Now, my hobbies are a bit different. Last weekend, I made five different types of bread. This weekend, we have grand plans to go on a walk.
For almost all of my adult life, I’ve lived in different cities to my mum and dad. After all those years of only staying in touch via intermittent phone calls, for a month, my parents have been basically the only people I’ve talked to face-to-face.
Back in late January, as the coronavirus outbreak grew increasingly serious in mainland China, CNN’s Hong Kong office largely shut down and I was asked to work from home. At first, I enjoyed the novelty of wearing my pyjamas during work meetings. But as the weeks wore on, my 370 square feet (34 square meters) studio apartment only seemed to get smaller, and work days and weekends bled into one another.
So, at the start of March, I decided to work from my parents’ home in New Zealand for two weeks.
I left my cat with a willing friend, and headed to New Zealand, which at the time only had a handful of cases. I had visions of going to see my brother’s band play and hanging out with my best friend. Although my parents are in their 60s, they are both fit and healthy, and we didn’t feel like I would be putting them at risk.
For me, the challenges have been more minor. There have been moments — like when I was asked to tidy my room — that I’ve felt like I’ve gone back in time.
But in a lot of ways, this isn’t like being a teenager again. This is all totally new.
Mum speedwalks around the neighborhood and reports back on what everyone else is up to. A WhatsApp group for our street that was set up for the pandemic keeps us abreast of any breaking news (“Grey warblers spotted outside”).
Each day, we listen to the ever-calm New Zealand Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, announce the latest coronavirus case numbers. In the evening, we often pull out that day’s newspaper and do the general knowledge quiz, a fixture in New Zealand office culture.
When my family looks back on this tumultuous period, it’s hard to know what we’ll take from it. Maybe we’ll just be relieved that it’s over. But hopefully, we’ll see it as a time when we were able to learn to coexist as adults — a time when my parents weren’t just my mum and dad, but my workmates, too.