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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thanks, En Zed

Thank you, En Zed
You guys are super!

I came to New Zealand last January seeking a respite from traveling with two whiny American small fries, and to make new memories following the death of their father/my husband. I planned to stay 6 months, see as much of the country as possible, enroll the kids in public school, make a few contacts and return to Spokane to resume our irregularly-scheduled lives.


Instead, we’ve stayed 14 months. We’ve traveled from Bluff, at the tip of the South Island to Cape Reinga, at the top of the North. We’ve stayed in the homes of Kiwis and ex-pats, in holiday parks, motels bed and breakfasts and a converted garage. We’ve borrowed baches (holiday homes) flatted, lived in a quasi-retirement community and finally, in the bottom half of a home where we can watch waves.

Fiona and Finley have not only learned to read, write and do math(s) in NZ, they’ve also learned about the culture – they can perform the Haka (Maori war dance), say simple phrases in Maori, and sing the national anthem in two languages. Their friends and classmates are Kiwi (Pakeha- white, and Maori – native), Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Spanish, Brazilian, Belgian, British, Swedish, Swiss and even American. The kids have learned to play the ukulele (Fiona) plus basic cricket, rugby (Finley), flippa ball, soccer and t-ball. Their sports heroes are NZ’s rugby team, the All Blacks. Fi and Finn retain their American accents, but have adopted their friends’ vernacular, saying, “That’s big as; long as, cool as…” (I pray I remember to warn their American teachers about the “as” word, because it sounds like they’re saying “ass.” I’m bracing for the first time Fiona or Finley tell someone in Spokane they’d like a “big-as” piece of pizza).

I’ve made a few (dozen) contacts – through running groups, church, the kids’ school, a new migrants’ group, friends of friends via Facebook and friends of friends face-to-face. I even took a chance on online dating and fell in love. I’m still in love, not only with my Partner (pronounced “PAHT-nah, in Kiwi), but with Aotearoa. With En Zed. New Zealand.

With our departure less than eight hours away, it’s time to squeeze in as many thanks as possible. Apologies in advance if you’ve taken the time to read this and I’ve FORGOTTEN you. Moving, unpacking, packing and too many goodbyes have baked my brain into one of those meat pies Kiwis are so fond of.

Thank you:

To Fiona and Finley’s teachers and classmates at Mt. Maunganui Primary – you’re a main reason we’ve stayed so long. The kids will miss you, doing the Haka and walking around school each day in bare feet.

To Bonnie at St. Mary’s Anglican church – you create community every day for families in the Bay of Plenty and you introduced me to my “oldest” Mount mates.

Speaking of “old” mates: Thanks, Jade and Louise, for welcoming a stranger as a friend before you knew we’d be friends.

More friends: A big run-up-the-Mount-I’m-gonna-kill-Jill-for-hill-repeats thank you to Mt. Joggers. You’re a wonderful group of women with whom to run, drink coffee, drink wine and escape. A special shout-out to the Ohope gang and Taupo team. To Paula and Donna.

More runners: Thanks to the Mt. Hash Harriers for being you, in all your ridiculousness and fun. Sorry I missed Pukehina (and heaps of other runs, too!). Catch you later this year. On-on!

A runner and an editor:  Lee, thank you for reading the beginning of my manuscript. I appreciate your wicked red pen, remarkable attention to detail and your encouragement. You and your group were the jump-start I needed.  

The ex-pats: Thank you, Amy, Elena and Antonio, Matthias and Tina, Becky and Stephen, and new friend, Tina. I love hearing your stories – of why you came (or left), of how things work (or don’t) in NZ and what life was like in the “old country.” Our lives are so much richer for the diversity of your experiences.

The former flat mate: Again, Amy. You were there to help me navigate the NZ system and talk through a budding romance. Thanks for the shoulder and for the American Embassy (fab house with all the mod-cons). And cheers for showing me it’s possible for two grown women to live together post-uni without killing each other. Because of that, I’m willing to stage my own experiment in communal living in Spokane.

The babysitters: Maria, Kelsey, Kate. Hooray for grown-up time, and for stretching the truth to tell me, “Finley wasn’t naughty, he was fine.”

To Elena, for ferrying the kids to school a half-dozen times and for watching the kids, even overnight. Also Julia, and Louise, who’ve bravely allowed us to drop off both angels and high-tail it out of town for romantic weekends away.

No, sweetie, I didn’t forget you – Thank you, PAHT-nah, (Pete), for persisting and persevering with a “full-on” American; for opening your heart not only to me but also to Fiona and Finley. I’ll miss you most of all, and will work to get my act together so I’m back in your strong arms as soon as possible. I love you.

Thanks, En Zed: For giving us this beautiful respite, for connecting us to these kind folks. Hei konei ra – See you later.  


  1. Ahh, Dawn. What a beautiful tribute. I'm so happy for you to have found such wonderful people and memories in New Zealand. We here in the States eagerly await your return. Love and hugs to all. --Kellie

    1. Thanks, Kellie. You, my friends, are what draw me back.