Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Repat musings - some initial challenges

Here I am in 2018 packing up again. The difference this time compared to 2017 is that I feel I'm going somewhere rather than losing a world where I was given no opportunities to put down roots.

I never imagined I'd ever live somewhere like Rolleston, Canterbury. People ask me, perplexed WHY? Well, there's affordable land and that's a huge reason if you have experienced life in Auckland. If I am to have any stability in my life (something I really need and want these days) I need to have my own home; not living in someone else's home or renting. Financially and emotionally I need a new house one day that is entirely mine requiring no maintenance and where I can create my own French-inspired environment. I'll write more on that in months to come, as my situation evolves. In the meantime I'll be renting a new duplex in the heart of the Selwyn District.

I've spent around a total of 35 years living in Christchurch and there's no way I'll ever live back there but Rolleston is close and growing at a fast pace and maybe that will open up opportunities for me. Yes, it's an urban environment but I can create a little refuge for myself and I'd be very interested in being an active part of a smaller community.

With only days to go until I hop in my car to drive away from my Auckland life of 21 years total and my aging house that has become a noose around my neck I know it's going to be a challenging year. The destination is easily envisaged but the bends in the road are not. A bit like the little road trip I've organised on my drive down the North and South Islands to Rolleston. I'm hoping doing this alone will increase my self-confidence and my kiwi driving skills. I'm still not at ease with my 4-door car after driving a little 2-door Peugeot that seemed to just wrap around me, especially when backing.

There have been the inevitable disappointments coming back, of course. Some of these I had already been warned about:

1. The lack of richness of culture and sophistication/civilisation. I make no excuses to kiwis who have never lived in Europe when I say New Zealand is not well endowed in history, monuments, refined cultural activities and open-mindedness. There are worthwhile things to do of course here but it's NOT Europe. It's a couple of newly-settled islands at the end of the planet, surrounded by some isolating ocean. Some would say the isolation is a plus. I don't.

2. You call those supermarkets? The choice is abysmal and the prices are in the stratosphere. I've discovered I have budgeted only 50% of my weekly grocery spend and it's not just food etc it's virtually everything. It really is extremely difficult for anyone without a very well-paying job to live here and I currently don't have any income. For me, so far NZ is frightening. Yes, very scarey.

3. I am enjoying catching up with people I know but realistically very, very few contacts have shown any interest in seeing me again. A "like" on Facebook is about all they can manage, sometimes. A like doesn't make a relationship. People are busy, so am I, but without spending some physical time together where's the satisfaction and deepening of the relationship? I've had enough of superficiality. I'm back here to create meaningful and emotionally intimate connections. I didn't have a social life in France and back here there's no language barrier excuse. Those folks who really are my true friends know who they are and it will be up to me to make new friends in Rolleston and Christchurch. I'm already working on that with ideas for several projects incubating in my head.

 I must say though that I have had some pleasant superficial conversations with kiwis I don't know, whether it be a security guard and Star Wars fanatic at the cinema who had already seen the movie 4 times, a supermarket meat department manager explaining that kiwis don't like veal so I'm unlikely to find any (what???) or a checkout operator despairing over the cost of living.

Another plus has been having the opportunity to get to know my daughter all over again and also my new son-in-law. It's quite possible the fates might toss us all into the same location. We'll have to see what develops.

I didn't want to leave France but there really was no option. I didn't choose NZ, rather it was the only other place I could go. That doesn't mean I'm unhappy to be here.I feel hopeful and that's what keeps me going through the dark moments. These are typical repat sentiments.

I miss Jean-Claude and he misses me but that doesn't change the practicalities dictated by him, France and NZ. We work with what we are given. This is a new phase of my life and I think the best is yet to come with determination and persistence and a flexibility of spirit. I can do this!