9. Fast Forward 4 Weeks

Today marks one month since we’ve arrived in New Zealand.

Despite my best efforts to provide “up to the minute reporting”, this next post might explain the gap in my writing.

I’ve needed to put all of my energy into living these past 4 weeks in order to rewind – and be able to translate clearly – what this experience so far has been like for me, for us and our children.

I’ve come to realise that the first 2 weeks can be confirmed as a “honeymoon phase”. Week 3 is a “fighting those feelings phase”. Week 4, for me at least, has been a “slap in the face, this is reality, is this for real?”, kinda phase!

In the very first week of our new life, we are on vacation but we don’t know it. Everything is shiny and new. The weather is fantastic, everyone from the train conductor to the pizza delivery guy is a potential new best friend, our eyes are sparkling with reflections of unimaginable natural beauty.

Our children are enthusiastically adopting colloquialisms like “Jandals”, disposing of the urge to call them “sandals”. They giggle endlessly at new pronunciations like “Eleven times sucks is sucksty sucks (meaning: 11 x 6 is 66).

We embrace the Kiwi way of life and now take off our shoes when entering ours and anyone else’s home. We leave old worries behind us in SA for new ones: like wearing matching hole-free socks and making sure our toes are nicely manicured!

In week two, my husband starts his new job. Excitement mounts as we drop Daddy off at the train station – where the trains are working, running on time, are clean and people step on in an orderly fashion. We spend the rest of the school holidays drawing in the volcanic beach sand with pieces of driftwood lying abundantly on the shore. We trawl the local mall, buy fancy new coats and visit Daddy in the city. We try not to stare for too long at the moms with their blue/pink/purple (choose one) hair and knee-length canvas sneakers and the Maori men with full facial tattoos.

When we drive around our little suburbia, we see Dad’s with their sons playing ball in their fenceless gardens and kids on skateboards. We see moms pushing strollers and geese roaming on the sidewalks. More importantly is what we DON’T see. When reversing out of our driveway we are concerned about children that might be running in the street behind us. When leaving the door unlocked we are concerned about the wind blowing it open and letting in a chilly breeze. When our children run free in the parks, we are concerned about them falling and grazing their knee.

In week three, the children eagerly arrive at their new school. With the new 9am start to the school day, we are all three fed and refreshed, ready to begin a new chapter in their little lives.

Brand new school bags are packed, loaded with stationery and books and funky new lunch boxes, not to mention NO school uniforms!!. Before I know it, both are clutching the hands of their new found friends and rushing into the opposite direction…

And this is where my own personal “honeymoon” ends and week 4 (reality) subtly pushes its way in.

I am home. It’s 1pm in the afternoon. While my husband works busily in the city an hour away and the children are in school: I have cleaned. I have vacuumed and polished. I have done four loads of laundry. I’ve watched an episode of my favourite TV series. It is quiet. There are no more children in the street. There are no Dad’s playing ball in the gardens. There is not a soul on the beach. You will not “bump into” anyone you know in the supermarket. It is raining. I discover that ironing is overrated (I momentarily think about a possible blog post entitled “Ironing – You’re over thinking it”). I find out that almost nothing kills New Zealand flies – but that after emptying a full can of environmentally friendly, non-toxic, pretty smelling aerosol spray on a single fly, they seem to die in true NZ style: slowly.

I learn how to use a garbage disposal and locate the nearest dump after forgetting to take the trash out on the correct day. I try to cook a decent meal for my family against “foolproof” recipes and fail (over, and over again).

The only things I “bump into” are new species of horrid insects I’ve never seen or heard of in my life before.

This week has been more difficult than I imagined…and I’m pretty sure this phase will be much longer lasting than the previous. I am not used to, nor do I enjoy being alone all day long in a brand new country. I don’t enjoy housework or learning to cook and messing up my family’s dinner more often than not. I don’t enjoy not being able to pick up the phone and call my mom, my sister, my dad or a friend back home in SA during my hours of boredom and loneliness (yes, because they are all asleep)! I now understand a sense of solitude that I never did before.

However, and there always has to be a “but”… After 4 weeks – would I change anything? No. Because it’s the things we DON’T see that are important and are the reasons we love New Zealand. There is no price. Only value. There is only value in knowing that the sudden sound of ice blocks dropping from your refrigerator into the ice tray below is in fact NOT a gunshot in the dark.


8. The Morning After

But first, the brutal truth: Waking up on our first morning in our new home, I opened the bedroom curtains to the most magnificent view. From our bedroom window we see Kapiti Island, a big green lush park and 2 beautiful lakes. The house was warm, cosy and quiet with the children still in a deep peaceful sleep. Yet…when I opened those curtains and stared out into this exquisite land, I felt sick. I had a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach and felt a deep sense of sadness for all those I had left behind.

Just as soon as the feeling came, I made a decision to let go of it. This was normal. This was natural. This was the feeling I didn’t allow myself to feel in the chaos of it all… and I would be damned if I was going to deal with it this morning!

I made myself a cup of hot tea, a daily comfort that I am familiar with, and sat down on my bed, this time making every effort to appreciate the view from my bedroom window.

Not 5 minutes into enjoying my tea, I tilted my head to the direction of a rumbling sound. The sound grew nearer and then a mild jolt and our walls began to shake. A friend had told me of the high probability and likelihood of an earthquake in Wellington’s future. Surely this couldn’t be it?! A few seconds later and it was over. I laughed. I laughed at the little “tremor”, thinking “Yes, now…NOW we are in New Zealand”. Just one of many new experiences to come…

(I later found out that the “tremor” I felt earlier was the effect of a 5.7 magnitude earthquake that had occurred 100km from us. So I was not entirely paranoid. It was indeed an actual earthquake)

A while later the children raised their sleepy heads, but not long into the morning succumbed to their jet lag and one was found fast asleep on the floor in front of our gas fire. I didn’t have the heart to wake her – so I took a photo instead.

The rest of the day was spent sorting out some basic administrative tasks and fuelling up our bodies with food that, thank God, had not been prepared for consumption on an airplane!