Thursday, December 10, 2009

December, 2009
Auckland, New Zealand

Happy Christmas to all our friends and family.

On Christmas Day, we will be celebrating our 4th anniversary of immigrating to New Zealand. And I have recently become aware that we must be well and truly settled into our life, based on the evidence that I no longer keep a journal.

Over the past thirty years of travelling – whether to Paris or to Chicago - I have always kept a journal of our experiences, our impressions, and our blunders. (Curt has a travel journal too, but his is usually full of sketches.) Moving to New Zealand in 2005 was like being a traveller every day and I kept a journal of every cultural realisation, each new pronunciation, and all the obscure sports jargon. We absorbed New Zealand’s history, its politics, its music and art. I thrive on that kind of stimulation and savoured every bit of knowledge, which I was motivated to document in a journal and on our blog. But now, after four years here, we know our way around this city of a million people as well as we know our way around Seattle or Portland. We can pronounce Ngaruawahia and we know where it is. I even say to-mah-to sometimes instead of to-may-to. And at some point during the year, I ceased writing a journal or making entries on the blog. I think this is a significant development; not that we have mastered all there is to know about this country, but rather an indication of our settling in. New Zealand is becoming home. We’ll always be known as The Americans, and we’ll always talk ‘funny’ with an American accent. But we’re quite comfortable here. Life is good.

Although our family is scattered throughout America, technology allows us to keep in touch with them via email, Facebook, and Skype. We can even play Scrabble with the boys online. We also travel to see them in person, and they fly here to visit us.

In July, we went to America to attend Nolan and Erica’s lovely outdoor wedding. Carlin performed the ceremony, and Austin and Boone were both groomsmen. During our visit, we also made a trip to San Juan Island with the boys, sat around a campfire, attended a baseball game, found long-lost relatives, and went to an American Idol concert (don’t ask).

After the wedding, Nolan (27) and Erica moved to Vermont where he is attending law school. They will be living there for the next three years, which is an excellent opportunity for us to visit New England in the near future. Carlin (26) and Kristen have settled into a nice life in Phoenix. They are buying a house and have 2 dogs now. Boone (24) and Emma live in Seattle where they are both in college. Boone is an engineering student at UW, and works as the youth leader for a church in Bellevue. Austin (29) and Jonna live in Bellingham and they both graduated from WWU this year. Austin’s major was political science, and he is applying to law schools for next year.

Just after Christmas, he and Jonna are coming to New Zealand to spend a month with us. We‘ll have a great time showing them our beautiful country, especially exploring the stunning vistas of the South Island with them.

When Austin and Jonna leave, my mom will arrive for a month-long visit, too. As you can tell, we like having company. It’s summertime here so the weather is outstanding and I don’t have to teach. My mom saw most of the important sights during her last two visits, so we’ll have more time to sit on the deck and enjoy the sunshine. No doubt, we will also spend countless hours appreciating Curt’s yard.

He and his green thumb have created a garden full of colourful, exotic tropical plants like freesia and ‘bird of paradise,’ along with citrus trees, an olive tree, and good ol’ sunflowers. Our garden is also a haven for New Zealand native birds whose songs greet us in the morning. I even like watching the cute little geckos scurry along the bricks.

Curt has also been painting prolifically this year¬, his most productive year ever. He has especially enjoyed painting more portraits lately.
I predict he will paint colourful autumn trees of Vermont next … or maybe snow covered mountains in the South Island. He never runs out of inspiration.

Besides travelling, painting, and gardening, we both enjoy our work – he as an engineer and me as a teacher. We value our church community and our neighbourhood driveway parties, and we (of course) sing in various choirs. This year, I’ve also become absorbed in family history, but found to my dismay that George W. Bush is Curt’s 11th cousin.

Contrary to this rosy account of our lives in New Zealand, life here is not perfect: We still have to get up when the alarm clock blares every morning, and our carpet still needs to be vacuumed. Most distressing, however, is that Christmas in the summertime is just not right, and it never will be … but I think we could get used to it.