Dan and I are having two different ex patriot experiences. He is planted firmly in New Zealand, while I have one foot in the U.S. and the other in New Zealand. For me, it is confusing, and at times, disconcerting.
Approximately one year ago, we received our visas to move to New Zealand. The plan then–and the reality now–is that we would move to NZ with Dan working for a large audiology company that has offices all over the country. He would be opening a brand new office in Greymouth. Meanwhile, I would be working remotely with the same law firm that I was with in Tennessee.
We met a circle of people when we visited and upon arrival–which has been an incredible amount of help.
Dan’s first few months in the office were…well, quiet. He went from a super-busy audiology practice to a brand-new-to-town non-existent practice. Luckily, his assistant is fun and friendly enough to keep the laughter going even during the early slow days. Now business has picked up and Dan is a fixture in the community. We go to the supermarket, a concert, or the hardware and we always see someone he knows. It is a friendly town. Other than calls with family and occasional emails from the U.S., Dan lives in New Zealand.
And then there is my experience.
Each morning from Tuesday through Saturday here, I wake up–often without an alarm at about 4 a.m., wondering if I missing something that needs to be addressed in my U.S. office. I reach beside the bed, look at my phone, and often quickly answer an email or two and flag others to address when I “wake up.” Occasionally I need to be on a conference call at some odd hour–but that is relatively rare and in my view, just the cost of working remotely.
After coffee and sometimes a little breakfast, Dan heads out into the world to meet and greet (and help) Kiwis, and I head back–at least mentally–to the United States for the last remaining hours that my office is open in the U.S.
In the midst of my workday–which often lasts until very late at night due to deadlines–I email and talk to people in the U.S. I send drafts to others, but oftentimes I wonder if they ever arrived (especially if sent in the middle of the U.S. night). I work with other people, but often feel very alone.
Meanwhile, I hear from our kids, our family members, and our friends in the U.S. I deal with minor issues about our U.S. property, insurance, taxes and cars. I pay U.S. bills, fill my mom’s ipad with new library books (which is a joy and cool connection), comfort U.S. friends on bad days, discuss ordinary things with the folks there–forgetting sometimes that I am not a block or a city or a state away. But I am not. These days–and especially during the weekdays, I have more interaction daily with people almost 10,000 miles away than those across the street.
And then, I am obsessed by the daily news from the U.S. The political climate is a daily soap opera. I feel like the U.S. is being dismantled, one piece at a time. I wonder if it appears worse from afar. Maybe my imagination is taking over.
And ultimately, I feel like I have one foot in the U.S. and the other in N.Z.
[I need add a post script:
The things I neglected to mention are the events and experiences that pull me back to NZ after work–and there are many:
Barrytown Settlers Hall and the Old Lodge concerts, wine tastings (generally twice monthly in Greymouth), art classes through Greymouth’s art group (I have taken needle felting, a “sketch and sip”–watercolor and perspectives, and a photography wandering at the local bird sanctuary that we did not know existed), New Coasters‘ events, dinners with friends, traveling and hiking “locally” (NZ South Island) with Dan and others, visiting family and friends, almost daily beach walks with Dan and Bella, and learning about every corner of the earth from AirBnB guests.]