It has officially been one month since arriving in New Zealand. After we were released from MIQ and flew to Christchurch, the real experience began. My company helped us out with housing and a rental car for the first two weeks, and my coworker graciously gave us a hatchback so we could fit all of our luggage in. Or so she thought. We were standing in the rental car parking lot with everything we owned and it was a miracle it all fit in the car. My partner had to carry a huge piece of luggage across his lap in the front seat and things were piled so high in the back that we couldn’t see out the rearview. In a normal situation, this would have been no big deal; however, I had never driven on the left hand side of the road with the steering wheel on the right before. My partner was hidden behind the luggage and couldn’t really help see or navigate. My first moment of panic occurred at the task of getting us from the airport to the hotel.
Driving oppositely of the 25+ years of experience I have is quite the challenge. In my first couple of days, I used my windshield wipers instead of the turn signals, drove too far on the left side of the road (like in the other lane) and there was one time I played chicken with a car until I realized it was I who had crossed into the wrong lane. I also may have yelled very loudly, “WHAT?!?!” anytime the car or my partner made any type of sound. After a couple of weeks though, things are much better. I have even successfully purchased my own right-sided steering wheel vehicle. So far no accidents, injuries or speeding tickets, so I consider this a win.
When I moved to Seattle, there was this thing called the “Seattle Freeze.” It basically meant people were not overly friendly and it took a while to make friends because people usually kept to their own. In an attempt to meet people and see the country, we joined several meet up groups, which are quite popular here. I joined a women’s group and was asked to post an introduction post. I did it, and within one day I had about thirty different people asking if I wanted to grab coffee or go on a hike. It was so much that it was a tad overwhelming! I laughed about it being the “Christchurch Flood.” One of the cultural differences I am noticing is that people seem to be incredibly friendly and thoughtful. One of the women from the group has helped us find housing, learn where the best places to shop are, taken us on a hike and pretty much taken us under her wing. I am incredibly grateful for the help and was surprised to find she used to be an REI guide and had led people on the same trip I did two years ago. I love it when life comes full circle.
We were told housing was incredibly competitive whether renting or buying. We followed my recruiter’s advice and put together a packet with a bio sheet, a couple of letters of reference and the application. We went to many viewings and sometimes in a 15 minute window 30 people would come to see the same house. We also had difficulty finding a house that had everything we wanted and remained in our budget. One day we saw a house that was everything we wanted and more and decided to go for it. We turned in our packet early and crossed our fingers they would consider us. We were elated when we were chosen and have a beautiful home with a beautiful view of the water that we will move into next week. It’s a bit of a long commute to work, but I am completely willing to make it. Having a beautiful view of nature while drinking my coffee in the morning has been a bucket list item for a long time.
I knew selling all of my things to move here was a bit chaotic, but I wasn’t expecting what it would feel like to have to re-purchase everything over here. Relocating is an incredibly costly endeavor and to have to get so many things at the same time is a lot. It’s also a bit anxiety provoking. Despite this, we have managed to squeeze in several beautiful hikes and do some exploring of the city. We haven’t gotten the chance to leave the general Christchurch area, but we have time. The views are breathtaking and sometimes when we are eating at a cafe with some postcard view, I have to pinch myself at the new reality.
I know this post probably feels like a lot, but it has been in real life too. We hit the ground running and while everything is slowly falling into place, it’s a big adjustment. I’ll be really glad when I can stop living out of my suitcase and start to settle. Hopefully by my next entry, this will have started to happen.
I couldn’t end without mentioning my first week of work. Being in a men’s prison is quite the shift from the female adolescents I had been working with at my last job. You know how sometimes life has little signs that let you know you’re ok? I feel like I have seen several of these during my first week at the prison. I didn’t write about the 50 lb carry on bag full of books I smuggled over here with me, but I was relieved to find that many of the books (which I used quite often in clinical work) were in a bookshelf in my new office. A handout I frequently used with clients back home was hanging in our break room, and the team I just joined is fabulous. I can’t describe it other than I had a felt sense of coming home when I started my job and all these little things that reassured me everything was going to be alright. I have a lot to learn, and it will take me a while to find my feet, but I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be. I am incredibly excited to see what the future holds.
Until next time.