Today is where your book begins …

today isThere’s a great song by Natasha Bedingfield called “Unwritten“. It’s been around for quite a while but I find myself humming it often nowadays – and not just because of our change in course. The kids have been affected somewhat by our plot twist and it’s exciting (in a nerve-wrecking-homesick kind of way) to see what they do with themselves now they’re effectively in charge of their own pens.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s been a major adjustment for me. I’ve grown used to having at least one child living with me for the past 25 years and to be suddenly living in an empty nest is just as unsettling as moving house – or country, for that matter.

I know it’s a good thing for everyone. The boys have adjusted to living together in their own bachelor pad quite well, as I knew they would. Chalk and Cheese, their various talents and personality quirks dovetail together and they’re learning the fun of rent and landlords and things breaking down and needing fixing and illness and how much spaghetti you need to cook for two people.

The girl and eldest child of the clan left home years ago but we’d still see each other regularly. We played in the same soccer team and most mornings did some form of exercise (mainly our jaws) together.  Even though I’ll always be mother first, we’re friends as well.

In fact, I think I’ve managed to become friends with all three of my kids and it’s something I cherish. They are all unique in their own way, which serves to define to some extent how we relate to each other.

My eldest and only girl is quite driven, methodical and organised whilst being funny as hell and totally gorgeous to boot. She has lots of lovely friends around her and takes care (charge?) of her brothers, as a big sister tends to do. The girl and I did girl-type things together. We texted – a lot. We talked about girl stuff, office gossip and TV shows. Even now, we still text lots and I am grateful for the wonders of smartphones and wifi to maintain that contact. She’s currently whirling her way around the US and Canada on a seven week trip she and her boyfriend have planned for 18 months and having an absolute ball. I’m so pleased for her.

The middle child and first born son has always been a still pool of mystery that would occasionally allow me a glimpse of his inner depths. From an early age, he often surprised me with his analytical skills and memory. In recent years, we’ve enjoyed many deep and meaningful chats about Life, The Universe and Everything – much like I did with my dad before he passed away. I worked from home and he was studying a pre-vocational course so we had many opportunities to meet in the kitchen at some point during the day for a chinwag. I’ve really missed our discussions and his dry wit and deadpan humour over the past 12 weeks. He tells me he’s taken on the roll of Kitchen Bitch at the Bachelor Pad, working to expand his self-confessed limited repertoire of dishes and making sure he and his brother eat relatively healthily now they don’t have a mother to nag them on the perils of junk food and sugar.

The baby boy has always been a gregarious ray of sunshine and all-round people-pleaser. From a baby, he was such a happy chappy but always charging at life at 100 miles an hour, invariably winding up in trouble for some reason.  Always curious, infernally loud, incredibly generous but surprisingly inciteful now that he’s hit 20. For some reason, I’ve never really worried about this kid making it through life. He’s like a rubber ball, just bouncing his way through any trials until he gets where he wants to go. I miss his energy, his smack talk and his delicious coffee.  He’s a barista and a very good one at that, kind of falling into barista work after keeping me company on a course. I always knew he’d be good in hospitality as he’s quite thoughtful of others and very social.

It’s great to see them taking new steps into their own unwritten futures and coping quite well with the storylines they’re developing. But whilst I take comfort in the fact they don’t seem to need a mum anymore, it’s probably a good thing we’ve moved to another country so I can’t do a drive-by and ‘just check their work’.

As the song says “No one else can speak the words on your lips.” Without a doubt one of the hardest parenting things I’ve ever done is letting them go off to write their own books.

Life achievements

tequilaYou know those times when you’re ‘in the zone’? Where it feels like a force greater than yourself takes over and life just … flows through you?

You’re playing soccer … football …. you know which sport I mean … and you feel like the ghost of Maradona has taken hold of you (just stay away from my hands, man). You perfectly trap the ball, zig and zag around the opposition and then make the perfect pass (because you’re technically a defender and can’t shoot for shite) to the striker who scores the winning goal.  I’ve felt it in those moments.

Or you’re writing something and the words just come to your brain and then fall out of your fingers onto the page like some kind of literary brilliance? I’ve had this too.

Recently, I felt The Force while writing a cover letter for an intriguing job I’d spied on Seek.  I’ve applied for three jobs (including the one featuring in this post) since we moved to New Zealand and each one I’ve carefully considered before braving the City Library computer chair bingo.

I’ve worked as a freelance graphic designer/admin assistant for the past two and a half years and I’ll be honest – working for me was pretty rad. I was a great boss. Very flexible. I let me eat at my desk and take countless breaks. Allowed the watching of daytime TV whenever I wanted. Or I could go on a long lunch date if scheduling permitted. On the down side, I only got paid for the work I delivered and quite often I had to chase it down before the virtual money owed me on my spreadsheet transformed into actual dollars in the bank account.

Working for myself not only gave me a chance to catch my breath and lick my wounds from what had been a very stressful half decade but also taught me a great deal about my skill set and how to value my time. It’s just my opinion but I believe that after working for yourself, you get a little more choosy when you decide to go back to working for someone else. Because of this, I made the decision quite early on in the job-hunting process that I was only going to look for jobs that I was happy to give up my time for (and I’d worry about the little matter of earning money later.)

I tried for a Receptionist/Marketing Assistant role and got as far as the interview stage but it was a no-go. I have to say I was relieved. It was early days and we still had nowhere to live and no furniture. I had exactly two outfits that would pass as workwear and it would mean a 20 minute drive each way every day. Not that I would have minded but it was a tapware company and I just don’t know how much enthusiasm I could have mustered for the product after a while.

Job opportunity number two was a School Librarian for a brand new Junior High School – so brand new that students had only started in February and parts of it were still being built. I didn’t make the short list for that despite having primary and high school library experience but it was a long shot anyway. I am new to the country, not familiar with the curriculum and hadn’t actually worked in a school library since 2007. Fair enough.

So when I read the line “we’re looking for someone with a gift of the gab” in the ad for job number three, I was hooked. The ad was bright, breezy and welcoming whilst successfully conveying the message regarding requirements for the role. I still had no computer and whilst you can do a surprising amount with a simple i-Pad, composing a cover letter in Word then converting to PDF and tweaking the PDF CV are outside that realm. So I girded my loins and headed off to the free-but-for-the-price-of-your-sanity computers at the library.

The thing is, as a former librarian who has worked in public libraries, I understand the necessity for time limits on the computers. I really do. But it’s very difficult to write a compelling yet pithy cover letter to a) grab attention; b) let them know you are capable of doing the job or c) at least get you to the interview stage where you can hopefully dazzle them with your genius, when you are being interrupted every 30 minutes by your computer kicking you off and making you re-register for another computer.

And I am totally down with taking turns and sharing resources but when it’s kicking you off AND THERE ARE FOUR VACANT COMPUTERS AROUND YOU, you get a little shirty. But enough of my grumbling …

Because The Force was with me that day. It didn’t go as far as making the computer bow to my will and allow me to sit in the one spot for the 150 minutes it took for the careful crafting of a worthy cover letter – but it gave me the tone and words to use to get to the next stage.  The phrase I am most proud of?

“One of the few lessons that stuck from my first foray at University (apart from the obvious ones about tequila) was that the prime responsibility of the communicator is to make sure the message is received.”

Yep. I wrote a cover letter that mentioned Tequila.

I think it’s one of the proudest achievements of my life.

I got the job.

Is New Zealand where Aussie shopping trolleys come to die?

Poor thing, just lying there.

Poor thing, just lying there.

This is the question I asked myself the other day as I struggled yet again with a trolley (a.k.a “trundler”) whilst doing the shopping at Countdown (a.k.a “Woolworths”). It’s been years since I’ve had to suffer a truly dodgy shopping trolley but it seems to be commonplace here. In fact, since we’ve arrived I can’t recall getting a single one that doesn’t have at least one wheel that a) wants to go in a different direction from the other three or b) doesn’t want to go at all. They look new which begs the question of why they’re so shite? Are they shipped here from Oz once they become troublesome?

However, that’s probably the worst of the adjustments to make when grocery shopping here. As I’ve said before, there’s many similarities between Australia and New Zealand, which makes it much easier for Aussies to acclimatise, especially with the mundane-everyday-routine stuff. Most of the brands are familiar and the layout of shops are pretty much the same.  It’s almost like being home.

Countdown is the NZ version of Woolies, complete with same logo, Select brand items and jingles playing over the sound system as you shop. New World is similar to Coles and Pak’n’Save is very much the old Franklins, which I don’t think I’ve seen in about 20 years – huge no-frills warehouse style shopping but still good quality stuff.

Fruit and vege is pretty good – much better quality and reasonable prices but I may be unduly biased due to living in a rural area in Australia where our fruit and vege was trucked to us over great distance after spending time in a warehouse in Brisbane.

And oh my gosh BACON. Holy Dooley. There’s a huge supply of Streaky Bacon and done the old fashioned manuka smoked way without the nitrites in it. Absolutely bloody delicious, without a word of a lie. The bacon here is one of the reasons why I started doing lots of walking. Besides passing the time and becoming familiar with the city, it lets me justify eating so much.

To be honest I haven’t noticed much difference in our grocery bill but like I said we’ve come from a rural area with slightly inflated prices. And it’s just the two of us now. This was really highlighted to me when I realised that a block of cheese lasts weeks instead of merely days in our fridge. Not mentioning any names, boys.

The deli section prices their wares slightly differently. For example, rather than a label saying “$18.49 per kg”, it’s “$1.85 per 100g”. The first time I saw a label like that, I did a double-take because I only registered the price and not the amount. I worked in a deli for a few years and can honestly say I’ve never seen items labelled this way, but I do acknowledge that maths-impaired people like myself would appreciate not having to do complex calculations in our head. Or in my case, saying ‘bugger it, I’ll just have it and won’t worry about the cost”.

Organic stuff is a lot easier to get too. For the past few years I’ve bought organic, non-homogenised milk for a few reasons. One is that the amount of fat in milk is really quite low percentage-wise and the processes it goes through to homogenise and remove the fat render the milk not only inedible (in my opinion) but also not entirely good for your body. Another reason is that it’s usually supplied by a small independent company and I like to support the little guy. If I’m honest though, it’s really just because it tastes so nice in my tea. The last few years have been easier to source it in Australia, but here in NZ I’m spoilt for choice.

The second best thing about grocery shopping here is that you can buy beer, cider and wine in the store alongside your groceries. They police it by having to get staff override when you scan it, giving staff the opportunity to scan you to make sure you’re over 18. Funnily enough, I never get asked for ID anymore. Possibly the grey hairs give it away.

The best thing of all  is how cheap the alcohol is. The same brand of wine I would regularly purchase in Australia is half the price here.  I’m not sure why that is but there’s some things in life I don’t like to question and how much I’m spending on alcohol is one of them.

It’s the same with beer prices. NIH is becoming quite the beer connoisseur – he blames me for this development. Before we lived together he never drank on weeknights at home. I call it ‘mature behaviour’. He calls it ‘bad  influence’. Whatever.  And even though you’re buying it in a grocery store, there are all kinds of boutique beers and regular specials. It’s a veritable smorgasbord. Of course we only have a wee tipple at night because it’s so cold. So, really, it’s like, ‘medicinal’ and stuff …

Hobbiton!

Hobbiton signBeing the supreme geeks we are, one of the great bonuses to moving to Hamilton was the prospect of being only 40 mins away from Hobbiton, the amazing little piece of New Zealand farmland out in the middle of nowhere transformed (twice!) into a magical film set for two epic trilogies.

Ok, one epic trilogy and one fair-to-middling trilogy that gave you something to do every Boxing Day for three years in a row. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which one is which …

The set is beautiful, surrounded by lush green hills about 12 ks from Matamata, literally in the middle of nowhere. But for me, it is the stories told as part of the two hour tour that are really intriguing.

For instance, every hobbit hole is built to a predetermined scale so that they could achieve what they in the movie business call ‘forced perspective’. The hobbit hole below was a smaller scaled model, with the top lintel only reaching to your shoulders. An adult standing in front would look like a giant – or a normal human in a hobbit world.

Hobbiton blue door

The larger hobbit holes were for filming the hobbits in front of so they appeared child-like.  Sadly, any interior shots were done in a studio so there was no climbing in to see what Bilbo’s house at Bag End really looked like inside. But there was no denying the exterior views were pretty special.

Hobbiton yellowThe New Zealand Army actually had a lot to do with the creation of the original set. Peter Jackson was still an up-and-comer and the budget was tight. Legend has it he approached the NZ government for assistance and they volunteered the Army to lend a hand, building a road into the site (still used today) and digging out sections of the hills to install the facades. It was arguably the worst-kept secret ever that filming of  LOTR was happening in the area, especially when the army dudes knocked off for the week, went into the local Matamata pub, got drunk and spilled the beans. Fortunately, Kiwis are very similar to Aussies with their blase attitude and didn’t get in the way.

Hobbiton fake treeBy far the best story of all revolves around the large oak tree atop Bag End. Do the leaves look a bit funny to you? They should – they’re fake. They have done a marvelous job of making it look so realistic but it was a long and difficult process for some poor sap (yes, pun definitely intended!). If you’ve read LOTR and The Hobbit you know the tree is an important part of Bag End and whilst they could have done CGI, Peter Jackson was quite adamant about using realism as much as possible.

They first scoured the area for a suitable oak tree: found one near Matamata; carefully carved it into a giant jigsaw of branches; numbered them; trucked them all back to the set and reassembled the tree. Of course, trees aren’t much for moving so … the leaves fell off.

Ah. Ok.

So they arranged for something like 30,000 silken oak leaves from Taiwan to be delivered and some poor sucker had to manually attach them with wire to the tree. Dear sweet lord.

But then … it took a while to get around to actually filming on the exterior set and thanks to the New Zealand weather, the leaves had all faded. What to do? Spraypaint. Every. Single. One. I bet someone was muttering swear words under their breath while they did it.

But wait … there’s more.

After LOTR filming wrapped up, they took away a fair percentage of the set, including the oak tree. In 2011, when they decided to film The Hobbit, they had to go through the whole process again! But this time, the set would stay.

The owners of the property signed a contract that gave them permission to keep the set intact after filming and use it to conduct tours. The first tour was apparently six people taken in a jeep – nowadays they have 55 seater buses going three-four times a day, every day apart from Christmas.

If you ever get a chance, take a tour through Hobbiton. It’s not just the beauty of the set but stories of the sheer determination and ingenuity of people passionate about creating something amazing that will inspire you.

Can't even see I photo shopped the photo bomber out

Can’t even see I photo shopped the photo bomber out

Life is what you make it

life is what you make itIt had been just over six weeks since we’d first arrived and whilst the first two weeks were fairly full-on with finding somewhere to live and reliable transportation, life had slowed down to a painful crawl. I’d applied for two jobs best described as residing at the extreme opposite ends of my work/qualification spectrum and whilst I would have been happy with either, just to feel a sense of purpose once again (and, ok let’s be honest, money), neither one looked like panning out.

The lease had started on the unit and rather than spend money on rent AND a motel room, we decided to move in despite a rather large hitch.

Furniture. We didn’t have it yet.

Not to worry though, as there are some wonderful people in the world (and more importantly, in Hamilton) and we were loaned all the blankets, sheets and towels we would need from the managers of the motel we’d been staying at. The airbed, pillows and doona plus a fold-out table and chairs came from NIH’s boss. With a communal kitchen in the complex complete with cutlery and crockery to loan, we had everything we needed to ‘glamp’ it out until the furniture arrived. Little did we know that was still over three weeks away but that’s another blog entirely!

The unit was lovely, even with next to nothing in it. Very close to everything yet quiet and peaceful – a real relief after staying next to one of the busiest roads in Hamilton. No more having to worry about finding a reason to be out so motel cleaners could access our room. Our own little courtyard with grass and trees rather than brick walls and busy highway. Very short walk to the lake and our new favourite coffee shop.

And yet …

I was feeling quite lost. NIH had a job to go to every day and was making friends at work whilst I was left to find things to occupy the great gaping hole of 10 hours between him leaving and coming home.

Every day I would take myself out for a walk. The weather was lovely and it kept the app on my phone happy, encouraging me to complete my 10,000 steps every day or at least 60 minutes of moving. Small goal indeed but enough of a ‘purpose’ until something better came along.

During these walks I would listen to a downloaded book on my phone app (Bolinda BorrowBox– if your library service doesn’t have it or something like it, ask them why. Totally brilliant and completely free.)

“Girl in the dark” by Anna Lyndsey is actually a biography. The blurb sparked my interest:

“The story of an ordinary woman with an extraordinary illness. The memoir of a life lived in darkness and a passionate love affair with light.”

Basically, Anna develops an allergy to light. Any light. Imagine that for a moment.

I didn’t have to though, as Anna described it so perfectly I felt I was there with her, huddled in a corner in the dark, as she made up word games to play in her head to pass the time. No computers. No reading. No TV. Her body could not handle the light emitted by them. All she had was her mind – and audiobooks.

Amazingly, she managed to cope and tells her story with humour and honesty. Her descriptions are rich and beautifully moving, even more so when she gains remission and can go outside again – although generally only at twilight.

I felt a kinship with her and yet so very ungrateful for my life at the same time. Sure, it was a hassle not having furniture. Yes, the future was a little uncertain with regards to work. Most definitely I missed my family and friends. I was desperately lonely. But in actual fact, I realised I was supremely lucky.

We had a nice space to live in and the furniture would arrive eventually but to be honest we were quite comfortable with what we had – amazing how little you actually need to get by.

Eventually the right job would come for me and life would get so busy I wouldn’t have time to scratch.

I’d make new friends and family are always just a Skype date or quick text away.

And I had my health. I could go walking out in the world without a care. I had each day to do with as I chose. I was not a prisoner. If Anna could find the strength to go on in her tiny dark room, then I had absolutely nothing to whinge about.

I’m drivin’ here!

Smurfette

Smurfette

Not only have we shifted to a different country but we’ve also transitioned from a relatively small rural town to a rapidly expanding metropolis. Suddenly we have everything we could ever possibly want just around the corner from us. However, with convenience comes the drawbacks. Like driving and parking in the city …

To be fair, for a city of approximately 160,000 people it’s pretty much on a par with Rockhampton as far as getting around goes. There’s traffic and sometimes it does bank up but on the whole, you can drive from one end of Hamilton to the other in less than half an hour.  For a couple of county hicks who’s idea of peak hour was between 5 – 5.15pm and consisted of waiting at the roundabout for a couple of extra beats than usual, it’s been challenging to take on city traffic.

One of the first challenges I completed in the “Moving to a new country” competition was to buy a car. I had the spiel down pat when I walked into a dealership – “Small, automatic, cheap”.  And that’s just what we got. Smurfette (as we affectionately call her) is a 2006 Nissan Note. She’s automatic, has a bit of guts to her, cheap to run and can carry at least two large suitcases plus one or two smaller bags in the boot plus three people squashed in the back seat. This was an important factor to cope with the potential demands of picking up/dropping off family flying into Auckland to visit us whilst allowing us the flexibility of finding parking in really small spots throughout the city.

Even though I have comfortably driven a manual for all my adult life, an automatic was preferable so I could concentrate more on the cars around me than changing gears effectively. Don’t get me wrong – Kiwis are just as friendly on the road as they are face to face. They’ll stop mid-traffic to let you in … but some are also inclined to follow road rules based on their personal needs and wants. I watched in awe one afternoon as a small truck in front of me mounted the curb and drove up the footpath until it found access to the left turning lane. It neatly dodged by a whisker the light pole that was in danger of being clipped, plopped down back onto the road and toodled on its merry way.

The car industry itself is an education. A vast majority of vehicles are Japanese second-hand imports, which means whilst they’re relatively cheap, they’ve all done a lot of kilometres and quite possibly have been fiddled with so they look better than they are. It’s quite daunting when you don’t really know the rules and/or urban smarts of a particular country. Whilst I would has considered getting an independent assessment of a private-sale car, I wouldn’t have thought to do it for one I was considering purchasing from a dealer. But here, you’d be crazy if you didn’t.

I kept seeing signs and ads for WOF. For some reason it would be transcribed in my mind to WTF?  Possibly that was because I had no idea what it was at first. It’s a Warrant Of Fitness – a required regular check to ensure your car meets safety standards. Once every 12 months for any car after January 2000 and once every 6 months for any car before then.  It’s pretty cheap – only $60 or so – and supposedly keeps junk off the roads, although there’s still a lot of craptastic cars getting around.

Even though petrol is expensive, sitting around $1.75 a litre, registration for smaller, newer cars like Smurfette is ridiculously cheap at only $88 for the year. Even factoring in the annual service and WOF, it would come to around $300 or about half of what we were paying in Australia.

At the end of the day it’s all swings and roundabouts. Some things are cheaper and others are not. Allowing more time to travel shorter distances makes up for having everything close at hand. Adjusting to the conditions you find yourself in is key to maintaining your sanity and we just have fun with the comparisons rather than getting whinny. We chose to come here and we’ll take everything that comes with it – good and bad.

First impressions

As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression and New Zealand certainly has done that.

For starters, the scenery is absolutely spectacular whichever way you decide to drive. After years in arid, flat country I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the green rolling hills and numerous waterways. Every time we head out somewhere, I always find myself turning to NIH and saying something along the lines of “How beautiful is this place? How lucky are we?”.

Hamilton is perfectly placed in the middle of the top part of the North Island (that sounds scientific, doesn’t it) so that it’s a 40 minute drive to Raglan on the West Coast or a 1.5 hr drive to Tauranga on the East Coast. Or in Central Queensland terms 45 ks one way or 100 ks the other. Because there’s hills and lots of them. To compare, it usually takes 45 mins to travel 75 ks in Central Queensland. No hills. No turns. Just flat and straight and you can drive a consistent 100 ks an hour … okay, faster than that. But the slower drive time doesn’t seem to worry me because there’s so much to look at!

There’s green hills then forests then hedgerows straight out of the English countryside TV shows I’ve grown up on. There’s also water everywhere in the form of lakes and creeks and the mighty Waikato River. It’s a strong dairy area (apparently because it’s flat??) so less sheep and more cattle wandering the lush green. The paddocks are smaller and the number of cattle in them larger, which must be to do with the fact there’s so much more feed available to them then back home in CQ.

Then there’s the people. So very warm and welcoming and friendly – and usually so surprised to discover a couple of Aussies with no previous connection, family or otherwise, have chosen to emigrate to New Zealand!  The conversation usually goes like this:

Us: We’ve just moved here from Australia

Them: Ah. So how long have you been away for?

Us: Er, no. We’ve never lived in New Zealand before. We’re Australian.

Them: Oh. [pause for puzzled frown] So … why did you move here? If you don’t mind my asking …

Us: For the adventure of it …
     NIH: I had a job opportunity ,,,
     Me: And the temperature is much cooler than where we were living …

Them: Where in Oz are you from?

Us: Central Queensland

Them: Oh yeah! My [insert cousin/brother/sister/aunty/uncle/mother/father/next door neighbour] is/was over there. Mackay, they were based.

Us: [glancing at each other with no surprise anymore] Yep. We were four hours’ drive from there – Emerald?

Them: Nup. Haven’t heard of it.

Of course, once we’ve established the fact that we’re Australian, not returned New Zealanders, they don’t miss the opportunity to remind us that pavlova and Russell Crowe actually belong to them and swearing allegiance to the All Blacks is just the sensible thing to do.

Those left behind

Scruffy the Wonder Dog

The cutest fellow ever

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do is leave behind my beloved children – and that includes Scruffy the Wonder Dog.

I agonised for a few weeks on what to do. Customs aren’t too bad as far as bringing dogs and cats back and forth between Australia and New Zealand but the logistics of shifting him seemed impossible. Not only would the cost be more than we could afford but we had no idea where we would be living and if we would be able to have pets.

After much discussion with family, Scruffy got lucky. An old family friend said she’d take him on trial. And trial it would be for all involved. He’s an excitable little fellow with either (a)bladder issues (b)respect issues (c)attention deficit disorder or (d) all of the above.

It was so hard to say goodbye to the little ragamuffin we’d had for five years. We acquired Scruffy at six months old and he’d been the youngest of four dogs at his previous place. The pecking order had definitely given him some unique quirks and peeing on everything was just one.

He wouldn’t eat in front of you or even out of your hand. Apparently, this is good pack behaviour, recognising your place as Top Dog and hence not making a move towards food until you’ve turned your back and shown you’re not interested in it.  Funny little fellow. Apparently my friend has him eating out of her hand and I’m not surprised. She’s a dog lover from way back and has a way with them.

After a few concerns with his habit of running away, he seems to have settled into his new family very well. He’s got three boys and another dog to play with, along with his doting new ‘mum’. And it’s a good thing. We were in a motel for six weeks and there are precious few rentals at all, let alone ones that allow pets. Even though I miss Scruffy every day, it would have been terribly difficult for him coming over with us. He would have had to spend so long in a kennel then readjusting to a new location and climate that the poor fellow would have been miserable.

The most important thing is he is totally adored where he is and part of a boisterous family – something we could no longer give him. I’m content to get updates and factor in a visit when we go home.

Moving out

Wellington Airport

Wellington Airport

So. Here we are. Setting ourselves up for a life in New Zealand. How long for? Not too sure – could be as little as three years or for the ‘term of our natural lives’. The future is too hard to guess at so let’s just go with “for now” and move on.

I’m fairly experienced with the practice of moving. From the time I left home at 18, I’ve lived just about all over Australia. Born in Dubbo, I’ve lived in (in chronological order) Ballina, Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney, Darwin, Ballina, Bunbury, Carnarvon (WA town, not Central Queensland Gorge), Emerald, Yeppoon, Emerald. And now Hamilton, New Zealand.

But wait – there’s more! I’ve also moved houses within some of those towns, bringing the total number of times I’ve packed up and cleaned a house a grand total of 14.

NIH and I had discussed the possibility of moving overseas to work and experience the adventure of another culture but it was along the same lines as “What would we do if we won Lotto?”. It’s something you speculate about but deep down never imagine actually happening.

Funny how things come about though. It started with yet another explosively hot summer in Central Queensland – a terribly common occurrence and the older I get, the less patience I have dealing with it. I was looking to get away from the heat and NIH’s free spirit was feeling a little hemmed in, even though he loves his job and all his family are in the area.

I started looking at ways to get us out of town i.e. a ‘regular’ job back in libraries in another location. Of course, library jobs are like hen’s teeth so pickings were slim and I’ve been out of the game for a few years. Then one day I get a text from NIH – a job was being advertised in New Zealand. Basically, the same job he was already doing. Should he go for it? Hell, yes! It ticked both boxes – it was cooler and not where we were.

Kia Ora!

Sunrise over Hamilton, NZ

Sunrise over Hamilton, NZ

It’s been just over two months since we left Central Queensland, Australia and landed in Hamilton, New Zealand.

It hasn’t all been action-packed – there’s been days when I’ve wanted to poke my own eyes out with boredom – but looking back, I realise we’ve achieved a lot in a short amount of time.  Like:

  • buy a car
  • find a unit to rent
  • get all the financial/identity s**t you need to be a functioning part of society
  • scope out your surroundings
  • play the tourist (why else would you move away from friends and family, if not to experience a big adventure?)
  • look for jobs
  • wait for  your furniture to arrive
  • and wait …
  • and wait …

Most of this stuff I’ve done on my own. My NIH is quite comfortable on his own, which is kinda strange for a Gemini but then he’s right on the cusp with Taurus so I just blame that. On the other hand, I am a true Gemini in the sense that I love people so being on my own has been a test for me – but one I rather think I’m getting the hang of.

I started this blog to journalise my step away from the safety of ‘regular’ work in libraries – something I’ve done for years – into the freelance world of graphic design. If someone had told me a year ago I’d actually be living in New Zealand in the not-too-distant future, I would have laughed and said “Well, at least it would be cooler than here!” and promptly dismissed it. Yet – here we are. Setting ourselves up for a life in another country.

I thought about changing the title of my blog but realised that it still fit the subject matter. How much more creative can you get in midlife than immersing yourself in a new culture?

I’ve been keeping a journal using the good ol’ pen and paper, although I haven’t been as consistent with my entries as I used to be. Now that I have my computer back (and getting that sorted is a story in itself!), it’s onward and upward with keeping track of our ‘Adventures in Middle Earth’.

Yes. I went there.