We have been settling into our new abode and things are starting to feel more like regular paced life than fantastic adventure. Our neighbors are great, though unfortunately they all happen to be moving out in the next few days. Two doors down there is a lovely German couple who have been working through the winter season and are ready to take off to Australia. That seems to be the normal course of action. You either started in Australia or you are heading there. It’s pretty logical considering it’s so expensive to get out here that if you can come, might as well see it all.
Right next door to us is an older Kiwi man who lays concrete, has a foul mouth, and pushes so much beer on us in a way that reminds me of going to my grandma’s when I’m not very hungry and being accosted with meats and cheeses. He has taught us the slang for every immigrant group, including ourselves. Apparently we are called Sepos. Septic Tanks. Tanks because we go to war a lot and septic because we are shitty? That I’m not too sure. He said that they call Americans this but I hear Yank way more often. A few doors to the right we have Alexa, a British girl who is working on her residency here. As she was packing up her apartment the only thing I saw her bring out are boards. Snow boards, skateboards, long boards. She couldn’t have had any space in there at all. And then Jake, a young kiwi with dreads down past his chest and who is eternally wearing shorts and t-shirts while the rest of us shiver through the early spring nights. He works across the lake for a small Chinese man he calls T-money, who is so rich he buys Mercedes for his guests to drive in when they are here but when he goes back up to Auckland he can’t be seen in it. He has to ride in the Bentley because Mercedes is the poor man’s car. I wonder what level our station wagon is on then haha.
Everyone except for Jake is moving out within the next few days, starting tomorrow, so the air at night has been festive, everyone wanting to hang out one last time. It is pretty easy to get swept into the mix considering we all share the same porch. Two nights ago was a bit of a beating. The older Kiwi polished off a case and sent Jake, who doesn’t drink, out to get two more cases. We ended the party a little earlier than everyone else but I was hurting by the time the alarm went off at 8:30. I didn’t even register when Alex left for work at seven. I tried to make myself a little more presentable considering I was working for a new company but there was no helping it, I was busted. I finally have some cleaning jobs though not with the same company, just through a temp agency. I ride my bike to Queenstown, stand outside the temp agency door and a new car comes for me every day. Then I’m shuttled off to million dollar homes with stunning views and I scrub toilet after toilet, decorative sink after decorative sink. I rather like it. There’s something sort of intimate in the act. Like I’m getting to know the city better than everyone else because I’m getting to go into these houses that everyone looks at with envy. It’s really pretty fun.
Except for yesterday when the bathrooms were oh so white and mirrors reflected everywhere, and a giant glass window was one entire wall which just reflected the sunlight in a billion directions but every ray slammed right into my hungover brain cells. I figured I would die right there in the shower. I didn’t, and the day got better. I worked with a young Czech couple and a guy from Sri Lanka. They were all quite funny, especially the Sri Lankan guy who is really hoping to see Kanye West as the next president. After our second apartment the Kiwi boss lady and the Sri Lankan headed to a different house and we headed to an apartment next door. Both of them are peeking out the door, waiting for boss lady to finally disappear and then they take a big breath and say finally! We can eat lunch. They are tossing open cupboards and looking for leftovers from the previous tenants. We were not disappointed. I took home eggs, butter, broccoli, some dried cherries and nuts, an entire bag of dried chilies. Rich people are awesome. They spent 30 dollars on that bag of dried cherries and then just left it. And now I’m eating fancy!
When we got home last night Alex was beat and I was getting there, only temporarily revived by my good fortune. Despite our best efforts to go to bed early we got caught in some unfortunate drama. An eighty two year old man staying here had died in his sleep the night before. He wasn’t responding to his family members knocks and the landlord wasn’t around so the fire department was called to kick in the door but he was already gone. I only met him once. On Sunday he was up in the kitchen making some toast and making fun of the Thai food I was cooking. It was still a bit of a shock, especially as the Kiwi landlord heads back from his room after the fire department left. When we asked how the man was, he answered in the most Kiwi way possible, “yeah, nah he’s history.” Well then…
So not to turn philosophical but I would like to share something I’ve learned for any out there that are thinking we are living in a magical unattainable world. What I’ve come to realize is that the vision of the happy traveler going on grand adventures is an illusion. I’m not saying that I’m not happy, actually quite the opposite but I see now that it isn’t because I’m living in New Zealand, but rather I’m approaching life in a different way. When we head out on vacation for a week or so we are wide eyed and we grasp at every opportunity to soak a place in before going back to the daily grind. However, when you turn that vacation into a long term stay, the daily grind happens anyways. We could wake up, head off to work, come home, cook the dinner then prepare for bed and continue to repeat this until we’ve made enough to move on to something new, but we don’t have to. Instead we put the effort into meeting people and making friends, when we see a random trail we take it, when there is a market we wander. But we didn’t have to come to New Zealand to do any of that. I think those great stories that lives are built on are when we see new things and we meet new people. I could have done both of those in Columbus but I didn’t go out of my way to do it. I just put my life into that routine and when someone forces us to change our routine we become irritated.
I didn’t stumble across this by gazing stoically at a mountain, but rather by realizing how fleeting these friendships and memories are. The awesome neighbors from Germany are headed back to Australia so because we hit it off, we are taking extra care to get to know each other and hang out. And I’m soaking up every view of New Zealand that I can because it is highly possible that once we leave next year, we may never have the chance to come back. It is kind of amazing the extra care you can take noticing when you know that it will be your last chance to experience it. I think that saying we have mundane, boring lives probably says more about us than it does about our circumstances. So if you feel bored go see something new, or go ask the gas station guy you see every day his story. Everyone’s got an interesting adventure to share. If I could go back to last Sunday and ask the 82 year old Italian man how he came to live at a backpacker hotel on the corner of a lake in New Zealand, I would. I bet it’s was a remarkable story.