Month in Review: June/July 2017

Here I am again, opening another update feeling that I should explain my recent online absence. Honestly, I’ve been having a tough time this last month or so. I don’t know exactly why, though I have a few ideas. Change has been afoot in our lives, and I’ve been struggling to keep it together through this. But the stormy seas seem to have receded for now, and a clearer, writing-capable mind has resurfaced. Thank goodness.

Life

After five years or so working as a chef, Arthur started a job in software a couple of weeks ago. He’s been doing some independent study towards this for a while, but until about a month ago we were uncertain what might come of this. Or rather, how soon this might develop into an actual career change. And then it happened, kind of suddenly. He’s enjoying his new job, and life is beginning to fold into a new rhythm, so all is well. On a broader note, this means we’ll be able (and want) to settle in New Zealand for the foreseeable, because it means a long term visa. So that’s sort of a big deal.

Kind of thinking that all of this might be the source of my stress and strain, eh? Good things, but a lot to process.

I’m feeling really positive about making our home here, it feels like the place to be for us right now. Though I’m also currently thinking of the rest of our planned round-the-world trip (the Americas mostly) as on hold, rather than cancelled. Like in pretty much every aspect of life, we’re just trying to find a happy balance here, in this case between home life and travel. Without flying, our balance is going to look a bit different to the norm. Right now it looks kind of stationary for a while, but who knows what will come.

On a related note, recently I read a post discussing whether we’ll ever have electric planes. It seems this hope isn’t as pie in the sky as I imagined. Perhaps ecologically sound flying will be possible at some point in our lifetimes. Which would obviously be nice.

In the meantime, here are some terrestrial trips we took in the last couple of months!

Travel

We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary in June with an overnight hike to a backcountry hut, complete with outdoor wood-fired bath tub. Then it rained from the moment we arrived at the hut, we didn’t get a bath because we couldn’t start a proper fire in the damp, and we lay awake most of the night worrying that we’d be stuck on the wrong side of the river we’d crossed to get there, as the rain got heavier and heavier.

This is genuinely the best photo I got of our hike. Rain does not a good photographer make.

We still had a lovely time though, with wine and delicious food by our (marginally more successful) indoor stove fire, and kiwis outside calling to each other in the night (apparently, I slept through this bit). I guess we’ll have to repeat this one in better weather to have a go in the bath tub. Hard life.

We also finally managed a (long-trailed) Dunedin trip in July! We drove down of an evening, and camped out about an hour north of the city. Clear skies meant an awesome Milky Way view before bed. Next morning we drove through town to get to the Otago peninsular, which stretches out from the city. And then we saw albatrosses!!

Albatross chick hanging out in the nest.
OMG we just saw an albatross fly over our heads.

I was so thrilled to see a full grown bird gliding right over our heads. I nearly dropped my sandwich.

After our exciting morning, we spent the afternoon and most of the next day exploring Dunedin itself. Highlights included second-hand book shopping, trivial pursuit and beer, gallery wandering, lots of coffee, and a morning at the Settlers Museum. The museum was big time fuel for my fascination with the lives of early European settlers in New Zealand. It covers all areas of life, from the ships they travelled in, through early homes, furniture, clothing, and the development of printing presses, banks, transport services and so on. I had a brilliant time geeking out, though the coffee we had in the museum cafe was possibly the worst I’ve ever tasted. Fail.

On our way back from Dunedin we visited the Moeraki boulders. They’re very round. Weird eh?

We’ve also had a few day trips up to Mt Hutt, which opened for the ski season in early June. Last weekend they had another metre of snow, on top of a ridiculous dump a few weeks back, so it looks like we’ll get a good season in. I’m slowly but surely getting my ski legs back after a couple of years off, so maybe by the end of the season I’ll be able to face the scary stuff ♦♦.

Reading

Favourite book: The Righteous Mind, Jonathon Haidt

This was just totally fascinating for me, I rushed through it. It’s about moral foundations theory, which is basically the idea that people build their moralities on different foundations, for example equality, fairness, sanctity, harm (as in do none), and so on. In a nutshell it’s arguing that Conservatives draw their morality from a wider range of these foundations, and so are able to argue their cause more convincingly. Lefties only care about fairness and harm, so they’re not well equipped to convince Conservatives with their arguments, which only appeal to a subset of the moral foundations.

I’m basically a commie, but a lot of this made sense to me, I’m sure partly because of the deliberate and engaging way it’s presented in the book. I definitely ended up feeling I understood the subtext of political slanging matches much better after reading it.

Favourite thing I found on the internet: Before the Internet

Yes, I appreciate the irony.

This is a short but beautiful mix of swoony 90s nostalgia, and salient thoughts on how the internet has changed us. It stuck in my head.

Instagram

Everyone loves a smiley-happy-sunny snow shot!

Blog

I’m still taking you on a more or less chronological journey along our trip, so that meant a couple more posts on China recently. Namely a final instalment on Xi’an, and its unusual religious sites. And then the tale of a relationship-deepening incident involving bodily fluids, on the night train to Chongqing.

Next post should be on Chongqing, home to this… thing.

I’m feeling more and more inclined to skip some bits of our travels, or maybe just jump around a bit more to mix it up, so I might derail this logical structure in future. Or not. I keep thinking I’m going to wildly strike out of chronological order, but then find myself dutifully carrying on the tale. So, hard to say.

Which brings me to my final post since the last update — on certainty in life, or lack thereof, and how travel exposed me to my own assumptions. This post is the beginning of me trying to process how things have changed for us now we’re settling down again, and what we’ve gained (and let go of) in the process of travel.

When I enter into this experience-processing mode, I find I’m drawn to hear other people’s thoughts on their related experiences. Most recently I’ve enjoyed reading a post from Alison and Don of Adventures in Wonderland (yet another long term travel blog I enjoy), who settled in Vancouver this year after nearly six years of continuous travel. I found myself relating strongly to their pleasure in reclaiming a home, but also the slow and tentative adjustment to being stationary, and feelings of sadness and perhaps even guilt, for giving up on long term travel (for now). Here’s a bit of their most recent post that particularly resonated:

And I’m not sure who I am now at home. I’m different than I was six years ago and this new me hasn’t quite emerged yet. Who am I now? What do I want? Something is gestating but I have no clue what it is, and that’s okay. Feeling fully at home has not arrived yet, and that’s okay too.

Coming up in August

Not that there’s an awful lot of August left at this point, but still. We’re mega excited to see Arthur’s sister, who is arriving in Christchurch on Saturday! She’s on her way from the UK to a new job, way down in the south of South Island.

Other than that it’s all about slowly adjusting to our new normal at the moment. A pleasant but outwardly uninteresting plod towards a bit more routine and day to day comfort/fun in our lives, now that we’re both working full time. I might even go to the cinema tomorrow. (I know, calm down.)

Pleasures of home…

So happy-quiet round here for now, which is kind of a joy to me. I’m off to read a book…

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4 thoughts on “Month in Review: June/July 2017

  1. This was a lovely read Kirstie. Thank you for your kind words, and linking to our blog!
    We spent 5 weeks in NZ a couple of years ago and loved it. We too saw the albatross at Otago Peninsular, and went out in a boat there and saw them landing on the water close to the boat. It was fantastic. And of course we went to Moaraki boulders – there’s so much unique landscape in NZ. How wonderful to be able to live there for a while.
    Alison

    1. Thanks Alison, yeah I love the geology here. I’m no expert, but I find it fascinating that there’s so much of it right there to see. You get a real sense of earth moving and changing in New Zealand landscapes. It was a new perspective for me when I first came here, definitely caused a perceptible shift in my idea of the world.

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