Friday, 29 December 2017

Repat musings - the return

As 2017 winds to a close and the door shuts on my former life in France I've considered these 4 short weeks in NZ since my return. I have become a repat, a kiwi expat who returns to New Zealand. It's not a choice I wanted to make but no other choice was on offer so I've been thinking about what has there been to look forward to, being back in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

1. Everything is in English (well most of it, I haven't forgotten being assaulted by Chinese and Korean language-only signs everywhere in Auckland seven years ago; I couldn't understand a thing in front of me). I breathe English and can express myself with ease. This was never the case with French. No matter how much I improved (a lot) it was never enough for me to be able to express myself with ease in any situation - what I would define as truly bilingual. I'm good but not good enough for an easy time in French. One needs to be very young with bilingual parents to achieve ease of communication in another language.

2. Having more opportunities to see my daughter and especially being able to participate in her  wedding this week. I hope we'll get to share the best parts of our future lives and redefine our relationship because it's not possible to go back to the way we were. I'm looking forward to this but much of that ball will now be in her court without the tyranny of distance.

3. Meeting up again with old friends and colleagues and making new ones. I'm realistic enough to know most 'friends' won't bother much with me now I'm back, making little effort to spend time with me. That happens. I'll appreciate the ones who genuinely want me in their lives - we'll make reciprocal efforts.

3. Pineapple Lumps and Coconut Rough chocolate. I do hope they are still available. I know there's been a scare recently with the Cadbury factory closing its doors. Please...please... I've waited so long...

4. Packets of sausagement. Again, I hope these are still available but I haven't yet located any in the supermarkets. It's quite different to the products available in France and so I was prevented from making certain of my favourite meals over in France.

5. Perhaps the start of an environment cleanup and maybe a kinder NZ with more inclusive values now that there's a change in government. I feel a smidgeon of hope against the horror I've felt about how NZ has deteriorated since I left. I'm not happy about the continuing oil exploration and irrigation though.

6. The unknown forcibly allows space for hope. Maybe there's a place in New Zealand now where I can succeed and create a more stable life for myself; maybe even have some comfort as I get older. The book is so open to whatever might happen but I sincerely hope the adventure's going to be easier and kinder than many of the experiences I've suffered in France over more than 7 years and before that in NZ.

7. Again on a food note I'm looking forward to introducing friends to some of my new recipes from France once I have a more stable living situation and I'll be maintaining my healthier Mediterranean diet. I seem to have lost a bit of weight recently and am feeling better for it.

8. Somewhat gentler weather. Though I don't know if Rolleston, Canterbury will be my final destination though, for lack of alternatives, I'm assuming so and planning for it. It probably won't have miserable grey, cold weather for 8 months of the year though the winters may be cold. Droughts do seem increasingly problematic here though.

9. Having my own 'things around me'. Though I've lost so much with two trans-hemisphere moves across the planet, what remains I can see and touch every day instead it being relegated to someone's attic, living only in their environment without my little reminders of who and what I am. Much of my stuff is still in boxes awaiting another move but I'm still enjoying the sensation of identifying with my belongings again.

10. Once I get settled I'm keen to have the opportunity to take up some hobbies. Most were lost in the impossibility of where I was living in France and the conditions of my work. Hello- private life and time to myself? Christchurch isn't too far a drive from Rolleston. Thank goodness as Rolleston seems a bit culturally deprived right now.

11. Faster broadband than what I've had in France. This has been partly due to 'technically impoverished' employers with different priorites, and habitat location.

12. Having a stand-up shower where I don't have to hold the showerhead  while I'm trying to wash - ah, progress. Enjoying that.

13. Being allowed to eat before 8pm  instead of being dictated to. Maybe weight control will be easier? Having more freedom over what I do and when.

14. Being able to have a major personal project to occupy my creativity and build some stabilty and security - building a house. I've discovered, as many before me have, that this is not that straightforward but it's what I want to do, now that my French dream has died.

So far I have achieved the following: bought a car, signed a conditional agreement for the sale of my Auckland house, found somewhere to rent in Rolleston, bought a TV and microwave and am learning about new technologies like Smart TV, keyless entry to cars, mobile routers and how complicated smartphones are these days. I've also organised yet another relocation to the South Island this time, Rolleston, not far from Christchurch because land is cheaper, and I've planned a road trip as I make my way down the North Island to the South Island; new experiences like visiting Hobbiton, taking the ferry with a car and living in a yurt, and reassuring older experiences like visiting friends and familiar places.

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. Like many people I'm grateful to have what I have but desperately hoping for something more meaningful and financially viable to be available in the very near future. I'm glad to see the back of one of the hardest, saddest and most disappointing years (professionally and personally) of my life. Here's to 2018 being the start of the best.

Happy New Year everyone! My adventures continue at the other End of the Earth.