There’s been so much change in the last 5 days and yet I’ve fallen criminally behind in documenting it. And I feel even more at fault since this is the very moment that the blog has been leading up to. I’ve been out of touch compared to my previous level of technological connectedness. For the last 5 days, I’ve had no cell phone and no internet. (We do have a landline, but it kind of doesn’t count, since there’s no voice mail attached to it. We’ve missed a few calls given that we have only phone plugged into the one phone jack in the front room where we don’t spend much time.) I’ve had no way to reach Sean, nor he me. However, it’s not been so dire, since we’re almost always together. We only have one (enormous) key to our house, so we can’t really go off on two separate outings or errands. I have no texting since we’ve kept our phones on airplane mode for fear that we’ll accidentally receive a call on our still-working US numbers. But the texting really isn’t a problem, again because Sean and I are almost always together. There’s been no checking facebook. No scanning Pinterest. No timewasters. (See facebook and Pinterest.) There is a liberating feeling attached to this deprivation, knowing that no one is going to call or text or need me in any way; knowing that I need to be present; knowing that my eyes won’t wander away from a conversation if the familiar tri-tone alert were to ping from my phone. And yes, that feels kind of good. In lieu of phone calls and texts, we’ve had visits from our new friends, Nathan and Dennis, and that’s how people get ahold of us. They just drop by, which is wonderfully “down home.” Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be thrilled when we unlock our phones after Oct 1 and establish calling plans here. And I’ll be even more thrilled when we have internet at home and I can do some Skype calls. But for now, we’ve spent so much time meeting with people and checking items off the list, that I’ve not bemoaned any boredom due to down time. What down time?
In the past few days we’ve toured our new town and found
• the public library, which thankfully is just a 5 minute walk away and has free wifi. It’s there that I frantically fire off the instagrams I’ve created throughout the day, read the latest emails and then compose a mass email to friends and family.
• a family-friendly pub, (The Rivers), a charming café with yummy sandwiches and savory muffins that I can’t wait to try (Verve), and another charming café with decadent grown-up food and insanely large (i.e. the kids can split one plate in the future) kid’s meal (Café Rabu) and a bunch of small restaurants that we’re looking forward to checking out.
• after two tries, the local Microbrewery (Sunshine) which makes a very nice pale ale and lager (the only two we’ve tried so far) and will fill up your old bottles straight from the stainless steel vats.
• The Warehouse, a Walmart-type store. We now have laundry hampers, extra hangers, and slippers (our floors are COLD).
• Bunnings, a Home Depot-type store.
• several cute toy stores and book stores just a few blocks from our place
• and endless specialty stores up and down the main drag, as well as on the side streets, which is pretty impressive given the town boasts only 20,000 or so people.
• the stunning Wainui Beach (I shamefully forgot the camera and my phone—see, I sometimes just go and leave the house without it, since I know no one will call me) with rolling, green hillsides dotted with grazing cows and sheep just on the other side of the winding highway.
In the past few days, we’ve accomplished a ton, like
• learning how to drive on the left side of the road. The toughest habit to break seems to be trying to use the windshield wipers to “indicate,” as they say here, or to signal, as we’d say back home, since the two mechanisms are reversed. Equally difficult, but thankfully not as much of a problem once you’re driving, is 1) going to the wrong side of the car; 2) reaching for the seatbelt over your left shoulder, only to find there’s nothing there but open space; and 3) blindly swiping at the inside door panel, thinking that the gear shift will be there somewhere. Thankfully the standard speed limit around town is 50 km or 30 mph, so there’s an extra second or two to think through the upcoming action. I’m not sure how long we’ll continue to do this, but at each roundabout or turn, I say out loud, “lookright lookright lookright,” then “stayleft stayleft stayleft.” I’m still pretty nervous in parking lots. And the need to reverse onto a street causes me to Make a Plan. My thought process goes something like this: “Okay, I want to end up on the left-hand lane going that direction, so I’m going to have to reverse across this lane of traffic…” The thing that must be deliberately thought about is the formerly innate idea that Going Right is the Easy Way, while Going Left Crosses Traffic. Now I must deliberately think the thought, “I’m turning left: The Easy Way. I’m Staying With the Traffic,” while Going Right means crossing oncoming traffic. Uggh. I know that it will come with time. I’m just thankful that we have a small town (there are only 2 traffic lights) with a slow speed limit in which to learn the ropes.
• putting in a garden, with the help of Dennis, a friend of the owner of the house, the person charged with maintaining the lawn and grounds, and a new friend to us! He’s taken it upon himself to see that we have all the help that we want. He’s the one who bravely (and calmly!) took us out for our driving lessons, he’s given us dozens of suggestions about where we can find what we’re looking for in town (often offering to take us there), and he accompanied us to Bunnings to make sure that we had what we needed to get the soil in shape for growing vegetables. He and Sean did much of the weeding and tilling (the sunny patch was just a plot of weeds before they got ahold of it) and he helped place the plants. Thora was a huge help too, in particularly lugging brick after brick to create boundaries to the 3 plots. Now we wait…
• registering the kids for school. Thora will start in Grade 1 for the fourth term at the local elementary school. We’ll see if that’s the right placement after she’s been in the classroom and the teachers can assess if she’s where she should be. But it’s probable that then she’ll move onto Level 2 come February, when the school year starts up again after summer break. Of course, part of me is proud to think that my little firecracker could complete first grade in one 2-month term. But simultaneously, I panic at life’s clock winding faster and faster. How could my baby be a second-grader?!? Of course, I still have a little baby to mother, my three year old who will be starting at the local Montessori. We’re thrilled with both of the institutions and are sure that our kids will thrive here. And frankly, after a month of “vacation” with only the four of us to spend time with, I think we’re all ready for these kids to be in school. They are craving time with kids they’re own age. Multiple times, Thora has asked me where all the kids are, or why Eugene (for example) doesn’t have any kids in it. I imagine it’s unpleasant to think about legions of kids all together, laughing and learning, singing and playacting, while she sits in this bubble of traveling isolation with her parents and her three year-old brother. Just 2 more weeks to go!
• and lastly, enjoying the spoils of our good fortune, like taking the first dip in our backyard pool (Thora was the
crazy brave one),
grilling out on the gas grill on the deck,
racing Auric’s toy racecars down the seriously long main hallway in our house, running along the beach,
and taking in the lush greenery everywhere.
Today (Friday) was our first rainy day, and it was seriously dreary, compared to the almost 30 straight days of sun and blue skies that we’ve had as we traveled the globe westward. It was our day to accomplish more of the tedious stuff (dropping off payment and forms at Auric’s school, buying boring household items at The Warehouse, checking out the gyms in town, dropping off dry cleaning, etc.). But tomorrow holds promise, if the rain can ease up. Because tomorrow, after a trip to the nearby Farmer’s Market, the local provincial rugby team, Poverty Bay, is playing a home game at 2:30 pm. I think we have a tentative date to go with Dennis. Rugby as a way of life is not an insignificant reason for us moving to New Zealand, given Sean’s lifelong passion for the game. I’m excited for Sean that he gets to start living the dream of sharing the game with his kids. More about that after tomorrow.