“New Zealand, that’s in Europe right?”

It has now been a whole six months since I left Canada and came back to New Zealand. I can’t believe I’ve already been home for so long and I’m definitely getting itchy feet & wanting to travel again. Partly because I like travelling and seeing new things, but also because I love discovering people’s unintentionally hilarious ideas about NZ. It seems like people have one of two possible thoughts: (a) it’s a tiny pacific island without electricity and a population of approximately 50 people; or (b) it’s the part of Australia where they filmed Lord of the Rings. When I studied abroad I started a list of the things people said to me upon learning I’m a kiwi and I’ve been adding to it ever since. These are some of my favourites:

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A typical NZ home

  • “New Zealand, that’s in Europe right?”
  • “I’ve never heard of it.”
  • “What part of Australia is that?”
  • “You’ve completely lost your accent!” followed by someone else declaring “Your accent is so strong!”
  • “Do you speak English in New Zealand?”
  • “Can you speak kiwi?”
  • “Do you have a national bird?”
  • “Are there black people in New Zealand?”
  • “Do you call it summer when it’s hot or is that called winter for you?”
  • “It’s about the same size as Vancouver Island, right?”
  • “Do you have hair salons in New Zealand?”
  • “I’ve heard there’s a minister for hobbits, is that true?”
  • “What’s the difference between Australia and New Zealand?”
  • “Are you from England?” -No, I’m from New Zealand. “Eh, same thing.”
  • “What’s the capital of New Zealand?” -Guess. “Brisbane?”
  • “I know in Australia they teach kids how to catch kangaroos when they’re really young, do they do that in New Zealand too?”

If you’re from NZ or another country that people completely misunderstand, I would love to hear your own stories!

April ’17 Favourites!

Every month, a million different things seem to happen and April has been no different – I feel like I’ve fit an entire year into the past 30 days. As well as catching up with people I haven’t seen in forever, I’ve also managed to score both a flat (which I move into today!) and a job (which I start tomorrow!). This month was huge, and I get the feeling it won’t slow down any time soon.

EASTER: A couple of weeks ago, Lox and I drove up to Tauranga to spend Easter with his family. I was a little apprehensive about heading up because Cyclone Cook had recently hit NZ – there were extreme weather warnings throughout the North Island and lots of people were advocating for staying put. We ignored those warnings and I’m so please we did – the weather was absolutely beautiful and we had an amazing time. I’ve never really spent much time in Tauranga before and now I can definitely see why it’s such a summer hotspot. We spent Easter Sunday at the beach which felt like a wonderfully kiwi thing to do:

WELLINGTON: I have a confession to make – I’m not actually from Wellington. Most people have never heard of my hometown, Lower Hutt, so it’s easier to tell people I’m from the capital, plus I went to uni in Wellington and spend most of my time there anyway. But minus study abroad and my working holiday, I’ve actually lived in Lower Hutt my entire life. Ever since I started uni in 2012, I’ve wanted to move into town (I even wrote a blog post about it once), and today I finally am! I’m so excited to finally live in my favourite city in the world. Plus my new flat is a block away from one of my best friends, and I am so stoked at the thought of being a 2 minute walk to her house.

WORK: I was excited to return to NZ but I was also dreading the job hunting process. I don’t think anyone enjoys looking for a job and it didn’t help that everyone was saying that the job market in Wellington was pretty bleak. After countless interviews (really it was 10), a pretty cool company decided they liked me enough to hire me. I’m thrilled, but simultaneously I’m terrified. This is my first permanent, full-time job – I’ve had full-time jobs before but they were fixed-term, and my part-time jobs were during uni so they were never going to be forever. Despite my nerves, I’m so happy that I’ll be earning money again and actually working in the field that I want to be in. My coworkers seem very cool and the job itself is walking distance from the flat! Bless Wellington for being such a walkable city, and bless this month for giving me so many things to look forward to.

March ’17 Favourites

March has been a ridiculously full on month. I started the month skiing in Banff and now, more than 12 000 km later, I’m back in New Zealand. I’m happy to be home but I’m also exhausted because my body thinks I’m still in Pacific Time and I now need to find work and a place to live – fingers crossed that April will bring me some good news in that department. I feel like a years’ worth of things happened in March but here are some highlights:

VANCOUVER: Despite its reputation as being constantly rainy (which is mostly accurate), Vancouver had the most beautiful weather when we left. The clouds skirted away and the snow of the previous weeks melted, giving us the first blue sky and sunlit warmth we’d experienced in a long time. Our final day we had brunch out and then wandered the Granville Island market, Vancouver ensuring it was hard for us to say goodbye.

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The view of Vancouver from Granville Island

NEW ZEALAND: Lox and my homecoming wasn’t nearly as lovely as I had hoped because Wellington saw literally the worst traffic ever on the morning of our return, so no one was waiting for us at the airport. Having been out of the country for a year, neither of us had a working cellphone so we spent the first 15 minutes of our arrival feeling very abandoned and very confused. Eventually, Lox connected to the airport wifi and my parents called him through Messenger, letting us know that the traffic meant they had moved only about 500m in the past 2 hours, so it was basically impossible for them to pick us up. Despite the lack of an emotional homecoming, it was so good being back in Windy Wellington, driving along the harbour, seeing our hills (somehow greener than anywhere else I’ve ever been), and now we have a story to tell about our return home. It’s been really great catching up with people who I haven’t seen in forever and I’m so happy to be back here (and I’m so happy to be drinking our tap water again wow).

MUSIC: I wasn’t sure if I liked Lorde’s new song when I first heard it. It’s so different from anything on Pure Heroine that it felt wrong. The song has grown on me and now I realised I do like it, it just doesn’t quite feel like a Lorde song. Despite my initial doubt about it, I fell absolutely in love with this cover of “Green Light”, I can’t stop listening to it:

TV: I am several years late to the party, but I have been loving “The Mindy Project”. It’s super refreshing watching a show where I actually relate to the protagonist – I see so much of myself in Mindy and her insecurities and I love it. I left Canada with about 6 episodes left of the most recent season, so I’m hoping kiwi Netflix will be a bro and get the rights to it soon.

CATS: No surprises here. I was so happy that Tom still loved me when I came back and I’ve spent the past week reminding him that, despite the awesome Airbnb cats I met, he’s my number one (I am aware that it’s weird to talk about your cat like that, but hey, I’ve never pretended I’m not weird about my cat):

Canada, I’ll miss you, but New Zealand, I’m so happy to be back.

The Lipstick Brigade

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The Lipstick Brigade in Disneyland Paris (Snow White, Ariel, Rapunzel)

When I was studying abroad in England, I met so many people and made so many more friends than I thought I would. Erin and Quinn were in my psychology classes, and as fellow study abroad-ers, we sat with each other and quickly became friends. During spring break, we travelled around Fritaly together, coining ourselves ‘The Lipstick Brigade’ because we all had a habit of constantly rocking bright red lips. When it came time to leave England, I was heartbroken – not to leave the country, but to leave two of my now closest friends. They’re both from the States: not exactly a short distance from NZ. So I was stoked beyond belief when mid-2015 Erin announced she was coming to NZ to work as an au pair for a year. While we were based in different cities, we were only a one hour plane ride away, so Erin & I managed to spend a few weekends together again. And then, for some bizarre reason that I am eternally grateful for, an airline was offering ridiculously cheap airfares from the States to NZ, so in February 2016 Quinn booked flights to spend a week in NZ.

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Perfect information site in Bulls.

Quinn obviously wanted to see a bit of NZ (alluring as I am, you don’t do two 30 hour flights just to hang out with someone), and Erin lived way up the North Island, so we decided the best course of action was to road-trip up the country to meet Erin and reunite the Lipstick Brigade once more. We made a cursory lunch stop in Bulls, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a town built on puns. It could have been one of those sad one-road country towns you drive through (never to), but instead they embraced the wealth of puns at their disposal and made their town glorious.

When we finally met up with each other, it was beautiful and I remembered why we’re such good friends. We’re all really different people, but for some reason we work perfectly together. A lot of other people I know who studied abroad made great friends, but as lame as it sounds, I feel like the Lipstick Brigade is more like family.

Emotional interlude aside, we spent the week doing wicked cool NZ things (a lot that I’d never done before) to showcase the beauty of this country. As Quinn is a huge LOTR fan, we obviously had to go to Hobbiton. I cannot recommend that tour enough; I like LOTR but I wouldn’t consider myself a fan, but the tour was so unbelievably beautiful and interesting. If you’re ever in the Waikato region, definitely check it out. We also saw the glowworms at Waitomo caves (another beautiful experience you need to have in your life). You’re not allowed to take photos in the caves, but trust me – it was stunning.

Te Puia was also on our travel list. Te Puia is a Maori cultural centre just out of Rotorua and is home to some seriously cool geysers. The North Island has a lot of geothermal activity (seriously, like half of the central cities are literally on top of volcanoes) so despite the smell, it very impressive. They also have a kiwi house there, so Quinn got the highly coveted experience of seeing a real live kiwi. There we saw a cultural performance involving several traditional Maori songs, a demonstration of Maori fighting techniques, and a haka. I’m a Pakeha who lives in the city, so it was also super cool for me to see the cultural performances. Seeing a haka live is another experience I think people need to have in their lives.

Huka Falls in Taupo was another place we visited, another must-see NZ location. Taupo also has several hot pools, so we explored those and had an early morning swim (another awesome aspect of being in a geothermal area!). After Taupo, Quinn & I drove back down to Wellington, and so had a day checking out the glory of my city. I think all of New Zealand is perfect, but Wellington is hands-down my favourite place in this country for sure. We did the typical touristy things (Te Papa, waterfront, Cuba Street, cable car, Botanic Gardens, Oriental Bay), and went to my favourite food/drink places (for reference: Fidel’s, Enigma, The Library).

This time saying goodbye didn’t hurt nearly as much as it did the first time. After only 2 years we managed to all get together again, and I feel like there will be countless more times I’ll have the Lipstick Brigade by my side.

Making the most of sunshine

There’s a saying where I live, that “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day”. It’s cliché and overused and undoubtedly true. The past week Wellington has been putting on daily stunners, and yesterday the weather finally succeeding in calling me to go on an adventure. Originally I just wanted to be outside and take pretty pictures of the harbour, but we took a different turn and went on a spur of the moment drive around the coast. I may be well acquainted with the city, but I had never bothered to check out the glorious sights just beyond the CBD. We drove as far as we could, then got out of the car and walked through Red Rocks in search of seals. It was the first time in a long time that I spent in nature and made the most of the sunshine. Today my collarbone and feet may be sunburnt, but I feel restored to an equilibrium I didn’t realise needed balancing.