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December, 2011

The Journey

We made it! All the way to New Zealand. We had just one heart-stopping hiccup at the start of our journey – a problem with one son’s visa (something handwritten that hadn’t quite caught up with technology). To my relief,the issue was sorted out with just one phone call. Then, to my utter surprise, none of our 8 bags was overweight. Packing for 3 months (two bags each) had been quite a challenge.

So, we made it safely onto the plane – step #1 – but instead of sleeping on the plane, I stayed wide awake watching kiwi entertainment! Back to back, I saw 6 episodes of a New Zealand show called “The Amazing Johnsons. The concept: modern-day Norse gods disguised as everyday kiwis. I already see a series addiction on the horizon (though I have yet to spot it on real tv). The price: I didn’t get more than 2 hours sleep.

When we reached Auckland, after more than 12 hours in the air, we collected our mountain of luggage. I hadn’t actually finished pulling it off  the baggage carousel before a contraband sniffing canine immediately spotted our bag of snacks.  Luckily I had declared my trail mix and granola bars or I would have faced a $400 fine! Customs agents here are very efficient. In fact, that hiccup with our son’s visa resurfaced yet again, but with just a 10 minute wait and everyone so friendly, we didn’t even feel inconvenienced.  Less convenient was the 10 minute walk between the international and domestic terminals.  Still, it wasn’t raining and frankly we’d been so well fed by Air New Zealand,  we really needed the exercise.  

Once outside, I was immediately greeted by the siren call of the wafting aroma of “flat white” coffees and espressos sold out of a converted jet stream camper parked by the terminal entrance. But we stayed focused and instead followed the long green line that led us to our where we were supposed to go…literally our our future! I had strains of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” in my head. My older son, though, was focused solely on cars – scanning the parking lot to get ideas for which we might be buying – that he ran our  baggage cart immediately off the sidewalk!

Arriving In Wellington, the Capital City

The topography was beautiful from the air as we approached the city we will now call “Home”.  Folds of green mountains tumbling into the sea…the water a clear clean blue-green made everything around it look like it, too, had enhanced color.  The houses crowd around the harbor but it looks more cozy than congested.  We landed, unloaded and were transported to our temporary apartment, along the way passing cricket grounds and even the field where the All Blacks practice.  Our apartment is in a renovated block of Victorian homes.  Inside the decor is very European – a blend of a few rustic antiques and a palette of gray and white modern furniture and paintings.  There is, to my relief, a washer/dryer unit.  With the volume of clothes this family runs through, we will be doing small loads at least once a day.

We didn’t spend much time unpacking – instead we started walking immediately – down the steep San Francisco style streets toward the waterfront. &nbsp Wellington is a little city – truly – but with the hustle and bustle of a much bigger urban center.  There is a shopping Mecca on the main streets and cafes on every block ! On our first day they were packed with people celebrating their first day of summer.

That’s why the waterfront was literally blanketed with office workers lunching and lolling. Some chose instead to be more active and jog away their lunch hour by the bay.  Some clearly were just there to play, renting skates or launching sculls in the water to do some rowing.  The sunlight gave everything a Technicolor vibrancy, and I noticed colors everywhere. From what people wore to the buildings, monuments and playgrounds; all shades of oranges and blues that reminded me of European city centers rather than the more “English” style I had expected.

By the time we stopped at the Te Papa Museum, the national showcase featuring impressive exhibits on science and the indigenous Maori, I was a walking zombie.  Exhausted from my less than 2 hours of sleep on the plane.  We stopped for lunch at a local brewery (very cooly decorated with lamps made of old lampshades hanging upside down).  I ordered just a half pint of their summer brew.  Not a good choice to stay awake….but so very good!

We did push through the rest of the day without collapsing into bed. We wandered through a shopping center in an old bank building and by chance stumbled into the closest grocery store. For dinner we made finger food at the apartment (while waiting for our first load of washing to finish).  The apartment had heated up from the sun streaming through the windows even though it was wickedly windy on the bay.  We opened our windows and listened to the students next door (presumably from from Victoria University) singing.

There was a moment when it hit my 10 year old that this was it…we were now “home”, and he wasn’t too happy.  I understand.  It is overwhelming.  Even though it is pretty and everyone is friendly and they even speak English, it is always a strange uncomfortable feeling to be plucked from everything you know and transplanted to someplace entirely alien and told to accept it. I had a moment or two when I asked myself – how am I going to do this?  Find schools, find us a home – get behind the wheel – on the left hand side of the roadl?  By getting a good night’s sleep, for starters….

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