We've been scared, tired and stressed. But we've also loved the silence, the time with our kids and partners and the opportunity to slow down. We collected mushrooms, had day spas at home and wrote diaries. Everybody had a story to tell.
At 11.59pm on March 25, when New Zealand went into a nationwide lockdown to fight Covid-19, we stayed home to save lives, venturing out only for essentials. Last week, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a shift to Level 3 from 11.59pm on April 27, we asked our readers and listeners what they'd learned about themselves and their world from this time in lockdown.
Many thousands of words poured in and these edited responses reflect an extraordinary time in New Zealand's history. What does it look like when a whanau of five million came together? Here are some of your reflections from life in lockdown . . .
I hate cooking more than I hate being stuck in peak hour traffic - Kristin, 36
My four-year-old really does have feelings like adults. She'd tell me how much she misses her grandparents. She'd ask me why no one wanted to see us anymore. I told her the world is feeling a bit unwell and we have to all stay home until it gets better. Now, when she eats her vegetables she tells me she will get really tall and strong so she can make everyone better. And then we can go outside again and see the whole wide world - Afifa
I met this lady at the start of lockdown, that's now permanently at my house. I've learnt that she is my wife and I was pleasantly surprised at how nice she is! - Heinrich
I've been doing a small painting every two-three days picturing only what I can see in my neighbourhood and around my home. My main aim was to bring the familiar into a new light and show the beauty around us if we look for it - Roseanne Croucher, Hamilton
Not all things in this world can be bought by money, sometimes it needs our patience and kindness to save lives - Michael
Home schooling is frightening. I am NEVER attempting school again - Brian
Imagine if 20% of the meetings that used to be face-to-face were done by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or Webex? This would make a material difference to traffic pressure points in places such as Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga. Perhaps I shouldn't have been, but I have been by pleasantly surprised by the quality of the technology. My AIA Australia board calls on Webex are better quality than going into an office and using videoconferencing facilities in Auckland. I can't be the only one who has had this experience. Let's make the commitment to 20% fewer face-to-face meetings with one in five done using technology. A slower start to the day and fewer cars on the road have brought to the fore the sound of birdsong and a feeling of nesting at home, being safe at home. Luckily I got a new mattress replacing my 25 year old one two days before lockdown and it has been lovely to be snuggled and to be nesting. Helping getting the economy going again by buying products that make our homes feel like a sanctuary with comfortable living areas and bedrooms surely will be a result of a month spent at home. But sadly home hasn't been safe for everyone. From the first evening of lockdown police reported a spike in the reporting of domestic violence and that is just the women who were able to reach out and connect. Sadly the decision to allow alcohol to be sold under level 4 lockdown (which I personally found incomprehensible) will have added to the suffering of some women. NZ Women's Refuge have come up with a fantastic way that we can all help. Purchase safe nights for $20 a night and support women in our community who are not safe at home . . . Finally, for me, I have rediscovered the power of music to lift mood . . . I didn't sleep at all well in the first couple of weeks and listening to music in the evenings completely turned that around. Gosh 70's pop is wonderful! - Theresa Gattung
I really don't miss junk food like I thought I would - Charmaine
My passion for beer and junk food is a real lifesaver!! - Aaron
I really like fishing - Chrisjan
When it's a matter of life or death for some, life wins every time & it doesn't matter how young or old they are, you cannot swap a life for $ - @Suzyjam
Running is awful, berry cider is good, setting yourself up to work comfortably from home is expensive, and homemade burgers just aren't the same - @Nightwyrm
How much the disability community needs to shout to be heard - @grabyourwheels
Homemade masks don't look like bought ones. The neighbour's cat is a regular visitor and is good for long conversations. Our son and daughter-in-law have made us feel very loved and have done all our shopping. Husbands are sad when there is no sport on TV - Sheryl and Brian Farmiloe
Halfway through my shop, my brother rang. He had simple words really, along the lines of "weird times aye? You all good?" Transitioning quickly into a simple invite: "Come lockdown at my place, it'll be good". Reluctantly I agreed to his kind invite, full well knowing as soon as he hung up the phone, a flame of our childhood was about to re-ignite. You see, this wasn't just any brotherly relationship, but a pact. A blood oath that whatever happens in life, we're family and we have each other's backs no matter what the cost and no matter what the inconvenience. Because having your grown-ass brother bunk in with you and your whole family for four weeks straight is by definition an inconvenience . . . the whole first week seemed to fly by as our 'bubble' adjusted to the new life in lockdown. Who knew that 10.30am coffee with superwines and 1pm Covid updates on the telly would become paramount priorities in our daily schedules with things like securing the next big contract and making sure kids are at their ballet lesson on time being so distant and in perspective to what the country was facing . . . Second week into lockdown and my brother and I had run out of small talk. It was time to face and talk about some hard truths that often we as Kiwi blokes don't want to acknowledge or we sweep under the carpet thinking that 'feelings' or emotions' might make us look weak. I found in this mess we've come to know as Lockdown, you've got a lot of time. Time to reflect. Time to think. Time to talk. I won't lie, there were a lot of tears that came out that second week of lockdown as my brother and I sought to deal with the past that I was so desperately trying to suppress . . . It was as if we had slayed this Goliath that had stood in front of the future with the simple weapon of talking - Dylan
Talking to a baby via Zoom will make your heart light up - Kirsty
Most of what I normally buy, I don't really need, and what I really need I can't buy anyway - Kevin, 56
The social awkwardness that will come when you tell people you're pregnant after the lockdown, with everyone calling your baby a Corona baby behind your back - Anon
We finally got a very much needed rest and were able to really enjoy our family time without interferences or being guilt-tripped into feeling the obligation to meet up with our extended families and friends. We will never again have this "stayhomecation" - Anon
Bring on electric cars and ask yourself whether you really need to board a plane to attend that business meeting? - Kris, 53
Now my two daughters, aged 5 and 8, never hesitate to say 'I love you Dad'. Since the lockdown I have spent so much time with them alone at home (while their mother went to work at the local medical centre). Getting to know them, talking to them, having lunch with them, inventing and playing games, watching birds, running in the backyard, having sleepovers with them (my favourite, having ice cream with them in bed) . . . so easy to find joy in your life - Aarif
I took this photo driving home on the first weekend of Level 4 lockdown, after working a night shift in the Emergency Department at Auckland City Hospital . . . the dawning of a new day, with its beautiful far reaching rays, signified hope for our future – Patricia
Appreciate more, complain less. We are safe in our homes. What about people who don't have a home? Some don't have a fridge or a pantry to say "what can I eat?" This thought should be with us all times even if we aren't in lockdown - Nasreen
It took all the skill in the world to maintain the extramarital affair - Anon
A huge shout out to all the volunteers monitoring Waitangi during lockdown. It has been reassuring to know these people have been totally committed to keeping our area safe and Covid-19 free - Jaydee
We took walks together as a family and spent ages skimming stones. We collected blackberries and said hello to those walking passed us. We learnt to slow down and to not rush through each day on autopilot. We realised how much time there was in an afternoon when we weren't rushing from school pick up, to activities then dashing home to scramble a dinner together, do homework and get the kids to bed on time. Now we go to bed later and wake when we wake. We saved leftovers, used vegetables past their best before date and made meals together. We failed at sourdough bread multiple times but we can make a mean sourdough pancake batter. We realised how lucky we were to live in New Zealand compared to pretty much every other country in the world. Jacinda has made a fantastic mother hen to this nation in a time of so much uncertainty. We seem to tolerate each other's quirks a bit more and to know when we needed our own time. And we laughed - real big belly laughs. We played lots and LOTS of cards. We couldn't believe how many birds we could hear now the planes and helicopters of Queenstown were grounded. And when we watched Jacinda and Nigel Latta say short-term increases in screen time while in the bubble wouldn't harm the kids, we spent that whole day in bed binge watching Ozark while the kids watched their TV shows in the lounge - Lauren Major and family (including Samuel, aged 7), Queenstown
We can choose to bring light into times of darkness through artistic creation and the sharing of our fears and vulnerabilities. We can find something to be grateful for every day, even if some days it feels impossible - Kira Dune, Dunedin
I learned the value of the simple life, being with my family, enjoying exercising together, walking and riding bikes in our beautiful country - Laura, 43
I need more winter leisure wear clothes. I'm really, really glad I bought a proper little barista machine with grinder before the lock down. I miss my Mum and Dad - Petra
Alone, not lonely. We are not the first generation to endure a lockdown but our circumstances make it a great deal easier to endure than in earlier times. We live in a time of easy communication, when we can correspond instantly with family and friends wherever they are to share our experiences and opinions. I am giving myself permission to take the time to read, go on virtual sunrise and sunset safari rides, notice dewdrops on fallen autumn leaves and watch the lemons on my tree slowly ripen . . . There is a calmness and acceptance of the situation, and confidence that our resilience and determination will prevail as experts collaborate across the globe to make a vaccine available to us all - Helen
I decided to really enjoy spending time with my daughters. So we have had a fashion show, a beauty spa, have camped in the yard, played hide and seek, made a lot of crafts, and I taught my little girl (aged five) how to ride a bike without training wheels too! My 15-year-old and I decided to write a novel together, a post apocalyptic dystopian novel loosely based on recent events . . . what a great opportunity to bond with my girls - Kimberly Harpur
For the first time in 45 years of marriage, we had time to spend together without the social interaction of others. We walked, read and cycled. We had perhaps a little more wine than we should have but at our age, who cares! - Trish
Golf courses are beautiful places to go for a walk. How could they be opened up to the public more for walking after lockdown? - Anon
I see my supermarket trips very differently now. It's ok to wait a little longer in the line - we are all in this together! The world is going through this together and I don't want to be the reason another human feels sad. It's hard to admit, but before the Coronavirus, I only really cared about the feelings of my immediate bubble and less about strangers - Cheryl
I learned that I really hate my job now. After 34 years of flogging my body in the construction industry chasing the almighty dollar for me and developers I've had enough. I've taken this time to focus on me and my children, applied for jobs out of the industry and my body feels great and my mind is uncluttered. I'm so looking forward to a better, slower future - Anon
I sobbed my guts out when it became obvious we were going into lockdown! I felt so sad, so sad for the world. But on reflection, life in our bubble has been glorious. Time has been the thing, time to pickle gherkins and chillies, time to play chess with my husband, time for exercise. Just time to be - Judith
I lost my mother, not to Covid-19, but to natural causes during the first week of lockdown. Not being able to say goodbye or to hold her tormented me. Organising a funeral with certain criteria to be met, I totally felt alone. I needed my extended family, I needed counselling, I needed to fulfil my mother's last rites. Normally, it would be a three day tangi at a Marae, then burial. Instead it was a very small service held in the chapel, with just a bubble of five and a live video feed . . . What have I learnt about this Covid-19 whilst in lockdown? That it is what it is, and we do what it is necessary to do in these strict times. And we reflect on those that are less fortunate, and share what is common ground, with a nation, with the world, and hope that we all live to live another day - Maria
Bucket lists are for the greedy and entitled. Live in the present - it is a gift and all we can be sure we will have - April, 57
Local walk gave field mushrooms to enjoy! Didn't need to queue for them! - Kelvin, 79
Silence, what an unexpected gift from this lockdown. But it is not silence, as the songs of the birds become important and beautiful, the happy chatter of children playing in their garden nearby, an awareness of what is happening, even if it is hearing the rubbish truck in the next street means getting the bins out in time . . . I am at peace with the world but I am lucky, I no longer work so losing my job is not a worry, I live in my own home, so losing my home is not a worry. I do feel concern for the young and the world they are inheriting - Tricia, 70
I learned that God put people in our life for a reason and some people are there for a season and we have to know when people's season is over and we must let them go - Anon
I've been going to church in my home office! Lovely to see 30 – 35 of my friends and join in stimulating discussion with them on a Sunday morning without the one hour return trip drive - Sylvia
I learnt how to play Falling by Harry Styles on the piano - Rui-Yi Ong, 13
How much money we can save by not going outside - Andy
Individually, and as a nation, "we" became more important than "me" - Andrew Herbert
In the beginning of lock down I found myself scared of the unknown but now I feel like I am breathing and taking time to enjoy life. And yip, I have made bread too! - Louise
Over the last four weeks, I've learnt that I'm pretty anxious about what the future holds. When can I hug my friends again? Will I be able to move into my new place by the end of next year? For how much longer am I going to have a job? Does that guy from Hinge still want to see me once this all blows over? When will these funky dreams stop?! How am I going to support my friends who aren't doing so well and face an equally uncertain future? Being present is no use either; being surrounded by daily infection numbers, deaths, and harrowing scenes from abroad. It's like no matter where I go or how hard I try, solace and peace is nowhere to be found. The best antidote I have come to learn is the strength of my community. Knowing they've got my back, and I've got theirs. That I'm not the only one feeling some or all of these things. I am grateful for their contact, kind words, banter, and compassion. So what have I learnt? The true meaning of: He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. The most important thing in the world is people - Sheryl
Our son, Benji, received a life saving liver transplant from my husband six months ago . . . so many people have no idea how good they have it. People complaining about not having access to takeaways, or the park, or the beach, or the mall or shopping. Complaining about the lines, or the rules, the checkpoints and the testing. I spent the last month in our home away from home, surrounded by other families who have critically ill children. Where the 'outside' world ceases to exist, you live in a new bubble. One where you just want your child to be okay. I know it's hard and scary at the moment. And it is SO hard being away from our loved ones. But when you are with children who are fighting for life every day, everything becomes a bit clearer. Our nurses, doctors and hospital staff are incredible . . . I'm very proud of our healthcare system - Ashleigh
I'm no Kiwi, just an Indian international student here at the Waikato University busy enjoying her international student life. But I too am proud to be one among the five million who stood inside and saved lives - Anj, 30
Doesn't matter what job you do or how much money you have. We are all mortal. And if you have a good soul? You'll be sweet . . . We are all are feeling the same, here and across the world. We all are flying by the seat of our pants. And we all need to get back to the basics of life - Sarah
We have to keep on being kind - Leon
We all travel overseas too much and a simple life is better - Leanne
What did they learn? ZM radio listeners responded with pithy one-liners:
You can get really tired doing nothing.
My son's teacher is a saint.
Material objects have no worth. No more buying stuff to look 'cool' happening here.
I could never be a full time stay at home mum.
No matter how much time I have I will not fold my washing.
I am so happy I do not live in America.
Raw mixture tastes better than the actual cake.
My parents aren't really that annoying at all.
I have no self-restraint and seriously lack motivation.
How to create beach waves in my hair with my flat iron.
I hate lots of noises. Especially chewing noises.
Going to class is better than not going.
How to play most of Careless Whisper on a $5 recorder.
The perfect setting on my toast for Vogel's.
The beauty of silence is refreshing to the soul.
I'm too obsessed with chicken nuggets.
How to fold a fitted sheet.
The supermarket is more thrilling than originally thought.
How to take care of a newborn.
I have listened to fantastic podcasts from many different churches. I have learned to use Zoom. One of the best parts of each day has been foraging autumn's bounty - mushrooms, chestnuts, walnuts, apples, feijoas and guavas - Judy
Being a parent is much more important than working - Chrissy
I really dislike my MIL and that we needed to move out ASAP - Anon
No one is more powerful than nature - Japneet
What does lockdown mean to me a 73-year-old grandmother? Not being able to hug my grandies!! That is painful but not insurmountable. Facetime is a joy to be treasured. To hear the phone beep each night is the highlight of our days. My walks around Hamilton have opened my eyes to incredible beauty that I had no idea existed. We have walking and cycling tracks along our river in abundance. I have lost kilograms walking; not being allowed to go to the supermarket has made my walks a highlight each day. Lockdown has meant no coffees, that's been hard! But it has meant my husband, who I call the love of my life, and I have got even closer. I mean there is no one else to talk to so we have certainly talked (and argued) but having your best mate for a lockdown mate isn't too bad - Raewyn, 73
Do not leave a block of 72% Dark Chocolate on the garage floor with the rest of the supermarket shopping on the garage floor to 'decontaminate' from possible Covid-19 infection. The dog will have the very best day and the very worst day of his life. He will find it and eat the whole block, necessitating an expensive trip to the emergency vet. Now is not the time to explore the winding track in the bush along the very edge of the stream in the gully behind your house, especially late in the afternoon. It is possible to clamber up a steep bank, climb a fence, run through someone's property to make an escape to the road, and then hope you don't appear on the local Facebook page as "who knows this person seen running through my property at dusk?" - Cherie
A blessing to have my adult children live with me while I still worked in essential service as funeral director. They cooked every night and we realised there was no need for takeaways. Don't take social outings for granted. Grateful to be in New Zealand - Raewyn
It's killing me not being able to hug my friends. The first thing I'm doing when we can come away from social distancing, is give my friends lots of long hugs. Yes, it could possibly be awkward but I don't care because I love them and miss them so much - Julie, 49
A-Z OF LIFE IN LOCKDOWN
Alone with my family
But we are
Connected to others online.
Days and weeks merge into one.
Everything is eerily quiet,
For cars are crippled and sit with
Gears motionless, tyres still on deserted roads.
Here in New Zealand,
I feel safe,
Just worried about family in the U.K.
Keeping watch of the news,
Meeting my classmates through my laptop,
Now all this is my normal.
Our bubbles are intact, but will
Pop at Level 2, and we'll shop, stroll and
Queue less than 2 meters apart.
Restrictions lifted, I'll once again
Swim, see my friends and sneeze without stares.
Till then, we'll all take care, stay home and save lives.
United against the
Virus, which growls like a lion and constricts with boa strength
When it reaches the lungs.
X-rays, ventilators and doctors may not be able to help
You if COVID catches your breath, so
Zap this plague with zeal by staying safe - Jake Newbould, 11
I learned the advantage of buying a monster urban section that is now a private island among the tiny plots. No end to the chores and still apples to pick and fuyu [persimmon] the size of pears - Neil
Level 4 for me was about seeing families already overwhelmed with health, housing and financial issues explode in the amount of distress they are under - Andrew
A guy walking his kids said he's finally getting to really live in the house he's slogging to pay the mortgage on. They use every square inch for picnic spots, huts, wigwams, family dinners, dance, and outdoor movie screening. Oh, and that was the fourth guy walking his kids in the space of two streets. Guys are really getting to know their kids and wives instead of couples swapping shifts and dropping them at day care. I've eaten everything that's been hanging around the pantry. Cleared out my drawers and used every bit of soap and moisturiser in my bathroom. I really don't want to hoard anything ever again. I've connected on Messenger and whatsap with dozens of friend and family I haven't spoken to in years. Less people are turning up to hospital. Is it because their blood pressure is better controlled from reduced rushing and stress? Are blood sugars are better controlled because they aren't shopping for sweet stuff every day? They are walking more, breathing better air, not sharing germs in a stifling office? Less rushed families are contacting the elderly daily often on facetime, so maybe the social isolation is not as bad as feared . Certainly the accident rate is down as people aren't risking life and limb on the roads. I love New Zealand and will be happy to holiday in my own country forever if need be. It will be good to get a break from my husband and his endless YouTube music though – Jill.
Thank you to every reader and listener who responded to this project. Stay safe.