Updated: Dec 24, 2020
While in New Zealand, the family and I had to deal with one of the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world. (PHOTO: David Moir/AFP/Getty Images)
This is an excerpt from Andrew Powell's first book '2020: A Year So Wild I Had To Write a Book About It' which is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2021
GOODBYE, NEW ZEALAND. HELLO, FREEDOM.
Things got started off as normal with the planning process in regards to booking international flight tickets from New Zealand to the United States, domestic tickets to each Los Angeles, New York City and Miami, all of that jazz. We got all of that done in early February, about a month before the hoopla surrounding the coronavirus, and planned the trip for late May.
Me and my fiancée even bought clothes and other things that we needed for the trip. Everything was good, everything was sweet, everything was planned. We were going on a journey to the United States of America.
And then, it happened.
The World Health Organization (WHO) would declare the novel coronavirus a global pandemic, and as we all know, everything would go into absolute chaos. As for us in New Zealand, the country would shut down the borders completely to foreigners, and the only ones who were allowed were citizens and permanent residents.
With the WHO's declaration, New Zealand's overreaction, the media scaring the hell out of everybody and fearing the unknown, we originally ended up cancelling the trip to America. And it wasn't just because of all of that either: Air New Zealand, the island nation's only airline, were cancelling flights and complete routes left and right.
It was just too chaotic, and we had decided to stay home. The end.
As the facts came out – for example: COVID-19 having a massively low death rate and not being dangerous at all, for starters – me and my fiancée developed an attitude of defiance.
An attitude that we weren't going to be told what to do, especially not by any government, and especially when a government already had you on complete lockdown for a whole month. Remember, New Zealand had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, we had to deal with that. That's what largely built up the mindset of defiance. And on top of that, we just wanted a vacation. We needed a getaway.
We were completely locked down by New Zealand for an entire month.
We weren't going to be scared by the press either, an entity who we had found out had been lying to us throughout this whole experience – or should I say, verified even more what we had already known and verified even more the media being a bunch of scumbags.
We were going to America, and that's what we did.
Our bags were packed, and we were gone.
"Goodbye, New Zealand. Hello, freedom."
FILE PHOTO: An Air New Zealand Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 takes off from Auckland Airport in New Zealand, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Nigel Marple/File Photo
Before we get to the motherland, a lot of people have wondered why I moved to New Zealand and how it was like living there, as well as how life was away from the United States of America – the greatest country in the world that has left all of us Americans spoiled.
Back in 2017, I was running a small conservative news outlet, and you might remember it, called Powell Media. As the Editor-in-Chief and focusing on constantly getting content out, I needed to recruit a team of writers to be able to pump out original news articles. That's how I ended up meeting my now-fiancée, Crystal.
For a while, however, everything was innocent between us two and we worked together on Powell Media, along with a few other staff members. As time went along, that's when we started developing feelings for each other. It went from working together, to talking about politics together, to discussing right-wing issues together, to eventually leading into personal conservations.
Her intellect, her beauty, how much I loved hanging out with her, I admit I fell in love.
As my feelings grew, and her feelings grew, I finally popped the first question of "will you be my girlfriend?"
She would obviously say yes.
Now as you know, I live in the United States and she lives in New Zealand, so we knew that we were going to have to maintain a long distance relationship. And not just any long distance relationship, one that is international – literally half across the entire world, across all of the Pacific Ocean. However, we loved each other strong, and we were determined to make it happen.
We went a solid amount of months before we actually got together, just spending time together on the phone and video calling each other on Facebook. Eventually though, in 2018 at the time of the last midterm election cycle, I would go over to New Zealand to visit my then-girlfriend. And oh man, it was magical.
Crystal and I hit it off great, and literally the entire two weeks was a magical experience with a woman I love. Now, you might be asking yourself: Why did you have to go to New Zealand? Why couldn't she come over to the United States?
Well, she actually has three kids from a previous marriage, so out of respect towards her and the kids, we thought it would be best for me to travel to her to be able to take our relationship to the next level. And I personally didn't mind. Not only did I get to see my girlfriend and meet her kids (especially Rizzo, I'll get to her momentarily), but I also got to experience intense air travel and a new culture in the island nation of New Zealand.
New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa[aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It comprises two main landmasses—the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu)—and around 600 smaller islands, covering a total area of 268,021 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the islands of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. The country's varied topography and sharp mountain peaks, including the Southern Alps, owe much to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, and its most populous city is Auckland.
A developed country, New Zealand ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, education, protection of civil liberties, government transparency, and economic freedom. The service sector dominates the national economy, followed by the industrial sector, and agriculture; international tourism is a significant source of revenue. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the prime minister, currently Jacinda Ardern. Queen Elizabeth II is the country's monarch and is represented by a governor-general, currently Dame Patsy Reddy. In addition, New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica.
A few months later after my two-week visit with Crystal and the kids, I would go back for another visit, this time for a total of six weeks. It was another opportunity to personally hang out with them and build on our relationship in person. Mission accomplished.
But here was the biggest thing accomplished from that trip: Crystal and I ended up getting pregnant with Georgia (my now 11-month-old daughter), taking our relationship to an even higher level. But don't get me wrong, it was no accident. My baby girl was completely planned.
When I got back to the United States from that trip, that's when we started to shift gears and planned on me moving over and becoming a family – no more visits, it was time to take another step to making Crystal and I completely official as a relationship.
I got back from the second visit to New Zealand in May of 2019, and I ended up making the move over with Crystal and the kids in October, so it was five months that we were separated before I finally started living over there. I hate that I had to leave my pregnant girlfriend for that long, but we didn't really have a choice because of immigration.
When I made my return to the island nation in October to reunite with Crystal and the kids, my daughter Georgia was due to be born two months later in December, which was fantastic timing to get back before her birth – a solid two months to enjoy each other before the baby, plan for the baby and make sure that we had everything that we needed.
The first family experience that I had was Halloween, but what's interesting about Halloween in New Zealand is that they don't make it a big deal like we do, which is a bummer. You guys already know how we do it in the States – dressing up in costumes, going from door to door to get candy, having Halloween parties, yeah, they don't do any of that in New Zealand. Yeah, I know. It's pretty lame.
However, being the American exceptionalist that I am, you know I had to Americanize the Halloween of Crystal and the kids, at least as much as I could.
So what Crystal and I did is go to the store and got some skeletons and ghosts to hang up, some pumpkins to place beside the front door to the house, and we also got a Halloween piñata full of candy that the kids got to knock the hell out of. Me and the kids tried to hit up a few houses to get some sweets from, but out of the six or seven houses that we knocked on, we were only successful with one – a nice old couple that lived right next door to Crystal. This is also the same issue that I had with the kids during Halloween 2018 in New Zealand.
New Zealand really needs to step up the game when it comes to Halloween. Regardless, the kids still managed to have fun with as much as I could do, and we made sure that they were hooked up with plenty of candy.
Americanizing Halloween: Successful, for the most part.
My fiancée Crystal, along with our two daughters Munro (right) and Georgia (left), waiting at Wellington International Airport in Wellington, New Zealand before we flew to Auckland, New Zealand that would eventually take us internationally across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles, California, United States of America. (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)
The next experiment with Americanizing this beautiful little family was Thanksgiving, which is obviously just an American holiday, and to my now-fiancée's credit, she went all in as well to Americanize that Friday in New Zealand (they're a day ahead of the United States in time) in the name of Thanksgiving.
Crystal was a thoroughbred in the kitchen – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese, rolls, sweet potato casserole, baby girl definitely went hardcore! It was fantastic, and thank you to that beautiful woman for having us covered in the kitchen.
Me, I decided to take care of the culture side of it: Football with the TV blasting in the background, getting a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (hey, it's an excuse to drink), and telling the kids stories about Thanksgiving. Remember, they're New Zealanders, so everything was new and fascinating to them.
It was a good time, and it was fun to celebrate such a great holiday in another nation. Thank you again to my fiancée for doing everything she could to make me feel at home for Thanksgiving! Damn, I love that woman!
A month later around Christmas time, the focus wasn't really too much on the holidays, and for a couple of reasons: 1. We didn't have much money at the time, so couldn't really afford ourselves or the kids too many presents. And more importantly, 2. Crystal was nine-months pregnant with Georgia and was due to give birth at any moment around Jesus Christ's birthday. As a result, the vast majority of the focus was on our da