Culture Shock

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” — Frank Herbert

We arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, or to our new home, on Thursday, December 8th—exactly a month since the day we boarded the jet plane in Texas. It was such a relief to know we had finally decided where we were going to settle for our year in NZ; and we both felt completely in agreement that this is where we were supposed to be, no more moving around! How funny that coming here we thought we were just going to be vagabonders for a while, well, I guess we were in the end, considering how much we moved around for the first month as soon as we got here, but by this time, it was just completely exhausting emotionally and physically and we were wanting to have a house or apartment of our own to move into. But, of course, you have to have a job first to make that part work, which, was one hitch in our move to Wellington, something we didn’t have yet, but we weren’t too worried about that part falling into place. When Josh and I had first started just talking about moving to NZ and hadn’t completely decided on it yet, the first contacts we made were with the church members in Wellington, which was our first pick when just talking about it, that we would move there. That changed from day to day as we finally decided we were going to do this, and bought the plane tickets back in August. We researched job sites online on TradeMe and Backpacker Board NZ, finding different jobs that interested us throughout the country. We did want to travel around for our first couple months here, and thought we might would eventually end up in Wellington after we lived in Hanmer Springs for a while, and then maybe Nelson. Funny how it all worked out in the end and that we ended up where we first thought we might live one day those many, many months ago in our home town (which now seems like a lifetime ago!). Interestingly enough as well, that Keith, a great Kiwi/American friend, was our very first contact in NZ; we talked to him via e-mail all the months leading up to us moving, and he gave us tons of advice and encouragement to help us in our transition.

And now here Josh and I were, living in New Zealand, in Wellington, and now friends with Keith and his wife Elsa, and that they were being such hospitable Christians and letting us stay in their home while we looked for jobs and a place to live. It was just amazing to me, and especially looking back, at how this plan has worked out, and thanks to God’s help. He made this dream possible for us and that it came true, and made the transition so easy, in all reality, with the help we received from our Christian friends.
Josh and I unloaded our car (which has been completely packed to the rim, it’s like playing Tetris trying to get all of our stuff to fit in there!) putting our suitcases and backpacks and whatever else junk we have somehow already accumulated into the Copeland’s house. As far as job prospects, we already had a few that might be a possibility for the upcoming New Year. Ok, here’s how it works in New Zealand, something I have observed and which is completely different from America; during the Christmas and New Year holidays, everything shuts down…for like a month! That is hardly an exaggeration either. New Zealanders, or shall I say, Kiwis, enjoy life to the fullest. That was something we found out right away. Josh was e-mailing all types of businesses asking about possible employment and we both were applying online for jobs, and most of the responses we received were that they would know more and get back with us or interview after the New Year. They were about to go on holiday. Businesses, or most of them, seriously shut down and go on holiday for like three weeks surrounding Christmas. Not all do, but most said that they would get back with us after the holiday. This was not the best timing I guess for me and Josh, however, to find a job and was a bit frustrating. But lucky for the businesses! Also, how it works here, which knocked me off my feet and blew me out of the water when I first heard about this deal . . . for most professional jobs in NZ, employers give their employees not one, not two, not three, but FOUR (4) WEEKS PAID VACATION!!! I’m not lying, I know, that is so hard to believe as an American that this could be possible, I thought people were pulling my leg when they told me this. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working there, even if just a year, you get this wonderful gift. Good grief, at my last job and how it works for everybody else too in the States I guess, you get one week’s paid vacation for working there a year, and thereafter, if you’ve been there two years, then you accumulate two weeks paid vacation. Which, in the end, I didn’t get a full two weeks even though I worked my little butt off for two full years. Hmmm….maybe America should take a hint from how people live their life in New Zealand, I mean that’s what I’m talking about and how it should be! It’s not all Work, Work, Work, slaving away in a crammed office wasting your life away doing pointless, monotonous work that you get no credit for in the end, and no play, just work, go home, and go to bed, and then the same thing the next day. And work so hard just to get that one week, or two if you are really lucky, vacation that you might be able to afford. No, in New Zealand, people like to get off work at five, if they have an 8 to 5 job, and I mean leave the office at five. In general, from what I’ve heard and seen thus far, they don’t stay at the office until 8 or 9 at night and go up on the weekends, a slave to their jobs, but they go home at 5 and on the weekends to their families, or go outside to play; play outside in this beautiful playground that God made for us to enjoy. And by giving their employees 4 weeks paid vacation; that truly says enough right there.
There is a balance, or should be, in life between work and play. And in order for us to play, Josh and I still desperately needed to find a job.

 

At last, Josh got an interview scheduled for the following week, set up with an employment agency, and then I had luck with applying for temporary receptionist jobs as I got word back from another employment agency as well scheduling me for an interview after the holiday break, on January 9th. That was a long time to wait, but made me very happy and hopeful. Josh had his interview for December 12th, which he went to, and said it went very well. The agency said he would be hearing back from them in the next few weeks after they pass on his information to different businesses. It was frustrating to have to wait until after the holidays, and we hoped we would really hear back from them, which I had hopes we would because, well, of course anybody would want to hire my smart husband! In the meantime, we shared a home with Keith and Else for the next couple weeks, who was in and out a lot for work, until he left to go to Mexico. We hadn’t been hearing back from Josh’s interview yet, and we were needing money and to have a secured job; we honestly felt a little lost and pretty down. Everything had basically shut down, which was annoying because there was nothing we could really do until after the holidays . . . just wait and hear back from the places we applied, and hope good would come from his interview and my upcoming one.
Then one day mid-December, Josh got a call from one of the places he had e-mailed to see if they needed any work, and it was a contractor who did jobs for property management. This didn’t sound too exhilarating, but we were happy to have work! What was even better, was that Josh and I would get to work together (yes, we were still happy and in love despite the stressful circumstances . . .we enjoy each other’s company J). It was commercial and residential cleaning for a property management company. I can’t say I’ve ever done that before, but it was actually interesting to me as Josh and I drove together across town to a house overlooking the ocean, and waited for the owner of the company to come and show us how to clean houses. I laughed to myself at what we were doing; I never pictured Josh and I doing that, though I guess we were imagining us working for hotels/resorts doing reception and/or housekeeping, and this was pretty close to the latter part. Our boss man finally showed up; his name was Erol. We walked up the many steps (all the houses are built on the mountain sides, so I am finally getting calf muscles that I always wanted!) to the house and met the lady who lived there. She was pregnant, due in two weeks she said, so as I waited for Josh and Erol to bring up the cleaning supplies, she and I stood at the window looking at the amazing view she had, and just talked for awhile. She was really nice and I told her where we were from and about our working holiday visa, which she thought was really neat that we could do that now, and said she always wanted to do something like that too. The lady also talked and bragged about NZ, so that was really cool, I thought. I actually felt really good inside too that we were helping her out, as she said the house chores are nearly impossible for her to do now in her condition. She stayed in the house nearly the whole time we cleaned, which felt a little weird, but wasn’t too bad. I spent the time cleaning the bathroom while Josh did the kitchen and Erol helped clean too and gave us some helpful hints. I didn’t mind the work that day, and I would go in the kitchen every now and then or wherever Josh was and we would just kind of smile at each other and tell the other what a good job they were doing. Josh strapped the vacuum pack on his back (that was a sight to see; he actually likes vacuuming lol, which I don’t mind at all because I have always hated doing that almost more than anything!) and I mopped, which I have hardly ever done in my life because I think it’s pointless and gross and doesn’t do the job like a Swiffer Spray Jet does! It wasn’t so bad though, and it took us about two hours to clean the house.

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After we were done and gathering our supplies to take back to the van, we talked with Erol for a bit and I learned that his thick foreign accent was actually Turkish. He talked about his culture and how he ended up in New Zealand; he had left Turkey a number of years ago to immigrate to New Zealand leaving his Turkish/German/English interpreting career behind. I found him to be one of the most interesting people we had met thus far, from the stories we had already heard from him. He warned us of how the city was going to clear out in a few days almost completely, as everyone leaves the city and goes up north to vacation for the holidays. Wellington becomes like a ghost town, he said. I wished we could go vacation up in Auckland and the Bay of Islands, where you can actually swim in the water because it’s warm enough. People do swim in the ocean around Welly, but I think they are crazy; it is freezing! Most of them wear wet suits too. So, I wasn’t looking forward to the ghost town part. He also talked about upcoming work for us, that it would get busier in January because we would have a lot of property management end of lease cleaning work; where you thoroughly clean the empty house from top to bottom. It had to be spotless he said, because the property managers inspect it and are very strict. At least that meant we had jobs lined up in the future, and would be kept busy until we found another job. That is, if we even got something else, for we were thinking we might be okay if we both worked doing this together, and we would have more freedom. It was good for now, though, was all that we knew; at $15/hour. We completed that job around lunch time, and Erol said he had more work for later that day (I was thinking, oh no! haha, I didn’t want to work anymore, I was done for the day in my head), but learned that it was a job for Josh, to go with Erol after lunch to go clean gutters. “Whew!” A sigh of relief from me. We laughed nearly the whole way to McDonalds, laughing still at what we were doing, and that Josh was going to be riding with Erol in a white van filled with cleaning supplies, and going to clean gutters! Oh well, more money for us, which we needed. For the next few days, there were no houses to clean, but only gutters. Josh said that in NZ you have to have some kind of special training or certification to legally clean gutters, so Josh spent the time holding the ladder for Erol, as he told stories of his life in Turkey and how one day he wanted to open a kebab shop here, which kebabs are now Josh’s favorite food.
Now, throughout this time, the weeks of December and even into January, I found it to definitely be one of the toughest times, and when the culture shock seemed to have completely sunk in. We both remembered by then what Kevin Moore had told us and prepared us for when he picked us up that day which seemed ages ago, when we first arrived in New Zealand the month before. He said it was a normal thing to go through, to first get to a new place and be so excited and in awe of everything because it was new; even the things that were different from back home, which we find interesting at the time. He said that would last for a while, but then the phase would come of culture shock where those things that you found new and cool because it was different in the beginning will then annoy you, even the little things, and you will feel sad and even depressed, and of course with being homesick and missing family and friends back home. He said he and his wife had these feelings, and these are completely normal; that it can last a period of time, but that the negative, sad part will eventually pass and we will feel back to normal. He was definitely right. I had studied about this phase too and learned about it in an Intro to Missions class I took at LCU, and had experienced it a little myself when spending a summer on a mission trip in Mexico.
The negative and depressed feelings had definitely arrived. We found ourselves complaining about everything, I certainly was. Instead of being grateful for all that had gone right and how we were being taken care of, I just complained because of the things that were different from back home. And it’s always all in the little things too, that sometimes make the most impact. It’s not like we were in the slums of Africa or in a completely different from America culture like India or China, and maybe that’s why it was so hard. I had been warned of that too, before coming here, by church friends who lived in NZ but were from the States; that it’s things you don’t expect to be different, not obvious culture differences, but you would just notice along the way and that would annoy you. You don’t have to move to a country that speaks a different language to experience culture shock; for we were in a place that was completely different nonetheless, even if just small things, they build up and start to get to you. An example; the bathroom situation. In every place we had stayed or been in thus far (besides the hotels) and the flats we had looked at (we had already looked at a couple in Wellington, of which I will talk about later), there was something I found that really made me scratch my head and ponder the meaning of. The toilet (you say here, “I need to use the toilet” or “I’m going to the toilet” instead of “I’m going to the restroom” or “bathroom”) is in a separate little room entirely set apart from the rest of the “bathroom”. So, you open the door into a tiny little space that you can barely turn around in, where the toilet is, then after you are done with your business, you go out of that room, back out into the hallway, and then into the “bathroom” where the sink and shower are. Why are they separated? I have no idea. To some, that may not seem like a big deal and maybe I sound dramatic, but that was something completely unfamiliar and foreign to me, and something I did not understand, but found simply annoying.
Also, the majority of the houses here are very old, and cheaply made, and feels like we are still living in the 1970’s (if you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t like that time era, though I didn’t live back then to know if it was good or not, but I hate the music, décor, clothes, everything). I’m sorry if it sounds like I am bashing New Zealand, I guess I kind of am, but these were just my honest thoughts and feelings, and you will probably see throughout this blog that I will complain about NZ and America, and I will also praise both places for different aspects of these two countries I have now experienced living in. The toilet room is usually in the middle of the house, which I have found very awkward in that something else I had learned to despise was how quiet it was inside the houses. I haven’t mentioned this yet, which was another shocker to me, but there is no central heat and air, or ceiling fans. I still can’t get over that and not sure if I ever will. People just leave their windows open in the summer to keep cool and have fresh air flowing so the house doesn’t stay damp, and in the winter, they freeze. At least, I guess that is what we will have to do once that arrives, I was thinking to myself at the time. Some homes have a heat pump, kind of like a portable air conditioner unit, just heat, but most do not as these are very expensive to install. So, in order to keep warm, buy a little space heater and not an electric blanket as they have back home, but a heat pad, that you lay on top of the mattress and under your sheets, and turn it on before you come to bed so that your tush will be plenty warm when you at last fall asleep. And, dress in layers if it gets cold in the house, so we had been advised. I’m not a big fan at all of being cold, and I have always cranked up the heater and loved listening to the sound of it ventilating throughout the rooms of the houses, apartments, and duplex I have lived in throughout all of my life up until now. Yes, it is December in New Zealand, which is mid-summer as the seasons are reversed as you may well be aware, but it still has gotten very cold at night, so I can only imagine the winter time. I guess another thing that I loved and never realized about central heat and A/C back home not only for its practicality in keeping people either warm, or cool, but for the sound of it. For those of you reading this back home, this might be hard to understand, but imagine, or if you really want to experience what I mean, just go and turn off your heater right now (as I know it is winter there now, so hard to believe). Then, just sit there until you get really cold to know how that feels, but also, sit there and listen to . . . the quiet. Maybe me and Josh are the only ones who have a problem with that, but when you are used to hearing the noise of either the heater or the air conditioner going on your whole life (especially living in Texas), then the sound of a completely utterly still and quiet house is unnerving.
It has been so much of a problem for Josh, that as soon as we got here, well after a couple of weeks I guess, when we could hardly stand the silence at night, he went and bought a portable, six-inch tall fan to listen to the sound and be able to fall asleep. That is one of his quirks, I learned early on in our marriage, that he has always, and has to, and I mean HAS TO, sleep with a fan going. When we got married, he brought in this big, huge, ugly box fan into our bedroom and turned it on high that sounded like we were in an airport hangar with all the plane’s engines on full blast. If I tried to turn it off (which I have done a few times) well, I definitely learned what makes Josh tick and how to push his buttons is to mess with his fan. And, he has learned that I have to sleep with a lamp on. Somehow, though, I have gotten the bottom end of that deal, though he does do every thing else for me and does everything to make me happy, that is something I have mostly gotten the shaft on. Living alone and on my own for two and a half years before getting married, I had gotten used to the comfort of having either my leopard or maroon lamp on at night, which made me feel safe and the soft warm colors were comforting and always coaxed me to sleep. Since I’m married now and no longer sleeping alone, I should feel safe and not need a night light anymore, says he, and he can’t sleep with it on, but I think he has a problem too in his obsession with the fan. What can I say, there have been many a fight or sleepless nights all because of a fan and all because of a lamp (and a stubborn boy named Josh and a stubborn girl named Lindsey). We have gotten much better, I am proud to admit, and have found ourselves more compromising on this issue as we have matured in our relationship and in our marriage (most nights).
I digress, again. So back to the bathroom. Another thing is the toilets don’t flush like they do in America. And, the biggest puzzler of all I have found in many a bathroom is at the sink. There is not one faucet, but two. On the left, is the nozzle, or faucet, with the big red “H” on it. Well, from that faucet comes out, yep, you got it right, hot water. On the right hand side of the sink (the sinks are tiny as well, by the way) is the faucet for cold water. There is no magical third faucet in the middle for warm water, or even lukewarm water. Nope. So, when you want to wash your hands, and I’ve even found this in some kitchens, you can imagine what happens. You either freeze to death or burn your hand off; there is no in between. When trying to wash my face, I would cup my hand and fill it first with cold water, then hot, wait for it to cool off a bit in my hand before it all dripped out, then splash my face. I tried that a couple times, but soon decided I would just have to go without washing my face, and have a face full of zits. Apparently, this separate hot and cold faucet thing was a popular trend when building the homes in New Zealand way back in the day. I thought to myself, you know, I would really like to meet the genius who came up with this design and no, not shake his hand, but slap him up the side of the head and yell, “What were you thinking??!!” It was after these negative and angry emotions and outbursts I would feel inside that I would then feel bad and wonder what was wrong with me; I sound so spoiled and ungrateful and that’s really not even a big deal at all, at least we have water, how could I complain? These were my thoughts and feelings though, and I am not sugar coating them, as you can tell, at least concerning our culture shock period. I came across a quote the other day that I really liked and found very applicable. Moslih Eddin Saadi said, “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” Well, I know I certainly have my wings all right.
Part of our extreme negativity, I’m sure, had in part to do with our frustration of being in limbo. The current job situation might work out, but we weren’t too hopeful on that being very steady work and pay, which was needed in order for us to find a place to rent. We were on a time limit too, and hoping to find an apartment, flat or house very soon, to finally have a place of our own to call home and not be living off of other people’s hospitality, and to be moved into our place or at least have found one before Keith and Elsa got back. Was this all going to work out after all? Were we just going to get too frustrated and find it too expensive and give up and go home? We had our days when we both would say that in anger and when we were feeling down, and both of us were quite homesick with Christmas quickly approaching. We just had to keep trudging along, and pray about it and have faith that everything was going to work out, which was sometimes easier said than done!

Napier

It was Tuesday, the sixth of December. We didn’t say much on the road back to Napier, just kept thinking about our latest experience. I actually had an interview that afternoon, at a hotel that I had e-mailed the week before, when we knew we were coming to Napier. I had dropped my resume off the day before, and they called asking for me to stop by. That did not go so well. Maybe we were not meant to be in Napier either. I felt horribly depressed and extremely emotional; I didn’t know what we were to do. We drove around again going to different hotels asking if they needed any reception or housekeeping positions available. Still no luck. This hadn’t been a good past couple of days, and Josh knew how upset I was, and knew I needed to rest because I also didn’t feel good. We checked into the motel we had stayed in our first night in Napier, and I had never been so happy to lie on a huge, soft, clean, comfortable bed and have a nice, relaxing, hot shower. I already felt so much better.

We had earlier contacted an elder from the church of Christ in Napier, John Shepherd, to let him know of our situation and that we were thinking of living in this city. He wanted to meet with us during the week sometime, and he called again that day and said he could drive us around and that he also maybe found a place we could rent. We didn’t have a job yet, which is probably what you need first before looking for a home, haha, but we couldn’t keep spending our money on a motel, and we were somehow hopeful we would find a job here. There were orchards and vineyards out the wazoo, so there had to be something; we just had to look hard. It was almost like our situation in Hanmer Springs again; once we are in a place, we hit the ground running to make it work out, sometimes without really thinking too hard about if we really like the place or not. If we weren’t desperate before, we definitely were now, we felt we needed to make this work. Mr. Shepherd picked us up, and I was so happy to meet him, he was so nice and easy to talk to and had quite a sense of humor. I enjoyed listening to him and Josh talk; he was like a grandpa-type figure in our story. He showed us a place for rent he had seen in the paper that was pretty cheap, which we drove by but found the location not in a good area. He then took us to meet his wife, Anne, at their home. We stayed there for a few minutes just chatting, getting to know each other, and talking about ideas of finding jobs for us. I really liked both of them so much, and felt comfortable with them. They said we would be in touch and then he dropped us back off at our motel. That night, Josh made dinner in our room and we sat on the balcony, feeling a little better about our situation. We had been surprised though to learn, when we were talking to the Shepherds, about the congregation in Napier, that it was an older generation church, with no one near our age. Our friends in Wellington had given us contact info for a couple around our age who went to that church, which we were glad to know but I guess they had stopped going there in the past few months and were now attending elsewhere. We hadn’t met up with them yet, but I was hoping we would still be able to be friends and hang out with this couple. This was a bit discouraging in a way, to be the youngest couple by a long shot at the church there. Well, maybe that can be a good thing, and we can help this church out by helping with community outreach and help bring in younger families. Josh and I walked to the beach after dinner, and talked about this and talking about the pros and cons of Napier. We decided to still give it a go, and continue job-hunting again in the morning.

The next day, Mr. Shepherd called us and offered for us to stay in their spare bedroom while we were looking for a job and place to rent. How nice! We graciously accepted their offer, and moved all our stuff to their home. We had become quite the vagabonders! Then we went looking for jobs. Now it was like being in Nelson again, stopping at every orchard and vineyard we passed by. We found one vineyard with a café that sounded promising of possible upcoming positions in the café. After looking all day, we drove by a flat (that is what they are called here when there are two or three houses in one building, like a duplex, but most of them here are stacked up on each other as they are built in stair-step design on top of the mountains) that was a very reasonable price. It had a great view with an ocean in the far distance, and we peeked in the windows. I love looking at houses! I think I should be a real estate agent one day. Growing up, my mom and I would love going to open houses together, I remember whenever we were looking to move across town. I had been looking on the Trade Me website (like Craigslists, but with houses for sale/rent also) for months leading up to our move over here, always looking at the houses and excited to see the pictures and dreaming what we would live in when we got here. I always hoped to have a view, but didn’t think that would be too likely because of the extreme higher cost of living in this country.

We went back to the Shepherd’s house that evening and ate pizza and ice cream with them. We really enjoyed their company and hospitality. They left for a while, and Josh and I sat in our room, which was the office filled with bookshelves of spiritual books. It was time to have a talk, again. We had a heart to heart honest talk about what we should do, and what we felt like we both needed. Didn’t have a job here yet, maybe a couple of possibilities, especially with all the work Josh had also been doing in calling and e-mailing different possible employers in an attempt to get us a job as soon as possible. We hadn’t attended the congregation here yet, but I said how I was feeling about the lack of people our age. I said how I need to have friends and Josh said he really wanted that for me (he is always looking out for my well-being, I love him); girl buddies I can talk to. It would be a plus to both have Christian friends our age to relate to and help our Christian walk. Felt like that was something I was really needing at the time, we both knew that is what we needed and to help us grow. We could stay and help the church here as we had said and we considered that, but after talking for an hour about it, we knew the final decision, and in our hearts what was the overall best thing to do. Go back to Wellington! And stay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It felt so good after talking about it and coming to that decision; I felt overwhelmed with relief and happiness. We had already made friends with people in the church in Wellington, and I had a feeling that I would become closer friends with Adeline and Elsa. Josh had guys his age too, and that made me feel good to think about for him. Also, I didn’t mention this earlier, but when we had stayed with Keith that night, he had told us that if it doesn’t work out in Napier and we want to come back to Wellington, that Josh and I could stay at their house for a month, for free! I don’t think I have ever met as such hospitable people as we have in New Zealand. Keith would be at his house a couple more weeks he had said, working until he headed to Mexico for the Christmas holidays to meet up with his wife Elsa, and then they were to stay the rest of the holidays in the States, until they came back the second week of January. I couldn’t believe he had offered that and thought that was so kind, and also didn’t think we would need to take him up on it at the time. However, we knew this might be a lifesaver to us now, as we were wanting to finally find a place to settle down, and we knew where that was. It would also save us so much money while we tried to find a job and place to live in Wellington. We called Keith to see if the invitation was still open, and offered to pay. We were very welcome as the invite was still extended and to not worry about paying.

The next morning, Thursday, Josh got up early and told Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd what we had decided to do. He said they thought that was a good decision for us, so that was really great. I am so glad that we met them and am grateful for their welcoming spirits and the help they gave us.

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Me driving for the second time since we’d arrived…on the busy road this time, though. Aghhh! 

We said goodbye, and this time as we hit the road, we felt better than we ever had. We finally knew what we were doing now. I couldn’t wait to get back to Wellington. Relief, peace, and happiness filled our hearts. The four-hour drive back was a piece of cake and seemed much shorter than our journey a few days earlier. When we arrived in Wellington and saw the harbor sprawled out and the open sea, and the tall buildings, we felt like we were home. At last, we had found it; our new home away from home.

“Time I was on my way . . . Ramble On—North to South”

Tuesday morning (November 15th) we woke up feeling quite rejuvenated and excited. We liked what we had seen so far of Nelson, but our job offers of working at a camp and resort/lodge in Hanmer Springs (an hour and a half away from Christchurch) were calling our name and we wanted to drive down there and check the town out and make a decision to either stay there or come back up to Nelson. Josh had been e-mailing and making several contacts and job possibilities in preparing us to come here, so we had a good place to start upon arriving. We met up with Cameron and Alison, a couple who worked with the church in Nelson and who we had been talking to for a while before coming as we thought we might possibly live in Nelson. It was so great meeting them. They showed us around Nelson…we walked the streets of the cute little town and the weather was perfectly warm and sunny. Nelson is known as being one of the sunniest places in all of New Zealand. We ate at Burger King . . . oh yeah, by the way, they do have a few American chain restaurants here which is good to see. McDonalds (which we eat at like every day!), Subway, and KFC. Anyways, and they also took us up to a lookout point on a big hill overlooking the beach and ocean. I couldn’t believe my eyes! That is one of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen. The water was sky blue and off in the distance we saw mountains . . . the tops dusted with alabaster white snow. It was neat that we had made new friends; Cameron was a native New Zealander and Alison was actually from the States so that was cool since we had a lot to talk about. Went back to their house for a bit and they gave us a wonderful gift, a pretty picture book (my favorite!) of New Zealand’s National Parks. Alison also made us chocolate chip cookies, I think probably some of the best I’ve ever had! We chatted for a while, then Josh and I told of our plans to check out Hanmer Springs to see if we liked it and if not we would come back there.

So we were off . . . Again. I tell you, we really hit the ground running as soon as we got here. Needing to find the right place to settle, with good jobs and most importantly, a good church home we could worship with and help out and who would help us grow spiritually as well. The drive southeast to Hanmer I think was supposed to take like two hours. We left at 2:00 in the afternoon. We were hyper and happy driving along the scenic road to Hanmer, at least for the first half of the journey. We passed through several mountain ranges and more curvy, windy roads with the cliff right beside you and of course the huge logging trucks rounding the corner fast and making us gasp each time. You never come upon those trucks when the road is straight and safe, just when you are turning those sharp corners high above the valleys below. We made several pit stops to take pictures and take in the views. And the SHEEP!!!!! Don’t think I’ve mentioned those yet, but I’d never seen so many, well, really any! They are so cute! They just cover the green pastures and you can see them up in the mountains and hills. I couldn’t help but laugh every time I saw a sheep. Josh and I just wanted to hop the fence and go catch one and hug it. The fields were also covered in flowers too . . .yellow and pink. The closer we started getting to Hanmer, the colder it was getting, and the clouds rolled in. We saw rain in the distance and I begrudged the thought of us having to drive on the mountain roads through that. I got lost in my music listening to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack on my I-Pod, haha. I’ve always loved getting lost in my imagination on road trips. It’s okay to talk every now and then, but even growing up and going on vacation with my family, I would just listen to my own music, (I guess most kids/teenagers do that anyways) look out the window the whole time and just think and imagine adventurous tales. I looked up at the mountains and could see Frodo running away from the Orcs. I’m a nerd, I know, but that’s okay, I admit that when it comes to LOTR.

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Well, what was supposed to be like two hours was becoming a road that never seemed to end. I remember what the Wellingtonians told us of the South Island . . . desolate . . . barren . . . rural. I definitely was feeling that we were entering no man’s land, and feeling it hard. Guess that’s what we have been wanting though, but it really is intimidating once you are in the situation, and not used to it. Maybe I am a city girl at heart? We entered the rain storm, which was brief and wasn’t too bad, but still scary. We passed by a huge river that kept following us along the road and was so beautiful. At last, about 4 ½ hours later, around 6:30 in the evening, we crossed the rickety bridge and into the town, or shall I say, village, of Hanmer Springs. Population: 660. Yep. One of those places where you blink and then it’s gone. Can’t say I was the happiest camper at that moment when we drove into town. This is IT? I thought. We were exhausted and hungry, and both feeling anxious about its extreme remoteness. The towering mountains were hovering over us and I had that suffocating feeling. That might sound weird, but remember, I am a girl born and raised in a land that’s flatter than a pancake, called West Texas. I felt that way for a long time when I first moved to East Texas and the trees blocked my view of the sunsets. The town itself was cute with the little shops, definitely a ski town. That’s where people from Christchurch go to vacation, and it is known for the hot thermal pools. The weather was cloudy and cold and windy and it was sprinkling too, so that didn’t help the mood. Josh and I were, needless to say, irritated and cranky. If I’m in a bad mood, I don’t hide it . . . well, I guess I do except to those closest to me. Since the few months we’ve been husband and wife now, Josh has come to know the good, the bad, and the devil in me! Haha. We had a little spat, as they would say in the old days, and then he asked what was wrong because I was just being mad and couldn’t explain why. The anger then turned to the truth as he kept asking what was wrong, and then I just started crying and said, “I don’t like it here!” haha. It’s funny now, looking back. I sounded like a baby saying that. But it was true. He pulled over to the side of the road and hugged me and we had a sweet moment. We both needed to take a chill pill. And maybe get some sleep . . . and food to fill our tummies. We were probably still a bit jet lagged too, as it had just been a week from that day that we said goodbye to our families and boarded the jet plane!

We decided that everything would be better in the morning, and we would have a fresh approach and better attitude and not judge the place yet. So, next day, we went to the camp that we were to work at, and which was the reason for us coming. In New Zealand they have a ton of work for accommodation jobs as backpackers flock here to travel and explore the country. The camp was one of those types of situations, which we knew would be great for us just starting out until we found more steady, paid work or saved up more money and moved elsewhere. We had figured we would just stay there a couple months at the most anyways. Or . . . maybe not. We went to the camp, which had beautiful views and the cabins and layout of the camp was really good. I grew up going to church camp, so the idea had appealed to me, plus we would really like to start a camp some day. I guess you never really know until you get there, what something is going to be like. The accommodation that was going to be provided to Josh and I for our two hours of work a day was a 3 x 3 little box. There were two twin mattresses on a board, and those mattresses weren’t even beside each other! And that was it. I think a couple shelves on the wall, maybe. I couldn’t have even fit my purse in there. Oh dear. I was wondering what Josh was thinking as we were shown our “accommodation” and hoping he wasn’t going to make us stay. We left the parking lot and Josh was like “Well there’s no way I’m doing that!” Thank goodness! We felt like chickens with our heads cut off as we went to the other hotels and resorts he had been e-mailing that had offered us jobs or possibilities before coming, and asked if they had any work for accommodation offers and no one did. Maybe we would have to stay at that camp. Or find a place to rent, which didn’t look too promising of finding in such a small place. We both get determined to have something work, though, at least for a few hours that morning, haha. But, after going to the different lodges and still thinking about how remote we were from civilization and feeling like the mountains were closing in on us each minute, we got back in the car and left Hanmer in our rear-view mirror.

And we didn’t look back.

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Our only picture of Hanmer Springs, haha

What a sigh of relief! Guess it was time to head back to Nelson. We took a different route this time and headed east to drive along the coast back north. It was a long drive from Hanmer to the ocean and I felt a little nauseous driving through more mountains again but thankfully still hadn’t gotten car sick the whole trip. Though this was all nerve wracking and stressful as everything was up in the air, overall I have been amazed with myself for feeling so calm since we’ve been here in New Zealand, unlike how I felt every day back home in Tyler. I guess that’s what working in a stressful law firm all day long will do to you. And the recent life-changing event of just getting married and adjusting to that. My anxiety and stress-levels have been lower here than they have been since, well I guess since the day Josh proposed to me on August 30, 2010 . . . life got pretty crazy the day after that! But that’s all just a little side note from me J

Josh and I both felt better when the road met the sea again. We love the ocean and decided we need to be by it. Makes us feel better. NZ is pretty sweet because even if you are smack dab in the middle of the island, you are never more than 2 ½ hours away from the ocean. We could have made the trip all the way back up to Nelson that day, but Kaikoura was too breathtaking a sight to see and our hearts felt at peace there. Kaikoura is a small, seaside town with books of things to do. Wish we could have stayed there a long time. We booked a room in a motel with a view of the turquoise blue waters and those snow-capped mountains we had seen from Nelson, which were much closer now. What a sight to behold! I love seeing the fishing boats just sitting there, anchored in the water, patiently awaiting her captain to take her out to sea.
Kaikoura is the place to see dolphins, seals, albatross and whales. We got to see a seal. We walked out to this rocky shoreline and suddenly came upon one taking a nap. Josh wanted to touch it, but I don’t think they let you do that. There are whale-watching tours and such, which we didn’t get to do, but will hopefully go back to do one day. We needed that day to just relax in a room with a view and with the sound of the ocean to put us to sleep.

The next day, Wednesday, we finished our journey back to Nelson. Along the way, we saw several colonies of seals, which made us both happy, especially Josh who was even more eager to see them than me, haha. It was cute seeing the wild seals hop around; they are so goofy. Some of them looked up at us as we stopped to take pictures, and they looked mad. Those things are pretty big! I don’t think I would want one chasing me, even if they might seem to be slower on land. We passed through Marlborough again and the city of Blenheim, and stopped there to maybe look at working in a vineyard. Blenheim wasn’t my favorite though, and Nelson was still in our minds. I’ve never seen so many backpackers and backpacker vans. That would be fun in a way, but I just don’t think I could do that, even though we currently were being vagabonds living out of our bags at the time. I was starting to get tired of staying in a different place each night and digging through my suitcase. We both were feeling that way, of needing to find a place to settle.

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After another day of traveling, we made it back again to Nelson. The next day, Thursday, we applied for our IRD numbers, which we have to have to legally work here, I guess for tax stuff. I am so glad Josh is handling all that mumbo jumbo, I wouldn’t know the first thing what to do without him! Haha. Things started feeling a bit stressful again the next couple days as the places we had contacted before with possible work said they didn’t need anyone at the moment, or to check again in a month. The past couple days my throat had been scratchy, and this day was feeling a lot worse and I just felt so run down and exhausted. I knew I was trying to come down with something and was coughing a lot. Josh drove us around and he stopped at nearly every orchard and vineyard outside of Nelson asking if they needed any work. No, not yet. Bummer. The season for working in a vineyard wasn’t very busy yet, at least they were saying that, but to check back. Hmmm…we both were liking Nelson though, how come we weren’t finding a job? Staying in a motel every night was costing a lot of money too, we needed to start making some mula and saving up so we could rent a place. God has been helping us out all along the way, that is for sure. Especially in every person we have met, who have helped us out and just been our friend. That’s something I know I will treasure, is all the characters in this story. Josh got an e-mail that Friday from Paul, someone he had somehow made contact with a long time ago, one of our first contacts, before coming. Still not quite sure how we made connection with him, I think someone from church had passed his info along. Anyways, he e-mailed Josh and said that he had just got back home to Nelson from visiting the States, and to call him. Josh called him and Paul said he had a job for him. Hooray! He was a contractor working on building houses and landscaping, so that’s what Josh would be doing, and it was good pay too. Wow! They also invited us over to their house for lunch the next day. We went over there Saturday afternoon, and just had a lovely time with Paul and his wife Lynn. They were such friendly, funny, happy, and just good people. Their house was beautiful too, and Lynn had a talent for decorating and I felt more at home because my mom has always been such a great decorator and made our houses feel so homey. The two of them were true Kiwis, I loved their thick NZ accents. We were so relieved too that Josh had a job.

After we left their house, my ear got clogged up and I could not hear at all out of my left ear, it was so muffled like I was underwater. Oh great! Josh and I went back to our motel and I felt horrible. Then my ear starting hurting so bad, man it was so painful! I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way before. I was pretty worried and just depressed that I was getting sick. My cough was still really bad too, the kind that just itches and is annoying. My husband went and got me some ear drops, which really helped, but it was awful not being able to hear out of one ear. Guess I would have to go to the doctor on Monday, yikes, in a foreign country!

The next morning, Cameron and Alison invited us to have church with them in their home. That was really good and so was the discussion. I still felt miserable, and obviously looked miserable, and they said I should really go to the doctor. Nelson had an after-hours clinic, so went there. If you aren’t already sick, you know you will be after you leave the doctor’s office filled with people just hacking away. It was a pretty expensive visit and the receptionist was rude and acted like we were dumb Americans who didn’t know anything, but oh well. The doctor examined me (I made Josh go in with me, I was scared haha) and said I had an ear infection. We had been warned about people usually getting sick when they first come here, I hated that I had to succumb. She prescribed amoxycillin antibiotics, but didn’t say anything about my throat or even look down it! Which felt pretty swollen…I probably had strep too and didn’t even know it. So we then went to the pharmacy and got the medicine and cough syrup and cough drops. No fun. Anyways, Paul had called the night before after we got back from visiting with them and offered for us to stay at their house for a while to help us out until we found a place to live. What a blessing! People have just really been so hospitable and wanting to help. We brought all our stuff with us Sunday afternoon, and settled in to our room in their home. I stayed to myself that evening and slept a lot as I was sick.

We spent a week in their home. Josh went to work with Paul every day, and I stayed at home with Lynn. I slept a lot of the day the first part of the week, I couldn’t hear all week long, ugh! My cough did finally get better as the week progressed. Josh said his work with Paul was really tough labor. He was getting tanned being out in the sun all day. I missed him when he was gone. This was a good situation job wise for him, but I couldn’t help but think that I didn’t want to be apart from him all day long, we came here wanting to hopefully work together if we could. That felt like part of the stress back in Tyler and how it usually is I guess, working 8 hours a day in a cramped up office, coming home stressed and exhausted and empty with seemingly nothing left to give to each other as husband and wife. I did have an interview coming up with the Morocco Resort, which would be fun, but I really wanted us to work together. I felt lonely without him and was so happy when he came home each day. The interview didn’t pan out though after all, at least not then, because they said they were fully staffed at the moment, but wanted to meet Josh and I. They said they might be having work come up at Christmas, but that wasn’t helpful to us then. Speaking of Christmas, Lynn was a fan of keeping the holiday season alive. Her house became a winter wonderland as she put up ten Christmas trees, each with a different theme. I even helped her decorate one, and it was really fun. My mom always went all out for Christmas too, and I would spend all my money if I had any on decorations.

While we stayed at their house, two American girls (Jenny and Katie) and a German girl (Toni) came and stayed a couple nights too, so that was cool. They were here visiting NZ too and had been working on Paul’s family farm up north. This week, by the way, was the week of Thanksgiving. Paul and Lynn had a novel ideal and Lynn was excited to make us feel at home and for the girls to work together and create a Thanksgiving meal. I forgot they don’t celebrate that holiday over here! Haha. That was awesome, and so thoughtful of them. We all pitched in and I made my Granny’s sweet potato casserole. Last year was the first time I’ve ever made it, and it turned out great I must say and I loved it. I wasn’t too sure at first how it would turn out here, because they don’t have canned sweet potatoes, and it is different…it’s called kumara, and it’s not orange, it looks like a regular potato. When I was making it I thought I put too much sugar in it and had ruined the dish, but after baking it, well it turned out quite well J We had a fancy chicken (they don’t really sell Turkeys only around Christmas and it’s like 70 to 100 bucks). The menu also consisted of homemade rolls made by the fellow Americans, German Spätzle, salad, cranberry sauce, dressing, and a delicious sparkling cranberry drink. We all went around the table and told what we were thankful for, which was really neat. We said how thankful we were to be here in New Zealand, and thankful for our families and for each other. Josh and I both did miss our families… I did get to Skype with my parents that day, and I really felt homesick to be with my family. It was pretty emotional, I’ve never not been with my parents on Turkey day. Anyways, this was so good that we got to do this, though, and we were so thankful that we had such a unique Thanksgiving Day in New Zealand. As we finished our meal around the festive table, Lynn asked if Paul had any words of wisdom, and he laughed heartily and said, “Have lots of kids—my only regret is not having more kids.” They have four children, and their daughter Bekka was there to celebrate with us. Josh and I both really liked Paul and Lynn a lot, they have such good hearts and were so gracious to us and fun to be around. We stayed at their house until Saturday, as we didn’t want to impose on them anymore, we checked into a motel that offered a cheap, weekly rate. It helped us out so much by them allowing us to stay and eat with them that past week, which we are forever grateful to them for.

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Sunday Josh and I had church on the beach. Cameron and Alison were on vacation for the week, so Josh and I bought crackers and grape juice for communion and headed to the beach. That was really neat, though kind of hard to focus fully since there were a lot of people there. It was cool to hear the waves as we had a bible study and sat there and were quiet to take it all in. Made me think of the song, “Have You Seen Jesus My Lord, He’s here in plain view . . . Have you ever stood at the ocean, with the white foam at your feet? Felt the endless, thundering motion, then I say you’ve seen, Jesus My Lord.” I love that song. We used to always sing that at camp and in youth group. We walked along the shore and we could both sense that we felt distressed. Earlier that week we had found an apartment overlooking the entire harbor, it was an awesome place, and we were really thinking about settling in Nelson. That Sunday, though, we talked about how we were feeling as we finally found us a quiet, secluded area on the beach. This was paradise, and one of the prime places to live in NZ. There was something missing though, that we felt like we both needed. For us spiritually, we needed to live somewhere with a strong, solid congregation to worship with that would help us grow and who we could also hopefully do some type of mission outreach as well, whatever that may be, or just serving in the church itself and being involved. We were beginning to think that Nelson might not be that place for us. We felt pretty lost as to what we should do. Wellington was sounding really good to me, because of the church there. It was a pretty good size (for NZ standards, the churches are definitely smaller here) with around 50 members or less. We had both enjoyed our time with the church members for the few days we had first arrived to the country, and plus most of our contacts and friends we had made were mainly there. We still didn’t know though. We would think about it and pray.

There’s always been a feeling that God has a purpose in us being here, bringing us to New Zealand. I remember in a bible class back home, this married couple was trying to have a baby but were having problems with infertility. They were heartbroken and frustrated, but still faithful. One day, the two of them weren’t there, and I remember this older, wise lady said a prayer request for them and said, “I really believe that God has plans for them, and I feel that they are going to be parents,” she said, “but we just don’t know what that looks like yet.” I loved how she eloquently voiced her thoughts and think that can be applied and said about many situations, including ours. I know that God has blessed us and has been working behind the scenes in so many ways in us getting to come to New Zealand and I really feel like he wants us to be where we are, or maybe it’s just me who wanted to come and thought God wanted it. But I really felt that way when we first got the idea to come to this country that God was maybe even telling me to. I have always been so passionate about mission work, especially after mission trips in high school and college. Of course we also both wanted to come to NZ because of the beauty, it’s a land of adventure and for the outdoorsy type people, which fits us both to a tee. Like I’ve said, I wanted to come here since first watching the movies LOTR in high school. My church home in Midland, Westside church of Christ, supported a missionary in New Plymouth and our preacher would come over and preach and then go back home and have a slide show report to our church. What I’m saying is, yes, Josh and I came here for our own reasons including our love and passion of traveling and wanting to explore and experience different parts of the world. And we also came with the hope of a greater and deeper purpose as well; to help people and to help the church. We aren’t here to “be missionaries” or I guess I mean by being paid or supported to do that; we don’t want any one’s money. We came knowing that we are getting jobs, paid work, and to hopefully do some type of mission/church work and/or social outreach on the side. I can’t guarantee we even will end up doing any of that, but I pray and we both feel in our hearts that we are meant to be here to do something. So, to relate that to what the lady said, we both feel like we are meant to be in New Zealand for some greater purpose, to do some kind of mission work . . . but we just don’t know what that looks like yet. And who knows? But that is exciting. And it may even simply be attending church some where and encouraging the Christians there. I do think we are here to grow too, both Josh and I, spiritually.

Our faith is a journey, one through valleys and mountain highs. I’m definitely not where I would like to be at all and haven’t been for awhile, I used to be so strong in college while I was at Lubbock Christian University. It helps going to school where you have chapel every morning and teachers who pray for you during class. But anyways, I want to be back on fire again. We are all on a journey, which is encouraging I think. Who are you going to meet along the way? Who am I going to meet? Am I going to help them, or just knock them down? Will the people I meet along the road help me, or just be out to get me? Wow, I told you or I’m telling you now at least, I can really go off on some tangents. Lol. What I’m saying is….Josh and I had a lot to think about that day on the beach. I was definitely proud of him for saying that the most important thing is the church; we could live in a paradise place but what we need is a place that is going to help us grow. We said we would think about it and what to do and see how this week went and maybe start looking on the Internet and his list of contacts at going elsewhere. We also were still feeling a little weird being on the South Island. That might not make a whole lot of sense, and it’s probably mainly psychological, but the idea of living on the North Island where there are more cities and more people just sounded good to us. We like the connect.

The day that we had driven around the week before looking for orchard and vineyard work, we had come upon one orchard (an apple orchard on a hill overlooking the valley and ocean in the distance, so pretty!) that had said he might have work come up in a couple weeks. He called us that weekend and said he had work starting up on Monday doing apple thinning. Josh’s job was good that he was doing, but we both wanted to try the apple thinning out and we would be working together. I’ve always seen pictures of people picking apples in New Zealand and have wondered in fascination at how fun that would be. It was on our mental bucket list of things to do here. Josh got the okay from Paul and his boss to try this work out, so we started our first day of work out in the orchard thinning apples on Monday morning. Oh, and I forgot to mention that while we were on the beach the day before, I was wearing shorts and was stupid and didn’t put sun screen on my legs. The sun is harsh. So, my legs were burnt to a little crispy. The elements didn’t seem to be in my favor; I still couldn’t fully hear out of my ear, I was still coughing and my throat was really swollen, and I could barely move my legs with the pain from the burn. What a combo! But, we trudged along. There were about ten other apple thinners, most of them our age, boasting from different parts of the world . . . another American, a few Germans, and some Kiwis. Josh and I got to share our apple tree rows, which made me happy because we got to be together and I didn’t want to have to carry around a ladder. Josh was nice to me and did all the ladder work, trimming the tops of the trees. Apple thinning is not apple picking . . . I guess that’s pretty obvious but it’s when they are about the size of big grapes and you have to go through the branches and just thin them out and take out the clumps, leaving a hand-widths space so they can grow to be big Granny Smith apples. I’d rather just pick the apples when they are full grown, but this way you had to have a method. The bosses kept coming around and checking our work like slavemasters and would tell us if we were doing it right or wrong, haha. We were either taking too many off, or not enough. That day was cloudy and rainy, which helped us go faster. It’s not paid by the hour work, but by how many trees you do. They said everyone generally goes slower at the beginning, starting off at $13 NZD per hour. Our bosses said some make it up to $20 an hour. Well, I would like to meet that person! We tried to go as fast as we could, but it was a slow work. Orchard work, I decided, is only glamorous in the pictures. We started at 8:30 in the morning, had a 30 minute lunch break eating sandwiches (gross! Haha) and then off at 4:30. That’s a normal 8 hour day, but we were on our feet all day long in the hot sun. I couldn’t imagine doing that another day! How do the backpackers and hippies do that their whole time in NZ? Josh didn’t like it either, haha, it wasn’t just me. The apple thinning in the three orchards the boss owned he said could be three weeks worth of work for all of us. Goodness gracious! By the end of each day, I felt myself just nearly collapsing with exhaustion and I would keep walking over to Josh and stand underneath him on the ladder and pout, “Baby, I can’t do it anymore.” He’d encourage me and lie about how much time we had left until 4:30. The day itself did go by pretty fast doing that, which was a plus. The middle of the week, though, in our search back at the motel on the internet for work somewhere else, Josh had found a job, another place he contacted before coming here. Guess it was good to make different contacts for options when we came in various parts of the country. It was another work for accommodation job at a resort in the mountains, outside of the city of Napier, up on the North Island at an adventure lodge. Our accommodation was a caravan, which is basically a camper trailer. That didn’t sound too appealing to me, but we were desperate and wanting to be on the North Island, and we had heard that Napier had a good church. We still were needing a free place to stay as the money we had saved coming here was slowly running out. I guess we sound pretty impulsive, but we did come here to travel and we were trying out our different options until we found a place where it all fit.

 

We told our apple thinning boss about the new work we found and us wanting to live on the North Island after all, which he didn’t seem too happy about. Every one also is very proud of where they live, we noticed, which I would be too. The North defends the North, and vice versa. He had said when we started the work earlier that week that we only needed to give a day’s notice if we wanted to quit, so that’s what we did. Thursday was our last day to thin apples in Nelson. Goodbye and good riddance to that, I say! We booked our ferry ride on the Interislander for Saturday, December 3, 2011. After two weeks on the South Island, we were already heading back to the North! I felt that this was the right thing to do, and we were actually pretty ready to get back. It was sad to leave Cameron and Alison, though. We hadn’t been able to spend much time with them considering the circumstances and us trying to find jobs and figure out what we were supposed to do, and that was the hard thing was knowing we were leaving them and I know or at least I think they wanted us to be there too. We will be back to visit for sure though, and hopefully we can maybe take a trip with them sometime while we are here. We said our goodbyes to them and to Paul and Lynn, who we were going to miss as well, on Saturday morning and then drove two hours to Picton and waited for the ferry to come take us back to civilization.