Here it is. What you've all been waiting for. A kind of wrap up of the New Zealand year (which ended 6 weeks ago!) mixed with a "how are we settling back into the US" theme.
New Zealand was good and bad. Luckily, the bad was first so looking back, our memories are mostly positive. The first few months were cold and rainy and we weren't settled in yet - just starting to meet people but not a lot of friends. And I feel like for almost the first six months, we were still buying things that we needed for the house and for Lilly, so it was still a period of transition, and an expensive one at that. But we gradually met some friends, and getting used to the lifestyle. We figured out the layout of Auckland, and we began traveling a lot outside of the city. I loved getting in the car (or plane) and leaving Auckland; there was something symbolic to me about fleeing - probably that I still wanted to head straight back to the US at times. But we survived, and in the last few months had a great time. Lilly became the most popular girl in her preschool class, Jon and I found a group of friends who we loved, and then... we moved back home.
Since we've been back, we've been overwhelmed with things like the huge size of Target stores, the big portions at Atlanta Bread Company, and the wide variety of "stuff" you can buy anywhere. I was shocked, when we went to buy a new potty for Lilly, that there are about 20 different models we could choose from. Plus more online. And things like electronics and clothes, are so cheap! Cars are so big! Roads are so wide! Seriously, these are the things that are shocking Jon and I, and making us feel incredibly overwhelmed, wide-eyed, and culture shocked.
And our house... which we hadn't seen in 12 months... I think we had forgotten what it's like to live in America, and what our house was like, and how much stuff we had, and how comfortable it all is, etc, etc. Our experience in NZ was pretty much having the bare minimum, partially because we were there for a short time, and partly because everything was so expensive, but also because there is less "stuff" generally, and it doesn't seem like people are buying things just to have them. Not so, here in America, where a store like Bed Bath and Beyond can convince a person they need wicker baskets for storing toys, and certain shaped bowls just for eating fruit. We are definitely grateful for all we have here in the US, but some of it does seem excessive - we probably own over a dozen pillows, and they are all fairly new and in good shape. And don't get me started on TV... besides the fact that there are a gazillion channels (and we just have regular cable!), and that there is *always something interesting to watch, we are super-impressed by DVR, because we can now always watch anything we want. It is (from a sheltered Kiwi girl's perspective) mind blowing. Ya'll don't understand because you haven't been away from it; but trust me. I won't even get into my newfound fascination with frozen dinners. :)
My point on it all? I'm not sure. New Zealand was nice, we had a good experience overall. Being back in the US is really nice, and feels so much more like home, although we're now getting used to life here all over again. One thing I've noticed that might be symbolic: in New Zealand, I wore jeans every day. On Sundays, I'd occasionally wear a dress or nice pants to church; but most days I was in jeans. Here? I've barely worn jeans at all. I'm wearing dresses, skirts, shorts, accessories, jewelry... I think that, even when I really liked New Zealand, I didn't feel comfortable there - I was an outsider, with a strange accent, and even though everyone was totally friendly, I was trying to blend in, to hide a bit. Back here, I'm ready to stand out; I have much more confidence. Either way, it's nice to be home. But I still miss my friends in New Zealand.