Tuesday, 4 December 2012

365 Days in New Zealand: A Retrospective

 To commemorate my one year anniversary in Auckland, I have created a mock interview as my own Year in Review. PJ, Pretend Journalist, will be interviewing me for the occasion. Any resemblance to an actual interview, with persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

PJ: Thanks for meeting me here today. First off, you look fabulous who are you wearing?

KW: Sure my pleasure.  It's funny how when you don't work your schedule opens right up. As for my look, I'm wearing Champion. It's Adam's old baseball t-shirt, size XL, circa 1996. I find it really compliments my body right now, and by compliments I mean doesn't touch any part of me and gives me the shapeless, casual look that I'm going for these days.

PJ: What currently inspires you?

KW: Women who can walk without waddling, anyone that's given birth and lived to tell about it, Michael Jackson. I mean have you see Spike Lee's new documentary Bad 25?! Creative. Genius.

PJ: Do you remember where you were when you found out Michael had died?

KW: Of course I do. I was at TJ Maxx in Knoxville with my mom. I had just left San Francisco and was spending some time at home before moving to Atlanta to be with my now husband, Adam.

PJ: Adam, isn't he the reason you ended up moving to a country that has more sheep then people?

KW: Yes, yes he is. A move to New Zealand wasn't something we were looking for but he got recruited by a retailer here and well it's not every day an opportunity like that presents itself to you. Those close to us know what a tough decision it was for us to make, but I can honestly say we haven't regretted it once since taking the plunge.

PJ: What are some of your favorite things about living in New Zealand?

KW: The first thing that comes to mind is the physical beauty and being so close to the water. We were lucky enough to find a place where we can see the ocean from our house and be at the beach in a matter of minutes. It's not just where we live though, there is stunning scenery everywhere you turn. And the great things is, it truly is an underpopulated country so you go to these awesome places and you can actually enjoy them because they aren't crowded with people.

I also love the attitude of Kiwis. It really is a work to live vs. a live to work mentality. From  the automatic 4 weeks of vacation plus 11 National holidays to the emphasis on family, Kiwis have this part of life right. It's extremely refreshing coming from the US. There is also a laid back attitude that permeates the culture. Imagine a place where kids don't where shoes to school and you can't sue someone for causing you injury, well that's New Zealand.

Also, the travel opportunities we have being on this side of the world are amazing. It's extremely easy to travel domestically here plus there are so many places I consider exotic that are New Zealand's closest neighbors.

PJ: What has been most surprising about life in NZ?

KW: The number of stray cats, how many people have personalized license plates,

the lack of central heating, how loud the birds are, how amazing the coffee is, how people don't have screens on windows or doors, how expensive some things are, how antiquated things feel at times from the fashion to business practices, the lack of censorship on tv and radio, how tough Kiwis are weather wise. I'll be in jeans and a sweater and there will be people swimming in the ocean and jogging in a tank top. It happens all the time. Not to mention the weather in general, you truly get 4 seasons in one day. I have never seen anything like it. And the number of rainbows we've seen since moving here is insane - even Double Rainbows!! Also, I'm use to it now but the no shoes thing really blew me away at first.

PJ: How has your day to day life changed since moving?

KW: I drive on the opposite side of the road. My oven is in Celsius, my food labels are in kilojoules. I dry my clothes on a line now.

I don't make coffee at home anymore, I always go the cafe for my trim flat white. I eat a lot more muffins. My Skype rings a lot more than my actual phone. I go to the video store to rent movies. I watch less tv and eat out less.

PJ: What's been hardest about your move?

KW: Not working has definitely been difficult for me at times. There have been days where I thought my brain might atrophy or my heart might break because I was so far removed from the work I love. I left my job in Atlanta prematurely and the clients I was seeing. Doing therapy with people is amazing and creates a special relationship unlike any other. I have really had to look at the big picture and remind myself that just because I'm not practicing now doesn't mean I don't have the rest of my life to do what I love, professionally speaking.

The reality is my current life allows allows me to do a lot of what I love, just not in the professional realm. More in the read 25 books in one year kind of stuff, cook elaborate meals from scratch, take long walks on the beach with my dog, yoga in the middle of the day, and be ready and available to travel at a moment's notice. I don't expect anyone to feel too sorry for me.

However the other really hard part is being away from family and friends. It's hard to miss our niece and nephews growing up and just seeing people that we love on a regular basis. I have met so many nice people here and have felt so incredibly welcomed which has really helped. However at this stage in life it's hard to make and maintain new friendships. I think having a child here will open up a whole new group to us which I'm looking forward to. I appreciate the friends back home that have really made an effort to keep in touch despite the distance. Skype has been a real life saver.

PJ: So sounds like your social life isn't going to make it onto page 6 anytime soon. You must spend a lot of time with Adam, do you still like each other?

KW: Yes thank goodness, most days we still do. Living on the other side of the world has its advantages too. It's actually been nice to start a marriage this way. Because we are so far away we don't have the expectations and obligations of family in the same way you would if you were in the same place. Being just the two of us we really get to do things our way and depend strictly on each other, it can build you or break you and fortunately for us it's been strengthening.

PJ: Whoah I didn't know this interview was going to be so Oprah magazine-ish. Do you have any naked pictures of yourself to lighten things up?

KW: No, I burned all those so that my unborn daughter can never find them and use them in a future fight. So I kept only the pictures of me at church, in organized sports, and in my debutante dress.

PJ: You are going to be a great mother if I do say so myself. So when you think back on the past year what are some of the highlights?

KW: Taking an improv class, volunteering with Refugee Services, starting a blog, finding the best chocolate cake recipe, getting over my fear of bread making, finding a church I get something out of, exploring new places with Adam, and getting my very own bun in the oven. Growing another human is pretty cool stuff.

On the travel front definitely Fiji, Melbourne, Queenstown and the Milford Track on the South Island. And of course going home to the US to visit. As far as more local stuff -  Pohutakawa Coast, Puheke Hill, the Tutukaka Coast and Bay of Islands, Cape Reigna, hiking along the Mangawhai Cliffs and in the Waitakare Ranges, the view from top of Mt. Manganoui, and wine tasting in Hawkes Bay.


PJ: I bet you say some pretty wacky things now that you've lived here for a year. What are some things you find yourself saying that you didn't say before?

KW:  Oh you know stuff like sweet as, she'll be right, good on ya, full on. Pretty soon it's going to be all about bubs, nappies, and prams. It's a funny mix of of very British words plus all the kiwi-isms unique to New Zealand. You mix that with my Southern roots, my time in California, including 3 years at a public high school in Oakland and you get well let's just say that pretty much makes me quadrilingual. Boo-yah.

PJ: And how about food - things you miss or really love that NZ has to offer?

KW: Oh my gosh there are so many food things I miss. I literally have to get family back home to send me half of my baking supplies - semi-sweet chocolate chips, toffee pieces, canned pumpkin, graham crackers. And then in general I really miss good pizza, authentic mexican, bbq, and milkshakes. A milkshake here is literally like a glass of milk - no thank you. I have had Dairy Queen fantasies on more than one occasion. What New Zealand does really well is seafood and ethnic food - lots of great Indian, Thai, Malaysian. In general I find food here to be less processed and more seasonally based, both of which I think are great norms to have. There is also a wonderful cafe culture here so great coffee and fresh, delicious pastries are not hard to find.

PJ: Good stuff. Anything else you want to add about life in New Zealand or your experience here the past year?

KW: It's been quite the ride and so much to look forward to in the year ahead. For those of you that I actually know and would want to stay in our home, please come visit us in 2013!