In Search of Shelter

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau

Before coming to New Zealand, and all my life, I had this romantic ideal of living like a gypsy. Of being a vagabonder, traveling around and living in different places. Picking up your bag and off to a new place the next day and not settling in but living like a nomad, so you don’t get bored with the routine but have the world to explore and see, all at your feet. I think I thought about it dreamily before meeting Josh, and upon meeting him, we both expressed our interest and desire to travel abroad, to see and discover the world, and not be stuck in the same town doing nothing and seeing nothing, just waiting until you are old and retired, and miss out on life. We shared the same dream and vision. Amazing. When dating, he had talked about living abroad, possibly China, which I cringed at that idea but just smiled and nodded sweetly at him as you normally do when dating. Haha. No, I actually do remember expressing that I didn’t picture myself living there long term. We later talked about our dream place to go, which I said was New Zealand, and talked about going to this exotic, far-away land on our honeymoon. Those plans changed along the way, and we chose Europe instead, which was pretty sweet, to say the very least. Then, Josh filled my head with talk of maybe living abroad, as in my favorite place, New Zealand, one day after we got married. That sounds foolish, I thought to myself, but didn’t dare to mention aloud. I did express my true sentiments vaguely, however, and said that might be a little hard to actually live abroad, away from family, though I would love to tour and visit all these places I’ve wanted to see; maybe stay for a few months at a time. Along the way of dating, in a short time I might add, we both fell madly in love with each other, and then got married. And then, what were once ideals as foreign and distant as the miles that truly separated me from New Zealand then became within my grasp; a dream that I could catch in my hand. Josh isn’t just all talk, I had been finding out along the way. He is a man of action. Not only a dreamer like me, but a doer. What a discovery I had found! The thoughts of living away from home that I had once just waved my hand at as in like “yeah right, we can talk about it, but it will never happen” were now something I had to really think about.
Only a couple months, if even that, into our marriage, and already seeing the monotony of a daily, routine life stuck at what we felt were boring jobs that we were not passionate about, just to pay the bills, stuck in a boring town with nothing to do . . . we weren’t meant for that! We told ourselves. We can’t get stuck in that trap, not yet at least, and be the people we have often talked to who said, “Man, I really wish I had done that. I always wanted to travel the world, but . . .” or whatever the reason may be or dream was that they let remain buried inside. One thing that maybe holds people back from traveling and living abroad is a secure, good-paying job, with wonderful benefits and room to move up, which was something I had, and wonderful, fun people to work with and boss who I greatly respected. Not every one has that, and looking back, I really am truly still thankful to God for that job and the people he blessed in my life working there. But, at the same time, and Josh and I both felt this way because that is just in our nature; we felt trapped. I felt like a caged bird that desperately needed to fly out the window and pursue her dreams, and fly, far, far away. Josh is wired the same way as me, and our greatest fear was to be stuck doing something we don’t want to do and then later can’t get out of that rut and just be filled with regret. We were at a time and place in our lives where we had that freedom; no kids or anything to hold us down and to really prevent us from chasing our dreams and traveling and seeing the world.
So, we talked about it, and the more we talked about it, the more scared I became. Wow, we really are going to be doing this? It didn’t seem possible that it really could all work and to leave our families behind for so long, but at the same time, I was thrilled and felt like jumping through the streets that we were going to make our dream happen, and make a life change and move across the world to the place I have wanted to go for years to at least visit, and now live, New Zealand. And hopefully do mission work along the way, or help the church or some person in some way (that sounds so vague, but we both have that desire that God has something planned for us great to do, whatever it may be, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, just still don’t know what it is or maybe it will have just been one small, seemingly insignificant action, word or event that will hopefully change someone’s life). To experience life in another land filled with different people and culture and a land filled with God’s beauty. A land of adventure, an outdoor paradise where we can hike and climb mountains and be filled with mountain top experiences. To meet new people and hear stories and make friends that we would have a lifetime bond with. So many dreams and ambitions, and we were finally taking the action to make them happen. Even as it all was happening and the contacts we made along the way before coming, we knew God had a hand in it. It was all so easy, the planning and preparing part. Almost like we had God’s blessing, and I really felt good and like it was the right thing to do; like he was almost telling us we should do it.
And then the day came, the final hurdle or step I had to take where it meant no turning back; to quit my job. I gave my two-weeks notice and the weight was lifted off my back afterwards; it was such a relief! It was like holding my breath before plunging into an icy cold lake, the nervousness, emotion, fear, and excitement in telling every one our plan. A quote by Pico Iyer described perfectly what I had done by quitting and his words can apply to anyone:

“Quitting, for me, means not giving up, but moving on; changing direction not because something doesn’t agree with you, but because you don’t agree with something. It’s not a complaint, in other words, but a positive choice, and not a stop in one’s journey, but a step in a better direction. Quitting—whether a job or a habit, meanings taking a turn so as to be sure you’re still moving in the direction of your dreams.”

We took that action and took those steps, and we did it. And by George, I am proud of us! Looking back now and realizing what we did, it honestly amazes me and how it all worked out. We have truly been so blessed and by the people we have met and friends we have made, God has certainly been there, holding our hands and in the process, bringing Josh and Lindsey closer together. It hasn’t been easy, and I don’t foresee it always being easy the rest of our time here in New Zealand, and the rest of our life together as husband and wife for that matter. I’ve already realized that marriage is harder than I thought it would be, though others warned that beforehand, haha, but it is hard. And why wouldn’t it be? I read an article where a guy talked about the ups and downs of the first year of marriage, and how it is the hardest year. He compared it to culture shock. How fitting! It is culture shock in the beginning; so completely foreign to be living with someone and learning how truly different you are from one another (the biggest reason obviously being that he is a man and I am a woman, and I wonder sometimes how in the world do the two sexes co-exist?) and changing your independent lifestyle and adjusting to each other and the different fighting styles and all that is entailed with going from dating to being engaged and planning a wedding, to being married and living in the same space, and dealing with the stresses of life at the same time. So, though it hasn’t been easy all the time, it has also been amazing. In just a few months, Josh and I will, Lord-willing, have survived the hardest year of marriage, the first year!!!! There may be others reading this who have decades of years of experience in being married, and may be laughing at me and saying, “Ha, girl…just you wait!” and hopefully not, haha, but I know I am so happy to see the improvements and the growing and maturing and bonding we have experienced together through all this . . . being thrust in a foreign place where we don’t know anyone. And a fresh start to begin together. No old baggage, but just brand-spankin’ new suitcases to fill with new experiences and friendships and stories to tell. It is a growing experience being a wife, and a growing experience living in a foreign country. Culture shock at first, feelings of bitterness, negativity, and frustration, but that eventually turns into a chapter in a book you had to get through to get to the good part; where you are happy again and see your surroundings in a new light and appreciation and with eyes filled with love that reflect the way you felt when you first saw the green hills and ocean sprawled out before you, the land of New Zealand, or the way you felt when he looked at you and said, “I love you” for the first time. The look in his eyes that you will never forget.
Josh bought a book while we were planning our move over here and preparing to get in the mindset of being a traveler living abroad. It was an excellent, eye-opening book, truly insightful and I highly recommend it not only to those who love to travel or wish to do what we have done, but it can relate to many things in life and pursuing your dreams whatever they may be (and also where that Pico Iyer quote came from). The book is called “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” by Rolf Potts. He defined this term vagabonding quite well, and sums up eloquently in words what we are doing:

“Vagabonding—n. (1) The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time. (2) A privately meaningful manner of travel that emphasizes creativity, adventure, awareness, simplicity, discovery, independence, realism, self-reliance, and the growth of the spirit. (3) A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible.”

All three of these definitions I can see quite clearly now and have experienced along the way. Being a vagabonder, I had imagined before and envisioned myself and Josh, meant living out of our suitcases or backpack strapped to our backs filled with a few articles of clothing basically the entire time we were here. Living in different parts of the country and staying at odd jobs here and there, and maybe eventually finding a place to settle. I honestly had mixed thoughts and visions of what it would be like here: I idolized the idea of being a gypsy living out of a caravan and traveling and living in a different part of the country one week, and rolling on out the next to a new place, but, by now, and because of a close encounter with a certain caravan, this idea was a little liberal and not quite my cup of hot tea (something I’ve learned they love to drink, as opposed to iced tea you order at every restaurant in Texas). But I also liked the idea mainly of traveling around for a little bit, and then finding a city to live in for the rest of and majority of our time. I wrestled back and forth with it all when thinking about this move, and reading the Vagabonding book that encouraged and Josh’s words urging me not to get sucked into a plan; not to have it all planned out like we already knew the story and ending, but just let it come and play out on its own. As a quote from the movie Dan in Real Life, “Plan to be surprised.” Well, we have been surprised along the way, that is for sure, and yet, we did end up in Wellington, the place we first talked about moving to and where we thought we would end up living in the end, or Nelson. And we are true vagabonders, considering we did all of the above definition of Rolf Potts meaning of the word. To be a true vagabonder, we decided, does not mean we have to be a “backpacker” and travel the country with no roots to settle or home to call our own and just living with other people or staying in motels, hotels, caravans, hostels or backpacker’s accommodation the whole time. We have already achieved the status of being vagabonders. Now was the time; the time to unpack our suitcases and finally hang up our clothes; in our own closet. To have a home to finally drop those bags on the floor and feel the burden uplifted from not having to carry those things around everywhere for a few days at a time and wonder where we were going next. And to have the burden uplifted from our spirits to finally relax and unwind in our own space. To have a home of our own where we could place a “Welcome” mat at the front door, where we could hang our memories on the wall, and where we could create culinary masterpieces in the kitchen. To be alone; together. And a place where I could finally see all the clothes I had actually brought and not have to dig and dig and never find what I was looking for, and if I did find it, it was wrinkled. My clothes needed a hug from the Snuggle Bear; he would not be proud of me.
All of that to lead into what I thought I would get at in the first paragraph, but I tend to go on several journeys in my head and ramble once I start writing, haha . . . the process of looking for a place to rent.
Here’s how it works in New Zealand; instead of having rent due once a month like I had been used to back home, you pay per week. I had discovered that prior to moving, when looking on TradeMe and imagining where we would live, that they were listed by price per week. Did I mention the cost of living is higher here? The cheapest place, but would probably not be livable, on average could be $250 NZD a week. Wouldn’t recommend going that route though, but aiming a little higher price wise. $300/week you could find something decent, but most that were worth looking at were around $350 a week and up. Wow. That’ll break the piggy bank soon, we thought with forlorn. We set that as our budget though after a while of looking on the Internet, to try to make $350 NZD the max. By the way, the rate exchange of the New Zealand Dollar (NZD) and the U.S. Dollar is as follows: 1 NZD = .83 USD (as of March). A little math, not my favorite subject, but here goes, I calculated in my head: 350 a week times 4 weeks in a month . . . that equals $1400 NZD. Which is 1153.00 USD. They do pay more over here though, and with making $15 an hour for a minimum wage job, both of us making that, and if we had somewhat regular hours doing the property management, we could make it maybe. I’ve never been a budget person, my dad would not be proud nor would Dave Ramsay, but I have tried before and made several budgets, but I soon forget about them and eat whatever I want. That is a weakness for both Josh and I, is food. We like to eat, and we like to eat out. Oh, and we hate leftovers. And sandwiches. Dry, white, thinly sliced, bland bread that sticks to the roof of your mouth and a slice of ham or turkey. Bleh!! Makes me want to gag. One of these days we will change, haha, but we did that back home a lot too, went out to eat (which I realize now how cheap it is to do that back in America, aggghhh! Somebody send me a bean and cheese burrito from Rosa’s café, right now!) and we certainly had been eating out a lot since being here as we didn’t really have our own kitchen. We did a few times at Keith and Elsa’s house, but not as much as we should. I don’t know why I am divulging all our financial weaknesses to the public, haha, but it is all part of our story and the experience I guess. Anyways, my point is, I have had to keep up with budgets and I lived on my own with my salary for 2 ½ years, paying student loans and rent and groceries and utilities, and I made it. But, since we have gotten here, and even being married back in Tyler, but especially since arriving here, I have placed all of that in Josh’s hands. I feel very helpless and don’t do anything on my own, which isn’t a good thing I guess, but I will learn how to do all the financial and day to day activities out in facing the real world of New Zealand. For now, though, I have Josh do everything for me, even order my Chicken McBites at McDonalds; it’s like I’m too scared to even do that! Haha. I do trust Josh too, and that is why I put all the financial stuff in his very capable hands.
When you rent a place, you have to pay the deposit as mentioned earlier, or the bond, which is usually like 4 to 5 weeks rent in advance. Some of the real estate companies have letting fees, which is a rip-off, but a week’s rent that goes to them that you don’t get back. I guess that’s fair though as it is part of their salary, and we do get or should get the bond back in the end. However, that is a lot of money up front to be asking for, and something we had to have before getting a place.
I didn’t mention this earlier, and this is an important part of the story, and a God-thing I believe. We already knew how expensive it was to move into a place with the up-front costs. Well, one day we came home to our temporary home, and the next door neighbor of Keith and Elsa, who is actually their landlord, a sweet little lady who we had talked to a few times in passing, brought forward a proposition. A much needed proposition I might add. She asked if Josh would like to paint the inside of their flat while they were away. She had received a quote from a painter which she thought was quite high and asked what Josh would ask for if he painted it. Well, after thinking and talking about it, we jumped at that opportunity and he gave her a price which would include her getting the supplies. The amount was quite generous and would easily pay for the bond and help us out so much. Hip hip hooray!
He had been doing that off and on during the days we weren’t doing cleaning, and it was quite a long process. Most days we stayed at their flat, both of us either were overwhelmed with dizziness or headaches. Part of the package though, and we didn’t complain too much about that. All the while we were thinking that the hard work he was doing gave us hope for the reward of the money she would be paying him in the end and it gave the place a brighter, fresh look and felt like we were somehow helping out Keith and Elsa for letting us stay and would be a nice surprise for them to come back to (we did ask for Keith’s permission first, haha, and they were all for it). So, a little blessing from God at a time when we desperately needed the money.
I love looking at houses. For months before coming, I had poured over pictures online at properties for rent, looking for us a perfect place, even though we wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it when I would find something I loved. I base decisions on pictures. Of course the price has something to do with it, but if I like the pictures I see of a house or when looking of where to live or vacation, then I am sold. Forget practicality; just show me the pictures! Growing up, whenever our family was looking to move across town, my mom and I would jump on the chance to go look at Open Houses. We sometimes even went to places that there was no way we could afford, but just for the fun of it and to pretend. Those are some of my favorite memories! My mom and I shared that same passion, and as a little girl I would imagine I was the Real Estate lady dressed up in my black business suit/skirt and red heels and offer a silver tray of appetizers to the potential buyers. Then the clients and I would laugh and I would give them a tour and become their best friends, finding them and selling them their dream home. One day . . . this is on my bucket list of things to do in life. And I will do it. Someone once told me I couldn’t do this or this was not for me. There will always be those “nay-sayers” in our lives.

And what I have to say about that is, shame on those people who try to destroy our dreams and tear us down! When I met Josh, I was amazed at how positive and encouraging he was. And I knew he was genuine; it was not just to win me over (and I can attest to that because he is still my ego booster each day) but that is who he is and how he was raised. There are two people in life and two types of people you and I can choose to be: we are either here to build people up, or bring people down. It’s a choice. Not easy to be one to lift people up each day, but it is something we should strive for I think, especially as Christians. There is too much negativity in this world that is poisonous and contagious; so many hurdles people have to overcome which is mainly other people’s opinions and judgments of them. We so desperately want to be approved of by others, and we base many decisions on what other people will think about it. I want to be the light, the one who brings out the best in people and lets them see that good side of themselves and make them believe their value and to follow their dreams. To be true to themselves, not fit someone else’s mold. I’m getting off-track again, I know, aghh, I can’t help it. It just reminds me of my thankfulness again in finding Josh, and people like that whom I have met along this road of life. I admire that about him and want to emulate it, especially to him, though I have often already failed in that department. I say all that to say, follow your dreams! Pursue your God-given talents and passions, your dreams, with your whole hearts! I met my husband Josh because my parents followed their dream. Seriously! So neat to think how that worked, and it was God’s plan too. They left Midland, a place they had lived my whole life and for 24 years; they made a change and a step in a new, better direction and followed their dream of one day owning a Bed & Breakfast. They bought a B & B in East Texas and moved to Mineola. As for me . . . I liked the idea of being close to my parents again and as things weren’t working out for me in San Marcos and I wanted a new life from that horrible place filled with negative people I was at in San Marcos. So, I moved to Tyler. And because of all that, I met Josh. Thanks Mom and Dad!! Haha.

I also have learned and want to say this: Don’t let that one person make you doubt yourself, not only your hopes for a career or talent/passion, but makes you doubt yourself as a person. And stay as far away from that person as you can possibly get, I mean run for the hills, because their words can be detrimental to your soul. It’s funny how we as people could have a whole crowd of followers behind us, cheering us on loudly with positive praise, but we somehow only see and hear that one person in the corner, alone and whispering taunts and negative criticism so softly, but that is left resounding in our ears for years to come. I also once had a professor who almost made me throw away my dream and passion for writing. And what’s worse and what broke my heart, was she did this to just about every student in that class, saying things that made them feel like they were not good writers. It was a class for the purpose of bringing out our creative thinking from our minds and hearts and transferring those from the pen onto paper. I don’t know what her hidden motives or agenda was, but her bitterness affected so many students and it was not the necessary construction criticism, but merely her own negative and cynical opinions. Never a positive comment or praise or encouragement. She crushed so many spirits and dreams in that classroom. Shame on her. And now here I am, after nearly four years from graduating college, and I am back to writing again. And I love it! I didn’t stop writing because of her, it had an affect of course, but I did write for newspapers after that, I just didn’t write mainly because I didn’t have a reason to. No English papers or college newspaper to write for. And with my jobs at law firms I had since graduation, I had and made no time for it. Carpe diem, seize the day! Haha, I feel like I’m preaching a sermon or giving a talk at a pep rally, lol, some things just fire me up and writing just liberates me. Writing, though, is risky and scary, all at the same time. For those writers out there, those who love to write, you know what I mean. It makes you reach down into the very core of your being, and splash that onto paper, deciphering all the while what you choose to reveal to the world, and what to keep locked inside. It is a battle. A couple of quotes I found express what I am saying and I know I am not alone in this type of thinking (I love quotes too, by the way, but you already noticed that) sums it up: “Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.” ~ Franz Kafka and a quote by Carlos Fuentes, “Writing is a struggle against silence.” Those may sound pretty dramatic, but they are very true, I think.

Back to what I was getting at, and back to the real story here! Haha. During our stay at Keith’s house, we had the opportunity to go look at places for rent. This was not an easy process, as most of the places we called, or the real estate companies, were closing their doors for the holidays and out of pocket for like two weeks! Hello? What about Lindsey and Josh? We need to find us a home! I wondered about the others looking for a home during the holiday period, and wondered how frustrating this could be and that we were most likely going to have to wait. It was a fight to get to view properties before some of the offices would be closing, but there were some places that weren’t listed with a company which were generally easier to get a hold of.

Let me talk about the places we did look at. Now, that was another fun, little escapade, most of the time, but that was also stressful for us. I’ve heard stories before how looking to buy a home with your spouse and especially when you have kids, can be quite stressful. You have to find the right place and a lot of people and opinions and needs and wants are being fit into an equation. I also remember this from growing up in our family and it took a long time to find and decide on the home that would fit all of us. Same thing in looking for a place to rent (though less pressure than buying, that’s for sure). When I went to college, it was the dorms for me the first two years and the last two years my best friend who became my roommate found us an apartment in Lubbock while I was back home in Midland for the summer. She hunted and found us the perfect one, so that was pretty easy on my part, I just trusted her judgment. Then I moved to San Marcos after graduating, and with my parents went apartment-hunting. It was not only my opinion there, but my parent’s input which I valued, but in the end I had no one to share the place with or to ask approval of, and so it was up to me and what I wanted. Same thing when, almost a year later, I moved to Tyler. Then I was really on my own and had a friend’s opinion as help, but once again I was living on my own, no roommate, so I made the decision based on what Lindsey wanted; no one else. Well, then Josh and I happened, and we got married, and that was very easy because he was already living in our future married home, which I just moved into after the wedding. It was his grandparent’s old house (another blessing from his parents and from God!). Then we moved to New Zealand. And it wasn’t so easy anymore. It wasn’t that difficult of course, but it was different and a bit challenging as it was now what I had experienced and watched growing up; two people’s opinions and needs and wants being fit into one equation. Looking back now and even at the time, though, it was overall very fun going house-hunting, or flat-hunting. I would get so excited when a realtor called us back and said we could come view the house or flat. Most who called, however, did tell us to drive by the place first before setting up a viewing appointment. Which, we learned, is usually a sign that we wouldn’t want it.

One of our first flats to look at we were told to drive by first. So we did. We are all for the view, and to have an ocean view was one of our big requirements to hopefully find. In the pictures online, this one had a view. We drove up the narrow streets and found the flat; it was the bottom one it said. So, down the steps from the road we went to get to the top floor and we were in awe of the view. We really wanted to see inside the bottom one so we (despite my urging Josh, “Noooo!!! Don’t do that!), knocked on the door of the top unit to see if the neighbors had any information. A little old lady opened the door and welcomed us like we were her own grandchildren. She was a happy lady, and urged us strangers to come inside her home so she could find the key. Wow, we weren’t expecting that, but to have to go through the company first. Josh was like, “Haha, see! I know what I’m doing!” The little old lady reminded me of Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf visits him and he’s running around his hobbit hole, stressed and trying to find things and talking to himself. Like a chicken with its head cut off. She was very short too, haha. Her cat walked in the door and I was trying to follow it around while she looked for the key so I could pet it; I love cats and needed to hold one and pet it to make me feel good inside. That was comforting that even if we didn’t have our own cat, if we got this place I could see this cat and we had a sweet neighbor to make us homemade chocolate chip cookies. The view from her living room was breathtaking; with floor to ceiling windows overlooking out onto the city and harbor. Find the key! I was thinking. Another old lady walked in the same time, her friend, and rolled her eyes at her ditzy, disoriented friend and immediately found us the key. Yay! So Josh and I walked downstairs and into the flat for rent. The first thing to notice was the smell. Old. Old, old, old, and I mean old! Like something had died in there, ugh! It was nothing like the views or window or floorplan from above; in fact, I don’t know really what it was. There were hardly any windows, it was dark and cinderblock walls that made me feel like I was in a prison. Josh looked at me and already knew what I was thinking; he was trying to be positive and saying he could fix it up and paint it, but I was like “Ha!” It not only smelled old but looked very old too, no updates or anything modern, which we could live with of course, but just the feeling inside was not pleasant. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I was choking. We could hear the old lady’s little feet scampering around upstairs, which I thought was quite funny. Anyways, so we got out and gave her the key, and peeled out of the driveway. Josh said he didn’t feel good. Haha, neither one of us did; we felt super anxious and it took me several minutes to feel like I could catch my breath and breathe normal again.

We learned a lesson, and started driving around looking at most of the places first outside before making an appointment. Some of the locations were not good or they just looked flat out junky and no telling how it would be inside. Plus we still wanted to find a place with an ocean view, but our budget was looking like we wouldn’t find that.

There was one particular house we found for rent in a place called Titahi Bay. The name had me sold already. Sounded like paradise! And it was brand new! This was actually earlier on in the story, we looked at it before the painting job was given to Josh. It was behind a house and it had a backyard and a deck that had a small glimpse of the Porirua Harbor. The owner was really trying to rent us the place and said we could even cut down the trees or have someone do that for us so we could have an even better view. Porirua we had discovered was not one of our favorite suburbs and it was the furthest of all the suburbs from downtown Wellington, but at least here we would have a view of water. We walked in and I was amazed. I wanted it! Everything was new and modern, the kitchen appliances were top notch, and there was none of that separate hot and cold faucet thing going on. It had two bedrooms too, which we were thinking would be a plus if our families ever got to come visit us. The bad thing to us at the time, however, was that it was almost to our max price budget, which we were hoping to really find something a lot cheaper with our situation at the moment. It didn’t come with any furnishings either; no refrigerator, washing machine or dryer. That was before we knew of the possibility of having the paint job to fund the bond cost, so we had to give it up also as the owner said a lady in Auckland was coming down to view it and most likely was going to take it. I really wanted it, but Josh was very practical and realistic, which I am so glad in retrospect that he convinced us not to get that place.

We viewed several places and drove by many. One day, for the same price of the first flat we looked at, being a little under 300 a week, we found a studio apartment downtown and called about it. I didn’t like the idea of a studio, but we knew we might need that at least starting out, especially if it came furnished as we didn’t have anything to bring to the table, or table to bring for that matter. We met the real estate agent outside the high-rise complex and I liked the idea of being downtown and close to all the activity, but already noticed that it was further away from most of the life and didn’t have a view of the harbor. Unless, I thought, it was on one side of the building and way at the top we might have a view. He took us into the brand new building, up the elevators which they were still working on, and into a tiny hall, opened a small door into an entryway, and then another door. Those pictures I love to base my decisions on the Internet can be quite deceiving. In the picture, it looked really big, or big for a studio anyways. But this was not what we found. A miniature Cracker Jack box; without a prize inside. It wasn’t even the same apartment that they had a picture of! That made me mad. It was a different bed and an entirely different layout of what they showed online. Grrrr. We could handle living in a hotel room, at least for a while because the square footage gives you room to move around, but this was a joke. Even if a single person lived there, it was so cramped I think they would soon develop a split personality and start fighting with their alter ego. I should find out how many square feet that was, because it was quite absurd. With a studio, the bed is in the main room, there is no bedroom, but there wasn’t but like three feet total of free space and room to move. If we moved there, one of us would be spending a lot of time in the bathroom, or on the balcony, which did not have a view of the ocean. It came fully furnished though, which was appealing, especially to practical Josh. And it was brand new, we would be the first tenants; so modern which we loved the idea of. We had been house-hunting for quite a while now, and having those feelings of desperation again that we had become familiar with. Time was running out on our stay at Keith and Elsa’s house, and we also had the pressure of how fast these places go, university students coming back and taking them before we had a chance, and also finding the time to look at these places. And, as mentioned, it was sometimes impossible to get a hold of the agents. Why can’t they be a slave to their jobs like we are in America? I was beginning to think. So, after we looked at that place, Josh wanted us to take it, and I didn’t. I then learned what it’s like to be married; and looking for a place together. And stress certainly brings out the worst in us. It is probably easier looking for a home though, to buy, or if we were in different circumstances. We were on a time crunch, running out of money, and several factors mentioned above to contribute to the stress it had become. It was no longer fun! Haha. I do know that if we ever own our own home someday, Josh and I should never wallpaper a house together.

So, after much debate and trying to convince the other who was right about the topic, we finally decided the studio was not the best idea either. We were getting about ready to pull each other’s hair out! Phew, this was getting to be a lot harder than we thought! Well, one evening after house-hunting and feeling desperate and frantic, we saw a glimmer of hope when looking online at TradeMe, my new obsession of looking each day at the new listings. We found one that was just posted, that sounded like the perfect deal. There was only one picture, but it said that it was currently on the market, and as no potential buyers, the owner was going to take it off the market in a couple months. This also meant a reduced rent rate for the hassle. It gave a link to the posting on the real estate website, which gave us several pictures; we both liked the looks of it! The suburb was Khandallah, one of the closest to the city and had a view of the harbor and ocean at a price of the 290 we seemed to be favoring lately. We got a hold of the owner, who we learned did not live here but two hours away and wouldn’t be back until the first or second week in January. She gave us the numbers of the tenants currently living in the flat, though, so I texted them. We learned they were also out of town (bummer) on holiday until the 6th, but said we could go look at it from the outside. It was the upstairs flat, they said, and we could climb the stairs onto the balcony to look in the windows.

We drove by, and walked down the driveway from the road and saw two buildings in the bush (forest). One building was atrocious and looked very run down, which I hoped was not the one we were looking at. Thankfully it wasn’t but the one next door was, and it wasn’t the best appearing from the outside. We have noticed that about a lot of the houses/flats here as many of them are old and not a whole lot of flash. Oh well, we could live with that. It could use a lot of work on the cosmetic appearance from outside; paint and pulling of weeds. A two story house that really just looked like a box with a few windows. The one that was for rent was on top and you had to walk across a concrete walkway. There were no windows that we could look through from the front and we almost walked away but then I said about the stairs on the back balcony that the tenant had said to climb, or a ladder he had told us. We walked down the steps and heard some loud kids crying, the downstairs neighbors who the mom and her kid saw us go to the back and look at the ladder. Haha. She talked to us through the window and we said the tenants told us we could climb the ladder to stand on the upstairs deck/balcony and look in the windows to see what it looked like. She was like “Oh! I didn’t even know that was there!” She seemed anxious we were going to fall, which I was scared of too, but we climbed the wooden ladder, opening the trap door and with Josh’s help, he pulled me up onto the narrow wooden balcony. What a view from up there! It was a cloudy day, and we were still amazed at the beauty and we could imagine what it would look like on a clear day. The harbor, the city . . . we would even be able to see the ferry coming in. And our own deck! The windows to the flat were so tall and wide giving a panoramic view. We looked inside and I was quite surprised. It actually looked decent! We could only see the living room and kitchen, but the living room was big and plenty of room to entertain guests, with an open plan from the kitchen with a bar. Well, we may have just found what we were looking for. We went back down the trap hole and ladder, and were about to leave, when the neighbor downstairs called out to us. She said that she could show us her place so we could get an idea of what the upstairs one looked like. She said they were the same floor plan, but there’s was more messy because they had kids. We were very grateful. So we toured the place, meeting her family along the way; she was really nice and helpful. We liked the layout and the bathroom was in good condition and seemed a bit more updated than some of the places we had seen. And we just kept thinking of the view we would have.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. We did not want to have to wait for the tenants to get back from vacation for us to look inside, because we were afraid someone else would get it first. Although we did consider that the upstairs might be different from the bottom, we didn’t think that much of it and just knew we wanted it. So, we called the landlord and said we looked at it from the outside and the tenants were on vacation until the 6th, but we didn’t want to miss this opportunity, and if we could apply for it and hold it, or put down some kind of deposit. The landlord was thrilled and said she had several calls from people interested in it, so we should give her a holding fee to show we are serious of $150.00. Those reading this are probably wondering why we would do that when we didn’t even look inside the place, but we did it anyways, and we did it with haste. We felt pretty good about the situation; that we had found a place and didn’t have to keep looking. In the back of my head, though, and probably Josh was thinking about it too, there was a sense of uneasiness or not being quite satisfied and giving me doubt; that being that we didn’t look inside of it. We waited for a week or two from the time we gave the lady the deposit and got the rental agreement in the mail that she posted us, until the time came for us to look inside once the tenants got back from vacation. I was so eager for them to get back so we could see inside and get an idea of how to decorate it and what we had gotten ourselves into. As of then, we hadn’t signed the agreement and sent it back to her, as we were waiting to look inside. A big plus with the place besides the cheap cost was that it came with a lot of furnishings that would in turn save a lot of money; the fridge, microwave, washer/dryer, couches and bed.

At last, the day came when the tenants said they were back from vacation and would leave the key under the door while they went out for us to look at our future home. We were so excited, and brought the camera with us. We opened the door, and the first thing, after walking into the hallway, and first place I went into, was the bathroom. Maybe I should have looked at that last. I felt my heart sink and I was filled with dread and disappointment. I did like the fact that the toilet was in the bathroom and not in a separate room, but this bathroom was hideous! The worst part about it, that really threw me for a loop, was the “shower”. It was in the corner and it was just like a hole they had cut out into the wall. It was a wooden box, like a chicken coop, closet, or gas chamber when I looked inside of it. It was like built into the wall; it was very tiny and the wood that it was made out of, the bottom of it was at least three feet tall, so you had to step way over it and climb up into this box. It’s kind of hard to explain. You would have to be very strategic and crafty to get up into that shower, and avoid hitting that wooden hurdle or hitting the sink that was nearly blocking the way. There would certainly be no room to turn around in that shower or scrub yourself, and it was very dark inside. So, without providing a photo of this shower, the flooring was aluminum, and so try to imagine an upright commercial oven built within the wall. Oh dear, I’m going to get trapped in the shower or pass out from feeling so claustrophic. And never mind the separate hot and cold faucet, that was not a big deal compared to the shower, but it did add to my dismay. The toilet was certainly old school with the pipe running up the wall and a wooden toilet seat cover that didn’t match the rest of the white toilet; I hate that. No cabinet space or shelves, which was fine, I just was thinking I will save a lot of time in the mornings now getting ready. I won’t get ready, I decided; putting on makeup and blow-drying and straightening my hair, nor will I take a shower for that matter. No, I won’t be spending any time in that bathroom. Not a good way to start out the tour of our place we had put a deposit on already. Why were we so irrational? I began thinking. We should not have done that. The frustration was already seeping in, after seeing that bathroom. I was getting mad at both of us for getting in this mess and then he was getting upset because I was not happy so far with what I was seeing.

The bedrooms were good though, and the bedroom that would be ours had a view of the ocean, so that helped my spirits a little. Then we walked into the living room that we had seen through the windows and I noticed even more from when we first walked in; the smell. Incense and curry. It was very overpowering. Josh being positive as usual said that smell would go away and the black markings on the wall from the burning of incense (looked like years worth caked on the walls) he could fix by painting. He said if the landlord let us paint it, maybe she would even pay him or give a discounted rent price. The view from the living room made us both feel better, but, at the moment, it didn’t feel good enough of a reason to live there. We already had doubts about the appearance from the outside and not feeling too proud of that or the run-down house next door and wondering who lived there, and the bathroom scene was taking over my thoughts. “This looks so much different from the one downstairs!” I said. I was upset. The downstairs was in way better condition and had smelled really good too, it must have been recently painted and the bathroom was way more updated; it certainly had a normal shower with a glass door; it looked nothing like this place. We walked to the kitchen and our shoes squeaked and stuck to the greasy floor. “Well baby, these people obviously aren’t very clean and don’t take care of the place, it won’t be like this once it gets cleaned up and painted,” said my husband. The kitchen sink also had two separate faucets for hot and cold water, which that just about nearly did me in. “NOOOOOOoooooo!!!!!” Haha. I already knew I was going to burn my hands at the bathroom sink, and now I had no second option; I would either scald my hands or freeze them at this sink too. A vent was placed in the window (I have no idea how they did that) of the kitchen, which was very ugly and trashy. It was pretty dirty in there and needed a lot of work that we weren’t expecting. I was not positive at all, and just said how I really felt about it to Josh, which upset him and we both felt so frustrated because we knew or felt like there was nothing we could do about it. We already put down the holding fee and had the landlord’s hopes up as we had been texting and calling her off and on and she was excited for us to be moving in, and that we were from Texas! Of course, though, we hadn’t given her a bond yet or signed the agreement, so I was like, well I’m sorry but I just don’t think we can do that! I don’t think I can live there. Josh had laughed at the shower when we first looked at it, and I knew he would be more bothered about it later too, like me. He wouldn’t want to step up into that hole of a shower either! We were distressed. What to do, what to do.
“You want me to call her and tell her we changed our minds?”
“Yes!!!” Then, “Noooo, let’s just think about it.”
“We don’t have time to think about it.”
It was back and forth. We had time to think about it some more, and then I was like, “it will be okay, we can make it work.” But we said to have him call the landlord and say the condition of it, if we could get it painted and about the shower situation, if she could improve that and maybe get a new one, or normal thing put in instead of the box in the wall.

So, that was back and forth, and she really wanted to please us and work with us, and then she seemed frustrated too and almost arguing about it and saying she didn’t think it was that bad inside? Or that it needed paint and what was wrong with the shower? She said she had lived there and had no problems with it and she could look into installing a new shower, but that would cost a lot of money. Also, as time went on and we were discussing and trying to figure out, she was saying that even painting it she wasn’t sure if she could afford that right now as she was tight on money. Well, that didn’t sound like a good situation to have for a landlord already right there.

I eventually got better with the idea, for the most part anyways. Trying to be positive, we both said we could make it work. It made Josh happy when we went shopping one day and I started finding decorations for our new place and telling him how I envisioned we could make it look and look nice with making the bathroom black and white themed and have the kitchen be a coffee theme. So we bought a few things for the new place and were hoping to make the best of it in our minds.

However, I do recall having moments when I was alone and I would just sit there and think about that shower. Mostly it was when I was taking a shower, and I just cringed at the idea of that tomb in the wall. We were still communicating with the landlord and she was planning on coming down the next week and said Josh could help her with painting the living room, kitchen, and bathroom; she had decided she would work on that for us, with Josh’s help painting. All during this time, I was still getting on TradeMe and looking at the new listings, haha . . . I just couldn’t help myself. I was hoping to find some good deal; a lifesaver that would really save us from having to move into that place. The closer it was getting to move-in date, which would be like the 18th of January we were told, the more I was dreading it. I found one on a particular day that we went and looked at but didn’t like, and then Josh called on a couple more houses, but they weren’t showing them until later that week. Man! I was surprised though and glad that Josh was at least trying, and realizing he was having doubts about moving into the flat as well. We were still going to do it, though, unless amazingly something came up. Once we were getting the calls about the late viewing times, we were taking it as a sign that we just needed to stick to the deal we had made.

So, in the meantime, our stay at the Copeland’s house was coming to an end. They arrived on Tuesday, January 10th, and we moved out. Not into our new flat, of course, as the move-in date was the following week, but Antony and Jeanette Raine had graciously agreed to let us stay in their home for the week until we could move into our new flat. We were so grateful for their hospitality as well. Once again, we were packing up all our belongings, stuffing our suitcases, and unloading them into the Raine’s guestroom. It was a cozy and comforting room with a nice view of the green hills in the background.

The day before, on Monday, our last day at the Copeland’s house, I didn’t mention this but we finally did have luck with a flat for rent that we called about. The viewing time was the following day, so Tuesday, when we were moving to the Raines. Josh told the realtor we would be there to look at it. I can still remember the flicker of hope I felt when I was putting on my makeup in the bathroom and I heard Josh talking on the phone and saying we could view it tomorrow. I had found this particular flat on TradeMe and saved it to the watchlist and my notebook I had put several asterisks beside it, meaning I really liked what I saw at least from the ad. It was the same price we were about to pay, and it had views of the ocean, and it was on the other side of Wellington, at the very south of the North Island and by the airport. The pictures looked amazing, but we know how that is, yet I still had a very good feeling about this place. Josh told me, “Okay, we are going to look at this one, but if we don’t like it, then no more of this, and we are just going to stick with the one in Khandallah, and no more looking on TradeMe!” “Okay!” I said, excitedly.

After we unloaded our bags at the Raine’s house, we headed across the bridge over the harbor, through town and out to Houghton Bay, where this flat was located. The name of the street was already an incentive; View Road. As we drove up the steep hill, we could not believe the view! It was at the very top of the mountain with views of the bustling airport, Lyall Bay (home of a popular surf spot and beach), and mountains in the distance. To the far right was the vast ocean, the Cook Strait. Woah! Can you imagine if we lived here? I hope we like it inside! We waited for the realtor outside in the driveway and in the meantime talked to another girl who was there for the viewing as well. She was from the States too, and talked about life in Wellington and how miserable and wet and damp the winters are here. Not an encouraging pep talk, especially as it was sprinkling and cloudy that day. I didn’t care though; I wanted to see inside this flat. It’s probably a dump inside, I thought, or smells putrid. The outside was definitely not designed or decorated to put it on the cover of the Parade of Homes magazine, but we were used to that by now. It was a triple-decker, and the flat we were looking at was at the very bottom of the stairs.

At last, the realtor showed up. They are a lot more chill and relaxed than the ones I’ve encountered back home, and slightly a bit more unprofessional, yet still nice and helpful. We went down the long flight of stairs and walked into the flat. It was decorated shabby chic, and had a lot of Marilyn Monroe posters. That always helps when a place is kept up nice, and the couple that was currently living there had definitely done a good job in making it homey and modern and clean. Josh and I both looked at each other and smiled…we loved it! The views were absolutely to die for! It was an open plan and the kitchen also had a bar; the kitchen was amazing. It was on the corner of the house and it had windows on both sides, giving the ultimate in panoramic views; overlooking the airport, the beach, and Wellington harbor in the far distance. I could wash dishes with a view like that! And become New Zealand’s next Master Chef (a show that I soon became obsessed with since being here).

In the pictures online, it had looked like the mattress in the bedroom was lying on the floor and touching the walls because the room was so small, but I was surprised to see that it was slightly bigger than I was expecting (but tiny compared to American standards still) with about a foot on each side of the mattress to the walls.

The part I was anticipating the most, however, was . . .dun, dun, dun, dun . . . the bathroom. That had become the make or break deal it seemed. I was hoping to not have to go in there and have an “Eek, eek, eek!” moment, but more rather a gleeful reaction. I had never been so happy in my life to peek around the corner into the bathroom and first of all see the sink. One faucet!!! A normal faucet that actually lets you regulate the temperature! I could almost hear the game show announcer on his microphone yelling out, “You just won a modern toilet! Aannnnndddd, a Brand New, SHOWER!!!” Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a Winner! And the crowd goes wild! Cheering, cheering for Josh and Lindsey, because we found what we’d been looking for and longing for. It was a normal shower, with glass walls, a glass door that you just walk into like normal people do; not an impossible obstacle course like the other flat. Oh goodness, I sure hope we can get this place! I was thinking to myself.

One of the other best things about the flat was the huge balcony deck outside. It gave plenty of room to walk around on and even put a big table out there to eat on, and giving the most superb views. We would be able to watch the planes come and go, and the ferry and cruise ships going back and forth to the South Island, if we got this place. We were eyeing the other girl we had been talking to as she was asking the realtor questions about the place and how to apply for it. She had been telling us how hard it is to find something to rent because they go fast. Josh was asking the realtor questions too, and we were learning that it was basically first come, first serve on whoever applies and if approved and reference checks. Another person came to look at it while we were there, so then we rushed out, or more rather, I followed Josh who basically ran out the door and up the steps.
“You like it?” He asked me.
We both loved it. He was ecstatic about it, as was I. Then lets get it!!! We rushed to the nearest library; we didn’t even wait to drive all the way across town to get our laptop. We were in that much of a hurry to do the online application. It was fun; racing to beat the other girl who we knew was probably on her way to apply as well.

We were so anxious and hoping with all our hearts that we would get it. I didn’t think we would, because it would be too good to be true.

Josh texted and called the realtor a couple times that day to make sure their office received the application. Then, later that very day we spoke with the realtor who told us our application was approved! We were now the new tenants of a street called View Road.

After an explanation of the situation to the landlord of the flat we had been looking at in Khandallah, who was not surprised she said, we were rid of that ordeal. Hopefully we didn’t leave her too upset with us, as we said we would let her keep the $150 holding fee we had put down on the flat just because of the hassle it was on her and the cost of putting the ad on TradeMe. Thank goodness, no more nightmares of being trapped in that shower.

The move-in date would be later that month, but we were so relieved and happy that we finally found a place we would live for our time in New Zealand. In two more weeks, we’d be moving into our own home! With a view of the ocean!

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