Home Sweet Home

August 2, 2006 – 7:00 pm

Back in New Zealand after nearly three months away. What a lot of culture shock there was, both in leaving and returning.

Leaving: it’s so easy to return to the US, yet so hard. The traffic was incredible: it takes as long for us to get from our US house to Old Town Fort Collins as it takes us to get from our NZ house to Warkworth. The difference is that one is 5 miles away, the other 20km.

Our illusions about the wonderful children in the US were shattered when, as W returned to say “hello” to his US schoolfriends at a movie night, he was teased on the playground there. Little bastards are, apparently, universal.

We stayed in a friend’s house and enjoyed their big American mansion while they were in Europe. It was amazing to come back to such a big space after living for six months in a tiny tiny New Zealand house. They had nice stuff (flash kitchen, spa pool, etc.) but it wasn’t until they got back and we were talking that we learned how they were able to afford to live that way: together they earned about twice what I make. Yow! What an eye-opener.

And getting back … more culture shock. Back to having to think about the kids’ schools, back to the challenge of building a social life, back to a draughty house with a leaking basement and grimy carpets. I’m not sure what I imagined when I lived in the US–did I really picture myself toddling off to the local for a pint with mates before ambling home to the wife and kids? What mates? What local, for that matter–the Leigh Pub closed a few months ago and, as the local paper reports, its future is “uncertain”.

The gloom set in the instant I got back. It’s slowly starting to dispel: I’m recognizing more and more of the people I see in our daily routines, and the odds are good that some of those will turn into friends. There’s hope for the kid’s schooling. And someone has, finally put in an offer on our US house, so the mortgage may soon be a thing of the past.

Conclusions: It’s not easy to live in two countries, even if you’re just trying to leave one. We really have set ourselves up against it by not moving to a NZ city. And the hardest part is worrying that we’re doing the right thing for the kids.

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