When I boarded the plane six weeks ago from JFK heading towards New Zealand, it was amidst a flurry of checklists, wrapping up professional obligations, family obligations, packing, cleaning, storing, organizing, planning and admittedly, simply running out of time to get everything done. It is no small feat to put one’s life on hold for six months, pack up and move to an entirely different country half way around the world. Ready or not, fully prepared or not, I did just that and 30 hours and three flights later, my family and I found ourselves in the Land of The Kiwis!
I can not believe we have been here for a month and a half already. Time is truly flying! From the moment that our plane landed in Wellington, our new life, in a new city and country began! We attended the New Zealand Fulbright Orientation, had an introduction into Maori society and culture. I experienced my very first powhiri (Maori welcoming ceremony involving speeches and singing), hongi (traditional Maori greeting that is done by pressing one’s nose and forehead, at the same time, with another person) and stayed overnight in a Marae (a communal and sacred place that serves social and religious purposes for the Maori people). I have completed orientation at Victoria University, met my advisor, registered for classes, have started attending classes, unpacked, enrolled my son into the local high school, opened up a bank account, and we have gotten New Zealand cell phones. I am still learning the lay of the land, getting acquainted with the neighborhood and learning how to navigate the public transit system (compared to NYC transit, Wellington is a piece of cake). I made connections to visit local schools, have begun visiting some of those schools and have FINALLY adjusted to the 18 hour time difference, I am completely sleeping through the night and I have figured out how to use the oven!!!!!
Though my life has been a whirlwind of activity and adjustment (a bottle of soda costs $10, a haircut for my son, $25-$35 and an average pair of sneakers will run you $180!!), the hectic and chaotic nature of the life I led in New York, is simply not present in this beautiful city. I left freezing temperatures and snow to be surrounding by amazing blue skies and cool breezes coming off of crystal clear turquois water. I am enjoying mostly beautiful weather, with the sun beaming on my face nearly everyday. Considering what I left behind in NYC, I am completely happy with the windy and sometimes rainy days that occur here in Wellington. I am even learning new words and terminology, for example: car park: parking garage, take away: take out (as in food), rubbish (garbage), toilet: bathroom, and mate: friend.
The pace of life moves so much slower here and not in a bad way. People work, go to school, spend time with family/friends, have goals, drive, ambition. Kiwi’s live life just as we do back home, however the sense of urgency, and “dog-eat-dog” mentality simply does not exist here. I have uprooted my life and moved halfway around the world to discover best practices in educating minority students who receive Special Education. For the first time, in a really long time, I am able to sit, think and actually hear my thoughts. I am able to plan, schedule and conduct research at a leisurely pace on a subject matter that is near and dear to my heart, not only as a professional but as a caring, nurturing citizen of the world, who truly wants to make the educational environment better for students with learning disabilities. I am actually able to learn just for the sake of learning, not because I have to pay bills, or get a degree or earn credit for certifications and a pay raise. There is something so freeing and so liberating in being able to embrace an opportunity that expands your world view, your professional practice and increases your intellect without the pressure of performance, recognition and economic/financial gain.
I invite you all to join this Harlem Chic in the Land of Kiwis, on this amazing journey into new world of learning and growth.
Peace and Blessings,
If I take one more step, It will be the furthest away from home I’ve ever been.— Samwise Gamgee