The Completely Bearable Lightness of Being Kiwi

16 11 2010

So while it’s been awhile between posts, we’ve had loads going on, yet in some ways feeling like we’ve still been spinning our wheels. We landed in Auckland two months ago, just as a storm system the size of Australia was beginning to blast. It rained sideways for our first ten days, and we began to wonder what we’d done to ourselves. October has brought spring though, and the weather has been sunny and in the 60’s and 70’s since. We’ve been able to get out and enjoy it a bit, visiting some beaches, meeting people, and getting out of Auckland.

We have had the good fortune of finding a great church, Auckland Bible Church, whose teaching and community is not unlike that of the church we’ve just (sadly) said goodbye to–Passage Church in West Chester, Ohio. We’ve connected well with several families and singles, and have begun to form a network of friends. We’ve been invited to dinners, teas, coffees, and to friends’ bachs (cabins/cottages). We are thankful for the openness and friendliness of the culture and for what God is doing in New Zealand.

So far we’ve met: an airline pilot, a TV news reporter, the CEO’s of four companies, a TV talk show host, the drummer for a popular rock band, the world champion kite surfer, an Olympic wrestler, and several leaders in the emergent church community. Surprisingly, none of these led to job opportunities. Instead, Shannon was recently offered a job with a company whose headquarters are…in Troy, Michigan. HA! Who would’ve figured that? A friend of ours had a roommate who was headed back to uni, and could not find a replacement, that is, until Shannon showed up. She’s set to begin this week in the role of National Training Director. She’s in charge of a whole country! And I’m still slogging away it, just trying to get the opportunity to be in charge of one room at a high school/college…it’s not that bad actually. I have some decent prospects, and the market should heat up for me soon, as the end of the school year is here! (Aside–schools here begin in February and have 9 weeks on, 2 weeks off for the year, then break for 6 weeks over Dec./Jan. Makes almost too much sense for the USA to do anything so sensible…)

Our cat, Palin, has made amazing strides. She’s gone from being timid, and nearly anorexic in her time in cat jail (quarantine), she has since become an indoor/outdoor Kiwi-cat, and has proclaimed herself queen of all she surveys–fortunately, it seems all she surveys is our yard. She rules it with an iron fist though, and chases away all other kitties that manage to stumble into her domain.

I can’t post all the great pics we have just yet–trying to get them loaded into my facebook account, so for now I will list a few places we have had the chance to visit, and it’s worth a google image to have a look. Piha, Piha Beach, Taupo, Lake Taupo, Mt. Ruapehu, Huka Falls, Rotorua, Metameta, Manukau Harbor, Rangitoto, St Heliers, Mission Bay, Whangaparoa, and Lion Rock. As  you look at the pics, please remember that we are absolutely keen to have guests!

We received all of our house stuff from the ship last week. Most of it made it okay–a few items broke, but nothing sentimental or irreplaceable, so we are thankful for that. We did lose a box, though, and we think it’s Shannon’s clothes…not good. In it’s place we received a box intended for a cardiac clinic in Tiffin, OH, that contained some sort of heart care kits. We are hoping our box shows up soon, somewhere in the world!

Shannon and I also had our first chance to play Netball. YouTube it if you don’t know what it is, because I played and am still unsure. It’s like basketball, but no backboard, you play with a soccer ball, and no dribbling. And you can’t block shots. Or touch people. And baskets are one point, unless you are outside the 3 meter mark, in which case they are two. And the court is surrounded by nets, and you play the ball off of them, so no out of bounds. Needless to say, playing two people who had never heard of the sport hurt our chances, and our team lost 35-5.

On the brighter side, I had the chance to go out with some mates while the girls were having a ladies night, so we hit the casino. I hit on a 34-1 bet of $2.50 on roulette, and again on 11-1 on a $5 bet. My friend won a bit on blackjack, so we split the winnings among the guys who came out and had a nice time eating mexican food and watching Jackass 3D (highly not recommended, unless you are having a guy’s night, and intend never to speak of it.)

So, more to come as Shannon begins her first job here, I continue my hunt, we find someway to celebrate Thanksgiving, we head to U2 here in Auckland next week, and Christmas and visitors loom (my parents and sister will be visiting from the 28th of Dec. to the 10th of Jan!)


Kia Ora to Aotearoa! (Welcome to New Zealand!)

20 09 2010

This is the beach closest to where we are currently staying. Apparently at times Orcas make their way through the bay here. We are in the St Heliers area of Auckland, about 4 miles outside of the city center, and an easy bus ride or drive there and back. The boardwalk that begins here extends all the way to the city center and includes a bike path. Pretty cool. The above beach is about a 10 minute walk from the house we are staying at now, which is great because in our last house a ten minute walk only got me to the Waffle House.

We’ll be staying at our current location with our friends who have been here since May until the beginning of November. This will allow us some time to find jobs and cars and a place we want to live. We have also discovered that though we would like to be really green and take advantage of public transport, it is not so efficient. We went to visit out cat Palin, who is serving 30 days in quarantine after being convicted of being a cat, and while the ride only took 20 minutes in a cab on the way there, it took 2 hours to get back home by bus. So, we are looking for an inexpensive car that will get us from place to place.

Another thing that has surprised me is the friendliness of the people. The immigration people were very nice, and at the restaurants, bakeries, banks, and everywhere, people are friendly, and genuinely so. Kiwis are proud of their corner of the world, and rightly so. It is uniquely beautiful, and unlike anything I have ever seen. And I’m thinking it will only get better. We have been told that Auckland is considered the least attractive part of the country…

This is a picture of Rangitoto, a dormant volcano, and now national park/island, across the bay from Auckland. People can kayak there or boat there and camp, hike to the top, or go there and back in kayaks with a tour group. Pretty cool to have such a wild place so close.

At the edge of section of the city called Devonport, there is another dormant volcano, and you can drive most of the way to the top of it. Around the edges are bunkers and battlements left over from WWII. The views from the top are breathtaking, and you can see islands dotting the seascape in the distance. The day we climbed up was particularly cold and windy. It has been in the 50’s and windy and raining on and off since we arrived. The rain we are told, is normal, as New Zealand has a rainy season and dry season, and most subtropical regions do, but the winds have been abnormally strong. It has been jarring to me as we were in the heat and humidity of the Cincinnati summer, only to be confronted with weather more appropriate for March. As we are just ending winter here, though, I should not have been surprised.

Above is the inside of one of the bunkers along the side of the dormant volcano.

Another pleasant surprise has been the quality and healthiness of the food. There are few preservatives used here, and most fruits and vegatables are grown here as well. They are therefore, fresher and have more flavor. Also, the lack of high fructose corn syrup in foods makes them less overpoweringly sweet, and allows more of the flavor to come out. An example is Coke–in the US, it is sweetened with corn syrup, and here it is sweetened with sugar. The result is that Coke here is less sweet but tastes better.

We are thankful for all the well wishes and interest in our adventure. Prayers for jobs and for our cat (though she made it safely, she is very skinny–we think she is not eating due to nervousness) would be appreciated.

The Bell Tolls For We…

15 09 2010


In twelve hours we’ll begin a 36 hour journey that will begin in Cincinnati, have us go through Chicago, layover in LA for half a day, and then (finally) get to make the 12 hour flight to Auckland. In the meantime, things have not been slow. In the last two weeks, we’ve driven lots of miles, seen lots of friends and family, and on more than one occasion, forgotten which city we were in.

In mid August, my parents came for the weekend to help us pack and see our stuff off. The highlight was when I had moved 80 boxes from living room to front lawn, and had friends wait with me from 1 pm to 6:30 pm for the UPS Freight guy, only to be told we don’t live on a street, and we would have to deliver our stuff to UPS ourselves. I calmly asked the operator how it was she thought I got to my street, and explained that because a UPS driver decided that a “No Through Trucks” somehow translated to “I Don’t Have to Work” that I would have to pay extra, rent a UHaul, or find some other way to get my 80 boxes to them. I explained, again calmly, that this simply would not do, and they should call the police to verify that 1) we do live on a street, and that 2) trucks could deliver and pick things up. She told me that might be possible but that extra charges would apply. I asked (still calmly) did she mean that we would be getting a discount? What? was her reply. I said that we should be getting a discount seeing as UPS missed their window, not me, and that I didn’t think I would be paying extra for work not done correctly. She said she’d call back after she called the police. Five minutes later, another truck was on the way, no extra charges. Whew!

We then embarked on what I called our 2010 Victory Tour. What we won, I don’t know, but it sounded cool. We hit Chicago, Ft. Wayne, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and then ended back in Cincinnati. We had great visits, dinners, farewells, and see-ya-soons with lots of friends and family, the highlights being Volare in Chicago, Hopcat in Grand Rapids, and the NZ farewell party in Detroit.

Below are a few photos that encapsulate (sort of) the final days in the USA. More to follow…

The Moving Man Cometh: A Play in Five Parts

19 08 2010


Some interesting moving developments/conversations…set in five acts.
The Moving Man Cometh
Act One
Shan: You know the beds leave the 23rd, and we don’t leave until the 1st. What are we going to sleep on?
Me: The air mattress.
Shan: It will be in the container with the beds.
Me: Oh. Yeah.
(Long pause)
Me: But doesn’t the air mattress plug in? It will be useless over there…
Shan: Oh. Yeah.
Me: Well, we’ll use that and then give it away!
(disaster averted…and there was much rejoicing in the land)
Act Two

Scene 1
Me: Can you help me load some boxes? Nothing too heavy and I’ll buy pizza?
Almost Everyone: I have to work.
Scene 2
Shan: Sooo…who’s going to help you move the stuff into the container?
Me: Me, I guess…and the driver? People sort of go into the woodwork when you ask for moving help.
Shan: So you’re going to do it alone?
Me: Well, the pastor said he might be able to help…and maybe Andi (a girl from our church)…
Shan: You want me to ask friends at work that might be off that day?
Me: That would be great!
(and there was, with much hesitation, much rejoicing in the land)
Act Three
Shannon and I sit, looking at a gift-crib, maybe from the 1970’s, and try to decide what to do with it.
Shan: You are sure we can’t bring this? It was a gift.
Me: It’s a rusty crib. It was a nice gesture, but how many recalls are there for it?
Shan: I don’t know.
Me: Because you haven’t looked or because there are so many?
Shan: I would just feel bad getting rid of it.
Me: Do you think a new mom would choose this one or a newer one that they knew had no recalls?
Shan: The newer one.
Me: It’s settled.
(and the twinkles in my eyes rejoiced greatly)
Act Four

Scene 1
Shan: I went to the store and got a few things.
Me: Okay. Hey, I was thinking we should probably not buy much stuff other than maybe milk and bread, because we don’t have that many days left here, and we already have more stuff than we are going to eat.
Scene 2 (a few days later)
Me: Shan, I know I need to lose weight, and my goal is to lose 60 pounds. I started on my diet two days ago, but now I had to quit.
Shan: Why?
Me: There’s no food.
(And much rejoicing was heard throughout the land…the old pizza and ice cream menu was given a reprieve!)
Act Five
Moving Company Lady: Who will be loading your stuff into the truck?
Me: You can put the movers in that blank. We’ll do it.
MCL: Sooo…the movers or you?
Me: The movers…us…we are the movers, right?
MCL: No, WE are the movers. You are the customers. Do the movers or the customers want to load the truck.
Me: (sheepishly) The customers. (added quickly) …but we are moving.
(Curtains close, bows taken, exit stage right.)

All Families Are Psychotic

12 07 2010

One of the really interesting parts of making the announcement that we are moving overseas has been the reaction of our families. Of course, our immediate family members have had opinions and feelings both good and bad, just as we have had in making the decision to move to New Zealand, but we have families in many parts of our lives that have reacted, and those reactions have been healing, instructive, and encouraging. We have church family, immediate family, work family, and community family that have all had questions, reactions, and thoughts about our move.

The biggest thing I think I have noticed is how the move has been the catalyst for conversation that should have happened for some time now. I have seen (at least in this experience) that issues that have been underlying in areas of our lives have risen to the surface, with the move taking the brunt of the blame for the issue itself. While I disagree that the decision to move has caused any issue, I am happy for the fact that it has created space for conversation, understanding, and healing in some relationships. I hope what I have learned from this is that I don’t need to wait for a catalyst to force conversation, but that as I seek to understand, I will be understood. And even if I’m not, I will know that I tried as best I can.

Another thought that has been floating around is indeed how each of these families is psychotic in some way. In his book Jpod, Douglas Coupland uses the main character to talk about the idea that all of us, individually, are autistic in some way. Just as Rain Man found Laurel and Hardy, Kmart, and structured TV watching comforting, we all have our own subtler, more hidden ways of settling and comforting ourselves. In the same way, entire families do this as well, and these psychoses (small though they may be) have been upset by our announcement and play themselves out based on the family coping mechanism.  We’ve experienced the silent treatment, anger, attempted  martyrdom, excitement, disappointment, understanding, vicarious living, and encouragement as we have shared our news. It’s been a learning experience to see these expressions of emotion and sometimes, discover for the first time the underlying psychosis of a family or community and finally understand its expectations.

Finally, the experience of interacting with all of these families has allowed us to understand a bit more about ourselves and where we are coming from. When we have experienced conflict, it hasn’t been so much that fact that we are leaving the USA, but the underlying meaning given to our leaving that has been the problem. As different families create different cultures around themselves, they also create meaning and expectation along with that culture, and those cultural norms betray the values and emotional drivers of that family. From our point of view as Christ-followers using Christ as our emotional driver, we’ve seen conflict from different places, all betraying a different emotional driver. For instance, a person whose motivational driver is family is going to hate our idea and feel betrayed; a person whose motivational driver is patriotism may feel let down that we are giving up on the USA; a person whose motivational driver is their personal journey may applaud our move, but they appreciate for different reasons than we do. You get the idea.

For all of our psychotic families out there, to those that understand and those that don’t, there’s not a short, good way to describe why we are doing what we are doing. It certainly isn’t because we disregard friends or family as important. And though we have economical and political concerns, they don’t fully explain it either. There is a strong sense of adventure that this fulfills, especially for me, and Shannon is fully on board (if she had serious misgivings and was adamant against going, I would not–could not–force her). There is part of us interested in living life intentionally in another place so that others see our faith and attracted to Christ because of it. All in all, given all the factors of who we are, what we want to do, and the situations given to us, we are doing “what seems right to us” just as the apostles of the early church did in their decision-making.


27 06 2010

Sooooo…we are learning to have a very loose hold on all our plans. They seem to change daily. It’s actually not that often, but so many details go with each change in plans, that by the time we have all the details ironed out from the last change, another big change happens that causes us to begin all over again.

I was given the option to get a one year visa, with an arrival date of August 10, meaning that I had to be on the ground by then. I got a job though, that would give me permanent residency, and would also override the need for the aforementioned visa. I was given a contract and accepted a position. I bought a ticket, and Shannon and I made plans for her to be able to close the sale of the house, tie up loose ends, and get our cat to NZ.

Then immigration would not approve the job. The skills were not on the immediate needs list, and therefore did not qualify. Ugh. Disappointing, but in some ways instructive. It’s nice to know that this country expects you to bring something to the table, and wants you to provide for yourself, while it also protects jobs for current citizens. Hmmm…seems like a good idea to me, even if it makes my life a bit more difficult.

So it’s back to the drawing board job-wise. Travel-wise, we initially thought the date I had to be on the ground was August 10, and Shannon could go when she wanted. We thought I could still go in July, and Shannon could travel over after I had found a job. We then received our one year visas, which stated that we both had until September 23 to be on the ground in Auckland, and we then have nine months to find a job for me within the immediate needs list.  When we find one, our visa will convert to permanent residency.  After two years of permanent residency, we would have the option to apply for citizenship.

All of that means that we decided that I will change my plane ticket to sometime in the middle of September, and that Shannon and the cat and our things will travel with me. There are pros and cons to each plan, and we continue to hold to our plans loosely, open to change and trying to make wise decisions. I’m glad for the chance to spend time with friends and family for a bit longer though, and it will certainly make tying up loose ends easier. The job market for me in education won’t heat up until October anyway, with the end of their school year in December.

We are moving forward in patience and with open hands to see where God takes this adventure. Any prayers you’d like to send on our behalf are appreciated.

The Parts of Our Life We Don’t Want: Name Your Price

14 06 2010

Ah, the joys of seeing the stuff you own bartered down to one dollar per piece. If only the memories and feelings could be sold along with the goods would these bargain hunting vultures truly have appreciated the carcass they were picking at. Of course, it did not help that on the morning of our planned estate sale, we were blessed with torrential rains and the most brutal humidity that has ever been chanced upon us.

Only the most dedicated came to our sale, which we still held (indoors), and as people tromped up and down our stairs and out the door with our stuff, there were some interesting exchanges:

1. a lady whose first words to me were “I’m looking for books that can help me with my druggie brother. Do you have anything like that?” Then she started praying–loudly–in front of the other patrons. It made us all a bit uncomfortable. I spied a book given to me by a friend. It’s title? Suicide: When Love Is Not Enough. The friend was sitting there at my table and saw what I was looking at. He shook his head. I ended up  giving the lady a couple of books free of charge which I don’t think will answer her prayers, but made her happy. I asked my friend where the book had come from. “Long story,” he said. “And it involves internet dating.” No one has bought that book yet.

2. a lady who bought a small chair for video gaming playing, and then demanded that I wrap it for her so it would not get wet. She then demanded I carry it out to put it in her pick up, though either of the two snarling teens in tow with her could have done it. She informed the teenage boy that this $10 chair would be his Christmas present.

3. a guy who asked what I wanted for a desk. I told him what I wanted was on the price tag. He grunted. I noticed the large eagle and gun on his T-shirt and brought up the bad health care bill. He got so excited about that and the Miller Lite rolling cooler I threw in that he gave me asking price (or close enough).

4. a lady who asked the price of almost every item we had for sale, and when I told her how much it was, she always offered one dollar. One dollar for each golf club, one dollar for every wall hanging (even stuff we did not have for sale). After a half an hour of this, she decided on some items that came to $10. She paid in quarters.

And then we had some strange people too…

It was an okay day I suppose, considering the weather. I just know we are going to have to go through the whole thing again though, since the sale didn’t allow us to really make a dent in the stuff we need to part with. We’ll try again June 26.