This past weekend marks my ninth month living in New Zealand with my boyfriend, Kevin. In some ways, these months have gone by extremely quickly. In other, more emotional ways, it has been a slow, tedious transition.
Our first days, weeks, and months were filled with excitement and endless firsts (though not necessarily “kiwi” in nature): first days in a new city, first weekend brunch spots to explore, first road trip through our new country of residence, first tastes of renowned local brews – beers and coffees, alike. All was all delicious and new, and the summer sun blessed us with minimal rain showers. We toasted to our good luck.
After we traveled through New Zealand with Kevin’s sister, Stephanie, for the month of January, we landed back in Auckland face to face with a fresh bout of firsts: first apartment viewings, first interviews for new jobs, first visit to purchase basic home goods, first attempt to meet new friends. Then firsts turned into seconds and then thirds with very little to show for our efforts other than a dwindling bank account. And disappearing like the fickle Auckland sun, we went from skipping and smiling to being absolutely drenched with no umbrella in sight.
Setting up life in New Zealand was not the joyride I had experienced during my time in Australia. Everything seemed to depend on having a current postal address, landlord references, and seemingly some Aucklanders-only password we simply weren’t privy to. Additionally, the infamous Auckland housing crisis didn’t help our situation.
As our bank account dwindled during the month of February, so did our faith in our attempted nesting and my opportunities for employment in Auckland; luckily Kevin had his employment arranged from the moment of our arrival. We moved from hostel to hostel (no thanks to the high tourist season we found ourselves in) leaving all of our belongings in a rented car in a garage nearby. After one too many nights in a roach-filled dorm room, we broke down and spent most of our remaining dollars on a room with a door. I broke down when we closed said door. Even nine months behind us, this chapter still makes me shake my head. It was not pretty.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun to rain on us, the sun came out again freckling our ginger skin. I landed my dream job and found us a centrally located apartment, and we both began to meet people at work. Friends would come, but co-workers and friendly faces was a welcomed placeholder. Finally, in a moment of crowning glory, we were both paid and the gaping hole that was our bank account slowly morphed itself into a little hill. After many visits to K-mart (New Zealand doesn’t have an IKEA), we finally had a few homey touches (read: a few plates, forks and a cutting knife because we fancy!) and took a deep breath. Finally after months of our relationship living in hostels, with flatmates, and over Facetime, we had a home! It was awesome.
Things began to fall into place and work began to (un)naturally take up too much of our time. In the blink of an eye, we celebrated our 29th birthdays in March, and then suddenly we had passed into the autumn without realising a single leaf had fallen.
One very unremarkable autumn day, Kevin and I sat down together – as sitting apart from each other isn’t an option our adorable apartment affords us – and had a very remarkable conversation. We weren’t sure if, or when, Kevin’s residency application would be approved, and we were keen to use all of the twenty days of holiday we both were allotted with our respective jobs. We came to see New Zealand and, though we had visited a handful of the tourist highlights during January with Stephanie, we didn’t want to miss a thing.
With my Kiwi Days Bucket List as a reference point, we brainstormed and plotted weekend trips, hikes, adventures, and experiences we wanted to have. And then and there, we booked them.
A few highlights include hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, our Fermentation Masterclass at Little Bird Organic in Ponsonby, slurping our way through the Auckland Coffee Festival, joining Project Jonah and becoming local Marine Mammal Medics in the case of a whale stranding, and a super-foodie long weekend in Wellington.
We have attended the almighty All Blacks rugby matches during the Lions Tour, guzzled new brews at the GABS Beer Festival where we volunteered, and buzzed on delicious coffee at the national AeroPress Championships to support one of our friends who was competing. We joined the Auckland Film Society, and every Monday we walk into the CBD and watch a film selected by their board to view and ponder for the week.
We flew to Queenstown for a weekend of skiing in the breathtaking Southern Alps. A few weeks ago we had a winter-blues escape to Samoa, a trip inspired entirely by my love of the Samoa Girl Scout Cookie as a kid. I’m 100% not kidding – that’s why we chose Samoa instead of Fiji or Rarotonga…
I can hardly believe all that we’ve done in nine short months. We have absolutely jam-packed our Kiwi Days thus far, and with a recent job change (I’ll probably write about that soon, but not now), I’ve been given a chance to actually reflect and revisit these absolutely awesome memories. Not surprisingly, the majority of our footage is from our hiking expeditions and endless tastings of amazing New Zealand wines. Consider yourself warned…
So inspired by the Gin Wigmore cover song from Air New Zealand’s most recent safety video, I decided to honour our past nine months with a little slideshow. Enjoy!