In a matter of weeks, we’ve gone from fantasizing and a lot of wishful thinking, scanning the job postings and doing frenzied Lonely Planet research and google searches, to mindfully keeping our hopes from getting too high.
A few weeks ago, after all the New Zealanders returned to work after their summer holiday, Sean resumed his dialogue with the recruiters, in which we prioritized our location choices based on the jobs currently available (Gisborne, Whakatane, Hamilton, and Palmerston North) and the recruiters submitted Sean’s application.
For most of January, there was a lot time for us to talk about our options while the New Zealanders luxuriated in their summer holiday. We spent many a night in bed, both of us leaning into the middle of the bed looking at the Lonely Planet guidebook’s map of New Zealand and weighing the merits between Hamilton, the inland city on the North Island, and Whakatane and Gisborne across the island on the east, two sunnier, smaller and more remote beach towns. The more we asked of our NZ friends, and the more we searched on the NZ expat forum, and the more we read about both areas, it seemed like Hamilton would probably have more for us as a family, e.g. we may have access to more kids classes like the ones they currently take. Also, the hospital in Hamilton would likely be better for Sean’s career in that it serves a larger population and would give Sean access to a wider variety of patients. On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like Hamilton blows one away with its charm. Conversely, the more we learned about the coastal towns, the more life there seemed pretty ideal. Living in a surfer town in the sunniest place in New Zealand? Yes, please! However, we worried that the smaller town would find us bored and isolated once the novelty of living in a beach town wore off. And would the small town accept us? Would we be able to work our way in to the fabric of a small town? Would we find friends for our kids and for us?
We want to position ourselves so that there’s exciting activities that enrich our lives there, while perhaps at the beginning serve as a distraction to the pain of separating ourselves from our previous life, the only life our kids have ever known. We expect our kids to adapt. That’s what kids do. But we want to find ourselves in a place that fosters our adventurous and active spirits. Hamilton might have lots of classes for us to take, and perhaps networks of potential friends, but would we have found living in the inland, and (as one person put it), “uninspired” city of Hamilton a tad underwhelming? Or should we point our arrows to a more remote but beautiful coastal spot and hope that we can fill our days with enough sunshine and salt water and small town life to make a 5 year-old girl and 3 year-old boy whose whole lives up to this point has been in the bustling city across the river from Boston?
Well, in the end, we didn’t have to gulp and make a decision, since the Hamilton job was offered to someone else. In a way, Sean and I breathed a sigh of relief. Since we’ll be making a two-year commitment, and as much as we don’t want to envision this, it’s possible that two years is all we’ll have. For that reason, there’s extra pressure for us to choose correctly. If we only get two years, will we look back and wish we’d sacrificed the options of a bigger city for life amidst a natural paradise?
These are the thoughts we were having prior to our recent trip to Tucson during our daughter’s February vacation week. And suddenly the gears began to turn. Sean got a flurry of emails from the recruiter, as well as the hiring supervisor in Gisborne, to say that they are really interested him. They wanted to set up some phone conversations, which were scheduled for Sunday afternoon (Monday at lunchtime in Gisborne). After that call went well, they wanted to set up a follow-up conference call with 3 people on their end, scheduled for the following day. That one lasted for a whopping 90 minutes, which seemed like a very positive response to Sean as a candidate.
And it was after this conversation that we began to really imagine Gisborne as our new home (at least for 2 years). They assured us that despite it’s small size, it is a vibrant place to live, and gently reminded Sean that most towns in NZ are in fact small, coastal towns. (Duh.) Of the 40 doctors that service the hospital in Gisborne, a whopping 38 are from elsewhere. And so that means that we will be folded into a network of expats from the very beginning. (We had the mistaken notion that in such a small town, we might find ourselves one of a few foreigners.)
It all started to sound really appealing. I was suddenly thankful that the Hamilton job had fallen through, so that we might have this opportunity. Isn’t it funny how quickly our perspectives can shift to flatter our new horizon? We were feeling inspired, doing a frenzy of Gisborne-related reserach (they have gyms, pools, and a running club to name a few things). We fantasized about real estate. We searched the restaurants, bars and cafes and imagined what it would be like to pick among our new dinner choices.
While we were fantasizing, we were also hoping that Sean would hear back from someone. What did this silence mean? Had another job slipped through our fingers? And suddenly I realized that while a year ago, a part of me was nervous that this adventure would actually happen, now, that part of me is petrified that we would get this close and have our plans all fall apart. Again.
But last night we finally heard from the recruiter who’d just finished talking with the hiring supervisor, who’d expressed that they are offering Sean the job! Oh the relief!
We still await the actual offer. And then at that point, we’ll begin jumping through all the immigration hoops. But until then we wait, and fantasize and speculate and repeatedly refresh Sean’s email inbox.