Tuesday, June 6, 2023

What It’s Like Being a Kiwi in New York Right Now

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Alice getting her daily one hour of exercise in NYC - complete with compulsory face maskAlice getting her daily one hour of exercise in NYC – complete with compulsory face mask

When digital designer Alice Morgan left home in Auckland for the adventure of a lifetime in New York, she never thought life would look quite like this. Ensconced in her Manhattan apartment for 23 hours of the day while the city implements tough lockdown procedures to help combat Covid-19, Alice’s life in the Big Apple had been turned upside down – and that was before the Black Lives Matter protests engulfed the city. It’s been a crazy few weeks, she tells Capsule from her Washington Heights apartment, which she shares with a flatmate and two cute cats.  Daily life is about as far removed as possible from her old existence at home, and everyone’s a little on edge. But, does this mean she’s had enough? Not a chance. 

When did things start to change in New York with Covid-19?

I was actually home in New Zealand when things started to change dramatically around the beginning of March. I was working remotely in Auckland and heard stories come through of people being exposed to Covid-19 at our New York offices. Originally we just heard a couple of stories here and there, but as I was about to board my plane to come back home I heard my work (and many other companies) had implemented work-from-home orders. Forty eight hours after I landed back in NYC, all non-essential businesses were closed. I was lucky to get back!

What does ‘lockdown’ mean for you in NY?

Taking each day as it comes, really. I’m just focusing on myself and my mental health, as being stuck in an apartment 23 hours a day can be really hard. I also just try to make sure that I am making smart decisions. I can control what I did and if that meant not getting Covid, then it was one less person putting a strain on the hospitals and healthcare workers.

What’s the weirdest thing about NY in lockdown?

The biggest thing is that for a city that has eight million people living in it, the streets have gone quiet. Seeing Times Square with no one around is like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. It’s so weird to see a city that goes from constant noise – car honking, yelling – to now dead quiet. You can hear a pin drop. It’s something I thought I would NEVER see. 

New York

When you compare NY’s approach to combating Covid to New Zealand’s, what are your thoughts?

New York is similar to NZ in that they put a clamp down hard and fast. We have daily press briefings from the governor and have to wear a mask everywhere we go. NYC was always going to be a hot spot of Covid due to the way we live – on top of each other – and we all catch public transport. But the citizens have worked together to help each other. We are all in this together and will make sure that we look out for one another.
I can not say the same for the rest of America.

Alice with her husband Mike. At present, Mike lives in New Zealand, with plans to head to NY delayed thanks to Covid-19.

Alice with her husband Mike. At present, Mike lives in New Zealand, with plans to head to NY delayed thanks to Covid-19.

You normally work in a busy, bustling magazine office – but now, what does a typical day look like for you at the moment?

Majority of my day is inside the apartment. I get up around 8am – well, I try to at least – and then always start my day with a walk. I have a really beautiful path that takes me through a park to a bridge over to the Bronx. Weekdays I work from 10am-6pm and then try to go for another walk in the evening with my flatmate. It’s pretty routine but I find that it really helps to create some sort of normalcy. The weekends though are my time to shine! From baking, workouts on Instagram Live or Zoom, to trying new things like embroidery, painting and writing poetry – I’m trying it all! I have found that quarantine has really been a time to focus and try new creative outlets. It’s been amazing.

How have the Black Lives Matter protests changed life in NY?

Everyone’s a little on edge right now and emotions are understandably high. I personally feel this tension has been bubbling under the surface for a while and now it’s finally releasing. As a white, expat female with privilege, not much has changed externally for me. I will still be able to do a lot of aspects of my life without judgement based on the colour of my skin. Internally, however, a lot will change, for me and (I hope) many other white people. A lot of people are becoming more aware of the world we live in and how some people suffer while others prosper. I hope this creates change in the long run, and that these protests show that systemic racism and white privilege are real things.

Yesterday I went for one of my many walks. While out I was looking around and saw some flowers so stopped to take photos to put on Instagram, as us millennials like to do. As I did so, a man of colour overtook me. I then carried on walking, looking at the photos I just took and as I looked up noticed that the man that overtook me turned around and briefly looked at me. He then apologised to me and continued to walk, but had picked up the pace. I was confused by this. Why did he apologise? What did he do to me? As I continued to walk, with him walking out of sight, I then wondered if he thought I was going to call the police? Was I now a “Karen”? It hit me. The fact that I can walk and have my cell phone out and not even think about it while someone of colour has to wonder if I am going to call the police is a hard pill to swallow.

So while right now there is noise on the streets, I hope this is able to translate to action when all the noise dies down.

Does all of this make you want to come back home?

Not just yet. As much as I love New Zealand and it will always be home, I truly love everything about New York, from the range of people I meet, to the work I do and to everything in between. You can grab a slice of pizza on the way to a Broadway show, you can sit on the subway and watch while people perform with singing and dancing for you, you can be in the background of an SVU episode, you can sit in Central Park and people watch. This city is our city. No one judges you here.

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