Through the month of January, I had about fifteen distinct blog topics floating around in my head. Some were life updates, like that Subaru Outback WITH a sunroof that I bought — woot woot! — or weekend trips up to Richmond and Roanoke to visit Abby and Kayla.
Other blog intentions included evaluations on Trump’s first week in office and podcasts I’ve listened to; some entertaining babysitting anecdotes; the decision to move to and teach in Greenville this fall, and the peace and excitement I’ve felt about it.
I flew direct from Auckland to Houston – an overnight flight that made a nonstop 13-hour journey relatively bearable. As I braced my body for the jolty touchdown onto American soil, I also braced my being for reverse culture shock. I didn’t know how I would feel about the materialism of Mt. Pleasant, or the general culture of the Bible Belt. I was giddy, but slightly scared, as my in-flight journal entry attests:
My chest feels light and twisted, because as much as America is home, I’m afraid of waffling between two cultures and not really having a place. It has been a whole year, and I’m nervous about all the differences in my outlook and experiences that up to this point I was not aware of, or had not acknowledged.
This is one of the first whakataukīs (proverbs) I learned in my Māori course this year, and the only one I memorised, because it’s so simple yet perfect and profound.
We applied it to teaching – perhaps a student made a few edits to a paper that caused significant improvements. Or for ourselves, we took small steps to get to know individual characteristics about each student or learn bits of Māori. They are small efforts that are valued and can end up making a big difference.
A week before I boarded a trans-Pacific plane eleven months ago, I wrote about the anticipation of beginning my New Zealand journey. A couple months ago, I entered the bittersweet limbo season and began to detect the light barely glimmering at the end of the tunnel. Welp, two months came and went (flash!). Today, the impending assignments are all done and dusted. I’ve completed a Master’s degree, slotted in and smashed out about as many adventures as I could manage, and in one short week, the #JCompinNZ journey will come to a close. What a significant, memorable year it has been.
Donald Trump is officially the next president of the United States. I just…really don’t understand. Nor does about 95% of my social media feed. Nor any Kiwi who has broached the topic of politics with me for the last year. At the DNC, Obama said, “People outside of the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election. [audience chuckle.] They really don’t.”
My last big trip through New Zealand over spring break ended two weeks ago (I neglected to write about any of it…)
Yesterday I had my final three-way meeting for student teaching and finished my last day of placement at Hornby High. Tonight is my last night as a Waimairi Woman. We have trimmed hedges and mowed the lawn, deep cleaned and packed up, and now I’m sitting at the dinner table in an eerily calm, empty house. Rachel and Jovita are already back home, and after a tramp with some friends this weekend, I’ll be joining Jovita and her family, who have graciously invited me to live with them for my last two months in New Zealand.
We, over 100 college students devoting the weekend to volunteering in the Akaroa community, stood at the gate of the Ōnuku Marae – women in the front, men behind, awaiting the Pōwhiri welcoming ceremony.
“Hehe, you’s is in fer a real suhprise,” he cackled. The Kaiāwhina leaned slightly forward on his intricately carved staff. He seemed to emanate old wisdom in a modern generation.