Thursday, September 18, 2008

The NZ Experience

The View from our house at dawn - the ocean & a volcanic island

It's been 3.5 months in NZ, so I thought it would be a good time to summarize some things that I've learned about the experience up to this point.

US Things I've Realized I Can't Live Without

  1. Jon & Lilly. It goes without saying, but they are the best things about this year. And of equal importance, although sometimes Jon probably feels left behind when I talk about our experience. And honestly, I don't see him as much as I'd like to this year, because his work is so much busier than we imagined. But I really do love the time we spend together. Being away from family and friends is making us all grow closer together as a family, and I couldn't pick two better people to experience this with. (Don't worry, the rest won't be as cheesy.)

  2. Sweet n low. Yes, the artificial sugar that causes cancer in labratory rats. Can't live without it. Just one a day, in my morning coffee, makes me happy. I brought a huge box of packets over when we moved, and Jon's parents just sent another box.

  3. My soaps. Yes, All My Children and One Life to Live. Can't miss them. I was super sad the first few weeks we lived here, until I discovered youtube. What a miracle! And I'll tag onto this list, my soap opera magazine, which I'm thrilled is able to be delivered internationally. Because when I'm not watching them, I gotta read about them.

  4. Diet Coke. I know it's an international item, but I needed to mention it as something that I need daily and it makes me feel happy and secure.

  5. Contact from the family/friends back home. It means so much to get the phone calls, emails, facebook messages, and packages from the US. It makes us feel slightly less like we're existing in an alternate universe. And especially the visitors we're having this year, it's wonderful to share our new temporary life with family from back home.

Things I Don't Miss As Much As I Thought I Would:

  1. Watching TV. Yes, I've been keeping up with my soaps via youtube, and a couple other shows, but I really don't turn on the TV here, unless it's for Lilly to watch Elmo, High School Musical, or Annie. A year ago I never thought I'd get by without my Tivo!

  2. Along the same lines, I think Jon would say Sports. He's still catching games here and there, keeping up with his teams via the internet or the delayed ESPN games, but overall I think his obsession with seeing every game has diminished.

  3. Driving on the Right side of the road. It's not as hard driving on the "wrong" side as you think. Except when I get to a new intersection or there's a tricky roundabout.

  4. My Jeep Liberty. While I do miss my car so much, I'm driving a cute Audi here that is keeping me from being too lonely for my Jeep. Although it's much easier to put Lilly in the backseat of an SUV, we keep bumping our heads in the shorter cars.

  5. The food. Don't get me wrong, I completely miss restaurants in the US, and I'm already planning next June to eat at Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's, Outback, Christian's Pizza, Melting Pot, Boheme (hi Audrey!), and any decent Mexican restaurant. And Whole Foods has been on my mind every single day. But, it's not like we're losing weight here, and the food in restaurants is really fresh. They just don't have the good quick service quality that we have in the US (Panera, 5 guys, Aroma's, Bodo's, etc). And everything tastes different. But like I said, we're not losing weight so it can't be that bad!

  6. Shopping. I still do miss Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Baby Gap, Gymboree, and Target, but it's amazing how we are getting by without buying anything. (I should probably start saving now for the shopping spree I'll go on next June!)

Things That I Like About our NZ Experience

  1. Reading. I never had time to read back home, and now every night I'm reading something new. Especially my new passion for history. Although, I have a short term memory so it's not like I'm retaining anything.

  2. St. Heliers. It's the little town we live next to - it's kind of like downtown Roswell or Montauk NY. It's like 3 streets on the water, with 3 bakeries, 2 banks, a tiny food store, a library, a pharmacy, a few restaurants, and a playground on the beach.

  3. My Church here. I liked my church in Charlottesville, and I loved my church in Duluth that I grew up going to, but I have to say, I really love this church here in St. Heliers. It's a small church, and everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows our names, and the priest blesses us by name at Communion. We're also involved in the young family group, and we're getting invited to people's houses regularly. I bump into people from church regularly in St. Heliers, and it's nice to actually know people.

  4. Bread. Let's face it, I've always been a carb girl, but this city (or at least our experience of it) brings it to a new level. We're eating so much bread here, and it's so delicious and fresh.

  5. NZ Wine. Most of the local restaurants have wine lists featuring only NZ wine (or sometimes a bottle or two of Australian as well). It's all been very good.

  6. Lilly's school situation. Not that it's necessarily better here (we miss Malcolm Cole!) but it's just as good for her, her teachers love her, and she's at an age where she's really getting so much out of it. She's walking, talking, and dancing her way through the year - not to mention, the "kisses and cuddles" (as they say here) with her NZ boyfriends. Two days this week when I dropped her off, her little friend Mia came over with an extra doll to give to Lilly, and they immediately started mommying them. And today, as soon as Lilly got in her class, she went over to the window and started waving to me - she wanted me to go on the other side so I could leave!

  7. The View. Not the tv show, but the view from our house. It's absolutely amazing (it literally couldn't be better); but there are aslo so many other nice views nearby. Living in the "City of Sails" is pretty accurate - you can see boats everywhere you go. Even the two closest playgrounds to our house are right on the water.

  8. Travel. Living in this house doesn't totally feel like home, but when we've stayed in hotels, it's amazing how "normal" it feels. We've been fortunate to stay in the nicer hotels on our 3 trips so far (Sydney - Swissotel; Rotorua - Novotel; Wellington - Intercontinental), but they are all comparable to what we'd expect in a US hotel, so in some ways the experience has felt more "normal" to us when we're traveling. And the places we've been are gorgeous. (*Hoping to save up for a Fiji trip for Thanksgiving!*)

  9. The Humor in our adventures. It's an experience we won't forget, and we just have to laugh sometimes about some of our adventures and misadventures.

Things We Miss About the US

  1. Half and half. They only have cream or milk here for my coffee.

  2. Our house, or more accurately, our home. It's not just where we lived for 5 years, but it's the first house we've eer owned, where we lived as newlyweds, where we brought Lilly home from the hospital when she was born. So many parties and get togethers, so many memories. And the comforts of home too - everything handpicked to make our home exactly what we wanted, from our bedroom set, to the plates in our kitchen (Mikasa French Countryside), to our coffeemaker (a grind and brew). And our wonderful neighbors, and the Foxcroft pool.

  3. American Beer. Specifically, Sam Adams Light, but I'd also take Michelob Ultra, Miller Light, Bud Light, any good American Light. Since "light" in NZ means "no/low alcohol" and not "low cal", there isn't a good equivalent to my favorite beer. Even if I didn't want light beer, the only US beer I can find is Miller Genuine Draft. Which I'm drinking, although not loving. Other beers I'm finding tolerable are Monteiths (the local beer), Corona (Mexican), and Saporo (Japanese). Probably my favorite is Corona.

  4. US brands/items. Like Baby Tylenol, Exedrin Migraine, Pampers Diapers, frozen meals (especially lean cuisine!), Goldfish crackers. And knowing what an item is before you buy it- I know exactly what a Golfish will taste like, but I have no idea what an "Arnotts Shapes Cheese cracker" is.

  5. Pizza. NY pizza. Or Christian's pizza in Charlottesville. Or Mellow Mushroom. Or even, Pizza Bella across the street from our house in C-ville. The pizza here isn't good - small, no crust, bad/sweet sauce, cheddar (not mozzarella) cheese.

  6. Central air/heat that works. It's so cold in this house (still early spring here), and nothing makes it warm up. Not the two space heaters that caught fire, nor the central heat in our house that costs $800/month. And there's no central air, although it hasn't been hot enough to need it yet.

  7. Knowing what to expect/Normalcy/Familiarity. We have to think so much here to do even the littlest tasks - like concentrating while driving to make sure we remember what side of the road to stay on, or knowing how to pay for something with the Effpos card. Or what to say when someone says "How are you going?" or "Cheers" or "Sweet as." Or knowing where to find things in the grocery store, and being understood when we ask.

  8. Our friends and family. It'll be so nice to get back home next June and see everyone again! And actually talk to people on the cell phone while driving around!


Matt Elliott said...

Sounds like you're having an unforgettable experience! I was especially moved by the priest blessing you all by name. That's just cool. I'm quite jealous.

I can't for the life of me, though, comprehend missing weak American beers. I live in America, and I only drink beers from other countries! 8-)

I love being back in touch with you, Cathleen. Would love to meet your husband and Lilly one day in person.

Robyn said...

I think we might be kindred spirits! I relate to so much of what you've listed here...but the view from Joburg definitely isn't quite as spectacular.

Heather said...

Hi Cathleen. I don't know if you remember me from GAC but I wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog. Since becoming a mom I just love reading about fellow mom's adventures. Lilly is such a doll.

Heather (Morris) Furlong