| January 23, 2019
Part 5 - Leaving Wellington, Continuing South
The next day, I spent the morning in Picton, having stayed in the Picton Yacht Club Hotel for a single night. Picton itself consists of what amounts to three streets for the town center, with a number of bars, restaurants and tourist shops like jewelry stores. A cruise ship had come in unexpectedly and its passengers were arriving via water taxi. They had rerouted from elsewhere on the South Island because the weather was undesirable. In Picton, however, the weather was picturesque.
After eating a large breakfast (that, admittedly, I regretted a bit since I wasn’t even particularly hungry) I decided to go for a walk. Having checked my bags at the hotel, I set out to the large reserve nearby that was dotted with bike and walking paths. The temperature was nice in the early morning, and I was able to make an excellent pace. After about 40 minutes of walking, I began the ascent up a particular trail that, despite the switch backs, got me sweating pretty good. By the time I reached the top I was regretting not having brought my water, or applied sunscreen. However, despite this, the view at the top was quite worth it.
I took some sweeping panorama shots of the sound, including the cruise ship, and was joined atop the hill by a local kiwi named Pat. I struck up a conversation, we chatted for a bit, and after a time, feeling the heat of the sun (and still sweating), Pat offered to drive me back to town. I was grateful since I wanted water, but I had hoped to hike out further since I had a few hours to pass before setting off for the InterCity bus.
The bus ride itself was nearly six hours to Christchurch. During that time, I spent some time to reflect on my objective – job search, because the more time I spent in New Zealand, the greater sense I had that the life offered here is the one that we would not only enjoy, but thrive in. The locals that I met have reinforced all my hopes thus far. Even hearing their “complaints” (i.e. it isn’t all roses) just blew me away, because it would be so very nice to be able to have concerns on the level that they do (“don’t sweat the small stuff”). At home, the pressures of surviving even in a middle-class life can weigh so great that it feels at times difficult to care for others and to pursue interests outside of getting by day to day. It can be frustrating to feel like an absolute jerk when arriving home after spending more 2-3 hours in traffic to have little people vying for your attention when all you want to do is punch a wall.
We stopped in Kaikoura on the way, after seeing the devastation to the road on the way. It is quite amazing to witness how far the ground shifted at once. At the break time, I took the opportunity to go to the coast and just enjoy the sound of the rolling waves and the birds. It was incredibly relaxing to connect with the earth beneath me, the rocky beach, while admiring the majestic snow-capped mountains in the distance from the shore. After about 30 minutes, we set off again for the final push towards Christchurch.
Christchurch was a different experience altogether. I arrived at my AirBNB to stay with Noleen, a lady who was quite social. She promptly invited me to sit for a beer and crackers, which I welcomed because I had not eaten much throughout the day. We had a great conversation before heading off to bed after perhaps 45 minutes. Tomorrow was laundry day, I had a mission for which I needed rest. After hanging my clothes, I set off to see the city center.
Christchurch suffered devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 . The aftermath of those quakes resulted in new height restrictions on all new buildings – as a result only a single tower remains (which admittedly looks a bit weird), but means that Christchurch will be forever resigned a bit to sprawl. That isn’t to the detriment of the city, however. The city itself is laid out in a grid fashion with neighborhoods that connect in a bit of a spiderweb to the city center. This creates an incredibly low-congestion model where businesses are nearby to housing out in the suburbs and disperses the traffic fairly evenly. Even in ‘peak’ rush times in the morning, it is said that you can make it from one side of the city in 30 minutes rather than 15. In addition, the rebuilding of all the roads presented the opportunity to put in cycle lanes throughout the city, creating a rather extensive network that means it is fairly easy to get around on bike, helped by the fact that it is exceptionally flat.
I took advantage of the flat terrain using the Lime Scooters, where I took the opportunity to scooter around various neighborhoods to take a peek at what was offered. They each had their little shopping center, food options, markets and various services such as barbers/hair salons and other services you’d expect from a city. I applied for more jobs and reached out to several recruiters, ultimately only getting a chance to meet with one who kindly gave me a bit of information on South Island companies and the general culture / size of company. After our chat he said that it seemed like I’d be a good fit for the South Island and overall kiwi culture. He was kind enough to give me a lift back to Noleen’s, which I was grateful for because the uber was about $30NZD one way to get there from the AirBNB. That evening, I went to Bailey’s bar for dinner and beers, where I had a 2-hour conversation with a man named Kenny from Scottland. We talked about travel, the world, politics and people. It never ceases to amaze me that when you meet someone who is travelling you often find they are so well informed about the world and care about making it a better place. It is a far cry from the anti-intellectualism that seems to be expanding in the United States, where people are content to see the world burn for future generations if it means they save $1.50 off their energy bill for the month.
After Kenny left to go meet his flight, I slid over and began chatting with Dennis and Ben, locals who worked in construction. We talked about the same thing I’d been saying for almost 2 weeks now – family life, living with kind, caring community, safe inclusive culture, and natural beauty. Dennis was quite adamant that the South Island – specifically Christchurch – was for me, much more than the North Island.
On my last day in Christchurch, the big day came: My meeting with Inde. The night before Ralf had messaged me saying he couldn’t be there, but to attend the meeting anyway. I was a bit apprehensive at the sudden change in plans, but knowing that Rik is a capable and from what I had read about the company, I wasn’t overly concerned. Ralf was going to meet me for drinks at 4:30 at Bailey’s when he returned from Dunedin. I dressed in my slacks, shirt and tie and set off to Inde.
The meeting with Rik went quite well. We chatted for almost an hour and a half before he had to attend a meeting. We talked culture, technologies, backgrounds, families, and a bit of logistics. He let me know that Ralf had more information on the position itself, and that he’d be back in town later in the day. After the meeting I set off to a local café for some coffee, having felt very proud for the opportunity to see the Inde offices. Things were looking up.
Around 4:30 I headed over to Bailey’s, just up the road, to meet Ralf. I grabbed a beer, he grabbed a glass of wine, and we went outside to chat for almost 2 hours. The conversation followed a similar cadence to the one I had with Rik, but we talked quite a bit more about the culture of Inde and the practice they’re building, as well as some of the successes and challenges. Throughout our chat, I tried not to seem overly eager, but it was pretty hard because what Ralf was describing was a culture and company that sounded absolutely wonderful to work for. The position itself is based in Christchurch with some travel from time to. Ralf said that very few of their customers do the on-site work, but when it does, a bit of travel isn’t bad. Who wouldn’t want a business trip to Queenstown for a few days? We agreed verbally that there’d be a job for me, and that if I’d accept, I would be welcomed – I HAD DONE IT! WE WERE MOVING TO NEW ZEALAND (Visa pending)!
The following day I packed my bags, said goodbye to Noleen, and headed to the city center via uber to catch my bus to Tekapo. The opportunity to sit on the bus and to enjoy the countryside was allowing me a chance to let go of a lot of stress that probably has been building in my mind and body for years. Each minute that went by, I could feel myself melting into the seat, enjoying the rolling green hills, the peaceful looking farms with sheep and cattle, and ultimately the drive into the mountains.