When we left New Zealand for home last November, the hospital suggested returning this year in August, maybe for a longer stint. In February, John was officially asked to replace one of the permanent doctors going on sabbatical. Although John and the hospital were in agreement that he was indeed returning, for the next 4 months, the hospital struggled with the approval process, and finally turned the mess(application) over to a placement agency. We thought a repeat work visa would be easier, and in some ways, the paperwork part of it was smoother. By August 1st, however, we were both wondering if this year’s application would go up in smoke. But, on August 12th, the New Zealand Medical Council confirmed his appointment.
After a few crazy days packing and preparing to step out of our lives back home, we left for New Zealand on August 21st. In the week before we left, our daughter’s dog got skunked, John lost his sunglasses, I thought I broke my phone, and the township failed to pick up the garbage. Suddenly, everything moved at hyper speed and seemed out of control. And then suddenly we were on a plane.
Now we are here. The intense anxiety and stress that is singularly American disappeared as we crossed the international dateline. Our second day in New Zealand, we flew to Christchurch to see Carrie perform at Tedx- a magical day. She delivered a flawless performance in front of a huge crowd, and I thought about the shy three-year-old who would hide behind me and refuse to talk to aunts and uncles. I was blown away with emotion.
The next day we began the drive north, first to Whangarei (Fang a ray), then to Keri Keri and on to Kaitaia. Highway 1 winds from Keri Keri to Kaitaia, over a mountain, through the Mangamuka Gorge- the switchbacks are tough, but the views spectacular. The further north we drove, the more zen I felt. The landscape has not changed much in 9 months, and either has Kaitaia- the Pak-n-Save is still the town meeting place; Ahmed, the manager at the Copper Chimney Indian Restaurant, recognized me (it’s one of two decent restaurants in town); and the hospital had familiar faces and everyone was happy to see John.
For the next few months, we get to enjoy another spring, and Carrie helped us plant some vegetables in the small garden of our house. The lettuce should grow well. We are in a different place than last year- the beach is a longer walk, but the mattresses are better. The weather is in the 50s-60s, but colder at night.
Today, the beach is mostly deserted, with the occasional surfer or dog walker, but Ahipara hasn’t lost its dream-like quality. Looking out at the waves and the sand, seeing horses walking the beach, is surreal, especially when the pounding surf creates a fog-like mist down the coastline. Yesterday morning we discovered a dead stingray, about 4-5 feet long, and this morning I watched two seals discuss the condition of the water before charging into the surf. I know the sun sets in other places, but somehow the color show over the Tasman Sea still mesmerizes me. In those moments, I am a lifetime away from Detroit and still can’t believe I’m back.