After wrapping up the end of the school year, Stef and I were on another adventure together. This time we were taking on New Zealand!
Getting off the plane at Auckland International, the world seemed louder and overwhelming to me on first impression.
Depending on the day, traveling to New Zealand was an easy decision. Since it’s in close proximity to Samoa, I saved a lot on airfare and traveling time, but there were days I missed my family tremendously —especially after family member health scares and other pressures—and all I wanted to do was hop on a plane back to the US. Luckily, my family ultimately encouraged me to explore and sent me well wishes alongside Bon Voyage texts.
My host-family here in Samoa, did the same (minus the texts, we haven’t conquered that hurdle just yet). The night prior to my departure, my host-dad and host-mom gathered all my siblings around and held a little ceremony and party to bless my journey and travels. We prayed, laughed, and ate BBQ together. It’s common for families to have a special outfit made to travel in and my family presented me with a dress that they insisted I travel in. I was touched. But also itchy. So I quickly changed outfits in the airport.
I won’t bore you all with a full recap of my trip. Let’s just say there’s nothing like living in a remote village on an island in the South Pacific to make you appreciate the hustle and bustle, the diversity, or the ease of living in a “developed” country.
Picture it: Stef and I, who have been living on this island for the past 14 months, venture for the first time to Countdown—a grocery store chain—on our second day in Auckland. Here are snippets of our conversation:
- What do you mean there’s more than one option for cheese?
- BLUEBERRIES ARE IN SEASON?
- Wow, is that non-dairy yoghurt?!
- HOLY MOLY, THE BERRIES ARE SO CHEAP!
- They are against single-use plastic? Great!
- There’s free WiFi in here!
- That asparagus looks SO fresh.
and most important of all our realizations:
- STEFANI!!!!! THERE’S LA CROIX!!!!!
After we came to our senses and
bought everything in the store gathered the necessary supplies, we stood in line to check out. As the line shuffled along, we found ourselves being directed to one of the self-checkout kiosks.
We both paused, made eye contact and were generally unsure of what to do next. While everyone else in the store carried on, we approached the machine with caution and respect and a few chuckles because of course we were.
Stef quickly offered to step into the bagging role, and after a moment’s hesitation, I assumed the role of checkout.
It’s funny how quickly old habits and routines will come back to you even after a prolonged absence. As I tapped the screen and scanned the items, I was having flashbacks of my quick H-E-B runs back in Texas.
Before I knew it, we were paying. Despite dropping an exorbitant amount of money, I felt relieved knowing that I could still function with technology and that my tummy was going to be full and happy soon.
I imagine it’s going to be quite a bit of an adjustment coming back to living in such a country —and all that comes with it—after this is over in 11 months. I’m sure there’ll be times of open-mouth shock at how much has changed, but as I did at self-check out, I’ll quickly find myself back in the routine still in awe, but with more appreciation for it all.
But let’s not talk about the spaceship bathrooms we encountered on the South Island… haha!
Also, BIG BIG thank you/shokran/faafetai to the Youssef’s! Thank you for welcoming us into your home and family. And feeding us. And for giving me molokheya for the first time in over a year, which almost made me cry. And being so wonderful and beautiful and kind to these teines who were a little far from Savaii. See you soon in Apia inshallah!
Celebrating Christmas with fellow PCVs and friends, Alex and Emily
New Zealand is such a beautiful country. While we saw so much (ask me for our South Island Roadtrip itinerary if you want!), there is still a lot we didn’t see. I can’t wait to go back!