New Zealand is in full on summer mode down here in the southern hemisphere. This means that we may have a few days of lovely, warm sunny summer weather and then a few days of pouring rain and cyclonic winds. There’s a skylight in our bedroom so the crashing rainfall at night keeps Eric and I up quite a bit, until the clouds dissipate and the sunshine returns again.
With bright, long, warm days it was hard to get into the Christmas spirit down here. We were graciously lent a tree by a fellow doctor, complete with ornaments of a summer christmas such as a surfing santa and a kiwi in a convertible on his way to the beach. We hastily wrapped presents with yesterday’s newspaper, but it felt ridiculous to listen to songs about the weather being frightful or a white Christmas when it was 80 degrees outside. Last year, Barcelona for Christmas felt like a special travel event, and was festive in its own right. Here, we were in our house, doing our usual thing, only it was the middle of summer and it felt ill-fitting to celebrate Christmas the way we do at home.
I got to get a little bit of cold weather Christmastime though, on a short trip I took to the States. The government of New Zealand gives its docs a very reasonable amount of money for continuing education, and I used some of these funds to take a jaunt to New York in December for a conference and also to get some baby snuggle time with my newish nephew, Zian!
I was nervous about going back to the States. We’ve been away for almost six months. Would it feel strange to be back? Would it feel uncomfortable? We’re living in a rural town which doesn’t even have any traffic lights or a single Starbucks – would I have culture shock on being in Manhattan, a slightly larger city? And what would the environment be like overall? Watching the news from back home reads like a horror show from so far away. Most importantly, would I look the wrong way while crossing the street and get squashed by an errant truck?
While 24 hours of straight travel might seem rough, it felt like a luxury to be traveling on my own without having to manage kids and I upgraded on the long haul flights so had a pleasant journey indeed. I finally got to watch Logan on the way over, which is now one of my favorite movies of the year. (On the way back I rewatched Episode II of Star Wars, and I hated it only slightly less than I have on previous watchings. What a terrible film, shame on you, George Lucas. That moment when Shmi dies and her head flops over…gah.) Once I exited, I quickly opened my bag and pulled out the pouch of winter outerwear I’d prepared, pulling on a sweater, scarf, gloves, hat and coat in short order and waited for my car to pick me up.
The cold weather felt cozy to me for the time I was there, and being with family and friends felt warming and like Christmastime was right again. More than that though, it felt really, really nice to be back in the States. You might argue that New York City isn’t exactly representative of the US at large, and you’d be right. However, it felt comfortable to be back home. It was nice to be somewhere where I understood what everyone was saying to me the first time around, and where I was understood as well. Where you can crack a joke and have a shared background that makes it funny. And in all honesty, it was nice to be back in a large city again. The crowds were annoying in a way, but never overwhelming. And the sheer variety of food and shops available to me was something we haven’t had out here at all, and something I was happy to have back.
In a nutshell, it felt good to be home, and it made me realize that New Zealand isn’t where we’d want to stay permanently. I love our casual lifestyle here, the fact that I’m done with my job by early afternoon most days, that the kids are learning all sorts of watersports, that Eric gets to be the surfer dude he always was in his heart, the friends we’ve made and the adventures we’ve had here. I’m nervous about losing all of that and going back to our higher stress life back home, but despite all of it, the U.S. is still where I feel like I belong and where we’ll come back to.
At least for now.