Thai Jason has enjoyed her time in her small holiday house on the beachfront at Ahipara. And the fact that a three-month stay became 18 months was no real hardship at all.
The New Yorker will be packing soon to return to the Big Apple, and will be giving her own regards to Broadway (where she once performed in the musical Godspell).,
Thai had planned to fly home on March 30 last year, but when Covid-19 began spreading she had to make a quick decision about "hot-footing it" back to New York/New Jersey or staying in New Zealand. She sought the advice of dozens of friends, doctors and professionals in the States, and not one told her to go home.
"Every single person who answered me told me to stay here in New Zealand," she said.
"In order to get home I would have had to pass through four airports and fly in three planes, and with my age and health issues I felt that it was more than my fragile body could bear."
There were consolations. She waited out the worst of the pandemic in paradise, she said. And she made the most of her time, as a tai chi instructor (who especially enjoyed her sessions at Kaitaia's Switzer Residential Care), as a volunteer gardener, a line dancer (in Kaitaia and at Whatuwhiwhi), and as an active member of Ahipara's Beach Patrol.
But deep down she was sad.
"It is a little bit like I've been banished from America," she said.
"It is now day 43," she wrote more than a year ago, "and I took the opportunity to drive to the big town of Kaitaia... So I got into my little NZ car, which I haven't used in weeks; I wasn't even sure it would start. I was flying down Pukepoto Road... the windows down, the breeze blowing on my face and through my hair, holding on to the steering wheel with light but firm fingers and singing Broadway show tunes at the top of my voice. Total exhilaration. I don't know if I ever felt so free in my whole life.
"I was the only car on the road. The air was crisp and clean. I owned the road. I was as free as a bird. I was healthy. I was safe. I was out and about. It was Heaven on Earth.
"So why am I in the doldrums? I am sad that I am not at my home. Sad that I am not surrounded by my spring flowers and so many of the things that I love and cherish... I think I am sad for all those who don't understand why life has changed so dramatically and so quickly. I am sad for all those who don't realise that this pandemic is a gift, and that life, as we know it, will never be the same. And that what it can be can be more wonderful than anything we could have ever imagined.
"If you want the spread of the virus to be over you must do what is necessary. Start by taking care of yourself and then help your family, your friends and your neighbours, all of whom may be overly fearful or incapacitated. Be an example when you are out in public, and probably most important, act from a place of love and not fear.
"With all my boohooing I am filled with immense gratitude that I am here in this place where I feel healthy and safe, I am surrounded by people who care about me, and we are all in this together, doing the best we can. This is paradise - but it is not my home."
Thai plans to fly home later this month, but she will be back at Ahipara next year, Covid willing.