New Zealand. The words evoke images of razor-topped mountains, vivid green hills dotted with wooly sheep, and clear, cold waters bathing the coast of the island nation. Our entire trip so far has been something of a prelude to nine months of living and working in New Zealand, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have arrived at our last destination.
It is quite amazing how fast you can recreate the comforts of your old life across the world. One week after arriving, we found ourselves the proud owners of a car, jobs, and, a few days later, an apartment in the small south island town of Blenheim.
Blenheim is in the heart of New Zealand’s famous Marlborough wine region, and the valley surrounding the town is carpeted with seemingly infinite rows of grape vines— precisely why we are here. Contractors employ hundreds of migrant workers each winter to prepare the vineyards for the coming growing season, and it only took a few phone calls and a not-so-rigorous interview to land a job for the next six weeks.
Our day is supposed to begin at 7 a.m., but thankfully our boss is Thai and possesses the same loose sense of time that we became familiar with during long days of bus travel in Southeast Asia. We show up at 7:45, with the sun just rising and frost still coating the grass and vines. Then, for the next eight or nine hours we trim and wrap vines around wires and tie them in place with twist ties. It’s riveting.
Really though, after getting past the first few days of aching hands and the shock of having to work again, it’s not so bad. All the work is done right at standing height and requires none of the acrobatics and heavy lifting of orange picking. Now into our second week, we can keep up with the rest of our co-workers and spend the day listening to music or audiobooks. Plus, on the odd occasion we look up from the vines, the sight of green hills and snow-capped mountains provides the splendid reminder that we are in New Zealand.
Best yet, once “home time” is called we return to our small but warm, fully furnished and extremely un-tent-like apartment. Unlocking a front door, watching TV re-runs, cooking in a kitchen, sitting on a couch and sleeping in a bed are still incredibly exciting experiences. We have a home— at least for six weeks— and it is wonderful.
Television has been especially fascinating, partially because we haven’t watched in a very long time, and partially because it is amusingly foreign. For the last four days straight the top new stories have been the riots in London, the self-destruction of the United States, and— equally important, it seems— the price of All Blacks rugby jerseys in retail stores. One channel even interviewed the Prime Minister to get his comment on the subject. Yes, the Rugby World Cup is hosted here next month, and naturally New Zealand is beside itself with excitement, but we cannot help but laugh. Just wait until they start playing!
Blenheim itself is a no-frills town, but has everything we need plus a few nice touches. A river lined with a beautiful park and walkway skirts around the town center, and a movie theater plays half-price movies on Tuesdays— HP7P2 in 3D! (more…)