Warning: This post contains a lot of complaining. Please do not be offended, it is me merely speaking my honest thoughts and adjusting to a new culture and dealing with homesickness. I’m not buttering up and lying about my experience, just telling my honest truth. Past posts and future posts you will see me praising New Zealand. This is not a very praise NZ one, so just giving a heads up.
The first few days of being a stay-at-home wife weren’t too shabby, I must say. It was so nice to finally have a break from the stress and figuring out what we were doing, and to be able to not have to go to work full-time like I’ve been used to since graduating college. I forgot what it was like to sleep in. I love sleeping, always been a big fan of it, so it was great to get caught up. I found myself feeling something I wasn’t expecting though. Guilt. I felt guilty! After a few days of waking up late, doing dishes, laundry, and cooking, I still felt like I should be at work. What am I doing? I’m wasting time! My mind was still in that work mode, work is your life, that I found myself feeling anxious and stressed inside because I wasn’t doing anything, and that just didn’t seem right. But, there were the days that I would tell myself that this was okay, to enjoy this break that I had and focus on writing again and enjoying the views of the ocean outside and to just relax. It was also a change to be cooking again. I hadn’t done much of that at all once Josh and I got married back in Texas. I always felt so worn out and exhausted by the time I got home from work that I couldn’t imagine cooking. I enjoyed cooking when we were dating and even before that since being on my own, but I guess my job had gotten more stressful since we got back from the honeymoon, new adjustment with married life, etc., so I just didn’t want to do it, haha. Josh actually enjoys cooking, or more rather, grilling. I love his steaks and pork chops, and I wish we had a grill today so I could enjoy his creations. He is very creative, and I was amazed when I found a guy who was able to cook. He didn’t even follow recipes either, which put me to shame, haha.
Anyways, so I was quite happy and felt like I was actually being a Betty Crocker wife when I had dinner made and ready on the table for Josh when he came home. This only happened once. Haha. Well, possibly twice. This doesn’t mean I only cooked for him twice, I’ve continued cooking for us, but I’m usually in the process of making it when he gets home. Some evenings, I would keep glancing out our window as we are on top of the hill and we can see the road down below, and get excited when I would catch a glimpse of our little red car about to drive up the road. Josh even said he saw me waving one time! Haha. I would be very ready for Josh to get home. Maybe it’s just a new wife thing and others can relate to this, but I wanted everything to be perfect for when he got home. It made me so happy to have dinner ready and waiting for him, and I felt bummed the first few times when it wasn’t finished. I got over that, though. Ha, not really, you know what I mean; I’m sure that feeling is common of wanting to make her husband happy after a long day at work and just be his sweet little wife cookin’ biscuits for him in the kitchen.
Because of the ridiculously high cost of living, and especially eating out, we learned, and, proud to say, that we both took turns cooking at home. So much cheaper! Eating out in New Zealand, or maybe it’s just a Wellington thing, either way, it is not easy we had also discovered. We had our bouts of homesickness often, always for our families, but also for the things we had taken for granted in America, like how much cheaper it is to eat out, that there’s fast food joints on every corner (though of course not always the best option, but oh well!), and with the hours that places stay open. Oh yeah, and good luck finding a parking spot. I guess that can be downtown in any city of any country, but we found this to be quite annoying. Thank goodness Josh was doing all the driving and parking, parallel parking scares me and I can’t do it. Seriously, don’t ever ask me to parallel park your car. It will be demolished. We had also found that we didn’t like much of the food, there were only a couple restaurants I had found that I actually liked something.
Let me illustrate this better for you. Think about a typical, average sized city in America. I will compare where we were living before coming here, Tyler, Texas (population around 100,000) to Wellington (population roughly 200,000, with suburbs included the area population is around 400,000) I can see it clearly. All the restaurants are generally on two main roads in Tyler…Broadway and The Loop. You see a restaurant one after another. Several options to choose from, and there are more scattered throughout the city. At the time of living in Tyler, I thought there were no choices there, but boy was I wrong, and how I actually longed to be back there on the days we were feeling super homesick. A few of our options would have been: Cheddars, Texas Roadhouse, Chilis, Applebee’s, Outback, TGIF, Olive Garden, Mercados (Mexican food is not good here, but I guess that makes sense), Rudy’s, El Chico, etc. Fast food I could go on and on about, but a few that I found myself desperately missing were Jack in the Box, Chick-fil-A, Church’s Chicken (haha), Wendy’s, Sonic, Whataburger, Schlotzskys, Dairy Queen. Imagine if you lived in a place and you no longer had those options? Ever?! They do have McDonald’s here, and I guess it’s the closest I’ve found resembling the ones back home, except for their breakfast food. Subway is basically the same here, and KFC is pretty close except they don’t have biscuits. What? I know. That is a sin to a girl growing up in Texas. Instead of biscuits they are rolls with the sesame seeds that you imagine in a cheap, plastic packet on sale at the supermarket. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a buttery, honey-glazed, crispy topped, warm inside biscuit from Church’s chicken. Good grief, I’m making myself hungry writing this. I must stop with the details. Well, those options of limitless food you are used to are not available here. There are several restaurants, but I guess they are hard to find and are hole in the wall type places. If you find a restaurant, you will most likely find it downtown, and it will take you forever to find a spot. When you find a spot, you have to pay of course, and parking is robbery. On average you have to pay $3 to $4 an hour. The restaurants back home, there were parking lots! Not parallel parking spaces you had to hunt down, but HUGE parking lots the size of America! And you don’t have to pay to park there. Apparently, the Nazis still exist. They sit on the power lines in downtown Wellington, like the creepy Birds movie, watching to see if you put the coins in the slot and get a parking slip and put it in view on your dashboard. If you don’t, boy, you better believe it; they WILL get you. And if you are a minute past the time allowed on your slip, those vultures shriek with anger as they fly down and grab all your money from your hands and pockets, then, after they are down robbing you, they pick you up with their talons and carry you off into the ocean. That’s how we felt about the parking police here, anyways. Harsh, I know, but in order to prevent the ozone layer being destroyed and polluting the country, jacking up the prices of public transport (the bus) and prices of parking and making every one go broke if they park in the wrong spot or for a few minutes over . . . that ain’t the way to do it. I’m sure you can already tell we had a run-in with one of these tickets, but that story is for another day.
Besides all this, the restaurant hours don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense either. Several times, when we did find a place to eat, they either said, “we’re not serving dinner yet” or “anymore”. The kitchen is closed. Excuse me? Isn’t 6, 7 or 8 ‘o’ clock the normal time when the rest of the world eats supper? Would you like a drinks menu, though? No thank you. You can imagine our frustration when we had to walk away and attempt to find another place that was serving food at the moment.
After one of these times when we couldn’t find a place to simply have a date night and eat dessert at 8:00, Josh said something I will never forget and I totally agreed with at that moment; “New Zealand is a frustrating country.”
I have found the food to taste different here also. My stomach hasn’t always reacted too well, either, and has often just felt upset and unhappy. It’s in the little things that can make a difference. I think my senses are really high like smell, and my taste buds are therefore even more sensitive and recognize these minor changes from what I’m used to. I’ve already mentioned the tomato sauce is sweeter and different from ketchup (though you can find the kind like in America in the grocery stores), the butter has a weird taste and is definitely not margarine and most people leave it out at room temperature instead of in the fridge because otherwise it gets hard. People also leave eggs out, which I have never understood, and they are creamy brown, so free range. And the milk…bleh! Josh and I have finally discovered that is probably what upsets our stomachs the most, I feel it making my stomach turn sour, so I no longer eat cereal with milk in the mornings and try to limit the use of it.
So, as you can see, there have been several advantages besides the cost for us deciding to eat in more. We always go to the grocery store together, which has been fun, and so much better than going alone. Josh even goes to the store by himself sometimes, and I don’t have to beg, or even ask him to! I have yet to go solo, though, for I am too afraid.
It’s been interesting being a housewife, and sometimes quite a challenge. Let me explain.
We have no dishwasher. For the price we are paying, which is quite a low price for the view, I guess that comes with some sacrifices. There were a few places when we were looking that didn’t have one, which I didn’t think would be a problem, but I was surprised to find. That is something I have obviously taken for granted, and has been an assumption growing up that every home has one of these. I remember doing the dishes with my sister as chores growing up, even though we had a dishwasher, I’m pretty sure in every house we ever lived in. I suppose it was to give us a working ethic. And to prepare me for here. It was like stepping back in time. All the kitchen sinks I’ve ever seen and known, well, they have two compartments. A big tub to put the dishes in to put the bubbles in and place a big pile of dishes in there and soak and pick each one up as you go and wash it. Then you have the other big compartment to either stack the dishes and wait to rinse them, or rinse as you go and let the soapy water drain off in that separate sink. My sister and I often would take turns doing this, and we would have fun and splash soap suds at each other and sometimes end up fighting, but it is a good memory I have nonetheless.
Anyways, well that scenario makes sense of how to properly and efficiently hand wash your dishes. But what about when your sink has only one compartment? I found that to be quite curious and an intriguing question. You have to be as methodical as you possibly can, I learned. It’s a dread to wash dishes now. I fill the sink up just a little bit with soapy water and try to wash several at a time, and leaving them in the sink until I have a collection, then turn the water on moderately to rinse (into the same tub of course, which accumulates water fast and so I have to keep draining it as I go). The water also gets dirty fast this way so I drain it and restart over a lot as it just doesn’t seem possible that they could really be getting cleaned and certainly not sanitized. Then I try to be strategic when I put them on the dish rack to dry, so there will be room, but that is never easy and the dishes just fall and clamber and clash and almost break. Not always a very relaxing process, though sometimes I actually have enjoyed it (especially with the view of the planes flying and ships coming into the harbor) and gives me time to think. It was a chore and ended up being an unsuccessful attempt to find a dish rack that had a bottom with it. No strainer for the water to drain out of and back into the sink so it won’t get on the wooden counter. We looked everywhere and even asked, but apparently they don’t make those or ship them here, they just come with the rack. So we use a dish towel instead to soak up the water and get damp and smelly. Haha. It takes a lifetime to wash dishes by hand and I do miss the dishwasher. I should have appreciated those when I had them! Josh and I would laugh at our sink and when you take out the heavy metal stopper on a chain to drain, it has the loudest suction I’ve ever heard, I was sure it was to take me down with it too. It scares me!
We are lucky to have a washing machine. I am very grateful for that.
Unfortunately, however, we do not have a dryer. I was surprised when we were moving in and meeting with the owner of the building and the leasing agent to hand us the keys, because I had thought there was a dryer when we first looked at it. Instead, beside the washing machine was a wash tub (which I still don’t know the point of that, either, guess I need to ask someone), which I guess was what I had been thinking of when we looked at it. I asked them if there was a way we could get a dryer later on if we wanted to, and the owner said we couldn’t! Because there wasn’t even a hook-up for it! Haha. He had taken that out a while back, because no one had ever used it anyways. And, he said cheerfully (he is a happy, positive fellow, and has been a great owner and made sure we are taken care of), “Just hang it out there, and it will be dry in 10 minutes flat.” Hmmm…I was skeptical considering what I’d already seen and heard of Wellington’s cold and wet and often cloudy weather. Being on a hill, or mountain, whatever you want to call it, this also meant we were exposed to the winds. Instead of the north winds, or south winds, or winds from the east or west, well, I never really knew or cared or was told by the weather forecaster back home which direction the wind was coming from or if it even mattered, I would just know that it was windy! However, here, you always hear the terms, “Southerlies” or “Northerlies”. Clip those clothes on tight buddy, for we were in for a ride living in the Windy city, on top of a mountain, at the bottom of the North Island!
I can handle washing the dishes in a very unpractical kitchen sink, but I have never had a good attitude about hanging our clothes on the line instead of chunking them into a dryer. “Well, you just gotta roll with the punches, Lindsey!” You might be saying. I don’t always roll with the punches, and I don’t believe you can always make lemonade when life gives you lemons.
On a clear, sunny, warm day with no wind or just a small breeze, yes, it’s great and actually relaxing and beautiful to look around me as I hang up our clothes. But here’s how it usually goes.
I step out onto our balcony, and it’s cold. Very cold. And it is summer time, mind you. I have a basket full of wet clothes that instantly turn cold. Then my hands are wet, and it’s windy. Very windy! Wellington is the Windy City. Let me illustrate this better for you; I did some research. In an article entitled, “How windy is Wellington, really?” by Tom Fitzsimons featured on The Dominion Post, it had an interesting piece of information:
248km/h: The highest gust of wind ever recorded in Wellington
29km/h: The average wind speed at Wellington Airport;
18km/h: Chicago’s average wind speed
104km/h: The highest gust at Wellington Airport this spring, on November 28th
233: The number of days winds topped gale-force speed in Wellington’s windiest year.”
The highest gust of wind ever, we have thankfully not been here to experience, but 248 km/h is approximate to 154 mph! The article goes on to say, “And Wellington is much more consistently windy than most places, seeing gusts exceeding gale-force (75km/h) about 175 days every year at the airport”. (We live right by the airport, remember). That would be about 46 mph. We have already experienced a few days since this article was written and that we’ve lived here in our flat where the gusts were between 100 and 120 kph! So, that’s around 60 to 80 miles per hour! One of those days was actually called “the weather bomb”, and I will hopefully include pictures of that in a later post.
Maybe you have a little more sympathy for me now. Haha. And, now back to me hanging up laundry. So, my hands are soon ice and I’m just shivering and trying to hurry as fast as I can. The wind is blowing something fierce nearly every day it seems. Amazingly, I found a place that is actually windier than Lubbock, Texas, a place known for its dust storms that turns the sky brown and leaves dirt on your windowsills. So, there I am attempting to hang up our clothes with these ghetto clips that leave indentions on the clothes once they dry. The whole time, it’s like I have to roll with the punches after all, or that I am in a boxing match, and I’m certainly getting defeated. The clothes and wind work together and are out to get me; slapping me in the face, hitting me in the eye, making me trip and stumble, and even making my hair my enemy with it whipping itself in my face as well and making me go blind. I’m sure it would be a sight to see, and I just grumble and get so mad and talk to myself, haha. And forget trying to hang the sheets! That has been the biggest nightmare of all. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to hang those things up, and they kept swallowing me up and eating me like a bug getting caught in a Venus Fly trap. I could see the headlines now, “Death by Sheet.” They kept coming off the clips and then swelling up into a big balloon, I thought it was going to carry me off to Never Never Land. I could relate to Mr. Frodo, again! Haha. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. . . and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
I guess the laundry has to just pile up during the weeks that it’s cloudy and rainy, because you put the clothes out to dry and they never do, or they just get wet again, or blow away. We’ve seen a couple of articles of clothing that belong to us in the bush down below; maybe a wild animal will use them for a blanket. Or we can go to a laundry mat; I suppose that’s what we will have to do in winter. I don’t understand not having a dryer these days, or a dryer connection; this isn’t the time of the Great Depression, we are decades past that. It saves energy, but, is it worth all the time and energy and frustration? I don’t think so, haha. And especially it is not worth any of this living in Wellington, because of its weather. Our clothes are getting all stretched out and they are always wrinkled and cold when you put them on. Oh, how I long for a dryer, to put on clothes hot and soft and wrinkle free, fresh out of the dryer. Sigh . . .
These are some of our frustrations and things we’ve been adjusting to and dealing with. It hasn’t always been easy, but then there are the good, and beautiful days when the sun is warm and looking out our window we just can’t believe it. Or walking along the harbor and soaking up the sun and reveling in the days that are nice.
As the saying here goes, “You can’t beat Welly on a good day!”
Just pray that you don’t have an ugly day in Wellington . . . cold, cloudy, and rainy, or days with gale force winds. And pray for money, too, a lot of it! A good attitude would help as well, but this post is not a good example of that from me!