see quite a few people before we made the 5 hour drive to our new home town of Orange in time to check into our temporary accommodation of two months.
Settling into the new town
Orange was a town we always imagined we'd live one day, even while we were over in Canada. When the stars aligned and an opportunity for my role became available at a top-tier mining company in the town we wanted to live in, I just had to apply. It's very central to our family, with everyone within a 5 hour radius which is perfect.
My new employer had us set up in temporary accommodation for 2 months. This gave us enough time to find and choose a more permanent house to establish roots. We were in one house for a week and then another house for the remaining 7 weeks. This was due to the huge shortage in the housing and rental market which made it next to impossible to secure a long-ish stay in one place.
The houses were in great areas of the town and not having to worry about housing straight away reduced our stress levels, ultimately making our new town experience an even better one.
Over the next few weeks we had a lot of events on and had family and friends come to visit us. We were really enjoying living in an area where people wanted to visit and there was more than one choice for a café if we wanted a coffee. It's safe to say we were settling in well and enjoying the new place we now call home.
Blake - FIRE with a family