Warea, New Zealand – I’m reporting from Warea, population around 100. It’s somewhere probably 99.9 per cent of Frame readers have never heard of. I’d never heard of it myself until a few years ago, when my brother bought a property out of the city – even though it’s only 40 minutes’ drive from New Plymouth, the place where I grew up and where my parents still call home. It’s beautiful here – fewer than 100 metres to the ocean in one direction and a view to majestic Mount Taranaki the other. Mount Taranaki’s main claim to fame is its role as Mount Fuji in the 2003 Tom Cruise film The Last Samurai. The wider region of Taranaki served as the set, earning it the cringeworthy alias ‘Tom-inaki’ at the time. If that titbit of trivia didn’t make it clear: not that much happens around here.
I normally live in Amsterdam, but had planned a working holiday-slash-family visit before COVID-19 rapidly escalated in both the Netherlands and New Zealand. The idea of coming to a community so quiet it doesn’t even have its own corner store was mighty appealing after spending the last few months dealing with a very stressful home renovation in Amsterdam. Everyone warns you that renovations will likely run overtime and over budget. Check and check. But how could we predict that a global pandemic would be added to the list of pressure points?