On Valentine’s Day, our first to celebrate together as a married couple, as husband and wife, I learned the art of improvisation. And that living in a foreign country is not an easy thing.
Of course we both said we didn’t want anything and not to get each other a gift for V-Day. I also knew Josh had something planned for us to do and that we couldn’t really afford to get fancy gifts for one another; I knew all this. But, I wanted to get him something! I love giving gifts and couldn’t stand the fact to not give my husband something special on Valentine’s Day, our first being married. I already had a plan; not a big one, but a plan nonetheless. Josh took the car to work every day, which had already been an adjustment on my part of not being able to get in my own car and go run an errand whenever I wanted to. How much I have taken my having a car, and us having 2 vehicles between us when we first got married, for granted. Anyways, well, right down the hill and a little ways down the road was one of the suburbs. I knew of a dairy, which is on nearly every corner here, and these are called Tip Top. Basically like a little convenience store. Why not walk there and get Josh something? A perfect plan I thought, and he would be surprised and wonder when and how I had done that. I wasn’t going to get anything big (obviously if I was going to a convenient store!) but I love, love giving cards and want to have one to celebrate all of our special events so we can keep them and look back years to come and remember where we were that moment in time and how we felt. So, I hoped they would have a card there. If not, I would walk a few more blocks down to the Warehouse (the Walmart of NZ). I was actually pumped and excited about the idea, and I could finally be independent again and do something on my own without Josh having to hold my little hand, haha. I’ve felt so helpless here many times. I got all ready and walked out the door. Cloudy. As I started walking down the steep (very steep) road down to the main road below, it started sprinkling or more like a heavy mist. Oh great, it’s going to pour down rain on me! I had already walked down to the beach one day on my own from our house, and decided after climbing Mt. Everest on the way back home (our road), that I wouldn’t do that again. Going down was fun and easy, but not back up. So now, here I was thinking, I’m going to get stranded in a tropical cyclone and not be able to walk the hill (as people call them here) back up to our house. Oh well. I was determined. And I love my husband.
I kept walking. It was nice with the ocean on my right-hand side, and still unbelievable that this is where I live, and that I was walking beside waves crashing into the shore. I felt paranoid and like everyone was out to get me, and eyeing every person suspiciously walking my way and always checking my back. I wished Josh was with me. Haha. So I kept walking, crossed a couple roads, and was by now feeling cold, wet, and damp, and suffocating in the humid air. The store was further away from our house than I thought. At last, I made it. I was greeted by a sweet, Indian lady at the front counter. Well, what do ya’ know? There was a stand with greeting cards and I had several options for a Valentine’s Day card! I was quite surprised. I took out every card, and read each one twice, and pondered, and pondered some more. They were all pretty cheesy and cheap, but I at last found one that I thought that couldn’t have been more perfect for us. Success! I couldn’t believe my luck. Hmmm….what else can I find in here? Ah-hah! Yes! I was delighted to see a bottle of sparking white grape juice. How romantic and sweet would that be? And such a surprise. We both love that and have made it our tradition to drink it to celebrate special occasions.
Might as well make use of my time and money there, and I even grabbed a package of toilet paper, which we had just completely ran out of that day. I was making a killing! I was feeling so proud of myself and just imagining how surprised and impressed Josh would be, and how much he would love that I went and got him a card.
I carried my items up to the counter, and she scanned them in and gave me the total. I already had a knot in my stomach when I looked at the credit card scanning machine and noticed that there was a big piece of black tape on the button I needed; Credit! This isn’t going to work for me; I knew it. I’ve been so confused by our different cards and the pin numbers, and how sometimes you have to push credit and sometimes cheque, it was so daunting. I remembered how to do it this time, but to no avail. Our American credit card only works using the credit button, which for some unfortunate reason, was not working at this particular store. Okay. Well, that’s why I also brought our New Zealand banking card as a back-up, which I also remembered how to use. The first card was invalid. And now this one. I knew the NZ one wouldn’t work probably because we still had all our money in the other account, but I was hoping beyond hope. Of course I didn’t have any cash on me, so I got all sad and embarrassed, and said, “Well, I guess I can’t get it. I’m sorry.” And had to leave it all on the counter and walk away with the biggest lump in my throat. I had to fight from bawling as I walked back home in the cold and wet air, but my eyes were blurry with tears. It was one of those moments where you are completely overwhelmed; by everything. Frustrated and just feel depressed. I had a pity party for myself for several minutes and felt so angry and sad. I can’t do anything! I can’t even get my husband a Valentine’s Day card, for crying out loud! And we were out of toilet paper, to boot! I felt like a failure. Of course it wasn’t my fault, but that is how this emotional girl felt. I felt like the day was ruined and I felt like just giving up. This country had defeated me. I knew I could walk several more blocks to the Westpac ATM and try and get cash out, or walk to the supermarkets, or the Warehouse, and I thought about it only for a mere second, because I knew that none of those options would work for me. So why bother?
For, you see, this was not my first encounter of bad luck concerning money matters. A couple months before, when we had been staying at Keith and Elsa’s house still, I felt like I needed some alone time at the coffee shop (which means there had been an argument between me and Josh, haha) and so I had him drop me off at Starbucks. I was all alone, like I wanted to be, but which was not such a good thing in the end. I ordered a chai tea latte, and tried to use my banking card, but, it didn’t work. Later I learned I had pressed the wrong button (who would have known)…credit when I should have pushed cheque. Well, it still could have worked for me, why does it have to be so complicated? I asked the cashier girl if they would take American dollars, haha, but her and the drink maker guy just laughed at me. How embarrassing! I felt like everyone was watching too, and so I had to do the same thing then and say I’m sorry, I guess I can’t get it. And hung my head down and (can you imagine the Johnny Cash song, “ . . . I hang my head and cry” . . . haha, what a perfect soundtrack that would have been for that moment) and started to walk away and to the table, since I had no ride and had to wait for Josh to pick me up. Ugh. Then the guy called out to me and said, “hey, you can still have it, I already made it and there’s no point in it going to waste!” I said, “No you don’t have to do that. Are you sure?” And he said no worries and gave it to me. That made me feel even worse! What a loser and low-life I was! Haha. And then I felt mad at Josh too, like it was his fault, which it really wasn’t of course, but everything always worked for him, and I needed his help. I couldn’t do anything and nothing worked for me. When Josh came back to pick me up, I told him the situation and he went ahead and paid for it, which made me feel much better. Needless to say, I wasn’t going back to that Starbucks again.
Another time, Josh had asked me to go to the Westpac ATM one day while he was at work on a Friday, when our rent was due at our flat, and to withdraw from Bank of America account some money and then go into the bank and deposit it into our New Zealand Westpac account so he could pay online. I knew that wasn’t going to work, and I had him explain it to me over and over again. So I went one Friday with Jenn after our bible study and had her drop me off and wait while I did that. I tried the ATM, and it of course didn’t work. I even went inside and talked to the bank people, and the guy even called Bank of America. But they couldn’t help me; they said maybe there was a glitch with the ATM machine and to try another location. I wanted to go around the corner, grab him by the hand, and say, “all I want you to do is walk with me out here to this stupid ATM and help me, and make it give me my money. Or why can’t you give me my money?” But I didn’t do that. I just left the bank empty-handed, and upset again at Josh, because, it was his fault, of course! Haha, I am being sarcastic but I felt mad and frustrated that nothing seemed to work for me, and I knew and told him it wasn’t going to work for me, which was true. I still don’t know what the problem was that time; well, actually, I think I pressed the wrong button.
I never felt this dumb in America!
Anyways, so back to Valentine’s Day. On the way home, empty-handed, I decided I would take a short-cut and what I thought would be an easier way home. There were steps, the pedestrian access that led to our road, View Road. Lots and lots of steps and a sidewalk with several switchbacks. I wanted to avoid walking along the busy road too that I had walked on my way to the store, which I knew I needed in that moment; I didn’t want cars driving by and staring at me, especially if I was crying! I don’t know why I thought that route would be easier, it was ten times worse! Each day I seemed to realize how out of shape I am, and wondered how people do this. It was like the stairway to heaven. After the steps, it wasn’t over. Just up and up. More ramps that climbed steeply. I was so out of breath and exhausted and started crying some more because it was just never ending. What a baby, I felt like. Along the way, though, I must have started to feel a little better, because I was noticing the beautiful flowers. Hmmm….
I finally reached our road, and still had a long ways to walk to our house, but at least I was on top of the mountain. I was passing more flowers along the way, and though I know it’s not kosher for girls to get guys flowers, I thought I could make use of the situation and improvise. Bring some beauty to our little flat and celebrate Valentine’s Day and have a beautiful, colorful bouquet of flowers sitting on the table and smelling so sweet for when Josh arrived home from work. Well, my little brain got to thinking some more and I had an idea. I could make a fun game out of this! I picked up flowers from people’s yards (shame on me) but didn’t care. There were so many different varieties of flowers at each house; I was amazed. And these are just the wild flowers of New Zealand that grow so freely! I felt guilty any time a car drove by and I tried to hide them behind my back. I just knew I was going to get in trouble.
I was practically skipping when I got back to our flat. I picked some more from our pathway and I had one of the most gorgeous bouquets I had ever seen. God’s flowers! I put them in one of our coffee mugs and was feeling quite happy. I knew I was running out of time if I wanted to do what I had planned in my mind, and I had to hurry; I really wanted it to work out. I was going to plan a scavenger hunt for when Josh arrived home from work. Well, I started on it, and was going to put a picture of us, our engagement picture with a note on it from me onto the desktop on our laptop, but then I couldn’t figure out how to change the background. It wasn’t working for me! I was obviously already stirred up emotionally, and I found that to be the last straw. I wished someone were videotaping me that day because I sure was creating my own soap opera. After that mishap, I threw myself onto the bed dramatically with my hand to my brow and just wept. I guess I was in need of a good cry, because I sure let it all out. I cried for a long time. It’s kind of funny now in retrospect, but it wasn’t then. I felt so hopeless and I just wanted to go home where everything was easy and simple. Where I could have bought a V-Day gift for Josh, several in fact, and where I could have driven one block over to Target or Walmart and had a heyday with the amount of perfect cards to choose from. I lay there for a long time, deciding I would be a baby and that the day was ruined and I would stay like that until Josh came home and just wallow in my misery and make our night worse.
Alas, though, I got over myself. I started working frantically and writing notes, or the clues on pieces of paper. I used my creativity and thought of different places to put the slips of paper and make him have to figure out where to look next. I was hoping it wouldn’t be too hard, and that he would figure it out otherwise we would be in trouble! It was actually a lot of fun! I even discovered how to leave the photo of us in which I wrote another clue, to just leave it on the screen for when Josh opened up our laptop. Everything was finally coming together. I had to hurry, because he was going to be home soon. I put on a dress and got my makeup all pretty and put on my fancy, long, dangly diamond earrings and my scarf from our honeymoon in Santorini, grabbed my tennis shoes and purse, locked the front door, and left our flat. Where was I going? You might be wondering. Josh was going to have to find his present, and I wasn’t going to make it that easy for him.
We had recently discovered beautiful walking trails right down the street from our flat, that led to an amazing lookout over the Pacific Ocean, at the very southern point of the North Island. On a good day, we could even see the awe-inspiring silhouettes of the South Island’s mountains in the distance. We had walked there together the night before, and watched the golden sunset, taking in the beauty.
So, I hiked to that point (yes, in my dress, but I did bring my tennis shoes which I switched into once I got off the main road) where the bench was that we sat on the night before. I thought that was such a romantic place. The clues, if Josh understood them all, were going to lead him to his Valentine’s Day present, which was, of course . . . Me!
I left the house at 5:00, rushing and hoping that Josh wouldn’t get home early and see me and ruin it all. Takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get to the lookout, so I waited there. And waited. And waited some more. He usually got home around 5:45, and I was just praying that he wasn’t stuck on one of the clues, otherwise this plan wouldn’t work. We only had one cell phone between us at the time, not even a landline, so I was beginning to imagine all the possibilities of how this could go wrong and if he didn’t find me, and then I went home, but then he was looking for me, and then filed a missing persons report with the police! The sun was shining and it was so beautiful and I thought how neat it would be for him to see me sitting at the top of the hill all dressed up, just waiting for him. It kept getting later, and then some dark clouds started rolling in again and I just knew I was going to get drenched. Oh, please work!
A feeling of relief and nervousness and excitement and happiness overcame me when I saw him appear around the bend down below and look up at me. He was smiling so big, so happy to see me. And, I could tell he was tired and out of breath, haha. It was actually a pretty steep climb, and he took the harder route too, and had his backpack on. I hoped he wasn’t upset and that I hadn’t ruined any of his plans or making us be rushed, but his smile made me know that all he cared about was to see his wife. He got to the top and I was holding a notebook that I had been writing a letter for him and on one of the pages I had written in big, block letters, “Happy Valentine’s Day!!!” and underneath that in small letters, “I love you Josh! Here is your Valentine’s Day gift…ME!!!” I was holding this up for him as he walked up to me. He was going on about how he couldn’t believe I had done this, and that it was the coolest, best thing anyone had ever done for him. Then I got up and hugged and kissed him, and he told me how beautiful I was. It was all so very sweet. We stood there a few minutes talking about how he found me and what he was thinking, and then just taking in our surroundings again. I said I hoped I didn’t ruin tonight’s plans or make us behind, but he said we were still great on time. Success!
We walked back to our flat, and I could tell just how happy Josh was and how he appreciated what I had done for him. I told him the whole story, too, haha. Got back home, and he finished getting ready, then we headed out the door for the plans he had made for us. In the car was a gift for me, a chocolate candy flower with the most delicious truffle inside that tasted like a brownie. He had taken a nibble out of it already, haha, which I thought was quite funny.
A big surprise was where he was taking me for dinner. I had always been talking about and obsessed with this restaurant we always drove by in Wellington on the waterfront, and our favorite area, Oriental Parade. It was a restaurant out on the water, and converted from an old ship. I thought it looked so cool, and been begging for us to go eat there one day, but we had never gone yet. So he told me that’s where we were going. Yay! And he pulled out movie tickets, which I had been telling him forever that I wanted to see, “The Vow” starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. I had seen the preview with my friend Adeline when we went to the movies together one time, and I thought how romantic it looked and that Josh and I had to go see it. My husband did good.
We did end up being behind though, which I felt a little bad for, but also the restaurant took ages to bring us our food; the kitchen was obviously extremely backed up. He was stressed, and then I was stressed because it was getting to be where we would only have like 10 minutes to scarf down our food. We still had to drive to the theatre which wasn’t too far away but we were worried about parking (a nightmare to find and extremely expensive….the parking Nazis live in Wellington). Tick, tock, tick, tock. Great, we were going to miss our movie which Josh had already booked online for. They finally brought us our food, and I do believe we inhaled it in five minutes (and I am the slowest eater ever!). The steak was delicious, the best one I had had since our time here, as I have been extremely disappointed and not found one I liked yet. Potatoes au gratin and fresh green beans; mmm, those were the best! Wished I could have enjoyed it more, but we hurried and rushed out the door and Josh peeled out of the parking lot. “Calm down! It’s okay baby.” I felt bad though.
We were lucky to find a parking spot in like the only parking lot in all of downtown that the theatre is fortunate to have instead of searching for a parallel spot on the street (which Josh is extremely good at parallel parking; I have been so impressed with him for). Got into the theatre to see the movie had already started which was a bummer, and I think we had only missed about the first five to ten minutes, so it wasn’t that bad.
The movie was good, pretty romantic and sweet, and got us both thinking those “what if that happened to us” questions. I think it made Josh very troubled, haha. I wasn’t super impressed with the movie, but we still really enjoyed it and our time together. We walked out of the theatre holding hands and feeling weird that we were in Wellington, New Zealand celebrating our first Valentine’s Day together as husband and wife. Of all places, never thought we would be where we were that day. It was pretty cool.
So, I learned to improvise, like I said earlier, and that living in a foreign country is not easy. But I also learned, or remembered, that I am one lucky girl. I have the sweetest husband in the world, Josh Fears, who I am so thankful for and in love with, and who loves me more than anything in this world. I feel this love from him every day. He is so good to me. I learned that gifts, and even my favorite thing of giving cards, don’t really matter. I know, I know, I’m sounding like a Hallmark commercial, though they wouldn’t approve of my last statement. But really, all that matters was our love for each other, and being together.
JF + LF = LOVE