Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas letter 2005

December 5, 2005
Dear Friends:

We are embarking on the biggest adventure of our lives. We are immigrating to New Zealand! In last year’s Christmas letter, we spoke of our desire to move there. After visiting in March, we decided to proceed with the immigration process. Immigrating usually involves two forces: one pushes you away from your home country and one pulls you towards a new country. In our case, the current political situation in America is pushing us out. We are simply fed up with America. We are so liberal that we feel like we just don’t fit in here anymore. At the same time, our love of traveling and our desire to live abroad is pulling us towards a new destination. As you’ve read our Christmas letters over the years, I’m sure you couldn’t help but notice how much we like to wander all over the world and explore new places! Combined, those two forces were the basis for our decision to pack up all our belongings and relocate half way around the world.

Immigration adventure: We had to get FBI clearance (to make sure we weren’t terrorists or child molesters?), and a twelve-page medical exam. (to make sure I wasn’t pregnant, among other things!) I also had to obtain a New Zealand teaching license. We submitted 200+ pages of documents to the New Zealand Immigration Service in October, had a brief phone interview, and received clearance shortly thereafter. Overall, this took about 7 months. Whew!

Employment adventure: I have a job teaching 8th grade at Te Atatu Intermediate School. Since they’re in the southern hemisphere, their school year runs from February to November. Summer vacation is during Dec. and Jan! Anyway, I have to be there to start work Feb. 1st. Meanwhile, Curt is applying at various engineering companies in the Auckland area. He hopes to continue working in the hydroelectric industry since he has enjoyed the challenge and the pace of that work.

Location: My school is located in a suburb west of Auckland called Te Atatu. We are keen* to join this waterfront community. Auckland itself is a city of one million people that looks a lot like Seattle! It has a huge harbor, ferry boats, and a big tower called the Sky Tower that looks suspiciously like the Space Needle. Auckland is on the North Island of New Zealand, where the climate is subtropical. We’re really looking forward to living somewhere sunny. Remember, we’ve lived in Washington and Oregon for 40 years. Need I say more?

Moving adventure: Our furniture is being transported on a shipping container across the ocean, which takes 6 weeks. Once we arrive in New Zealand, we will begin looking for housing while we wait for the furniture to arrive.

Address adventure: Sadly, we have no forwarding address to give you at this time. We will be at our current address in Portland for 2 more weeks. After that, our mail will be forwarded to Carlin, who will get it to us … eventually … once we find a place to live.

Departure adventure: We fly out of Portland on Dec. 19 to begin our adventure. By the way, when we land, it will be about 80ºF (27ºC). I guess I won’t be needing my Christmas jersey*! (that’s Kiwi for sweater)

Support: We are exceedingly* fortunate to have friends in New Zealand (he’s Kiwi, she’s from Washington state) who hosted us on our visit last March, loaned us their car (driving on the left side of the road: Yikes!), introduced us to their friends and relatives, and took me to visit local schools as well. They are helping us with many little details and are a valuable resource as we make this huge step.

Disadvantages: We will miss the view of Mt. Hood from our living room window. We will miss being within driving distance of many relatives, especially our boys. We will miss our church family here in Portland. We both love our jobs and are sad to leave them.

Advantages: We truly look forward to the adventure of learning about a new land with new mountain views, new culture, new jobs, new lingo, new accent, new hemisphere, new bureaucracy, and new vacation spots. New Zealand has a slower pace of life with less emphasis on consumerism (fewer Hummers). There are no handguns allowed (even the police don’t carry guns), and no snakes. (really!) New Zealand is firmly anti-nuclear, and they consciously strive to be culturally sensitive to their indigenous population (the Maoris). Plus, the top three government officials are women. (really!)

Other travel adventures: As you can imagine, the immigration process has taken up most of our time during 2005. However, besides visiting New Zealand in March on our fact-finding mission, we did take a holiday* to Greece with the boys in August. This trip was intended partly as a 10-year anniversary of our big 6-week vacation to Europe back when the boys were younger. Also, it was partly a last big hurrah before we left the country. It’s very different to travel with these 4 independent young men, rather than with the 4 little boys we traveled with last time! It was especially rewarding to see how much they’ve grown up and what fine, decent blokes* they have become. Overall, we enjoy spending time with them. It also warmed our hearts to know that they don’t mind hanging out with us old fogies for a few weeks, either.

We’ll be thinking of you over the holidays even though we’ll be half a world away. As we embark on our own mega-adventure, we hope that you, too, find just the right amount of adventure in your lives during the coming year.

Megan & men

* I’m practising using Kiwi words and spellings

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