So what do you think?
As the boy and I get ready to leave for California, our first trip back to the "mainland" in nearly two years, I'm already bracing myself for being asked by pretty much every old friend and acquaintance "what I think of New Zealand." And I'm still trying to figure out the best possible answer. People don't really want to hear a lengthy essay when they ask these things, after all, but I kind of want to just avoid saying, "um, it's great!" Or maybe I could just go for the joke, y'know, "full of hobbits" or somesuch. Whatever I've learned in my time in New Zealand can't really be summed up in a quote or two, I guess. I do miss a lot about America and am really eager to catch up, but I also quite like it here, too.
The funny thing about living in a foreign country is how normal it all seems after a while. (This is probably a lot more true for a country like this that also mostly speaks English, though.) Life in its mundane rhythms is pretty much life wherever you are and everything seems normal enough eventually. Doesn't every place have people speaking Maori on the television and Vegemite on the store shelves? Flax bushes and torrential fast-moving weather systems and rugby are all everyday things, right?
Anyway – it has been a generally very good two years here, although, as I've whinged (another Kiwism) on the blog before, it's also been rather tough going sometimes – as it is for anyone 6,000 miles away from all they've known, as it was for my wife when she moved to a foreign country a decade ago.
The place you live is where you live and some days I actually forget entirely for hours at a time I'm not in Oregon anymore. You get good days when the sun shines over Auckland's volcanic cones and the beaches are shining with new sand and surf, you also get bad days where it's wet and grey and wet and drafty and wet (which has been most of July, unfortunately). I wish we had explored New Zealand itself more the last couple years, but the whole raising a preschool kid/getting jobs/buying a house has kept us pretty close to Auckland (which, as any Kiwi worth their salt will tell you, is really not "New Zealand" precisely).
But if you're one of the lucky few who sees me on our trip, don't expect sound bites – I'm still working it all out myself, mate! (And yes, I'm more likely to call you "mate" than "dude" – I just like the sound of it better, really.)