Do I start this with "It was a hot and fiery summer day"? I could, I suppose it was. It had been for a lot of December. There were fires to the south of Canberra and they were creeping closer, heavy smoke covered the valley of Tuggeranong and it was hot.
I'm still not sure if it was hot because it was hot or because the smoke was so thick it held the heat in. The days just sort of melded together that year and for much of December, I lived with what precious belongings I had in a box, ready to tote to a car and evacuate when the call came.
If the call came. Thankfully, it didn't.
I remember sitting in my room, the windows and doors to the house all shut up in 38 degree temps, the airconditioning on, my eyes stinging from the smoke that had still made its way into the house. I remember waking every morning to smell of smoke and wondering how close the fires were that day.
It was during one of our gaming nights that my friends suggested I head over to Honolulu and spend New Years with them. One of them had miles to spend and both wanted to see me. Unfortunately, I couldn't because I'd agree to pet sit over New Years but we made plans and I was booked on a flight for the beginning of February.
New Years Eve came, my daughter and her husband were in Nowra. They were evacuated that afternoon and returned home just before midnight - the fires had reached that far. It was a mildly stressful evening for me and I was very grateful when they walked through the door.
Onwards to February. The threat of the fires finally abated and I was on my way to Honolulu. There had been an alert of virus affecting travellers from China - not a big thing, if you'd been near China, you had to declare it and might not be able to travel. This was not something that affected me.
That was February 8, 2020. I had three months to spend in Honolulu, I was going to return to Sydney, book a flight to Darwin and spend some time with Mum and Dad. I had plans and things were looking up!
By the end of March, it was changing. Australia had issued a 'shelter in place or return home if you aren't safe' order. The virus .... wasn't limited to China and people were being careful.
I checked. My flight out in May was fine. That was two months away, all would be well.
It changed in a week. Australia locked its borders to incoming travellers. We were not told they were going to do this.
We had been told "shelter in place" and then they locked the borders.
My May 2020 flight was cancelled.
Then my July 2020 flight.
Then my October 2020 flight.
Then my January 2021 flight
Then my July 2021 flight
Now my October 2021 flight is cancelled and my next flight out is January 2022.
Nearly 2 years after I left Australia, I might get home.
I'm going to share some of the things I've done in that time and some of my thoughts.
I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm not looking for advice. I made my decision back in March 2020 and I'm living with that.
I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm safe. My friends are providing me with a roof over head and I'm ... mostly ... happy.
People have asked though - what do you do with your time. So, I'm going to try and share that.