The Honeymoon’s Over: Going Back to Work on Monday

Wellington, from Mt. Victoria LookoutWellington, New Zealand

On Waiheke Island, we were innumerable.  In Queenstown, we were seven.  In Wellington, we were four.  And then there was one. I just said good-bye to my friend and her new husband (congratulations!), which means that the traveling portion of this program has now, sadly, come to an end.  Well, at least for now. (Yet, ironically, I am staying in a hostel for the first time since arriving in New Zealand.)

The last few weeks were a hit parade.  From playing Frisbee in Auckland to watching my friend get married on Waiheke Island, splashing around in the Pacific Ocean to cruising through the Milford Sound, sky diving in Queenstown to getting down at Boogie Wonderland in Wellington, this trip has definitely been a life high.

Now, I’m on my own in the capital.  Which isn’t a bad place to be, especially not on a good day like today.  Wellington has the style, class, culture, cuisine, and sophistication of a big city, but the size, youth, humility, and hospitality of a small college town.   It is environmentally friendly, health conscious, and socially aware.  Besides, it has a lovely harbor with sandy beaches (even if it’s almost never warm enough to take advantage of them) and rolling hills in the background.

The only problem, as many people, most of them Aucklanders, are quick to point out, is the weather.  Although many people, most of them Wellingtonians, insist that the city more than compensates for its poor climate.  But today, the sun was shining the way that it was meant to in the summer. And even though I really wanted to stay in the swanky hotel room and watch A Dog’s Show (a riveting half-hour sheep herding competition) on the flat screen TV, I decided to take advantage of what could very well be the last nice day for months. Oh, the pressure.

I rode the cable car up to the botanical gardens, a lovely, enormous, and rather confusing expanse of green space overlooking the lower portion of the city and the water.  After stopping to smell the roses and being serenaded in the bathroom by a little girl with a lisp singing “Jingle Bells” in a British accent, I sat down on a quiet park bench and began to freak out.

Maybe I’m not returning to the office on Monday, but I am about to begin a new job. Starting your life over is full time work.  Of course, I’m excited to explore a new city, meet new people, try new activities, and experiment with new foods, drinks, and fashions. (I am somewhat less pleased by the realization that I will also have to learn a new vocabulary.  Have you ever heard of a footpath or a capsicum?  I didn’t think so.)  But I am also overwhelmed by the logistics of finding a flat (apartment), making mates (friends), and uncovering pubs (bars).  Clearly, getting from point A to point B won’t be easy.  I’ve even considered taking a cue from A.J. Jacobs and outsourcing my life to India.  A “remote executive assistant” doesn’t sound so bad right now.

Complicating things further is that, even though I want to get settled in, I don’t want to settle.  I don’t want to apply for jobs with descriptions eerily similar to the position I quit eight months ago, or furnish the first flat that I find.  I came to New Zealand with a clear, albeit abstract, idea of what my life here will look like, and I don’t want to compromise.  Even if that means temporary housing and seasonal work in the meantime.

I guess that the price of admission to my new life includes a bit of anxiety, impatience, stress, and loneliness.  Not to mention a missing bag of groceries and two padlocks (apparently, regardless of how warm, generous, or wealthy they may be, Kiwis subscribe to the “if it’s not bolted down” philosophy of property law), an Internet card equivalent in value to a round of drinks, seven nights of interrupted sleep in a hostel, and a diet rich in granola bars.  But I’ve only been in the country for a few weeks and in Wellington for a few days.  Which, as I keep reminding myself, is far too soon to panic or make decisions out of desperation.

So, since I’m the one organizing the schedule and writing the checks, I’ve decided to work part time for now, spending half the day taking care of business (searching for jobs, flats, writing, etc.) and the other half having fun and enjoying the city.  Now, what does one do for a good time in New Zealand? Other than Bungy jump, that is.

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