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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Culture Shock

"Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken." -- Frank Herbert

We arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, or to our new home, on Thursday, December 8th—exactly a month since the day we boarded the jet plane in Texas.  It was such a relief to know we had finally decided where we were going to settle for our year in NZ; and we both felt completely in agreement that this is where we were supposed to be, no more moving around!  How funny that coming here we thought we were just going to be vagabonders for a while, well, I guess we were in the end, considering how much we moved around for the first month as soon as we got here, but by this time, it was just completely exhausting emotionally and physically and we were wanting to have a house or apartment of our own to move into.  But, of course, you have to have a job first to make that part work, which, was one hitch in our move to Wellington, something we didn’t have yet, but we weren’t too worried about that part falling into place.   When Josh and I had first started just talking about moving to NZ and hadn’t completely decided on it yet, the first contacts we made were with the church members in Wellington, which was our first pick when just talking about it, that we would move there.  That changed from day to day as we finally decided we were going to do this, and bought the plane tickets back in August. We researched job sites online on TradeMe and Backpacker Board NZ, finding different jobs that interested us throughout the country.  We did want to travel around for our first couple months here, and thought we might would eventually end up in Wellington after we lived in Hanmer Springs for a while, and then maybe Nelson.   Funny how it all worked out in the end and that we ended up where we first thought we might live one day those many, many months ago in Tyler (which now seems like a lifetime ago!).  Interestingly enough as well, that Keith Copeland was our very first contact in NZ; we talked to him via e-mail all the months leading up to us moving, and he gave us tons of advice and encouragement to help us in our transition.  And now here Josh and I were, living in New Zealand, in Wellington, and now friends with Keith and his wife Elsa, and that they were being such hospitable Christians and letting us stay in their home while we looked for jobs and a place to live.  It was just amazing to me, and especially looking back, at how this plan has worked out, and thanks to God’s help.  He made this dream possible for us and that it came true, and made the transition so easy, in all reality, with the help we received from our Christian friends. 
Josh and I unloaded our car (which has been completely packed to the rim, it’s like playing Tetris trying to get all of our stuff to fit in there!) putting our suitcases and backpacks and whatever else junk we have somehow already accumulated into the Copeland’s house.  As far as job prospects, we already had a few that might be a possibility for the upcoming New Year.  Ok, here’s how it works in New Zealand, something I have observed and which is completely different from America; during the Christmas and New Year holidays, everything shuts down…for like a month! That is hardly an exaggeration either.  New Zealanders, or shall I say, Kiwis, enjoy life to the fullest.  That was something we found out right away.  Josh was e-mailing all types of businesses asking about possible employment and we both were applying online for jobs, and most of the responses we received were that they would know more and get back with us or interview after the New Year.  They were about to go on holiday.  Businesses, or most of them, seriously shut down and go on holiday for like three weeks surrounding Christmas.  Not all do, but most said that they would get back with us after the holiday.  This was not the best timing I guess for me and Josh, however, to find a job and was a bit frustrating.  But lucky for the businesses!  Also, how it works here, which knocked me off my feet and blew me out of the water when I first heard about this deal . . . for most professional jobs in NZ, employers give their employees not one, not two, not three, but FOUR (4) WEEKS PAID VACATION!!! I’m not lying, I know, that is so hard to believe as an American that this could be possible, I thought people were pulling my leg when they told me this.  And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working there, even if just a year, you get this wonderful gift.  Good grief, at my last job and how it works for everybody else too in the States I guess, you get one week’s paid vacation for working there a year, and thereafter, if you’ve been there two years, then you accumulate two weeks paid vacation.  Which, in the end, I didn’t get a full two weeks even though I worked my little butt off for two full years.   Hmmm….maybe America should take a hint from how people live their life in New Zealand, I mean that’s what I’m talking about and how it should be!  It’s not all Work, Work, Work, slaving away in a crammed office wasting your life away doing pointless, monotonous work that you get no credit for in the end, and no play, just work, go home, and go to bed, and then the same thing the next day.  And work so hard just to get that one week, or two if you are really lucky, vacation that you might be able to afford.  No, in New Zealand, people like to get off work at five, if they have an 8 to 5 job, and I mean leave the office at five.  In general, from what I’ve heard and seen thus far, they don’t stay at the office until 8 or 9 at night and go up on the weekends, a slave to their jobs, but they go home at 5 and on the weekends to their families, or go outside to play; play outside in this beautiful playground that God made for us to enjoy.  And by giving their employees 4 weeks paid vacation; that truly says enough right there.
There is a balance, or should be, in life between work and play.  And in order for us to play, Josh and I still desperately needed to find a job.  At last, Josh got an interview scheduled for the following week, set up with an employment agency, and then I had luck with applying for temporary receptionist jobs as I got word back from another employment agency as well scheduling me for an interview after the holiday break, on January 9th.  That was a long time to wait, but made me very happy and hopeful.   Josh had his interview for December 12th, which he went to, and said it went very well.  The agency said he would be hearing back from them in the next few weeks after they pass on his information to different businesses.  It was frustrating to have to wait until after the holidays, and we hoped we would really hear back from them, which I had hopes we would because, well, of course anybody would want to hire my smart husband!  In the meantime, we shared the Copeland’s house with Keith for the next couple weeks, who was in and out a lot for work, until he left to go to Mexico.  We hadn’t been hearing back from Josh’s interview yet, and we were needing money and to have a secured job; we honestly felt a little lost and pretty down.  Everything had basically shut down, which was annoying because there was nothing we could really do until after the holidays . . . just wait and hear back from the places we applied, and hope good would come from his interview and my upcoming one. 
Then one day mid-December, Josh got a call from one of the places he had e-mailed to see if they needed any work, and it was a contractor who did jobs for property management.  This didn’t sound too exhilarating, but we were happy to have work!  What was even better, was that Josh and I would get to work together (yes, we were still happy and in love despite the stressful circumstances . . .we enjoy each other’s company J).  It was commercial and residential cleaning for a property management company.  I can’t say I’ve ever done that before, but it was actually interesting to me as Josh and I drove together across town to a house overlooking the ocean, and waited for the owner of the company to come and show us how to clean houses.  I laughed to myself at what we were doing; I never pictured Josh and I doing that, though I guess we were imagining us working for hotels/resorts doing reception and/or housekeeping, and this was pretty close to the latter part.  Our boss man finally showed up; his name was Erol.  We walked up the many steps (all the houses are built on the mountain sides, so I am finally getting calf muscles that I always wanted!) to the house and met the lady who lived there.  She was pregnant, due in two weeks she said, so as I waited for Josh and Erol to bring up the cleaning supplies, she and I stood at the window looking at the amazing view she had, and just talked for awhile.  She was really nice and I told her where we were from and about our working holiday visa, which she thought was really neat that we could do that now, and said she always wanted to do something like that too.  The lady also talked and bragged about NZ, so that was really cool, I thought.  I actually felt really good inside too that we were helping her out, as she said the house chores are nearly impossible for her to do now in her condition.  She stayed in the house nearly the whole time we cleaned, which felt a little weird, but wasn’t too bad.  I spent the time cleaning the bathroom while Josh did the kitchen and Erol helped clean too and gave us some helpful hints.  I didn’t mind the work that day, and I would go in the kitchen every now and then or wherever Josh was and we would just kind of smile at each other and tell the other what a good job they were doing.  Josh strapped the vacuum pack on his back (that was a sight to see; he actually likes vacuuming lol, which I don’t mind at all because I have always hated doing that almost more than anything!) and I mopped, which I have hardly ever done in my life because I think it’s pointless and gross and doesn’t do the job like a Swiffer Spray Jet does!  It wasn’t so bad though, and it took us about two hours to clean the house. 
After we were done and gathering our supplies to take back to the van, we talked with Erol for a bit and I learned that his thick foreign accent was actually Turkish.  He talked about his culture and how he ended up in New Zealand; he had left Turkey a number of years ago to immigrate to New Zealand leaving his Turkish/German/English interpreting career behind.  I found him to be one of the most interesting people we had met thus far, from the stories we had already heard from him.  He warned us of how the city was going to clear out in a few days almost completely, as everyone leaves the city and goes up north to vacation for the holidays.  Wellington becomes like a ghost town, he said.  I wished we could go vacation up in Auckland and the Bay of Islands, where you can actually swim in the water because it’s warm enough.  People do swim in the ocean around Welly, but I think they are crazy; it is freezing!  Most of them wear wet suits too.  So, I wasn’t looking forward to the ghost town part.  He also talked about upcoming work for us, that it would get busier in January because we would have a lot of property management end of lease cleaning work; where you thoroughly clean the empty house from top to bottom.  It had to be spotless he said, because the property managers inspect it and are very strict.  At least that meant we had jobs lined up in the future, and would be kept busy until we found another job. That is, if we even got something else, for we were thinking we might be okay if we both worked doing this together, and we would have more freedom.  It was good for now, though, was all that we knew; at $15/hour.  We completed that job around lunch time, and Erol said he had more work for later that day (I was thinking, oh no! haha, I didn’t want to work anymore, I was done for the day in my head), but learned that it was a job for Josh, to go with Erol after lunch to go clean gutters.  “Whew!” A sigh of relief from me.  We laughed nearly the whole way to McDonalds, laughing still at what we were doing, and that Josh was going to be riding with Erol in a white van filled with cleaning supplies, and going to clean gutters!  Oh well, more money for us, which we needed.  For the next few days, there were no houses to clean, but only gutters.  Josh said that in NZ you have to have some kind of special training or certification to legally clean gutters, so Josh spent the time holding the ladder for Erol, as he told stories of his life in Turkey and how one day he wanted to open a kebab shop here, which kebabs are now Josh’s favorite food.
Now, throughout this time, the weeks of December and even into January, I found it to definitely be one of the toughest times, and when the culture shock seemed to have completely sunk in.  We both remembered by then what Kevin Moore had told us and prepared us for when he picked us up that day which seemed ages ago, when we first arrived in New Zealand the month before.  He said it was a normal thing to go through, to first get to a new place and be so excited and in awe of everything because it was new; even the things that were different from back home, which we find interesting at the time.  He said that would last for a while, but then the phase would come of culture shock where those things that you found new and cool because it was different in the beginning will then annoy you, even the little things, and you will feel sad and even depressed, and of course with being homesick and missing family and friends back home.  He said he and his wife had these feelings, and these are completely normal; that it can last a period of time, but that the negative, sad part will eventually pass and we will feel back to normal.  He was definitely right.  I had studied about this phase too and learned about it in an Intro to Missions class I took at LCU, and had experienced it a little myself when spending a summer on a mission trip in Mexico. 
The negative and depressed feelings had definitely arrived.  We found ourselves complaining about everything, I certainly was.  Instead of being grateful for all that had gone right and how we were being taken care of, I just complained because of the things that were different from back home.  And it’s always all in the little things too, that sometimes make the most impact.  It’s not like we were in the slums of Africa or in a completely different from America culture like India or China, and maybe that’s why it was so hard.  I had been warned of that too, before coming here, by church friends who lived in NZ but were from the States; that it’s things you don’t expect to be different, not obvious culture differences, but you would just notice along the way and that would annoy you.  You don’t have to move to a country that speaks a different language to experience culture shock; for we were in a place that was completely different nonetheless, even if just small things, they build up and start to get to you.  An example; the bathroom situation.  In every place we had stayed or been in thus far (besides the hotels) and the flats we had looked at (we had already looked at a couple in Wellington, of which I will talk about later), there was something I found that really made me scratch my head and ponder the meaning of.  The toilet (you say here, “I need to use the toilet” or “I’m going to the toilet” instead of “I’m going to the restroom” or “bathroom”) is in a separate little room entirely set apart from the rest of the “bathroom”.  So, you open the door into a tiny little space that you can barely turn around in, where the toilet is, then after you are done with your business, you go out of that room, back out into the hallway, and then into the “bathroom” where the sink and shower are.  Why are they separated? I have no idea.  To some, that may not seem like a big deal and maybe I sound dramatic, but that was something completely unfamiliar and foreign to me, and something I did not understand, but found simply annoying.
Also, the majority of the houses here are very old, and cheaply made, and feels like we are still living in the 1970’s  (if you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t like that time era, though I didn’t live back then to know if it was good or not, but I hate the music, d├ęcor, clothes, everything).  I’m sorry if it sounds like I am bashing New Zealand, I guess I kind of am, but these were just my honest thoughts and feelings, and you will probably see throughout this blog that I will complain about NZ and America, and I will also praise both places for different aspects of these two countries I have now experienced living in.  The toilet room is usually in the middle of the house, which I have found very awkward in that something else I had learned to despise was how quiet it was inside the houses.  I haven’t mentioned this yet, which was another shocker to me, but there is no central heat and air, or ceiling fans.  I still can’t get over that and not sure if I ever will.  People just leave their windows open in the summer to keep cool and have fresh air flowing so the house doesn’t stay damp, and in the winter, they freeze.  At least, I guess that is what we will have to do once that arrives, I was thinking to myself at the time.  Some homes have a heat pump, kind of like a portable air conditioner unit, just heat, but most do not as these are very expensive to install.  So, in order to keep warm, buy a little space heater and not an electric blanket as they have back home, but a heat pad, that you lay on top of the mattress and under your sheets, and turn it on before you come to bed so that your tush will be plenty warm when you at last fall asleep.  And, dress in layers if it gets cold in the house, so we had been advised.  I’m not a big fan at all of being cold, and I have always cranked up the heater and loved listening to the sound of it ventilating throughout the rooms of the houses, apartments, and duplex I have lived in throughout all of my life up until now.  Yes, it is December in New Zealand, which is mid-summer as the seasons are reversed as you may well be aware, but it still has gotten very cold at night, so I can only imagine the winter time.  I guess another thing that I loved and never realized about central heat and A/C back home not only for its practicality in keeping people either warm, or cool, but for the sound of it.  For those of you reading this back home, this might be hard to understand, but imagine, or if you really want to experience what I mean, just go and turn off your heater right now (as I know it is winter there now, so hard to believe).  Then, just sit there until you get really cold to know how that feels, but also, sit there and listen to . . . the quiet.  Maybe me and Josh are the only ones who have a problem with that, but when you are used to hearing the noise of either the heater or the air conditioner going on your whole life (especially living in Texas), then the sound of a completely utterly still and quiet house is unnerving. 
It has been so much of a problem for Josh, that as soon as we got here, well after a couple of weeks I guess, when we could hardly stand the silence at night, he went and bought a portable, six-inch tall fan to listen to the sound and be able to fall asleep.  That is one of his quirks, I learned early on in our marriage, that he has always, and has to, and I mean HAS TO, sleep with a fan going.  When we got married, he brought in this big, huge, ugly box fan into our bedroom and turned it on high that sounded like we were in an airport hangar with all the plane’s engines on full blast. If I tried to turn it off (which I have done a few times) well, I definitely learned what makes Josh tick and how to push his buttons is to mess with his fan.  And, he has learned that I have to sleep with a lamp on.  Somehow, though, I have gotten the bottom end of that deal, though he does do every thing else for me and does everything to make me happy, that is something I have mostly gotten the shaft on.  Living alone and on my own for two and a half years before getting married, I had gotten used to the comfort of having either my leopard or maroon lamp on at night, which made me feel safe and the soft warm colors were comforting and always coaxed me to sleep.  Since I’m married now and no longer sleeping alone, I should feel safe and not need a night light anymore, says he, and he can’t sleep with it on, but I think he has a problem too in his obsession with the fan.  What can I say, there have been many a fight or sleepless nights all because of a fan and all because of a lamp (and a stubborn boy named Josh and a stubborn girl named Lindsey).  We have gotten much better, I am proud to admit, and have found ourselves more compromising on this issue as we have matured in our relationship and in our marriage J (most nights).
I digress, again.  So back to the bathroom.  Another thing is the toilets don’t flush like they do in America.  And, the biggest puzzler of all I have found in many a bathroom is at the sink.  There is not one faucet, but two.  On the left, is the nozzle, or faucet, with the big red “H” on it.  Well, from that faucet comes out, yep, you got it right, hot water.  On the right hand side of the sink (the sinks are tiny as well, by the way) is the faucet for cold water.  There is no magical third faucet in the middle for warm water, or even lukewarm water.  Nope.  So, when you want to wash your hands, and I’ve even found this in some kitchens, you can imagine what happens.  You either freeze to death or burn your hand off; there is no in between.  When trying to wash my face, I would cup my hand and fill it first with cold water, then hot, wait for it to cool off a bit in my hand before it all dripped out, then splash my face.  I tried that a couple times, but soon decided I would just have to go without washing my face, and have a face full of zits.  Apparently, this separate hot and cold faucet thing was a popular trend when building the homes in New Zealand way back in the day.  I thought to myself, you know, I would really like to meet the genius who came up with this design and no, not shake his hand, but slap him up the side of the head and yell, “What were you thinking??!!”  It was after these negative and angry emotions and outbursts I would feel inside that I would then feel bad and wonder what was wrong with me; I sound so spoiled and ungrateful and that’s really not even a big deal at all, at least we have water, how could I complain?  These were my thoughts and feelings though, and I am not sugar coating them, as you can tell, at least concerning our culture shock period.  I came across a quote the other day that I really liked and found very applicable.  Moslih Eddin Saadi said,  "A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”  Well, I know I certainly have my wings all right.
Part of our extreme negativity, I’m sure, had in part to do with our frustration of being in limbo.  The current job situation might work out, but we weren’t too hopeful on that being very steady work and pay, which was needed in order for us to find a place to rent.  We were on a time limit too, and hoping to find an apartment, flat or house very soon, to finally have a place of our own to call home and not be living off of other people’s hospitality, and to be moved into our place or at least have found one before Keith and Elsa got back.  Was this all going to work out after all?  Were we just going to get too frustrated and find it too expensive and give up and go home?  We had our days when we both would say that in anger and when we were feeling down, and both of us were quite homesick with Christmas quickly approaching.  We just had to keep trudging along, and pray about it and have faith that everything was going to work out, which was sometimes easier said than done!  

2 comments:

  1. Wow, you guys are busy updating! This is amazing! I love reading your stories of life getting started in Wellington.

    SO funny about the night light and the fan business! I hope you've got all that worked out by now. I have been laughing about that all morning! I am enjoying these posts so much!

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  2. Lindsey, you are sooo funny!! These are so great!! My thoughts (in chronological order!!): Neat that Keith was your first contact! How ironic! Your comments about working life here are true I would think!! 4 weeks off – wow! You could do a ton with four weeks!! That would be a great relief that would look forward to every year! “Calf muscles that I’ve always wanted” – hah! Cold water in the ocean there – didn’t know that (of course, how would I have known that!!) Y’all have met so many different people and heard so many different stories – wow! Has that Intro to Missions class helped you? I’m sure it has!! That's neat that you took that all those years ago! There’s no errors or grammer misspellings or anything - you are so good! “I know I certainly have my wings all right!” - So funny! Love y'all!

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