A year in New Zealand

This week marks our one year anniversary in New Zealand. When considering this, a year sounds like nothing. A blur of weeks, of seasons, another champagne toast and clink – it’s over. If we’re lucky – meaning the other driver stays awake – we’ll get 40 more of these on average. Fewer years than sips in this water bottle. Better drink it up.

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For a man without a memory I vividly recall our first day in the country. I left Jess at the airport with our boxes and drove terrified across town at rush hour in a rented car to pick up a rented van. Paper maps crinkled in my hand. I wandered blocks looking for a payphone to call our waiting landlord. Should I dial the +64? Or maybe just the city code? We eventually found Robert The Overcaffeinated Landlord who handed us the keys, noting we were minutes from losing our city-centre condo to the next person on the waitlist.

In the weeks that followed our shellshock grew. Vacation vibes morphed into responsibilities as we adjusted to life in a foreign country. We rented a house and bought a campervan, scooter and bikes. We opened savings accounts. We got phones, insurance and drivers licenses. A new life in motion.

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With our boat in the water we were free to sail. The first thing we noticed was the scenery. Wellington is achingly gorgeous. A city of 400 thousand surrounded by trail-carved hills and a turquoise ocean. Bike 30 minutes in any direction and find a magazine covershot. Next thing you notice is the people. An army of kind, tidy kiwis speckled with brits, scots, germans, chinese and the odd American or two. Coffee shops galore. Craft beer bars, museums, music clubs. Whatever your tribe, it’s here. Just remember to stay left on the footpath while you search for it.

The next change for us was the weather. The everyman’s obsession here. Windy Wellington is the windiest city in the world. House-shaking gales are a matter of course. When we’re not getting pounded with the prevailing northerly we’re getting double pounded by the Antarctic southerly. Storms move lightning quick. Temperature never changes. People never shut up about it.

Another notable difference as I reflect on our year abroad is the language. I guess you could call it English. For a country that loves truncating words – breakfast is brekkie, cheers brother is chur bro – they equally love extending them. Chips are chippies, beets are beetroots, etc.

They boggle letters too. For example, the letter R is dropped from deserving words and given haphazardly to others. “I’ve got an idear bror, let’s stahgaze this summa.” And then there’s piss. You can drink piss (beer) and then get pissed (drunk). You may then take the piss out of someone (tease them), just remember to take a piss (pee) before you piss off (leave).

And everyone here is a cheeky bugger.

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Staying in touch with our American brethren has been hard. Instagram is a glimpse into the world back home but it’s a poor substitute for dancing around a campfire with friends. Jess is good about Skype. I could be better. We’ve been surprised by which people have remained close and which have quietly faded. It’s hard to see friendships fizzle but there’s comfort in knowing that strong connections endure. Some friendships can lay dormant for years and then erupt again in a flash. We miss these people. All it takes is a song to bring me tears.

We’re still boggled by the metric system. Many a kumara fry has been burnt at the hands of our celsius oven dial.

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Work has been great for me. Now don’t get me wrong: marketing data analytics software can be a snooze – but everything else about my job is gold. I’ve got a hands-off boss who gives me freedom and responsibility. In a country where I understand smart and engaged employees can be rare, SAS New Zealand is teeming with them. There’s a beer fridge by the dart board and endless mountain bike tracks out back. Shot brother!

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Jess enjoys her work as well. Her work-from-home job with Allscripts has increased to 32 hours a week. Add that to the 20 hours she puts in at the coffee shop and she stays busy. We came to New Zealand for my job, meaning Jess had to leave her fruitful full-time sales job. She could have turned inward but she’s blossomed, and for that I adore her. Prolific in any time zone. My girl!

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We’ve seen a lot in a year. Buying Walter White the campervan was money well spent, helping us tick off many of New Zealand’s must-dos, notably every main city and wine region plus Tongariro, Abel Tasman, Coromandel, Rotorua, Nelson Lakes, Mount Cook, Queenstown, Milford Sound and the Catlins. We’ve driven up and down both coasts and zigzagged up the middle. We’ve biked, tramped and paddled around many of the national parks – searing into our brains some of the best scenery on earth. But if 2014 was the year of New Zealand, 2015 will propel us outward. The siren song of Australia, the pacific islands and beyond is too loud to ignore. We look forward to more international travel.

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So there it is – one third of our time gone. January 2017 and we’re out of here. We drank up this past year, 52 wide-eyed weeks which have made us ever conscious of our looming deadline here. This year has been transformational, but in no stronger way than framing time as the precious gem it is. Speaking of, I’d better go outside and enjoy this summa day. I hear a storm’s coming.

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3 Comments on “A year in New Zealand

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