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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Hobbit

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I still remember that day clearly, as though it were yesterday, yet it is still almost merely a dream-like memory.  I was in the fourth grade, and I loved to read.  We had a program at our school called Accelerated Reader, which awarded you for reading lots and lots of books.  To participate in this activity or game I would like to call it, you had to take a test on the computer after reading the book to see if you actually read it or not; how well your comprehension was.  On the test, it also told you what level of reading the book was.  The more books you read, the higher the score, of course, and then you could also get a prize!  Two ladies who would often dress up as characters from books would wheel a cart down the hallways and come into our classroom on Fridays and with such enthusiasm that kids adored, announced the winners and hand out prizes for the student’s high scores.  This was certainly a huge incentive to me, but even without this bribery, I would have been no stranger to the walls of my school’s library.  This place fed my love for stories; of fairy tales and adventures, of romance and tragedy, of animals and nature. My imagination could run wild because of this place and when reading a book that was well written, I was there; it became not words on paper, but reality; I was there running alongside the characters and facing the monsters and bad guys they fought, and falling in love with the brave knight who came to my rescue. 
One day, a young girl in the fourth grade I was, I walked into the library and scoured the shelves in search of a good book and new adventure.  I do judge books by the cover.  At least I did then, and pretty sure now, too, as I have found myself putting back a book or two at Barnes & Noble in disgust if I don’t like the picture on the front, shame on me, I know!  I was browsing that day when I saw a BIG—and I mean especially big for the little fourth grade girl I was—book that was tall and thick and yellow golden in color.  I pulled the heavy thing off the shelf and I know my eyes just lit up and got wide with wonder and excitement.  A painted illustration of a great big, scary and formidable dragon with fire breathing out of its angry mouth, guarding its bed of brightly colorful red rubies, and green emeralds and golden treasure.  In big letters, a simple, yet intriguing and captivating title, it read, (you can read the title out loud, and be very dramatic when you say it, for emphasis and to imagine how I felt in that moment) . . . “The Hobbit”.  Woah!  You don’t have to tell me twice; I was sold!  What in the world is a hobbit? I thought.  Oooh, I couldn’t wait to go home and read it and find out.  What thrilled me to the core was looking in the back and seeing what the teachers had decided what the grade level of reading this book was… “9th Grade”!!!  I felt so proud of myself, I was about to try reading a book that the big kids read in their English classes…what a High Schooler reads!  I went home and read that book, and have had a love for hobbits ever since.  Call me a nerd if you want, but I even wished that they were real and I probably might have imagined they were J I took the Accelerated Reading test later, and passed with flying colors.  Yay!  That book captured my attention wholeheartedly and fueled my adventure-hungry mind and inspired me all the more to create my own stories; in my head and on paper.  You see, Bilbo, the main character, or, the hobbit . . . he and I have a lot in common.  At first, he thought he had no need for adventures in his life; for, after all:
"I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone." (Gandalf the Wizard)
"I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!" (Bilbo)
And yet, there was a fire, a longing that grew stronger each day in his heart, to leave his comfortable hobbit hole and set out on an adventure.  And what an adventure he had, and he discovered something along the way that set the stage for an even greater tale and the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, by the same author J.R.R. Tolkien.  A funny thing about that . . . after I read The Hobbit, I was slightly confused because of how it ended.  I was kind of like, that’s it? Like there should have been more since it thrust me into this great tale with all these characters and Bilbo finding a ring, and a great war, but then it just ends with really no resolution, just like it’s hanging there.  I always thought that a little strange and I found myself a bit disappointed, yet I still loved the book. 
Imagine my surprise and understanding when three years later, I was in the library and saw another book, three in fact, to make up a trilogy called The Lord of the Rings.  After reading the back of the books, it was like a light bulb went off and I had to slap myself in the face for being so dumb, I felt like an idiot!  Of course The Hobbit left you hanging, because that wasn’t the end; that was just the beginning, the prequel to the biggest story of all time!  As you can see, I am quite a fan, and highly recommend all to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece.  In junior high, two of my best friends, Jade and Kiri, were also fans and were currently reading the trilogy.  I checked the books out, but I never got very far in the first, The Fellowship of the Ring.  I kept re-checking it out, but it was such a hard read; a lot more advanced than The Hobbit.  It was kind of frustrating.  I still hadn’t forgotten about the trilogy, and was encouraged all the more to pick it up again and read the whole thing when Peter Jackson began filming and brought The Fellowship into theatres my sophomore year of high school.  That same year, I finally read through the whole trilogy; I wanted to finish it before all three of the movies came out.  Tolkien’s story has impacted my life tremendously and I am so glad that the story was brought to the big screen.  Throughout high school, I continued to be best friends with Jade and Kiri, and we were OBSESSED with the movies and the book.  It was a big part of my life and every year we had a special bond together as we made it a tradition to go to the theatres and watch each film together for the first time.  It was perfectly set up since the first one came out our sophomore year, “The Two Towers” our junior year, and the final film at the end of our high school days; senior year brought us “The Return of the King”.  It came out around Christmas time each year, so it was our reward and treat, after our finals were over, to go eat at Olive Garden and then watch our favorite stories played out for us with the characters we envisioned in our minds when reading now real characters that we could really put a face to.  The final film is gut wrenching to the fans, and to anyone with a heart.  That’s what I love about the story; all the themes that we as people can easily relate to.   Themes of hope and friendship and loyalty, and Good vs. Evil.  It’s awesome!  The story was also about saying goodbye to friends, and the tears flowed like a river from me and Kiri’s eyes as we watched the film; knowing that this was the end of our tradition and nearing the time when we were all three going to have to part ways to our different colleges and say goodbye.    
My love for this literary masterpiece carried with me on to college as well, and I spent my whole senior year in the library engrossed in books and research writing my senior thesis on “Christian symbolism in ‘The Lord of the Rings’”.  I would sit in the library many days listening to all three of the movies soundtracks on my I-Pod to stay motivated, haha.  You can laugh at me, I know, that is kind of embarrassing.  But I am so grateful for this story, and it honestly even helped me in my Christian walk, especially writing my thesis, using a story I love and being able to relate it to God. 
Well, as you can guess, if you know any thing about those movies, you probably know that it was filmed in, none other than where I am right now.  New Zealand.  And thus, back in high school, my love for this land that was Middle-Earth began.  I have to go there! I told myself.  I dreamed of going on my honeymoon with my husband.  I did think it would even be cool to possibly live there one day if I were brave enough.  Funny how life works out.   
And, like Bilbo, I am on an adventure now.  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings also inspired me to have my own adventures. I guess life itself is an adventure too, when you really think about it, and like the wise and insightful Helen Keller observed, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  At times, and before coming to New Zealand, in fear I thought about staying in my little hobbit hole, comfortable, warm, and safe, surrounded by all things familiar.  And yet, the same fire and longing in my heart to be part of a grand adventure calls me to look out the window at the mountains in the distance and at new roads I must tread, pick up my walking stick, and carry my little (but not hairy) feet down the dusty road, thinking, “Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.

Currently, while we are residing in New Zealand, Peter Jackson is filming “The Hobbit” here, again in the land that became known as Middle Earth to many people.  I keep hoping we will come across them filming one day as they shoot throughout the North and South island. 

Well, the day came that I heard some news and learned something even better than coming across them filming . . . I could actually BE in the movie!!!  I could be a hobbit! Thanks to Antony who saw the ad on TradeMe and told me about it, they were having an extras casting call in Wellington!  With this long intro of my history with The Hobbit and LOTR, you can only imagine my reaction.  This was like the most exciting, best news in my life! Haha.  So, that is what I mentioned in the previous blog, that Josh and I did on Saturday morning, January 28th, the day after moving into our flat. 

I knew I didn’t quite fit the requirements listed on the ad, but I didn’t care and knew it was worth a shot and to be able to say I at least went to the casting call to be in “The Hobbit”, in New Zealand!  It don’t get much better than that! I never thought I would be able to say that.  The ad said they were looking for extras to play hobbits, being shorter than 5’ 1.  They were also looking for tall, slender people to play elves, being at least 5” 5’ if you were female.  If you didn’t fit that, they said they were also looking for people with character faces . . . which I think that means you look kind of ugly, haha.  Oh, great! I don’t think I have a character face to be an Orc or a woman of the wild.  And, I am too tall to be a hobbit, and too short to be an elf . . . I’m right in the middle, being 5” 3, I think.  I was always pretty short in school and I guess about average now, but I actually didn’t prefer to be a hobbit (though I would still take it!) but was so excited to think maybe they would choose me to be an elf.  And then I could star opposite Orlando Bloom!  I wore a green and blue and white dress that I had worn for me and Josh’s engagement pictures, and put part of my hair back to make my ears stick out more and I straightened my blonde hair.  I would be the perfect elf!  I was going to wear my high heels but Josh was smart and told me to just wear my flats because they would most likely make us take our shoes off anyways.  We woke up early that morning and I got all ready.  I was so nervous I almost felt sick!  Haha.  I was like, what if I really get it? Oh, I would be so nervous!  And what if they make me try out by doing a speaking part, reading from a script? We were like, nah, they wouldn’t do that to be an extra. 

The casting call was at a school hall in Lower Hutt, an outlying suburb of Wellington, at 1:00 p.m.  I knew there would be a huge line, so we left early though I was afraid we might not be early enough.  We left our flat at about 11:00 and arrived between 11:30 and 11:45.  There was a long line all right!  Driving over there and arriving and seeing the long line of people, nerds like me, hopeful of being chosen, I just couldn’t believe I was doing this.  Josh was excited for me and kind of making fun of me too, haha.  But hey, he was alongside me and said he of course was going to try out too!  I was like, “you’re gonna get picked and be an Elf, and I’m not gonna be in it! I will be SO mad at you!”  We had to park pretty far away next to a river, and then walked down the road to get to the end of the line.  I was still pretty nervous.  So, we waited in the hot sun for quite a while, but then the line started moving before 1:00 which was good, so we really only stood out there for almost an hour.  Some guys came around while we waited handing out information sheets that we had to fill out with our measurements, talents, where we live, and availability.  When Josh read that you had to be available on 9 hours notice pretty much any day of the week, for the filming that would occur between February and June, he knew he was going to have to pass.  I already knew he probably wouldn’t be able to with his full-time job, but that just confirmed it.  I’m sure he would have gotten chosen if he did try out, because he really would be the perfect elf, which would have been pretty dang cool to say my husband was an elf in one of my favorite books turned into a movie! 

With each step that got closer to the front door, the more anxious I felt and my stomach was filled with not butterflies, but birds, angry birds.   What if I really did have to act out a part?  Or what if The Peter Jackson was in there, along with Frodo and Bilbo?  I was hoping Gandalf was in there with his white staff, so he could make me grow just a few inches taller and I could fulfill my dream of being an elf.  At last, Josh stepped out of the line, and I was on my own and alone to walk in the doors of that little school hall.  The guy at the front, who was kind of big compared to me and intimidating, separated us into two lines.  He told me to go left.  I wonder what that means?  I thought to myself.  As predicted by my husband, I had to take off my shoes.  I had noticed a lot of girls wearing stilettos and clomper heels, so I’m glad I didn’t look like an idiot doing that after all. I didn’t see Peter Jackson in there, which I was a little disappointed, just normal people.  Lucky them, though, they get to work on this film.  I felt like I was shaking as it was finally my turn to hand the girl my piece of paper and stand against the wall as she measured my height.  She yelled it out to the other lady sitting at the front table, I’m not sure what it was though I don’t remember plus I think she was using the metric system.  The lady handed me my paper back after she had written a note, “blonde hair, green dress” I guess for when the reviewing panel would look at the pictures later.  I wished I had a pen to scribble another note saying, “Pick this girl!”   I was motioned to another line where we stood against another wall and a lady took a picture of each of us.  I was watching all the other people in front of me, and even asked the couple in front of me, “Are we not supposed to smile, or do you know?”  because they were all straight-faced and almost frowning.  I want to smile!  I thought.  They said just be serious, I guess.  Hopefully that was the right thing to do, because that’s what I did.  It felt weird and awkward as all the people in line were just staring and the girl took two or three pictures, full length and up close, and I stood there trying not to smile.  And then, that was it!  I walked out of there and instantly felt my nerves calm again and relieved that that was over.  I don’t know if I could handle being a movie star, with all those flashing lights. 

I walked out and found my husband, who I was very glad to see again.  We were astounded by the long line of people…it was outrageous!  We had gotten there in the nick of time.  It was stretching far down into a park and almost all the way out to the busy highway.  Which, by the way, when we had been waiting in line outside, it was right by the super busy motorway and the traffic was jamming up as everyone was in the turning lane to get into the parking lot.  We drew a lot of attention to passerby’s as they honked and waved and just stared at us weirdos.  It was a tight squeeze in our car and we almost got scraped by trying to get out of there, but eventually, we made it out.

Well, I had done it!  I had tried out to be in “The Hobbit”!   Who gets to say that?  Haha.  Never thought I would. 

We later learned that I was quite lucky, because the turn out was so phenomenal and exceeded expectations and became dangerous due to the highway, that they had to shut down the casting call early.  They were only expecting 1,000 people to show up, but over 3,000 are estimated to have shown up. Only 800 people, myself included, got to make it in the doors and have a chance.  In fact, it made international news!  You can read a couple of those articles here:

It was an amazing day and experience to say I got to be a part of; whether I get to be an extra in the movie or not.  Who knows if I would get a call, as the selection process is still underway; I have a long time to find out or not whether I would make it.  Either way, I cannot wait until the first part comes out (they are making The Hobbit into two films) and the world premier is set for Wellington in November.  I’m not sure the date yet, but we are staying until it premiers.  I want tickets and I want to go to the event that they supposedly bring the red carpet out for in the streets of this city I now live in.  Boy, I’d go bonkers, and I will be that screaming fan that nearly passes out that they show on TV.  And I will meet Peter Jackson, and Elijah Wood, and Orlando Bloom.  I might even have a cup of tea and eat lembas bread with them, too.  It’s on my bucket list anyway.  

I shall leave you with the trailer for “The Hobbit”.   When I first watched this online a couple months ago, I was by myself, I wish Josh had seen me, but I literally screamed and really squealed with delight when I watched it and clapped my hands.  I was so excited!  I couldn’t believe I was living where they are currently filming it and I have already seen some of the landscape!  The music, the dwarves singing their song; I can tell it’s already an amazing soundtrack and just seeing the background, it was all almost just too much for me.  Somebody might need to sedate me before I go see that film in theatres.  And I want to watch it here.  How cool would that be?  Man, this trailer gives me goose bumps watching it, too.  I’m a big fan, can you tell?    

Saturday, 24 March 2012

To View Road We Go

“Home is the place where it feels right to walk around without shoes.”  -Unknown

Josh and I couldn’t have felt happier, knowing that in two weeks we would soon be finally moving into our own place, and that we had made the right choice.  There was no longer that feeling of dread in our stomachs, but instead we were filled with relief.  We could laugh again, at ourselves and the mess we had gotten ourselves into, and that we had luckily escaped what would have been a very bad and rash decision-making process.  It makes for a story though; one we will never forget.  I think what made us happiest of all was that we wouldn’t ever have to step foot in that shower, and we would have ourselves a nice, modern bathroom.  After all the experiences we’d encountered and learning more about ourselves and each other, Josh noted something and made fun of me one night as we were driving, laughing at his wife and saying, “You know, baby, you really are high maintenance!”  I gasped and in the most dramatic tone came back with, “I’m not high maintenance . . . I’m American!” haha, we thought that was pretty funny.  And we both knew, too, that if I am high maintenance, which I have never considered myself to be, well, then he is right up there with me.

The next couple of days we found that the property management had been picking up again, and we were kept busy with that, cleaning houses.  As my parents and sister can tell you, as well as any roommates I’ve had and Josh, I am certainly no clean freak at home.  In fact, quite the opposite.  You would think I would have outgrown this phase from my childhood, but it doesn’t seem to want to leave me.  Cleaning is not my favorite thing to do.  So, here I was cleaning other people’s houses for money.  Makes a lot of sense, right?  Not really, I know, but I actually didn’t mind it all that much.  Whenever I would clean my room or my apartments, well, I did clean it by golly, and I was very thorough.  I take my time with a lot of things, well, basically everything, even walking I am slow, so it would take me forever to clean; probably why I didn’t like doing it so much for I’d spend all day.  I will always remember cleaning those houses in New Zealand.  The ones we cleaned that week were for the property management company, end of lease top to bottom makeover.  The biggest kick I got out of it, was, I bet you can guess, was getting to tour these houses.  They were top dollar rental homes, with outstanding views.  One of the houses had been rented out by two bachelors, who surprisingly kept it well maintained and it wasn’t too hard to clean, it was just so big that it took forever.  It was the most modern house I’ve ever seen; which I really don’t like when the architecture is sleek and straight with only blacks and silvers and no warm colors; makes it cold and uninviting, and more like an upscale business office.  Stainless steel kitchen and appliances, a marble rock granite countertop island that was so heavy that it had to be lifted in by a machine when this house was built; twenty men couldn’t have carried it.  The refrigerator was hidden into the wall making it like it was just part of the cabinets.  Josh and I had the joy of cleaning the kitchen; which certainly took all day long.  Erol, our boss, helped every now and then throughout the day as he had other jobs, and there were two other girls to clean the house as well, that’s how big a house it was.

We had fun, though, Josh and I, working together in the kitchen.  I wouldn’t have done it if I were by myself.  We kept encouraging each other, and motivated the other to continue on.  For lunch, we brought our food; nasty sandwiches that we despise eating, a big bottle of coke, and cheesy Dorito chips.  Very healthy.  We sat by the glass walls though, and looked out at the ocean, which was so beautiful and uplifting to see the turquoise blue water.  I remember it was terribly windy that day . . . the morning had been pouring down cold rain, which eventually passed but the wind was ruthless, causing even this newly built, expensive home to shift and sway.  I was beginning to realize that they weren’t lying when they called it “Windy Wellington”.  By the end of the day after cleaning those houses, we were completely exhausted.  It really was hard work; much more so than I would have expected.  On your hands and knees basically all day, smelling the fumes of the cleaning solutions and scrubbing with all your might; my muscles in my arms and legs ached.  Didn’t realize I would get such a work out.  We’d come home just lethargic and our heavy bodies just wanted to crash.  I usually had a horrible headache too and felt a little dizzy. 

One house we cleaned, I didn’t realize we were in such a time crunch to complete, nor did our boss.  We would usually finish or be about done by 5:00, that’s when Erol would let us go home.  Josh and I cleaned this particular house by ourselves, with Erol coming back and forth between jobs to help.  I thought we were doing pretty good on time.  It was another huge house, two story, with distracting sea views.  I chose to do the bathrooms; a mistake I had soon learned.  Not very pleasant.  Our boss told us how it needed to be spic and span when it was done, because the people from the property management would inspect it and there would be a problem if they saw anything wrong, and let him know.  Well, I thought they usually inspected it AFTER we were finished, as in the next day.  This company apparently had a different idea.  I was about ready to give out I was so tired of cleaning the dirty bathrooms, when I heard several voices.  Who in the world is here and what do they want?  I was annoyed.  Then I was figuring it out; the property management or leasing agents, whoever they were, had arrived ridiculously early and were already there showing the house to a couple interested in renting the property.  Oh, I don’t think so; it’s not time yet, we are not done, why are you here! I was thinking.  I figured I would just ignore them and not even look at them or stop what I was doing or smile, or get out of the way so they could view the bathroom.  That sounds rude, but nonetheless those were my thoughts as my eyes were watering and burning from the fumes, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the shower, and I was in my oversized polo shirt that swallowed me up and that had the company cleaning name on it.  I felt so grungy and I knew I looked horrible.  As I heard the voices get closer, and then they were right in the hallway and looking in the rooms right by the bathroom I was in and peeking in the door.  I didn’t even look up.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the lady and man who worked for the company in their fancy clothes.  They could have at least said hi, I was thinking, but then again I didn’t make eye contact, so maybe that’s why!  They all sounded very picky and complaining about the most minute things.  The lady went and grabbed Josh this one time to talk about an oil stain that must have come in from the rain off of the door’s hinges that led to the balcony.  She griped about it to him, like he could do something about it.  Okay lady, hold your horses and calm down, I was thinking.  What she did say to me when she walked by was “Oh, are you on bathroom duty?” That’s why she didn’t bother me that time.

Well, she needed someone to complain to and humiliate for the next bedroom.  The prospective renters, who had their noses high up in the air it sounded like from their conversation and complaints, noticed a problem.  The real estate snob lady came into the bathroom, and said, “Excuse me, can I get you to come in here, I need to show you something.”  “Uh-huh”, I said.  Ugh.  She brought me into the bedroom in front of the people and the other businessman in his suit, and said, “we noticed this mark on the wall, and there are a couple others on the other wall, just wanting to make you aware of it and to make sure that gets taken care of”…something along those lines.  It made me so mad and I was so annoyed at that lady and her snobbish attitude, it took everything within me not to say something mean to her.  I had a number of lines I could have used that were in my head and that I wanted to go find her later and tell her; but I refrained.  She might have expected me to scrub the mark off the wall right in front of them, so they could see it magically disappear, but instead I stated the obvious and what made me most mad of all about the situation; “Oh, well, we haven’t gotten to this room yet” I said, “but we will get to it later”.  Duh! Can’t you see you got here way too early, and the job is not yet complete as you can see we are still in here cleaning? Maybe if we were done and out of the house and they saw the mark, then yes, that would be a problem.  The mark, or marks, which I did scrub off later with much vigor, could only be seen with an infrared light; I don’t even know how they saw it.  And second of all, don’t treat me like a lowly servant and bring me into the room with the clients/prospective renters to make herself look good and have power, but instead, she could have waited until the people left and came back in there and spoken to me privately about things they had noticed along the way.  I walked out of the room after I said that and she said, “Thank you!” and I said “You’re welcome” but I said it very shortly and it sounded so fake and overly enthusiastic.  I wanted to throw my gloves on the ground and yell, “I’d like to see you clean this place, you Nazi!”  Lol.  But, I didn’t.  That wouldn’t have been very nice or Christian of me J I felt really sad after that too; it was humiliating, unless I am just super sensitive and I was tired, but I didn’t like the way that made me feel.  I could even hear and imagine the little mice coming out from their holes and singing to me:     

“Cinderelly, Cinderelly
Night and day it's Cinderelly
Make the fire, fix the breakfast
Wash the dishes, do the mopping
And the sweeping and the dusting
They always keep her hopping
She goes around in circles
Till she's very, very dizzy
Still they holler
Keep a-busy Cinderelly!”
Josh came in a few minutes later to check on me.  I think he has some kind of intuition or connection with me, because he always knows when something is wrong, or he just knows me that well.  He made me feel better about it, and then I heard her call on him like two more times talking about carpet stains, which of course is not our fault or problem, and Josh became just as fed up with her as I was.    Erol made us feel better about it after they all left, and said this had happened to him before.  We told him about her telling us about all that was wrong, and he said he had learned a lot of things, like always to close all the windows and turn off the lights and thermostats, otherwise, we’d get in trouble for it if the house was robbed or the power bill very high.  He laughed and said, “It’s always the cleaner’s fault; we get blamed for everything!” His humor and good attitude about it made us feel better.  Our job was certainly not glamorous, but besides incidents like that, it wasn’t too bad and we didn’t mind that much.  It gave us freedom, we thought, and was paying good enough.  On the other hand though, we still felt a bit uneasy knowing we were basically on call and didn’t know how many jobs we would be having each week and if it would be enough to let us live decently.  We didn’t think it would be very steady or reliable. 
God must have been really wanting to take care of us.  Towards the end of that first week of moving into the Raine’s house, one day we had gone shopping and were sitting in the parking lot after looking for stuff for our new place, and Josh got a phone call.  I listened to the conversation and liked what I was hearing.  A week before, Josh had received a call back from the interview he did for the employment agency for a possible insurance job.  At the time, he had said the interview had gone really well, he thought.  I knew he was going to do excellent, and was very proud of him.  They had said they would get back with him in the next few days.  I guess we had kind of forgotten about it or not wanting to get too excited about it, and not sure if we would have wanted him to get it yet anyways as we learned it was a full-time job, 8 to 5.  I don’t think I had mentioned this earlier, but that interview I was supposed to go to in the beginning of January with another employment office, I had e-mailed and cancelled, because back then we decided I wouldn’t need to do that, since we had found the cleaning job and thought that would work for both of us to stick with that.  Well, anyways, so he got a call back from the second interview, and HE GOT THE JOB!  He said he would talk to his wife about it first and call back to confirm, so he got off the phone and we talked about it.  We were so happy and I was so proud of him; he said they had said what a great job he did in the interview.  We talked about it for a little bit, and I knew he was so excited and what a great opportunity this would be for him and the future.  Of course, it meant we wouldn’t be working together anymore, and it would be full-time, Mon to Friday, 8 to 5, which didn’t give us much freedom to travel around so much, but it would give us security, a great salary and the amazing way of vacation time that they don’t do in America; 4 weeks paid vacation!  It was a year contract, which was awesome and it’s hard to find a job like that on a working holiday visa.  He would be working for the Earthquake Commission in Wellington, or EQC, handling the insurance claims of the hundreds of lives affected by the devastating earthquake in Christchurch the year before.  He would be working for the government, which is pretty sweet, and it would look great on his resume in the future.  Josh called his dad to tell him the good news, too.  A few minutes later, and after Josh telling me this would mean that with that salary I wouldn’t have to work, then he called back and confirmed the job.
Josh got a new job!!! We were so happy and just felt so blessed at how everything had turned out.  What a week that had been!  We got ourselves a new flat that we loved and couldn’t wait to move into, and Josh got an amazing job.  And I wasn’t going to have to work! I wasn’t going to mind that at all; I knew I certainly wouldn’t mind the break, and it would give me a chance to do what I never had the time for before since getting out of school and working full-time; write.
I would like to say that throughout this entire process…from the day of arriving to New Zealand and traveling back and forth between the North and South Island, living in different motels, hotels, people’s homes, and a caravan, and all the while on a scavenger hunt for a job and a place to live and adjusting to a new culture and each other and being away from our families, that I completely trusted or “gave it all to God” as I have learned and know is the right thing to do and what God wants from me.   There were several times I found comfort in the thought that God had led us this far and in knowing that He would provide and take care of us and moments we both prayed, asking Him to let us trust Him.   And there were the times when I failed to find this comfort, but instead fretted in my head and sat there and complained or stressed Josh out more so than he already was.  I hate when I have to look back during times in my life when I see how stronger my faith and trust in God should have been; makes me disappointed in myself.  Instead of thanking God every day for the journey we were on, and counting my blessings in how He was taking care of us, often times I would find myself simply frustrated with the circumstances and complaining.  In hindsight, it’s so easy to say, “Oh yeah, I trusted God, I knew he was going to work it all out”, and maybe some of you are able to say that in every situation or sequence of events, whether good or bad, that has transpired in your life; if you are one of those people, then I tip my hat to you, if I were wearing one right now.  But we may say that to others, or at least try to tell ourselves that, but only we know, and sometimes we lie even to ourselves, whether or not we really trusted God with all of our hearts.  Not something I’m proud of, but I think it is a struggle, one that God knows and sympathizes with; He knows we are human.  He knows we are selfish at times, and how arrogant we can be in our thinking.  But He also knows that we are trying.  I can imagine God up there sometimes, watching all of this.  I bet He sure does get a kick out of it!   I know He must laugh a lot at me, too.  He probably wants to grab me by the shoulders sometimes and shake me and say, “Lindsey, what are you doing?!” Or “what are you thinking?”  Trust me! Look around you!
I always love to think of the verse in the Bible that talks about God caring so much more about our lives than the sparrow.  Yet He provides for those birds that we hear singing to us each morning.  I am valuable to Him.  And He loves me. 
He is the proud parent sitting on the sideline of a basketball or football game, or, more rather in my case, my parents sitting in the audience with a video camera, taping my choir performances.  What would I have done if my parents hadn’t been there, cheering me on? I probably would have quit.  It meant the world to me, especially looking back now, that they were there at every performance or award’s ceremony in school.  I wanted their approval, and love, and more than anything, I wanted to make them proud.  I thought about that awhile back and related it to God.  Of course I love to hear my parents say, “I love you!” That is such a wonderful feeling to have the unconditional love and support of parents who are in this game of life for you; they have always made you feel that way and that your life matters.  But reflecting on my life growing up, and in high school, and college; I always did my best.  Well, not every time of course or in every subject I sometimes slacked a little bit, but I honestly overall had the attitude and it came easy for me academically to always want to try my best; I was very motivated.  I loved making good grades; and not just enough to get by, but I wanted that “A”, and I wanted to see my teachers leave hand-written comments at the end of a paper.  That was one of the best things ever, having a teacher say what a great job or what they liked about a paper I had written.  They had approved, and they were proud.  And the reward seemed infinite when I would call my parents up when I was at LCU, and tell them what my grades were, or what I made on that test I stayed up nearly all night studying for.  (I didn’t tell them about every test, of course, especially in my world history and geography class, good grief, his tests were hard!) I was thrilled to the core to hear their enthusiasm for my achievements.  Or if I had done something good, or was making new friends, or writing a good article for the newspaper, or to hear that they were happy for my involvement in the youth group growing up and then at my church’s college group.  Maybe it’s because we say “I love you” so often to each other, I’m not sure exactly the reason but I do know this: Even more so than hearing that phrase, it almost brings tears to my eyes now to think of those times hearing my Mom or Dad’s voice telling me, “I’m proud of you.”  You’re proud of me?  Wow.  It is like they just opened the caterpillar’s cocoon hanging from the tree with their bare hands, sending the brilliant butterfly fluttering high above the world, so happy and free.  And today, I ask myself, “Are they still proud of me? Are they proud of my life?”  And that mindset, I had related that to God in the past when using that analogy and it’s a good reminder for me today.  Imagine what that day will be like, when you meet God.  This is what I imagine . . . hopefully He will have let me in, and so then I imagine meeting Him in a field in heaven.  I am finally able to see Him face to face. It’s just me and Him.  Of course I will want Him to say, “I love you, my child!”, but almost even more so and what gives me chills is to imagine Him smiling at me and with the knowledge in His head of the life I lived on earth and us both knowing how I lived, and that He knows the good and bad things I have done and what I’ve been through, He knows everything, and knows me; and I can see all of this in His eyes, and He smiles and with tears in His eyes says, “I’m proud of you.”  And then embraces me.    
How I hope He will be able to say that to me.  I don’t want Him to look at me with sorrowful tears and say, “I’m disappointed in you.” I forget about this so many times and forget the big picture and I mess up and sin and I know that God is often disappointed in me, but yet God is still full of grace and love and forgiveness, which I must not abuse.  And He is on the sidelines and in the audience, cheering us on and yelling out, “Go get ‘em, you can do it!”   I must strive to be the Christian he wants me to be, I just often fail.  I would like to be able to say, “I’m perfect!” Or “I have the right, Christian attitude every single hour of every single day of my life!” But I can’t.  We must daily be reminded, and stay focused, and try to do our best.  Getting a “C” wasn’t good enough for me in school.  I don’t want to be lukewarm, I don’t want to do enough to just get by, or just to barely pass with a 70, but I want to get an A ++ in this life.  I want to make God proud.  Settling for mediocre or knowing I could have done better, that is or should not be good enough. 
Why do I say all of that?  To be honest.  And to say that despite my doubting God or even forgetting Him at times, He has still been with Josh and I every step of the way. It’s neat to imagine Josh and I being puppets hanging from a string; with God just guiding us and adding the characters of the play we encounter along the way.  And changing the backgrounds as we enter new places in our journey.  He’s been behind the scenes all along. 
He sent characters into the play, or into our story, who brought us into their homes to shelter us from the rain and wind and who invited us to dine at their table.  How amazing to find Christian brothers and sisters across the world in another country, willing and able to offer their hospitality!  We were gracious to the Raines for allowing us to stay in their home for two weeks, and for sharing many meals with us made by the hands of Jeanette.  They really did take care of us; I thought that was such a sacrifice to share your home with someone because it takes away from your own family’s space and time with each other and privacy.  What a great example of Christians.  I thought of myself and back home and would I have done that? There were times when Josh and I, especially at this time of frustration and of being away so long from having our own space and place to call ours to settle into, still felt negative and complaining as we were so anxious and ready to move into our new flat.  I was also still very tired of digging clothes out of my suitcase each day and everything being so scattered; I felt very discombobulated. 
During our second week of staying at their house, Josh started his job.  I found myself already missing him during the day and was so happy to see him when he got home.  One of those nights Jeanette had asked if I would like to cook, which I enjoyed getting to do for the family. Felt really good to do that.  I made comfort food; poppyseed chicken casserole, something I found I was able to make here.  I’d had problems the few times I did try to cook when we were still at the Copeland’s house; I guess that’s part of living in another country, where they don’t always have the same ingredients.  A lot of the food tastes very different, but that’s another story for another day about food and cooking in New Zealand.  Anyways, I was so happy that it turned out and I also made my Granny’s sweet potato casserole again.  The first time I made it in NZ was our Thanksgiving meal with Paul and Lynn in Nelson which I used the kumara, that was a white and golden color.  This time I used a real sweet potato; it was orange.  I was happy to see and make something familiar from back home and to have it taste just about the same too.  I also made blueberry muffins.  Jeanette, Antony and their sons Kevin and Jeremiah seemed to really like the meal, as did my hubby, so I was quite satisfied and pleased and that I was able to help out.  I will always remember a particular meal Jeanette made of roasted chicken and kumara and carrots; that was so yummy!  And her sweet iced tea always hit the spot.       
Josh and I certainly needed to find some furniture for our new place.  We did know that the flat came with a refrigerator and a washing machine, which was extremely helpful and saved us a lot of money and trouble.  We knew we would need at least a couch and bed, so we looked and Josh bid on several items on Trademe.  After much research, we found a futon/pull-out sofa that we really liked the looks of from the pictures and looked like it was in good condition.  We thought it would serve to be very useful that it pulled out into a bed, in case we ever had company, or for those nights that Josh got in trouble and needed to sleep on the couch, haha.  So, we drove out to Upper Hutt city, a suburb about 30 minutes outside of Wellington, to take a look and see if we really wanted it or not.  There was no way we could have fit it into our hatchback car, so we had asked Gavin from church if he would be able to drive up there in his truck and pick it up for us and follow us to take back to the Raines house.  We went to the address where the couch was and met the couple that brought us into their home to take a look.  We both loved it; very comfortable and in great condition and would look perfect in our new flat.  The lady even gave us five decorative pillows to go with it! 
So, while we waited for Gavin and his wife Jenn, who I had recently gotten to know her better as she had led a really good ladies bible class.  I also had hung out with her more as she had been starting a bible study with a lady interested in learning more about the bible.  Jenn was approaching her due date as her baby was due in February, and had asked if any of the women in the church would be interested in helping take over and lead that bible study with this lady since Jenn would be having her baby and occupied with being a new mommy.  I had volunteered to be the one to take over, and so in the meantime Jenn, Abigail, and I had met the week before with the lady and Jenn led the bible study. 
Anyways, so as we waited for them to arrive, we had time to kill with this couple we were buying the couch from, which could have been really awkward or they could have just let us go outside and wait in our car as it would probably be awhile before they arrived, but instead they invited us upstairs to their living room to just chat.  They offered us coffee and tea (a big deal over here, there are cafés and street vendors selling coffee drinks on nearly every corner), which we declined but thanked their hospitality.  I’ve noticed I think that seems a lot nicer and everyone seems to offer this than what I’m used to or more likely to be offered a glass of water.  It seems like they are really going more out of their way to make coffee or hot tea.  So, it ended up being nearly an hour that we sat in the living room with this couple we had never met, making small talk.  I guess I did feel awkward a few moments when there was silence, but for the most part, the four of us just chatted like old friends.  They seemed so intrigued by our story and saying how brave we were to do what we had done in moving here and they were asking about life in America.  It was really cool, I think, and I felt very comfortable being with them…just complete strangers!  I love when stuff like that happens.  They were in their mid to late forties I would guess, and the husband had a thick Kiwi accent and would say things like “Bugger” which I thought was funny.  I almost couldn’t understand him sometimes his accent was so heavy.  Either people here are just very friendly, or Josh and I look very innocent and trustworthy.  If that had happened back home and we were selling furniture and a couple came over and were waiting on a truck to come over, I find it hard to imagine or if we were that couple that the ones selling it would invite us to chat for an hour on their sofa; instead, we probably would or normally anyone back home would have just gone and sat in their car and waited or drove around the block over and over again, haha.  I found the majority of the conversation turning to sports and cars.  He was amazed about my red 2007 Mustang I used to have and really torn up that I had to sell it; he was very impressed that I had owned one.  Another observation; I have not seen one Mustang or Camaro or really any sports car, of the newer models.  The one Mustang I have seen so far was the 1995 style.  Maybe it’s just in Wellington, but I have seen very few flashy cars or big SUVS.  It feels like we are in the early 1990’s or late 80’s with a bunch of used Japanese imports.  We also talked, or Josh and the guy talked about Rugby and Football.  When we told them how much players in the NFL make, they were flabbergasted.  Tell me about it!  The Rugby players in New Zealand make a lot of money, but its chump change compared to what professional sports players make back home.  It’s disgusting and so unnecessary that they should make millions of dollars, I think.  We had a really great time talking with both of them though, they seemed really cool and hip, and I was almost sad that our time with them had to end.  I’m surprised they didn’t invite us for supper and ask us to vacation with them!
Gavin and Jenn came of which we were so grateful to them for helping us out, and then followed us back to the Raines house to store the couch in their garage until our move-in day.   Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about a bed anymore, as we had been shopping for and found them to be very expensive, but Keith and Elsa had offered to give us their guest room bed, the one we had slept on while we stayed at their house.  They said and we had noticed that it kind of dipped in the middle, but that was due to one of the boards being missing, which we could fix.  They said they were going to let us have it!  For free! Wow, that was awesome and so helpful.  It didn’t come with a headboard, but the mattress and box spring.  Several different people from church and also the Raines helped us by giving some of their extra dishes: pots and pans, cups, bowls, silverware, etc.  We were so grateful as this would really help us out since we had nothing but clothes and books to bring to our new flat.  The Raines also let us borrow a TV until we save enough to get one.
At last, the day we had been waiting for . . . for like 2 ½ months now of hopping around like rabbits from one hole to the next, our move-in date arrived.  Friday, January 27, 2012.  What a glorious day! Haha.  I couldn’t wait for Josh to get home from work that day, and I spent most of the day packing and tidying up our belongings and room we had been staying in at the Raines.  I kept going back and forth to the room, restless and ready to move on, and making sure we had everything.  It was like I was getting ready to go on a first date or something, having to go back and forth and look in the mirror, feeling so giddy and excited just waiting for him to ring the doorbell.  What felt like an eternity of waiting, Josh finally arrived.  I know he was just as stoked as I was.  Antony and Jeanette helped us out again so much by pulling a trailer on the back of their van, and we loaded up the couch and then stopped by the Copeland’s house to pick up the bed.  Then the Raines followed Josh and I in our car out to the other side of Wellington, passing the beach and ocean along the way and driving up the steep hill to View Road.  The men carried the couch and bed down the long flight of stairs, and we unloaded the car load of our junk which I learned was not just clothes and books anymore, but seemed like we had already collected enough stuff to start our own flea market.  We thanked the Raines and waved goodbye as they drove off. 

Then, we walked down the stairs to our very own flat, our very own home all to ourselves with an amazing view in NEW ZEALAND!  I wish I could describe that feeling; I don’t know if I’ve ever had such a feeling of relief as that moment.  Josh had to stop me from running off the balcony in my enthusiasm at having our own space.  We threw our stuff on the ground and couldn’t believe that we could finally leave it there…if we wanted it in the middle of the floor in the living room, well, it could just stay there the rest of our time here, we weren’t moving it!  We spread our stuff out so much in our bedroom, the kitchen, the living room, bathroom, it was like throwing rose petals at a wedding how we scattered our stuff with quite exaggeration all over, to emphasize to each other and ourselves that we had every right to do so as this was our place now; our own rules and we were here to stay in this spacious, perfect flat for two with a view.  I could leave my three pairs of shoes and dozens of pairs of socks lying around everywhere, as I’m always known to do and not have to worry about it.   And Josh and I could finally be alone again.  Oh man, we were so happy!  That day had been cloudy and rainy, but we didn’t mind.  At night, we left all the curtains open to take in the view of the lights covering all the mountains like hundreds of little candles on a birthday cake.  We stood out on our balcony to hear the ocean crashing into the rocks far down below.  There was definitely nothing to complain about!  We went to bed feeling quite content and ready to go shopping the next day.  More importantly, though, I had an exciting event taking place in the morning…but I will leave you in suspense and tell you about that in the next post!

So, after the exciting event the next morning that I will tell you about later, that afternoon we found a furniture sale at this warehouse outside of town. We made pretty good bargains, and bought a coffee table for 20 bucks, a little nightstand that would fit perfectly in the narrow space between the bed and our bedroom wall so that I could put my lifesaving lamp on.  I have to have my lamp, remember, just like Josh has to have his fan!  And we also bought a mirror for the bathroom.   We went to the Warehouse, which is the closest thing to Walmart you can find here, and bought a few more necessities and a couple of decorations.  All of these items we somehow managed to fit in our little car that has proven to be a miraculous bottomless pit in storage, and brought our belongings back to our flat.  It was a beautiful clear, sunny warm day and we were taken aback by the beauty outside our window.  We were home!   

Monday, 12 March 2012

In Search of Shelter

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."   -Henry David Thoreau

Before coming to New Zealand, and all my life, I had this romantic ideal of living like a gypsy.  Of being a vagabonder, traveling around and living in different places.  Picking up your bag and off to a new place the next day and not settling in but living like a nomad, so you don’t get bored with the routine but have the world to explore and see, all at your feet.  I think I thought about it dreamily before meeting Josh, and upon meeting him, we both expressed our interest and desire to travel abroad, to see and discover the world, and not be stuck in the same town doing nothing and seeing nothing, just waiting until you are old and retired, and miss out on life.  We shared the same dream and vision.  Amazing. When dating, he had talked about living abroad, possibly China, which I cringed at that idea but just smiled and nodded sweetly at him as you normally do when dating.  Haha.  No, I actually do remember expressing that I didn’t picture myself living there long term.  We later talked about our dream place to go, which I said was New Zealand, and talked about going to this exotic, far-away land on our honeymoon.  Those plans changed along the way, and we chose Europe instead, which was pretty sweet, to say the very least.  Then, Josh filled my head with talk of maybe living abroad, as in my favorite place, New Zealand, one day after we got married.  That sounds foolish, I thought to myself, but didn’t dare to mention aloud.  I did express my true sentiments vaguely, however, and said that might be a little hard to actually live abroad, away from family, though I would love to tour and visit all these places I’ve wanted to see; maybe stay for a few months at a time.  Along the way of dating, in a short time I might add, we both fell madly in love with each other, and then got married.  And then, what were once ideals as foreign and distant as the miles that truly separated me from New Zealand then became within my grasp; a dream that I could catch in my hand.  Josh isn’t just all talk, I had been finding out along the way.  He is a man of action.  Not only a dreamer like me, but a doer.  What a discovery I had found!  The thoughts of living away from home that I had once just waved my hand at as in like “yeah right, we can talk about it, but it will never happen” were now something I had to really think about. 
Only a couple months, if even that, into our marriage, and already seeing the monotony of a daily, routine life stuck at what we felt were boring jobs that we were not passionate about, just to pay the bills, stuck in a boring town with nothing to do . . . we weren’t meant for that! We told ourselves.  We can’t get stuck in that trap, not yet at least, and be the people we have often talked to who said, “Man, I really wish I had done that.  I always wanted to travel the world, but . . .”  or whatever the reason may be or dream was that they let remain buried inside.   One thing that maybe holds people back from traveling and living abroad is a secure, good-paying job, with wonderful benefits and room to move up, which was something I had, and wonderful, fun people to work with and boss who I greatly respected.  Not every one has that, and looking back, I really am truly still thankful to God for that job and the people he blessed in my life working there.  But, at the same time, and Josh and I both felt this way because that is just in our nature; we felt trapped.  I felt like a caged bird that desperately needed to fly out the window and pursue her dreams, and fly, far, far away.  Josh is wired the same way as me, and our greatest fear was to be stuck doing something we don’t want to do and then later can’t get out of that rut and just be filled with regret.  We were at a time and place in our lives where we had that freedom; no kids or anything to hold us down and to really prevent us from chasing our dreams and traveling and seeing the world. 
So, we talked about it, and the more we talked about it, the more scared I became.  Wow, we really are going to be doing this? It didn’t seem possible that it really could all work and to leave our families behind for so long, but at the same time, I was thrilled and felt like jumping through the streets that we were going to make our dream happen, and make a life change and move across the world to the place I have wanted to go for years to at least visit, and now live, New Zealand.  And hopefully do mission work along the way, or help the church or some person in some way (that sounds so vague, but we both have that desire that God has something planned for us great to do, whatever it may be, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, just still don’t know what it is or maybe it will have just been one small, seemingly insignificant action, word or event that will hopefully change someone’s life).  To experience life in another land filled with different people and culture and a land filled with God’s beauty.  A land of adventure, an outdoor paradise where we can hike and climb mountains and be filled with mountain top experiences.  To meet new people and hear stories and make friends that we would have a lifetime bond with.  So many dreams and ambitions, and we were finally taking the action to make them happen.  Even as it all was happening and the contacts we made along the way before coming, we knew God had a hand in it.  It was all so easy, the planning and preparing part.  Almost like we had God’s blessing, and I really felt good and like it was the right thing to do; like he was almost telling us we should do it.
And then the day came, the final hurdle or step I had to take where it meant no turning back; to quit my job.  I gave my two-weeks notice and the weight was lifted off my back afterwards; it was such a relief!  It was like holding my breath before plunging into an icy cold lake, the nervousness, emotion, fear, and excitement in telling every one our plan.  A quote by Pico Iyer described perfectly what I had done by quitting and his words can apply to anyone:  “Quitting, for me, means not giving up, but moving on; changing direction not because something doesn’t agree with you, but because you don’t agree with something.  It’s not a complaint, in other words, but a positive choice, and not a stop in one’s journey, but a step in a better direction.  Quitting—whether a job or a habit, meanings taking a turn so as to be sure you’re still moving in the direction of your dreams.” 
We took that action and took those steps, and we did it.  And by George, I am proud of us!  Looking back now and realizing what we did, it honestly amazes me and how it all worked out.  We have truly been so blessed and by the people we have met and friends we have made, God has certainly been there, holding our hands and in the process, bringing Josh and Lindsey closer together.  It hasn’t been easy, and I don’t foresee it always being easy the rest of our time here in New Zealand, and the rest of our life together as husband and wife for that matter.  I’ve already realized that marriage is harder than I thought it would be, though others warned that beforehand, haha, but it is hard.  And why wouldn’t it be?  I read an article where a guy talked about the ups and downs of the first year of marriage, and how it is the hardest year.  He compared it to culture shock.  How fitting!  It is culture shock in the beginning; so completely foreign to be living with someone and learning how truly different you are from one another (the biggest reason obviously being that he is a man and I am a woman, and I wonder sometimes how in the world do the two sexes co-exist?) and changing your independent lifestyle and adjusting to each other and the different fighting styles and all that is entailed with going from dating to being engaged and planning a wedding, to being married and living in the same space, and dealing with the stresses of life at the same time.  So, though it hasn’t been easy all the time, it has also been amazing.   In just a few months, Josh and I will, Lord-willing, have survived the hardest year of marriage, the first year!!!! There may be others reading this who have decades of years of experience in being married, and may be laughing at me and saying, “Ha, girl…just you wait!” and hopefully not, haha, but I know I am so happy to see the improvements and the growing and maturing and bonding we have experienced together through all this  . . . being thrust in a foreign place where we don’t know anyone.  And a fresh start to begin together.  No old baggage, but just brand-spankin’ new suitcases to fill with new experiences and friendships and stories to tell.  It is a growing experience being a wife, and a growing experience living in a foreign country.  Culture shock at first, feelings of bitterness, negativity, and frustration, but that eventually turns into a chapter in a book you had to get through to get to the good part; where you are happy again and see your surroundings in a new light and appreciation and with eyes filled with love that reflect the way you felt when you first saw the green hills and ocean sprawled out before you, the land of New Zealand, or the way you felt when he looked at you and said, “I love you” for the first time.  The look in his eyes that you will never forget.   
Josh bought a book while we were planning our move over here and preparing to get in the mindset of being a traveler living abroad.  It was an excellent, eye-opening book, truly insightful and I highly recommend it not only to those who love to travel or wish to do what we have done, but it can relate to many things in life and pursuing your dreams whatever they may be (and also where that Pico Iyer quote came from).  The book is called  Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” by Rolf Potts.  He defined this term vagabonding quite well, and sums up eloquently in words what we are doing. 
“Vagabonding—n.  (1) The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time.  (2) A privately meaningful manner of travel that emphasizes creativity, adventure, awareness, simplicity, discovery, independence, realism, self-reliance, and the growth of the spirit.  (3) A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible.”
All three of these definitions I can see quite clearly now and have experienced along the way.   Being a vagabonder, I had imagined before and envisioned myself and Josh, meant living out of our suitcases or backpack strapped to our backs filled with a few articles of clothing basically the entire time we were here.  Living in different parts of the country and staying at odd jobs here and there, and maybe eventually finding a place to settle. I honestly had mixed thoughts and visions of what it would be like here: I idolized the idea of being a gypsy living out of a caravan and traveling and living in a different part of the country one week, and rolling on out the next to a new place, but, by now, and because of a close encounter with a certain caravan, this idea was a little liberal and not quite my cup of hot tea (something I’ve learned they love to drink, as opposed to iced tea you order at every restaurant in Texas).  But I also liked the idea mainly of traveling around for a little bit, and then finding a city to live in for the rest of and majority of our time.  I wrestled back and forth with it all when thinking about this move, and reading the Vagabonding book that encouraged and Josh’s words urging me not to get sucked into a plan; not to have it all planned out like we already knew the story and ending, but just let it come and play out on its own.  As a quote from the movie Dan in Real Life, “Plan to be surprised.”  Well, we have been surprised along the way, that is for sure, and yet, we did end up in Wellington, the place we first talked about moving to and where we thought we would end up living in the end, or Nelson.  And we are true vagabonders, considering we did all of the above definition of Rolf Potts meaning of the word.  To be a true vagabonder, we decided, does not mean we have to be a “backpacker” and travel the country with no roots to settle or home to call our own and just living with other people or staying in motels, hotels, caravans, hostels or backpacker’s accommodation the whole time.  We have already achieved the status of being vagabonders.  Now was the time; the time to unpack our suitcases and finally hang up our clothes; in our own closet.  To have a home to finally drop those bags on the floor and feel the burden uplifted from not having to carry those things around everywhere for a few days at a time and wonder where we were going next.  And to have the burden uplifted from our spirits to finally relax and unwind in our own space.  To have a home of our own where we could place a “Welcome” mat at the front door, where we could hang our memories on the wall, and where we could create culinary masterpieces in the kitchen.  To be alone; together.  And a place where I could finally see all the clothes I had actually brought and not have to dig and dig and never find what I was looking for, and if I did find it, it was wrinkled.  My clothes needed a hug from the Snuggle Bear; he would not be proud of me.
All of that to lead into what I thought I would get at in the first paragraph, but I tend to go on several journeys in my head and ramble once I start writing, haha . . . the process of looking for a place to rent.
Here’s how it works in New Zealand; instead of having rent due once a month like I had been used to back home, you pay per week.  I had discovered that prior to moving, when looking on TradeMe and imagining where we would live, that they were listed by price per week.  Did I mention the cost of living is higher here? The cheapest place, but would probably not be livable, on average could be $250 NZD a week.  Wouldn’t recommend going that route though, but aiming a little higher price wise.  $300/week you could find something decent, but most that were worth looking at were around $350 a week and up.  Wow.  That’ll break the piggy bank soon, we thought with forlorn.  We set that as our budget though after a while of looking on the Internet, to try to make $350 NZD the max.  By the way, the rate exchange of the New Zealand Dollar (NZD) and the U.S. Dollar is as follows:  1 NZD = .83 USD (as of March).  A little math, not my favorite subject, but here goes, I calculated in my head: 350 a week times 4 weeks in a month . . . that equals $1400 NZD.  Which is 1153.00 USD.  They do pay more over here though, and with making $15 an hour for a minimum wage job, both of us making that, and if we had somewhat regular hours doing the property management, we could make it maybe.  I’ve never been a budget person, my dad would not be proud nor would Dave Ramsay, but I have tried before and made several budgets, but I soon forget about them and eat whatever I want.  That is a weakness for both Josh and I, is food.  We like to eat, and we like to eat out.  Oh, and we hate leftovers.  And sandwiches.  Dry, white, thinly sliced, bland bread that sticks to the roof of your mouth and a slice of ham or turkey. Bleh!!   Makes me want to gag.  One of these days we will change, haha, but we did that back home a lot too, went out to eat (which I realize now how cheap it is to do that back in America, aggghhh! Somebody send me a bean and cheese burrito from Rosa’s café, right now!) and we certainly had been eating out a lot since being here as we didn’t really have our own kitchen.  We did a few times at Keith and Elsa’s house, but not as much as we should.  I don’t know why I am divulging all our financial weaknesses to the public, haha, but it is all part of our story and the experience I guess.  Anyways, my point is, I have had to keep up with budgets and I lived on my own with my salary for 2 ½ years, paying student loans and rent and groceries and utilities, and I made it.  But, since we have gotten here, and even being married back in Tyler, but especially since arriving here, I have placed all of that in Josh’s hands.  I feel very helpless and don’t do anything on my own, which isn’t a good thing I guess, but I will learn how to do all the financial and day to day activities out in facing the real world of New Zealand. For now, though, I have Josh do everything for me, even order my Chicken McBites at McDonalds; it’s like I’m too scared to even do that! Haha.  I do trust Josh too, and that is why I put all the financial stuff in his very capable hands.    
When you rent a place, you have to pay the deposit as mentioned earlier, or the bond, which is usually like 4 to 5 weeks rent in advance.  Some of the real estate companies have letting fees, which is a rip-off, but a week’s rent that goes to them that you don’t get back.  I guess that’s fair though as it is part of their salary, and we do get or should get the bond back in the end.  However, that is a lot of money up front to be asking for, and something we had to have before getting a place.
 I didn’t mention this earlier, and this is an important part of the story, and a God-thing I believe.   We already knew how expensive it was to move into a place with the up-front costs.  Well, one day we came home to our temporary home, and the next door neighbor of Keith and Elsa, who is actually their landlord, a sweet little lady who we had talked to a few times in passing, brought forward a proposition.  A much needed proposition I might add.  She asked if Josh would like to paint the inside of their flat while they were away.  She had received a quote from a painter which she thought was quite high and asked what Josh would ask for if he painted it.  Well, after thinking and talking about it, we jumped at that opportunity and he gave her a price which would include her getting the supplies.  The amount was quite generous and would easily pay for the bond and help us out so much.  Hip hip hooray! 
He had been doing that off and on during the days we weren’t doing cleaning, and it was quite a long process. Most days we stayed at their flat, both of us either were overwhelmed with dizziness or headaches.  Part of the package though, and we didn’t complain too much about that.  All the while we were thinking that the hard work he was doing gave us hope for the reward of the money she would be paying him in the end and it gave the place a brighter, fresh look and felt like we were somehow helping out Keith and Elsa for letting us stay and would be a nice surprise for them to come back to (we did ask for Keith’s permission first, haha, and they were all for it).  So, a little blessing from God at a time when we desperately needed the money. 
I love looking at houses.  For months before coming, I had poured over pictures online at properties for rent, looking for us a perfect place, even though we wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it when I would find something I loved.  I base decisions on pictures.  Of course the price has something to do with it, but if I like the pictures I see of a house or when looking of where to live or vacation, then I am sold.  Forget practicality; just show me the pictures!  Growing up, whenever our family was looking to move across town, my mom and I would jump on the chance to go look at Open Houses.  We sometimes even went to places that there was no way we could afford, but just for the fun of it and to pretend.  Those are some of my favorite memories! My mom and I shared that same passion, and as a little girl I would imagine I was the Real Estate lady dressed up in my black business suit/skirt and red heels and offer a silver tray of appetizers to the potential buyers.  Then the clients and I would laugh and I would give them a tour and become their best friends, finding them and selling them their dream home.  One day . . . this is on my bucket list of things to do in life. And I will do it.  Someone once told me I could not do this and I should not even think about it because it wasn’t meant for me and I didn’t have the personality for it, according to him.  And if I did choose to go into real estate, to only get advice from him because of his extensive selling experience in his daddy’s store selling not cars or multi-million dollar homes, but glasses.  Eye glasses.  Whoopity whoop, no thank you.  I said “Bye, Bye, Bye” to him and will show him and anyone else who thinks I can’t do that or anything else I ever want to accomplish to keep their mouth shut and mind their own business. 

Shame on those people who try to destroy our dreams and tear us down!  When I met Josh, I was amazed at how positive and encouraging he was.  And I knew he was genuine; it was not just to win me over (and I can attest to that because he is still my ego booster each day) but that is who he is and how he was raised.  There are two people in life and two types of people you and I can choose to be: we are either here to build people up, or bring people down.  It’s a choice.  Not easy to be one to lift people up each day, but it is something we should strive for I think, especially as Christians.  There is too much negativity in this world that is poisonous and contagious; so many hurdles people have to overcome which is mainly other people’s opinions and judgments of them.  We so desperately want to be approved of by others, and we base many decisions on what other people will think about it.  I want to be the light, the one who brings out the best in people and lets them see that good side of themselves and make them believe their value and to follow their dreams.  To be true to themselves, not fit someone else’s mold.  I’m getting off-track again, I know, aghh, I can’t help it.  It just reminds me of my thankfulness again in finding Josh, and people like that whom I have met along this road of life. I admire that about him and want to emulate it, especially to him, though I have often already failed in that department.  I say all that to say, follow your dreams!  Pursue your God-given talents and passions, your dreams, with your whole hearts!  I met my husband Josh because my parents followed their dream.  Seriously! So neat to think how that worked, and it was God’s plan too.  They left Midland, a place they had lived my whole life and for 24 years; they made a change and a step in a new, better direction and followed their dream of one day owning a Bed & Breakfast.  They bought a B & B in East Texas and moved to Mineola.  As for me . . . I liked the idea of being close to my parents again and as things weren’t working out for me in San Marcos and I wanted a new life from that horrible place filled with negative people I was at in San Marcos.  So, I moved to Tyler. And because of all that, I met Josh.  Thanks Mom and Dad!! Haha.

I also have learned and want to say this: Don’t let that one person make you doubt yourself, not only your hopes for a career or talent/passion, but makes you doubt yourself as a person.  And stay as far away from that person as you can possibly get, I mean run for the hills, because their words can be detrimental to your soul.  It’s funny how we as people could have a whole crowd of followers behind us, cheering us on loudly with positive praise, but we somehow only see and hear that one person in the corner, alone and whispering taunts and negative criticism so softly, but that is left resounding in our ears for years to come.  I also once had a professor who almost made me throw away my dream and passion for writing.  And what’s worse and what broke my heart, was she did this to just about every student in that class, saying things that made them feel like they were not good writers.  It was a class for the purpose of bringing out our creative thinking from our minds and hearts and transferring those from the pen onto paper.  I don’t know what her hidden motives or agenda was, but her bitterness affected so many students and it was not the necessary construction criticism, but merely her own negative and cynical opinions.  Never a positive comment or praise or encouragement.  She crushed so many spirits and dreams in that classroom.  Shame on her.  And now here I am, after nearly four years from graduating college, and I am back to writing again.   And I love it! I didn’t stop writing because of her, it had an affect of course, but I did write for newspapers after that, I just didn’t write mainly because I didn’t have a reason to.  No English papers or college newspaper to write for.  And with my jobs at law firms I had since graduation, I had and made no time for it.  Carpe diem, seize the day!  Haha, I feel like I’m preaching a sermon or giving a talk at a pep rally, lol, some things just fire me up and writing just liberates me.  Writing, though, is risky and scary, all at the same time.  For those writers out there, those who love to write, you know what I mean.   It makes you reach down into the very core of your being, and splash that onto paper, deciphering all the while what you choose to reveal to the world, and what to keep locked inside.  It is a battle.  A couple of quotes I found express what I am saying and I know I am not alone in this type of thinking (I love quotes too, by the way, but you already noticed that J) sums it up: Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.” ~ Franz Kafka and a quote by Carlos Fuentes, Writing is a struggle against silence.”  Those may sound pretty dramatic, but they are very true, I think.

Back to what I was getting at, and back to the real story here! Haha.  During our stay at Keith’s house, we had the opportunity to go look at places for rent.  This was not an easy process, as most of the places we called, or the real estate companies, were closing their doors for the holidays and out of pocket for like two weeks!  Hello?  What about Lindsey and Josh?  We need to find us a home!  I wondered about the others looking for a home during the holiday period, and wondered how frustrating this could be and that we were most likely going to have to wait.  It was a fight to get to view properties before some of the offices would be closing, but there were some places that weren’t listed with a company which were generally easier to get a hold of. 

Let me talk about the places we did look at.  Now, that was another fun, little escapade, most of the time, but that was also stressful for us.  I’ve heard stories before how looking to buy a home with your spouse and especially when you have kids, can be quite stressful.  You have to find the right place and a lot of people and opinions and needs and wants are being fit into an equation. I also remember this from growing up in our family and it took a long time to find and decide on the home that would fit all of us. Same thing in looking for a place to rent (though less pressure than buying, that’s for sure). When I went to college, it was the dorms for me the first two years and the last two years my best friend who became my roommate found us an apartment in Lubbock while I was back home in Midland for the summer.  She hunted and found us the perfect one, so that was pretty easy on my part, I just trusted her judgment.  Then I moved to San Marcos after graduating, and with my parents went apartment-hunting.  It was not only my opinion there, but my parent’s input which I valued, but in the end I had no one to share the place with or to ask approval of, and so it was up to me and what I wanted.  Same thing when, almost a year later, I moved to Tyler.  Then I was really on my own and had a friend’s opinion as help, but once again I was living on my own, no roommate, so I made the decision based on what Lindsey wanted; no one else.  Well, then Josh and I happened, and we got married, and that was very easy because he was already living in our future married home, which I just moved into after the wedding.  It was his grandparent’s old house (another blessing from his parents and from God!).  Then we moved to New Zealand.  And it wasn’t so easy anymore.  It wasn’t that difficult of course, but it was different and a bit challenging as it was now what I had experienced and watched growing up; two people’s opinions and needs and wants being fit into one equation.  Looking back now and even at the time, though, it was overall very fun going house-hunting, or flat-hunting.  I would get so excited when a realtor called us back and said we could come view the house or flat.  Most who called, however, did tell us to drive by the place first before setting up a viewing appointment.  Which, we learned, is usually a sign that we wouldn’t want it.   

One of our first flats to look at we were told to drive by first.  So we did.  We are all for the view, and to have an ocean view was one of our big requirements to hopefully find.  In the pictures online, this one had a view.  We drove up the narrow streets and found the flat; it was the bottom one it said.  So, down the steps from the road we went to get to the top floor and we were in awe of the view.  We really wanted to see inside the bottom one so we (despite my urging Josh, “Noooo!!! Don’t do that!), knocked on the door of the top unit to see if the neighbors had any information.  A little old lady opened the door and welcomed us like we were her own grandchildren.  She was a happy lady, and urged us strangers to come inside her home so she could find the key.  Wow, we weren’t expecting that, but to have to go through the company first.  Josh was like, “Haha, see! I know what I’m doing!”  The little old lady reminded me of Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf visits him and he’s running around his hobbit hole, stressed and trying to find things and talking to himself.  Like a chicken with its head cut off.  She was very short too, haha.  Her cat walked in the door and I was trying to follow it around while she looked for the key so I could pet it; I love cats and needed to hold one and pet it to make me feel good inside.  That was comforting that even if we didn’t have our own cat, if we got this place I could see this cat and we had a sweet neighbor to make us homemade chocolate chip cookies.  The view from her living room was breathtaking; with floor to ceiling windows overlooking out onto the city and harbor.  Find the key! I was thinking.  Another old lady walked in the same time, her friend, and rolled her eyes at her ditzy, disoriented friend and immediately found us the key.  Yay!  So Josh and I walked downstairs and into the flat for rent.   The first thing to notice was the smell.  Old. Old, old, old, and I mean old!  Like something had died in there, ugh!  It was nothing like the views or window or floorplan from above; in fact, I don’t know really what it was.  There were hardly any windows, it was dark and cinderblock walls that made me feel like I was in a prison.  Josh looked at me and already knew what I was thinking; he was trying to be positive and saying he could fix it up and paint it, but I was like “Ha!”  It not only smelled old but looked very old too, no updates or anything modern, which we could live with of course, but just the feeling inside was not pleasant.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I was choking.  We could hear the old lady’s little feet scampering around upstairs, which I thought was quite funny. Anyways, so we got out and gave her the key, and peeled out of the driveway.  Josh said he didn’t feel good.  Haha, neither one of us did; we felt super anxious and it took me several minutes to feel like I could catch my breath and breathe normal again. 

We learned a lesson, and started driving around looking at most of the places first outside before making an appointment.  Some of the locations were not good or they just looked flat out junky and no telling how it would be inside.  Plus we still wanted to find a place with an ocean view, but our budget was looking like we wouldn’t find that.

There was one particular house we found for rent in a place called Titahi Bay.  The name had me sold already.  Sounded like paradise!  And it was brand new!  This was actually earlier on in the story, we looked at it before the painting job was given to Josh.  It was behind a house and it had a backyard and a deck that had a small glimpse of the Porirua Harbor.  The owner was really trying to rent us the place and said we could even cut down the trees or have someone do that for us so we could have an even better view.  Porirua we had discovered was not one of our favorite suburbs and it was the furthest of all the suburbs from downtown Wellington, but at least here we would have a view of water.  We walked in and I was amazed.  I wanted it!  Everything was new and modern, the kitchen appliances were top notch, and there was none of that separate hot and cold faucet thing going on.  It had two bedrooms too, which we were thinking would be a plus if our families ever got to come visit us.  The bad thing to us at the time, however, was that it was almost to our max price budget, which we were hoping to really find something a lot cheaper with our situation at the moment.  It didn’t come with any furnishings either; no refrigerator, washing machine or dryer.  That was before we knew of the possibility of having the paint job to fund the bond cost, so we had to give it up also as the owner said a lady in Auckland was coming down to view it and most likely was going to take it.  I really wanted it, but Josh was very practical and realistic, which I am so glad in retrospect that he convinced us not to get that place.

We viewed several places and drove by many.  One day, for the same price of the first flat we looked at, being a little under 300 a week, we found a studio apartment downtown and called about it.  I didn’t like the idea of a studio, but we knew we might need that at least starting out, especially if it came furnished as we didn’t have anything to bring to the table, or table to bring for that matter.  We met the real estate agent outside the high-rise complex and I liked the idea of being downtown and close to all the activity, but already noticed that it was further away from most of the life and didn’t have a view of the harbor.  Unless, I thought, it was on one side of the building and way at the top we might have a view.  He took us into the brand new building, up the elevators which they were still working on, and into a tiny hall, opened a small door into an entryway, and then another door.  Those pictures I love to base my decisions on the Internet can be quite deceiving.  In the picture, it looked really big, or big for a studio anyways. But this was not what we found.  A miniature Cracker Jack box; without a prize inside.  It wasn’t even the same apartment that they had a picture of!  That made me mad.  It was a different bed and an entirely different layout of what they showed online.  Grrrr.  We could handle living in a hotel room, at least for a while because the square footage gives you room to move around, but this was a joke.  Even if a single person lived there, it was so cramped I think they would soon develop a split personality and start fighting with their alter ego.  I should find out how many square feet that was, because it was quite absurd.  With a studio, the bed is in the main room, there is no bedroom, but there wasn’t but like three feet total of free space and room to move.  If we moved there, one of us would be spending a lot of time in the bathroom, or on the balcony, which did not have a view of the ocean.  It came fully furnished though, which was appealing, especially to practical Josh.  And it was brand new, we would be the first tenants; so modern which we loved the idea of.  We had been house-hunting for quite a while now, and having those feelings of desperation again that we had become familiar with.  Time was running out on our stay at Keith and Elsa’s house, and we also had the pressure of how fast these places go, university students coming back and taking them before we had a chance, and also finding the time to look at these places.  And, as mentioned, it was sometimes impossible to get a hold of the agents.  Why can’t they be a slave to their jobs like we are in America?  I was beginning to think.  So, after we looked at that place, Josh wanted us to take it, and I didn’t.  I then learned what it’s like to be married; and looking for a place together.  And stress certainly brings out the worst in us.  It is probably easier looking for a home though, to buy, or if we were in different circumstances.  We were on a time crunch, running out of money, and several factors mentioned above to contribute to the stress it had become.  It was no longer fun! Haha.  I do know that if we ever own our own home someday, Josh and I should never wallpaper a house together J

So, after much debate and trying to convince the other who was right about the topic, we finally decided the studio was not the best idea either.   We were getting about ready to pull each other’s hair out!  Phew, this was getting to be a lot harder than we thought!  Well, one evening after house-hunting and feeling desperate and frantic, we saw a glimmer of hope when looking online at TradeMe, my new obsession of looking each day at the new listings.  We found one that was just posted, that sounded like the perfect deal.  There was only one picture, but it said that it was currently on the market, and as no potential buyers, the owner was going to take it off the market in a couple months.  This also meant a reduced rent rate for the hassle.  It gave a link to the posting on the real estate website, which gave us several pictures; we both liked the looks of it! The suburb was Khandallah, one of the closest to the city and had a view of the harbor and ocean at a price of the 290 we seemed to be favoring lately.  We got a hold of the owner, who we learned did not live here but two hours away and wouldn’t be back until the first or second week in January.  She gave us the numbers of the tenants currently living in the flat, though, so I texted them.  We learned they were also out of town (bummer) on holiday until the 6th, but said we could go look at it from the outside.  It was the upstairs flat, they said, and we could climb the stairs onto the balcony to look in the windows.

We drove by, and walked down the driveway from the road and saw two buildings in the bush (forest).  One building was atrocious and looked very run down, which I hoped was not the one we were looking at.  Thankfully it wasn’t but the one next door was, and it wasn’t the best appearing from the outside.  We have noticed that about a lot of the houses/flats here as many of them are old and not a whole lot of flash.  Oh well, we could live with that.  It could use a lot of work on the cosmetic appearance from outside; paint and pulling of weeds.  A two story house that really just looked like a box with a few windows.  The one that was for rent was on top and you had to walk across a concrete walkway.  There were no windows that we could look through from the front and we almost walked away but then I said about the stairs on the back balcony that the tenant had said to climb, or a ladder he had told us.  We walked down the steps and heard some loud kids crying, the downstairs neighbors who the mom and her kid saw us go to the back and look at the ladder.  Haha.  She talked to us through the window and we said the tenants told us we could climb the ladder to stand on the upstairs deck/balcony and look in the windows to see what it looked like.  She was like “Oh! I didn’t even know that was there!” She seemed anxious we were going to fall, which I was scared of too, but we climbed the wooden ladder, opening the trap door and with Josh’s help, he pulled me up onto the narrow wooden balcony.  What a view from up there!  It was a cloudy day, and we were still amazed at the beauty and we could imagine what it would look like on a clear day.  The harbor, the city . . . we would even be able to see the ferry coming in.  And our own deck!  The windows to the flat were so tall and wide giving a panoramic view.   We looked inside and I was quite surprised.  It actually looked decent!  We could only see the living room and kitchen, but the living room was big and plenty of room to entertain guests, with an open plan from the kitchen with a bar.  Well, we may have just found what we were looking for.  We went back down the trap hole and ladder, and were about to leave, when the neighbor downstairs called out to us.  She said that she could show us her place so we could get an idea of what the upstairs one looked like.  She said they were the same floor plan, but there’s was more messy because they had kids.  We were very grateful.  So we toured the place, meeting her family along the way; she was really nice and helpful.  We liked the layout and the bathroom was in good condition and seemed a bit more updated than some of the places we had seen.  And we just kept thinking of the view we would have. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  We did not want to have to wait for the tenants to get back from vacation for us to look inside, because we were afraid someone else would get it first.  Although we did consider that the upstairs might be different from the bottom, we didn’t think that much of it and just knew we wanted it.  So, we called the landlord and said we looked at it from the outside and the tenants were on vacation until the 6th, but we didn’t want to miss this opportunity, and if we could apply for it and hold it, or put down some kind of deposit.  The landlord was thrilled and said she had several calls from people interested in it, so we should give her a holding fee to show we are serious of $150.00.  Those reading this are probably wondering why we would do that when we didn’t even look inside the place, but we did it anyways, and we did it with haste.  We felt pretty good about the situation; that we had found a place and didn’t have to keep looking.  In the back of my head, though, and probably Josh was thinking about it too, there was a sense of uneasiness or not being quite satisfied and giving me doubt; that being that we didn’t look inside of it.  We waited for a week or two from the time we gave the lady the deposit and got the rental agreement in the mail that she posted us, until the time came for us to look inside once the tenants got back from vacation.  I was so eager for them to get back so we could see inside and get an idea of how to decorate it and what we had gotten ourselves into.  As of then, we hadn’t signed the agreement and sent it back to her, as we were waiting to look inside.  A big plus with the place besides the cheap cost was that it came with a lot of furnishings that would in turn save a lot of money; the fridge, microwave, washer/dryer, couches and bed. 

At last, the day came when the tenants said they were back from vacation and would leave the key under the door while they went out for us to look at our future home.  We were so excited, and brought the camera with us.  We opened the door, and the first thing, after walking into the hallway, and first place I went into, was the bathroom.  Maybe I should have looked at that last.  I felt my heart sink and I was filled with dread and disappointment.  I did like the fact that the toilet was in the bathroom and not in a separate room, but this bathroom was hideous!  The worst part about it, that really threw me for a loop, was the “shower”.  It was in the corner and it was just like a hole they had cut out into the wall.  It was a wooden box, like a chicken coop, closet, or gas chamber when I looked inside of it. It was like built into the wall; it was very tiny and the wood that it was made out of, the bottom of it was at least three feet tall, so you had to step way over it and climb up into this box.  It’s kind of hard to explain.  You would have to be very strategic and crafty to get up into that shower, and avoid hitting that wooden hurdle or hitting the sink that was nearly blocking the way.  There would certainly be no room to turn around in that shower or scrub yourself, and it was very dark inside.  So, without providing a photo of this shower, the flooring was aluminum, and so try to imagine an upright commercial oven built within the wall.  Oh dear, I’m going to get trapped in the shower or pass out from feeling so claustrophic.  And never mind the separate hot and cold faucet, that was not a big deal compared to the shower, but it did add to my dismay.  The toilet was certainly old school with the pipe running up the wall and a wooden toilet seat cover that didn’t match the rest of the white toilet; I hate that.  No cabinet space or shelves, which was fine, I just was thinking I will save a lot of time in the mornings now getting ready.  I won’t get ready, I decided; putting on makeup and blow-drying and straightening my hair, nor will I take a shower for that matter.  No, I won’t be spending any time in that bathroom.  Not a good way to start out the tour of our place we had put a deposit on already.  Why were we so irrational?  I began thinking.  We should not have done that.  The frustration was already seeping in, after seeing that bathroom.  I was getting mad at both of us for getting in this mess and then he was getting upset because I was not happy so far with what I was seeing. 

The bedrooms were good though, and the bedroom that would be ours had a view of the ocean, so that helped my spirits a little.  Then we walked into the living room that we had seen through the windows and I noticed even more from when we first walked in; the smell.  Incense and curry.  It was very overpowering.  Josh being positive as usual said that smell would go away and the black markings on the wall from the burning of incense (looked like years worth caked on the walls) he could fix by painting.  He said if the landlord let us paint it, maybe she would even pay him or give a discounted rent price.  The view from the living room made us both feel better, but, at the moment, it didn’t feel good enough of a reason to live there.  We already had doubts about the appearance from the outside and not feeling too proud of that or the run-down house next door and wondering who lived there, and the bathroom scene was taking over my thoughts.  “This looks so much different from the one downstairs!”  I said.  I was upset.  The downstairs was in way better condition and had smelled really good too, it must have been recently painted and the bathroom was way more updated; it certainly had a normal shower with a glass door; it looked nothing like this place.  We walked to the kitchen and our shoes squeaked and stuck to the greasy floor.  “Well baby, these people obviously aren’t very clean and don’t take care of the place, it won’t be like this once it gets cleaned up and painted,” said my husband.  The kitchen sink also had two separate faucets for hot and cold water, which that just about nearly did me in.  “NOOOOOOoooooo!!!!!”  Haha.  I already knew I was going to burn my hands at the bathroom sink, and now I had no second option; I would either scald my hands or freeze them at this sink too.  A vent was placed in the window (I have no idea how they did that) of the kitchen, which was very ugly and trashy.  It was pretty dirty in there and needed a lot of work that we weren’t expecting.  I was not positive at all, and just said how I really felt about it to Josh, which upset him and we both felt so frustrated because we knew or felt like there was nothing we could do about it.  We already put down the holding fee and had the landlord’s hopes up as we had been texting and calling her off and on and she was excited for us to be moving in, and that we were from Texas! Of course, though, we hadn’t given her a bond yet or signed the agreement, so I was like, well I’m sorry but I just don’t think we can do that! I don’t think I can live there.  Josh had laughed at the shower when we first looked at it, and I knew he would be more bothered about it later too, like me.  He wouldn’t want to step up into that hole of a shower either!  We were distressed.  What to do, what to do. 
“You want me to call her and tell her we changed our minds?” 
“Yes!!!”  Then, “Noooo, let’s just think about it.” 
“We don’t have time to think about it.”
It was back and forth.  We had time to think about it some more, and then I was like, “it will be okay, we can make it work.” But we said to have him call the landlord and say the condition of it, if we could get it painted and about the shower situation, if she could improve that and maybe get a new one, or normal thing put in instead of the box in the wall. 

So, that was back and forth, and she really wanted to please us and work with us, and then she seemed frustrated too and almost arguing about it and saying she didn’t think it was that bad inside?  Or that it needed paint and what was wrong with the shower?  She said she had lived there and had no problems with it and she could look into installing a new shower, but that would cost a lot of money.  Also, as time went on and we were discussing and trying to figure out, she was saying that even painting it she wasn’t sure if she could afford that right now as she was tight on money.  Well, that didn’t sound like a good situation to have for a landlord already right there. 

I eventually got better with the idea, for the most part anyways.  Trying to be positive, we both said we could make it work.  It made Josh happy when we went shopping one day and I started finding decorations for our new place and telling him how I envisioned we could make it look and look nice with making the bathroom black and white themed and have the kitchen be a coffee theme.  So we bought a few things for the new place and were hoping to make the best of it in our minds. 

However, I do recall having moments when I was alone and I would just sit there and think about that shower.  Mostly it was when I was taking a shower, and I just cringed at the idea of that tomb in the wall.  We were still communicating with the landlord and she was planning on coming down the next week and said Josh could help her with painting the living room, kitchen, and bathroom; she had decided she would work on that for us, with Josh’s help painting.  All during this time, I was still getting on TradeMe and looking at the new listings, haha . . . I just couldn’t help myself.  I was hoping to find some good deal; a lifesaver that would really save us from having to move into that place.  The closer it was getting to move-in date, which would be like the 18th of January we were told, the more I was dreading it.  I found one on a particular day that we went and looked at but didn’t like, and then Josh called on a couple more houses, but they weren’t showing them until later that week.  Man!  I was surprised though and glad that Josh was at least trying, and realizing he was having doubts about moving into the flat as well.  We were still going to do it, though, unless amazingly something came up.  Once we were getting the calls about the late viewing times, we were taking it as a sign that we just needed to stick to the deal we had made. 

So, in the meantime, our stay at the Copeland’s house was coming to an end.  They arrived on Tuesday, January 10th, and we moved out.  Not into our new flat, of course, as the move-in date was the following week, but Antony and Jeanette Raine had graciously agreed to let us stay in their home for the week until we could move into our new flat.  We were so grateful for their hospitality as well.  Once again, we were packing up all our belongings, stuffing our suitcases, and unloading them into the Raine’s guestroom.  It was a cozy and comforting room with a nice view of the green hills in the background.

The day before, on Monday, our last day at the Copeland’s house, I didn’t mention this but we finally did have luck with a flat for rent that we called about.  The viewing time was the following day, so Tuesday, when we were moving to the Raines.  Josh told the realtor we would be there to look at it.  I can still remember the flicker of hope I felt when I was putting on my makeup in the bathroom and I heard Josh talking on the phone and saying we could view it tomorrow.  I had found this particular flat on TradeMe and saved it to the watchlist and my notebook I had put several asterisks beside it, meaning I really liked what I saw at least from the ad.  It was the same price we were about to pay, and it had views of the ocean, and it was on the other side of Wellington, at the very south of the North Island and by the airport.  The pictures looked amazing, but we know how that is, yet I still had a very good feeling about this place.  Josh told me, “Okay, we are going to look at this one, but if we don’t like it, then no more of this, and we are just going to stick with the one in Khandallah, and no more looking on TradeMe!”  “Okay!” I said, excitedly. 

After we unloaded our bags at the Raine’s house, we headed across the bridge over the harbor, through town and out to Houghton Bay, where this flat was located.  The name of the street was already an incentive; View Road.  As we drove up the steep hill, we could not believe the view! It was at the very top of the mountain with views of the bustling airport, Lyall Bay (home of a popular surf spot and beach), and mountains in the distance.  To the far right was the vast ocean, the Cook Strait.  Woah! Can you imagine if we lived here? I hope we like it inside!  We waited for the realtor outside in the driveway and in the meantime talked to another girl who was there for the viewing as well.  She was from the States too, and talked about life in Wellington and how miserable and wet and damp the winters are here.  Not an encouraging pep talk, especially as it was sprinkling and cloudy that day.  I didn’t care though; I wanted to see inside this flat.  It’s probably a dump inside, I thought, or smells putrid.  The outside was definitely not designed or decorated to put it on the cover of the Parade of Homes magazine, but we were used to that by now.  It was a triple-decker, and the flat we were looking at was at the very bottom of the stairs. 

At last, the realtor showed up.  They are a lot more chill and relaxed than the ones I’ve encountered back home, and slightly a bit more unprofessional, yet still nice and helpful.  We went down the long flight of stairs and walked into the flat.  It was decorated shabby chic, and had a lot of Marilyn Monroe posters.  That always helps when a place is kept up nice, and the couple that was currently living there had definitely done a good job in making it homey and modern and clean.  Josh and I both looked at each other and smiled…we loved it!  The views were absolutely to die for!  It was an open plan and the kitchen also had a bar; the kitchen was amazing.  It was on the corner of the house and it had windows on both sides, giving the ultimate in panoramic views; overlooking the airport, the beach, and Wellington harbor in the far distance.  I could wash dishes with a view like that!  And become New Zealand’s next Master Chef (a show that I soon became obsessed with since being here). 

In the pictures online, it had looked like the mattress in the bedroom was lying on the floor and touching the walls because the room was so small, but I was surprised to see that it was slightly bigger than I was expecting (but tiny compared to American standards still) with about a foot on each side of the mattress to the walls. 

The part I was anticipating the most, however, was . . .dun, dun, dun, dun . . . the bathroom.  That had become the make or break deal it seemed.  I was hoping to not have to go in there and have an “Eek, eek, eek!” moment, but more rather a gleeful reaction.  I had never been so happy in my life to peek around the corner into the bathroom and first of all see the sink.  One faucet!!! A normal faucet that actually lets you regulate the temperature!  I could almost hear the game show announcer on his microphone yelling out, “You just won a modern toilet!  Aannnnndddd, a Brand New, SHOWER!!!”  Ding! Ding! Ding!  We have a Winner!  And the crowd goes wild! Cheering, cheering for Josh and Lindsey, because we found what we’d been looking for and longing for.  It was a normal shower, with glass walls, a glass door that you just walk into like normal people do; not an impossible obstacle course like the other flat.  Oh goodness, I sure hope we can get this place! I was thinking to myself. 

One of the other best things about the flat was the huge balcony deck outside.  It gave plenty of room to walk around on and even put a big table out there to eat on, and giving the most superb views.  We would be able to watch the planes come and go, and the ferry and cruise ships going back and forth to the South Island, if we got this place.  We were eyeing the other girl we had been talking to as she was asking the realtor questions about the place and how to apply for it.  She had been telling us how hard it is to find something to rent because they go fast.  Josh was asking the realtor questions too, and we were learning that it was basically first come, first serve on whoever applies and if approved and reference checks.  Another person came to look at it while we were there, so then we rushed out, or more rather, I followed Josh who basically ran out the door and up the steps. 
“You like it?”  He asked me.
We both loved it.  He was ecstatic about it, as was I.  Then lets get it!!!  We rushed to the nearest library; we didn’t even wait to drive all the way across town to get our laptop.  We were in that much of a hurry to do the online application.  It was fun; racing to beat the other girl who we knew was probably on her way to apply as well.

We were so anxious and hoping with all our hearts that we would get it.  I didn’t think we would, because it would be too good to be true. 

Josh texted and called the realtor a couple times that day to make sure their office received the application.  Then, later that very day we spoke with the realtor who told us our application was approved!  We were now the new tenants of a street called View Road. 

After an explanation of the situation to the landlord of the flat we had been looking at in Khandallah, who was not surprised she said, we were rid of that ordeal.  Hopefully we didn’t leave her too upset with us, as we said we would let her keep the $150 holding fee we had put down on the flat just because of the hassle it was on her and the cost of putting the ad on TradeMe.  Thank goodness, no more nightmares of being trapped in that shower. 

The move-in date would be later that month, but we were so relieved and happy that we finally found a place we would live for our time in New Zealand.  In two more weeks, we’d be moving into our own home!  With a view of the ocean!