I realized yesterday that I haven’t written in a long time. Unlike my other travel experiences, where I feel the impulse to write every few days or so (usually with too much to write about) living in New Zealand has been the complete opposite. The truth is, my New Zealand experience has been neither good nor bad, leaving me to contemplate the mediocrity of such an excursion.
At times this mediocrity has caused me distress, as I have some innate desire to delve into the exotic and new. I have become frustrated with being here and thus frustrated with myself for being frustrated with it! I think I may have just recently gotten over the hurdle of accepting this experience for what it is, instead of constantly wishing it to be something else (a book I just read centered around Buddhist principles may have helped). On the other hand, it could be that I see the end in the future. Either way, this lack of stimulation has led to lack of inspiration for writing!
Ben and I have been in Takaka now for a little less than two months, my first month spent unemployed. That month was actually quite great and Zen-like, as most of my days were spent getting up early, reading, going to the library, looking for a job and making food. I do not like to think of this process as lazy. Though, I really wasn’t doing anything.
About two weeks in, I accepted a position at the Pohara Store, a general store and take-away shop in a town about 5 miles up the road. I was excited to be working in the kitchen, as I have never worked in a kitchen before. Starting the day after Christmas, my first shift coincided with the onslaught of tourists to our area, known to be a holiday destination for its fantastic beaches. Lets just say that the 200 spot campground in Pohara was empty before Christmas. The day after Christmas, it looked like a white collar refugee camp- each family cramming their boat, car, 4-wheeler, 6 bedroom/ 2 living room tent and entire kitchen furnishings into a 20’ square. I have never seen such ridiculousness in my life.
About three days into my job, I was riding my bike home from work in the rain and a car clipped me too close. Swerving out of the way, I hit a puddle and went flying over the handle bars, catching myself in the unforgiving bed of asphalt. At first I thought I was fine, picking myself up and walking my bike home. A little razzled. But later, as things started to stiffen up, I realized I couldn’t unbend or bend my right arm. The next day, I couldn’t move it more than 20 degrees.
I went to work, told them what happened, and said I couldn’t carry anything. After a week of taking ibuprofen and hoping that it got better, I tripped while getting off my bike, and fell on the same arm (I realized then that the problem was the show straps on the bike I have been using. I have never had a bike where your shoes are strapped in, thus I kept forgetting to take my feet out). Now I was just angry. I was angry at myself for being such a klutz, and angry at my employers for being so unforgiving about an injury. I would repeatedly tell my managers that I could not carry heavy objects, and they would repeatedly ask me to get things for them out of the freezer. When I told them no, they would act angry about it. I finally went to the doctor a few days later, and I had a torn tendon. The only remedy? Rest for three weeks. As there was no way I could be unemployed for three weeks and still have the funds to remain in New Zealand, I just continued to take ibuprofen and rest as much as I could.
During this time at work, we were working 6 days a week (sometimes 8 days in a row), and I was working nights, cooking. Mind you, I have never worked in kitchen before. Taking a job as a ‘kitchen hand’, you think that you will be doing something like, cutting vegetables. One night I was making both burgers and pizzas for our takeaway stands. 50-some burgers and 28 pizzas (from scratch, mind you). The fact that I was getting paid minimum wage made me insane. I continued to look for a new job, but to no avail.
At one point, a café across the street from where Ben works had a help wanted poster in their window, so I went in. The cute, hippie vegan café seemed just up my alley (and, it was only 2 blocks away from our house)! I was called in a second time to chat with the owner, where he proceeded to tell me how much he liked me, how qualified I was, but how he didn’t have a job for me. Um, excuse me? Did you not have a help wanted poster in your window? Ahhh, hippies. Butter you up to keep their karma strong. Just freaking tell me that you hired someone else.
In the past few weeks, I have come to realize that I am not going to get a job somewhere else. I have asked Ben’s boss twice now about jobs, and his responses are equally vague. Thus, I have decided to be content enough with what I have. Hey, it’s stability, right? This week I was told that my hours would be cut, and then pulled aside and told that my hours actually weren’t going to be cut… that they just told me that because another girl was in the room. The owner is manipulative, the manager plays favorites, but I guess as long as I am on the favorite side…I’ll be okay. I think I have proven my baking skills now, and they have started letting me bake whatever I want in the mornings (btw, I requested all morning shifts, as the night shift made me feel crazy in the head). Yesterday, they even let me make macaroni and cheese on my own (I could make it however I wanted) for our hot-meal line. So, I made “Good ‘ol Fashioned American Mac and Cheese” with four cheeses, and croutons on top! I hope they labeled it as such. If this freedom continues, I actually may enjoy work by the end of my time here!
Unfortunately (but fortunately for our wallets), work has dominated our lives for the past month. Working 6 days a week is now over, but as we do not have a vehicle, we can’t really go very far. Last week we rented a car and drove to Nelson Lakes National Park, which is about 3 hours from Takaka. Though awesome to get out of town and finally get to use our tent (got to break it out of the box we bought it in!), the scenery wasn’t that different. The lakes themselves were just lakes, nestled in some low mountain ranges. I must sound like a real downer, eh? Well, to substantiate the point, a Canadian guy we met kind of expressed my feelings to a tee. We decided to free camp by a river while in Nelson Lakes (free camping means you can camp anywhere where it doesn’t say “No Camping”), and ran into a Canadian couple. We chatted for a few minutes with him (he was from Vancouver) and he said he found the thermal pools and coastline of the North Island pretty cool. Then, as if to solidify my own thoughts, he said, “Yeah, but the South Island just kind of looks like western Canada. I mean, I guess it’s cool, but nothing is new and it just makes me think, why don’t I just go home?”
I must just be spoiled by living in Montana, and traveling around the west coast so much. The typical American syndrome, though I have never experienced it before. Yeah, well our mountains are bigger than this. Have you been to Vancouver Island? Have you been to Yellowstone? The Columbia Icefield? I am no longer waiting to be awed by anything here, and if I am, I will be gratefully humbled by it. I think that expectation for something fantastic (impressed by everyone that told me before I left that New Zealand was the be-all and end-all of awesomeness) has definitely passed. Instead, I am learning what it is like to live in a small town (somewhat boring and repetitive, but also safe and calm) and how to consciously live each day.
I’ve started doing yoga, which I actually haven’t attempted since that Eastern Philosophies class I took in high school and passed out in repeatedly, and I really like it. I got a book from one of our roommates, but I think I would benefit from a class as well. There is a community class in town, which I think I may start going to, but there I am also thinking about going to an ashram in Nepal. Oops. I haven’t mentioned that yet. I am going back to Nepal to visit the kids sometime in late March, for one month. That is the plan, anyway. I now have enough money saved up for the flight, I would like to raise money for the donation, and anything else I make can just be traveling support. I haven’t completely sorted my thoughts on it yet, so I will explain more at a later date. The only thing I know is: I am going. I told those kids I would be back in two years, and that was three years ago. Plus, that is about the time when the high season stops here, so we will be out of jobs.
Ben has a massive expedition of Australia planned out, at least roughly, so we will be parting ways for about a month. He planned this trip through Aussie before we were dating, and there is no way I will let him not do it now, while we are so close. Otherwise, he’ll be dreaming his Crocodile Dundee dream forever. Hopefully I can meet him somewhere in Australia for a week or two when I leave Nepal, before we come home in May!
Ta for now~