In some ways, I've never really allowed myself to establish roots, or rather, I've been conditioned not to.
When I look back at my elementary school days I realize that I changed schools 10 times between 1st and 5th grade. The change was partly due to a genius custody agreement that mandated I alternate years with each parent. I don't think they made considerations for the fact that my parents might move out of the same town or state for that matter. The other factor is that my mother, who refers to herself as "a gypsy", is nomadic at best and had a thing for abusive relationships. I learned pretty early on that you would have to pack everything you need into one garbage bag in 20 minutes and flee.
So creating a "home" was a foreign thing to me. I remember when Jake and I got our first apartment together I never decorated. Jake would beg for my opinion on decorating or ask me to hang something up that I liked. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. When we bought our first house in California I was a bit more confident that the world as I know it wasn't going to be jerked out from under me. So I painted, picked out furniture, hung pictures on the walls, and gardened. Then we had Sophie so I went through the expected nesting period. By the time we moved, our house was bursting at the seams. Little did I know I was about to be living out of a suitcase again.
After our well laid plans fell on their rumps, we landed with my in-laws for much longer than we expected with all of our stuff buttoned up in a storage unit and our 4 suitcases full of stuff. One baby and a year and a half later, we moved into our own place and unpacked all of that stuff. It just seemed like too much. We hadn't needed all of this stuff for this long, why do we need it now? The pile for Salvation Army was growing and growing, finally Jake called it quits when I started throwing away all of our pots and pans because "we really only need on pan and one pot".
All of this seems like it was training or conditioning if you will for living here in New Zealand. We brought only our suitcases (even if it was 9 of them) and our sense of adventure. We scored with a furnished rental which even had a few toys left over from previous renters. I haven't hung one picture in 4 months. The only things I've purchased for the girls rooms are a crib for Josie and plastic buckets to hold the small toys that they did bring. But, I am constantly finding myself wanting for things. A microplane zester for cheese and citrus fruit. A digital scale would save me and my laptop so much time and wear from converting every recipe. But I already have those things at home, in a storage unit. And I really don't want to buy duplicates of everything. Then again, what if we are here longer than the one year we expected? What if our rental doesn't renew and we are left with the bare minimum again? What if? What if? I am living in a temporary state again and I'm trying to strike a balance between being an uber consumer and starting a commune where we raise sheep for food and clothing. Ok, that's a bit dramatic but what I'm saying is I haven't got a cohesive way of thinking or feeling about this due to the unknowns. Some people seem so at peace with it. Maybe I'm just not to the breaking point yet.
We often find ourselves in conversations with folks back home discussing the cost of things. Or rather, how expensive things are here. It usually peters out when no one has the brain power to convert the measurement system and the currency. So here I've compiled a small sampling of the items and their costs in our NZ dollars and the cost in US dollars. Sadly, we are paid in NZ dollars so the conversion doesn't really make much difference to us. Enjoy and if you find yourself wondering how much something would cost over here, let me know and I'll check it out for you.
1 Liter of Petrol - NZ $1.99 = US $5.36 per gallon
1 dozen eggs - NZ $3.10 = US $2.20 US
2 liters of organic milk - NZ $4.00 = US $5.39 per gallon
1 Chux scrubber sponge - NZ $4.00 = US $2.84 per sponge
1 tube Maybelline mascara - NZ $23.00 - US $19.93
1 loaf multigrain bread - NZ $3.80 = US $2.70
250 g parmesan - NZ $6.67 = US $8.60 per pound
watermelon - NZ $5.99 kg = US $9.38 per pound (it's out of season here)
Renu Contact solution 500 mL NZ $28 = US $ 19.99 for a 17 ounce bottle
I can tell myself over and over that it's almost Spring, but I don't feel it. What I am anticipating, even after two winters in a row, is Fall. Late season berry picking, argyle socks & back to school shopping. Pencils, folders, crayon boxes. Caramel apple cider back on the Starbuck's menu.
I keep trying to do winter baking or cooking and keep coming up with citrus desserts or salads or kebabs. All of my cooking seems to be tied to the season on the Northern Hemisphere. I should probably start buying some pumpkins and making puree otherwise, they'll be nowhere to be found come Thanksgiving. No canned pumpkin puree over here! But will I even feel like making pie in late spring?
I find myself looking at the girls summer clothes and finding ways for them to incorporate their tank tops and light colored skirts into their winter wardrobe. Are little girls supposed to wear red velvet dresses in a winter that does not have Christmas? It's all so intertwined that I can't get the knot of seasons and holidays and tradition loosened for a peek.
People keep trying to make us feel better about being seasonally jacked by saying "But you'll have Christmas outside by the BBQ." I'm sorry, but that is just WRONG and my subconscious will back me up on this one.
To commemorate entering our tenth consecutive month of winter here (the judges may differ on our definition, so for the record we're starting with the "wintry conditions" of November in upstate New York and skipping over some nice days in early fall we had here on arrival, even though everyone blamed us for bringing the bad weather to Wellington) I thought I'd write a bit about the experience.
Winter in Wellington has 90mph winds, drenching sideways rains and temperatures that sometimes approach but never quite reach freezing. We get socked in by storms and roads will be closed north and south of us, but only rarely are we advised to stay off them entirely. There's no snow to shovel or ice to scrape, and it's definitely a break from the average low of 15ºF (that's -9ºC to our NZ readers, and you'll want to add some -25ºF of potential wind chill) we get in upstate NY, but neither is it the mind-numbing explosion into spring and glorious summer your body so desperately needs after an upstate winter, either: it's more like a really long, unnaturally-windy spring in New York (with all the sogginess you'd expect).
As someone who revels in the parade of holidays that carries you from the final heady days of summer, through
the harvest into Halloween and Thanksgiving, kicking off the month
of delicious food leading up to Christmas and ending with New Year's, I am finding winter difficult to navigate here. We had a holiday or two shortly after we arrived (including ANZAC Day), but since then things have been fairly quiet. I am lost without the usual milestones of winter.
Left to my own devices and understanding that things are inverted, I've done the math and realized that August here is the equivalent of February back home, which means we have 3-4 months of wintry conditions left to endure. Several people have claimed November is actually the most difficult month to bear, which I guess makes it a really cold, windy May. I haven't looked ahead to see what national holidays are coming up, but I understand Halloween has been adopted in some areas so at least we'll have that.
Back home, summer is still in full swing but we would be starting to sense fall on the horizon: the fair is coming and only a month remains before school starts and the days will start to feel fall-ish again. The Cider Mill will be opening in a few weeks, and even now I'm sure all the song birds have already gone (back me up here, Dad). Not long after that some trees will start changing and the air will get sharp at night, making perfect camping weather.
If someone could just please bottle up those smells for me and send them to New Zealand, I'd be much obliged! When Christmas rolls around and you lot are bunkering down for winter there, I'll be getting my shorts on and firing up the barby to make some spiedies for the locals and our summer-deprived kiddos.