June 24, 2022

Diary of a Quarantined Boy, part 1, day 0

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My last trip home to Taipei ended when I flew back to Hong Kong on January 28, 2020 after spending a few days with the Parental Units during Lunar New Year. Wuhan had announced it was shutting itself off from the rest of China just a week earlier, and in the span of 2 or 3 days face masks disappeared off the shelves across the Greater China region. It was the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and within a couple of weeks both Hong Kong and Taiwan announced quarantine measures for inbound travelers as they closed their borders. I haven't been able to see the Parental Units since.

In the ensuing 29 months I've missed 3 of mom's birthdays, 2 of dad's birthdays (including his 80th), 3 of their anniversaries, 3 of my birthdays (including my 50th), and the biggest event among these - my Covid wedding. The thought of having to quarantine for 2 weeks on each end of the trip - meaning any trip would require a minimum of 4 weeks stuck inside hotels without seeing anyone - just made any travel prohibitively painful.

Things improved over the last few months, and we now only need to be stuck in quarantine for a total of 10 days. So I made plans to fly home to Taiwan with Sankala. Mom badly needs a hug, and she hasn't had a chance to greet her daughter-in-law. We are grateful that since I have my own place in Taiwan, the two of us are allowed to quarantine in the comfort of our home. This would prove tremendously helpful.

Today is the day!  Due to the awkward timing of our flight and our decision not to take the inflight meal, we chose to arrive at Hong Kong International Airport a little early in order to eat before boarding. Check-in was quick since we arrived some 2 hours before our flight and no one else was at the counter. HKIA seemed like a ghost town today, and we counted just around 20 flights taking off in the 12 hours between noon and midnight.

Given the lack of traffic, it's understandable that many restaurants have chosen not to open for business. The staff at the check-in counter were helpful in directing us to the outlets which still operate. After all, they have to eat there everyday so they know the situation best.  I decided to veto Sankala's original choice because I wanted something I knew I wouldn't be getting while in Taiwan.

So Tai Hing (太興) it is... and I chose to get stir fried rice noodles with beef (干炒牛河). Not bad, actually. I took a cup of hot watercress and honey (菜蜜) - something else I won't be having in Taiwan.

I was pretty excited to see our plane at the gate. It's been far, far too long... and seeing the livery of the plane brought back that warm and fuzzy feeling. I knew I was going home.

Sankala was so excited about being back in a plane that she took pictures and videos while we were in the air. It's as if we've never flown before... but I must admit that I, too, miss seeing the clouds float past. Of course, getting a bird's eye view of the oceans and land is really nice, too.

The whole process after landing took a lot less time than I had expected. Based on the accounts of others I thought it would take us 2 to 3 hours to get out of the airport. Well... it seemed we were the only flight arriving at Terminal 1 at that time, so there was literally no one in front of us at the immigration counter. After a relatively short time in line to provide a saliva sample for our PCR test, we left the airport in a designated taxi just 1 hour after we stepped off the plane.

We arrived at our empty apartment, unpacked our luggage, took showers as a precaution, and got to thinking about dinner. Mom had stuffed the fridge with lots of veggies and fruits, and there was some frozen stuff along with other goodies, but it wasn't gonna be good enough. This is Day 0 of our 3-day quarantine period according to the Taiwanese government, and I had something very specific in mind that I wanted for my very first meal in quarantine.

For the very first time ever, I opened up a food delivery app on my phone and placed an order. Sankala and I avoid having take-out meals as much as possible in order to reduce container waste, and we have avoided food delivery services since we see ourselves in a lose-lose situation no matter how we look at it. But now that we're in quarantine, we didn't seem to have much choice.

Within half an hour of placing my order via Foodpanda, I noticed that the status of my order had changed to "delivered". I waited a few minutes before calling down to the security desk and asking them to bring up our food order on account of us being in quarantine. Another few minutes later, the bag from the nearest outlet of Formosa Chang (鬍鬚張) was sitting in front of my door.

Combination braised pork trotter and braised pork set (綜合豬腳魯肉便當)
- YASSSS!!! I wanted, no, NEEDED to have braised pork rice (魯肉飯) for this first meal, and it HAD to be from Formosa Chang. They only use pork skin and there is absolutely no lean meat or other pork fat, and for me... this is the only way to go. Of course, since I missed out having braised pig trotter for my birthday 2 days ago, it was only proper that I make up for it.

In the box I also got some boiled broccoli, tofu skin, Taiwanese sausage, marinated wood ear fungus, and deep-fried shrimp roll (蝦卷). Pretty happy.

Cabbage (高麗菜)

Marinated shredded bamboo shoots (筍絲魯)
- done in typical Taiwanese fashion, which is to say it smelled a little pungent like Japanese menma (メンマ).

I'm grateful that I still have a few bottles of wine left in my wine fridge, so I made sure to start our quarantine properly... with some alcohol! In case anyone was wondering, Cali cabs work very well with braised pork trotters.

2009 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon Tomahawk Vineyard - drank right after decanting. Still pretty concentrated and sweet on the palate. Nice and woodsy nose with some smoke. An hour after decanting it showed some vanilla oak. Pretty enjoyable.

This was a simple but pretty satisfying meal. What's important is that I'm back home in our place, and it would be just a few days before I could give mom a big hug. Nothing else matter more at this point.

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