One Year Abroad

This post is going to be a little different.

Two and a half weeks ago marked the one year anniversary of the day I semi-permanently moved to New Zealand. The day I got off a plane carrying my condensed life in two checked bags, a very over-stuffed carry on, and a personal item. (I don’t travel light. I never have – I’m getting better, but crafty ladies need supplies). The anniversary day itself passed in a blur and without celebration, because my new visa wasn’t approved in time. The last month has been pretty stressful, but it’s done! My new visa for the next year has been approved, and all the better, just in time for a trip Jon and I have been planning to visit my parents halfway between Auckland and Illinois – in Hawaii! Expect photos!

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As a sort of acknowledgement to this past year, I’ve decided to put together a little ‘highlights reel’ of what happens in the first year that one takes up residence in a new country:

1. Your Understanding of the English Language Changes.

It’s a literal case of ‘to-may-to, to-mah-to’ in these parts. You start saying things like ‘bin’, ‘zed’, ‘mince’ and even ‘reckon’, and you don’t question people who say ‘togs’ and ‘jandals’ and ‘kumara’ – and as this happens, people slowly stop asking what part of the States you’re from, start asking if you’re from Canada, and then stop asking altogether – finally culminating in the day a tourist asks you for directions at the train station, and you know the answer.

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Actual Favorite Spot.

2. You Wistfully Remember US Building Standards

Not only is the average house in Auckland significantly older than the average house in the Midwest, builders here are/were a lot more lenient in certain areas. There are the big things: Insulation is historically optional, double glazed windows are extravagant, and it’s not uncommon to be able to see ~outside~ through the cracks around a door. There are small things too: Of all the houses I’ve been in and visited, not a single one’s doorknobs are at the same height (In our house, they’re shoulder height!) Don’t even get me started on the staircases. And the toilets? They’ve got buttons instead of handles.

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Our house!

3. You Miss Weird Stuff

There’s only so much thoughtful packing and list-making that can prepare you for leaving 95% of your material possessions packed up in your parent’s basement (Thanks Mom and Dad!) – and although I miss my favorite restaurants, my local yarn store, and the vastly superior selection of artificially flavored snack food available at Wal Mart, the things I miss by far the most are the things I left in those boxes. My old ink stained Chucks with the comfy laces, the hat I requisitioned-without-asking from Dad, the hand dyed quilt I made specifically for my bed… and all the times when I start a new project and think, ‘man, this would be so much easier if I had a…’ oh wait, I DO, but its 7969 miles away packed up in a box with an obscure label that nobody can find and even if they could it’d be too awkward to ship.

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Ah, Lucille. My dear old dress form. I’ve looked into shipping costs but it just isn’t happening. Also, I see you dyes, tailor’s ham, sewing machine, and (by my count) five boxes full of the old fabric stash…

 

4. You Find New Faves

Fish n’ Chips is not exactly a thing the Midwest has cornered the market on, is all I’m saying about that one. Also, let’s just pause for a moment to revel in the glory of L&P.

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GREASY GOODNESS

5. You Become a Political Authority.

Listen. I’m not a very political person. By this, I don’t mean that I don’t know things about politics, I mean that I don’t share my opinions, especially not around people I don’t know. This past year, though, the first thing out of people’s mouths when they found out where I was from was something about Trump and the election, gun control, a shooting, or some other recent political farce. It’s a rare chance to ask an American what’s going on with ‘x’. It’s very difficult to effectively answer those questions in an informative way in any situation, but it’s even harder to do so when the person asking is the checker at the grocery store or the receptionist at the doctor’s office.

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This seal is not politically relevant, but I saw him in person, and I bet he feels the same way I feel about discussing politics with strangers.

6. Everything’s Smaller

Meal sizes: I don’t think I’ve ever finished a meal at a restaurant in the US in my life. There used to be enough left to take home and eat for lunch the next day! Food portions here are much closer to the amount a normal person might actually be expected to eat.

Drinks: Honestly. In order to get my Required Caffeine Intake from a coffee shop, I’ve got to order two of whatever the largest one they’ve got is.

Cars: This country isn’t big enough for those big honkin’ trucks and SUVs I’m used to. A few weeks ago I saw a Chevy Silverado on the highway and it was…. so incredibly large? Like that’s an average sized truck in the US, but it was massive compared to everything else on the road! Subcompact is where it’s at, and I can’t say I’m complaining.

Shops: I remember once trying to explain to someone what a super Walmart was like, and they just couldn’t fathom the magnitude of such a thing. The shops are smaller, the movie theaters are smaller, even the malls! The ‘largest mall in the country’ here is about half the size of the one I used to visit in St. Louis… which wasn’t even the biggest one in the city!

7. There are Obligatory New Experiences

See This Post and This one too if you’re at all curious about what goes through a person’s head when they witness sea life, tides, and the ocean in general for the first time as a 20-something. Other firsts have included eating a fresh coconut, mastering the Art of the Roundabout (and driving on the left!), my first Pride, hiking on two different volcanoes (one was active!), and picking fresh lemons for lemonade off a tree in Jon’s parent’s front yard (and grapefruit in the back yard!), not to mention getting engaged in the NZ wilderness! Also, that one time I had to take a photo of a live ‘crayfish’ for work…

(Clockwise from the top: A Whole fried squid, green lipped mussels, lychee, my Kiwi Driver’s License, getting engaged, and the Giant Crayfish that was actually small for its species…) 

But perhaps most importantly,

8. You Find New Perspectives

I’m 24 at this very moment in time. I grew up in the midwestern US and my first trip out of the country was a week in Europe when I graduated college. Prior to that, the furthest from home I’d ever been was Florida, and that was a family trip. When I got back from Europe, it was widely accepted that I had fulfilled my ‘wanderlust needs’ and would settle down, find a steady job, get a house with a white picket fence, etc… but the closer that came to reality, the more I started to backpedal. Looking back, you could already start to see that happening in this post, beginning with the terror I felt that I was set to graduate before the expiration date on my bag of cookies.

Instead, I upset every system in the book to run halfway across the world. I never thought my to-do list would include things like ‘lemon tree shopping’ and ‘call immigration about visa’, but here we are. I’ve gone from feeling like I need to have the rest of my life planned out, to being totally okay with The Plan only extending a few years in advance. There’s always going to be a Void in the future – a point after which nothing is planned, and if there’s one thing that taking up residence in another hemisphere has taught me, it’s that that’s okay.

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(close second to favorite spot)

So. The past few weeks have been off the charts in weirdness and stress levels, but things will be back to normal soon (whatever ‘normal’ is!) – This little space, as I’ve said before, is mostly for sewing, but a girl’s life can’t be lived entirely in front of a  sewing machine- though my how I’ve tried! There will be a brief hiatus while Jon and I are away on our trip, but I have So. Many. Projects. to share with you when I return! Bonus on-location photoshoots for some brand new makes!

 

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