This is an area to discuss things I've done with my husband over the years to strengthen our relationship as well as observations I've witnessed that might serve to help others.
My husband and I are 37 and have known each other for more than half our lives. We made that realization sometime this past year. There is a certain sense of accomplishment to saying that I have been able to tolerate one other person continually in my life since I was 17. And that they tolerated me right back. I feel like we should have medals or something.
But we don't. We did, however, get frustrated in our lives and take it out on each other. And start ignoring each other. Or throwing ourselves into other activities to avoid arguing with each other. We didn't hate one another. We just didn't know what else to do to get rid of our frustrations and wanted to avoid hurting one another. But it just made us more distant. It didn't help the issues.
So, we decided we needed a change. We didn't like how our life was going. We didn't like how our relationships were formed and how they were supported. Our kid's lives were not happy and we were working our butts off to just pay the bills. So, we decided to make a big move--and now we're hitting around 6 months since we moved. Here's where we're at now.
I hated life for a few months when we first got here. I'm an optimistic person, I try to see the bright side. But I was depressed. We left the home we loved and our families back in the states. We left friends and neighbors we had become close to. But we were doing this for a better take on life--we wanted to live differently and adjusting our jobs and our habits wasn't cutting it. We had to go big. I knew that. But leaky floors, sleeping on sleeping bags for months and rain ALL THE FREAKING TIME wore me down real freaking quick. But, Keith let me vent. And shout. And generally act like a loon. And he understood.
In a weird way, not having the other outlets we had before helped us learn how to enjoy one another again. We don't go out with tons of people, we have just been focusing on enjoying one another when we aren't at work. We have a local coffee shop we go to every week for breakfast. We're considered regulars there now. Like Cheers, but with coffee. We do Sunday night game night--Uno BAD, Minecraft GOOD (we actually sit down as a family and play Minecraft together). I know it sounds crazy that these things mean so much to me right now, but we didn't do it when we were back in the States. We didn't have to. We had other distractions and obligations that kept us from doing it. But we don't now.
However, the best thing that has happened lately: my husband went on a week-long work trip to the Comoros in Africa. It's a volcanic island near Madagascar. We had little to no contact that week because of time changes and, apparently, the country sometimes doesn't get WiFi because the provider just withholds it from time to time. And I didn't freak out that whole week. I had to get the kids to school and spend time with just them and me. And it was actually kind of fun. We started a routine. We made up fake plans for what Dad was doing every day. And we were super psyched when he came back. And when he came back, he went nuts finding us souvenirs to bring back because he wanted to be able to share as much of his trip with us as he could.
OK, weird, right? Sounds nice, why the hell did you share that? Here's why--if that same trip had happened when we were back in the States, I can already imagine how we would have reacted. I would have been pissy the whole time he was gone because I had to do everything with the kids AND work. I would have hung out with the neighbors drinking when I could because that was all that would keep me sane. The kids would have fought with me constantly because that's typically what they did when only one of us was around. And Keith would have come back cranky, tired and biting our heads off at every turn.
I am really happy we made the changes we have. I laugh now more than I remember laughing in a LONG time. I actually almost peed myself laughing the other day (not related to being an aging woman, just from shear joy). I honestly can't remember when I've been this happy for this long in awhile. Even with all the freaking rain.
My poor hubby. It feels like the universe is trying to tell him something. Mainly: you should not ride a scooter.
When he first arrived in New Zealand (ahead of us), he bought himself a littler electric scooter to get around on. It was cheaper than a motorcycle or car and he didn't need a license to use it. Great idea, right? Wrong.
The day he came to pick us up from the airport (which, coincidentally was our 15 year anniversary), he got into an accident with a cyclist. He got 13 stitches above his eye to piece back the gash and he showed up at the airport with a turban dressing and swollen half of his face. I went directly into nurse mode from day one to help him heal. He went through picking us up, to moving us across Auckland immediately after that. All while working.
Then, about a month after that (and after the purchase of a super-sexy helmet and reflective vest), he based his ankle on the kickstand for said scooter. The ankle swelled up horribly--to the point that he could not walk on it for about 2 weeks. He's doing better with that now, but geesh! The man can't figure out how NOT to hurt himself.
Needless to say, I've hidden the scooter. I drive him to work daily. And we're getting him a bus pass for when I start working.
So, my last entry was about settling in. Most of what I was talking about was still when I was in a bit of a shock state. I am feeling more normal now. Not like we've made a huge mistake that we can't come back from, at least. How do I know? The hubby and I started diving into real estate research.
Keith and I have always loved looking at new housing, researching real estate markets, etc. in every area we've lived before. It's a weird thing to bond over, but it's our weird thing. That being said, Auckland doesn't do house sales like the US does. They auction homes: without listing, in any way, shape or form, what an expected sales price should be for the home. Sure, there is the random home that will list an asking price and say that it could be sold prior to auction, but it's rare. So there is no looking up houses on Zillow and ranking them by asking price. It's a completely different ball game out here.
The details on home purchasing aren't what's important right now, though--we have started bonding over something we started bonding over when we were 21 again. And that it is a huge sign to me that our relationship is still as stable as it always has been. Even if I was a freaking mess for the past 2 weeks or so.
After our rocky approach, we've been settling in to our new home. I wasn't super impressed with our rental, but after seeing the options that exist in Auckland, I understand the lack of options. Just a quick rant: the rental market in Auckland is absolutely atrocious. Rental owners are not obliged to take any kind of care of their property whatsoever and renters are just expected to bend over and take it. When we moved in to our rental, the owner had left the doors and windows open to "let it breathe" for goodness only knows how many days. It was freezing in the house, the heat pump didn't have power, and we spent the first few hours in the house making a game out of how many spiders and webs we could kill/clean up. I only kept it together for about 24 hours before freaking out. I am much better now, however: we bought some appliances, we figured out how to heat and ventilate the home (I am SO not used to humidity), and I got some small furniture items to make us feel less like animals until our actual furniture gets here. I love my new dining room table--when it's cleaned off, I'll take some pics to add.
I was a little wigged out by our surrounding neighborhood--and I will completely put that down to complete white-girl typical American ignorance for other cultures. The street we are next to is a busy commercial street with tiny little shops on top of one another, most of which are in Chinese. I thought we'd get mugged. However, as you walk back through our block of houses, you see nicely taken care of homes, parks, and cycle-ways. And we discovered a coffee shop, Big Beats Coffee right across the street next to a Stumpy's Wood Fired Pizza. We spent almost every meal at one or the other location until our fridge was delivered. I now feel pretty damn lucky to have landed the location we did. And I've gotten amazing suggestions for shopping and hiking from the owner at Big Beats. Best part about the shop, aside from the amazing food and brews--he loves the blues and plays it all the time. He has several posters for Johnny Cash in the shop. It's awesome.
We also dove in and got ourselves a right-hand drive car. To drive on the left side of the road. We've been doing so successfully for about a week now :) Shock #1 when purchasing a car here--the licensing and registration for the car is included in the purchase of the vehicle as well as basic liability coverage for the car. If you have a loan, you have to get comprehensive coverage. However, our coverage has a $300 deductible for damages. America: we're doing something wrong.
We've also gotten our cable set up to get hooked up when our TV's arrive and we just got broadband coverage yesterday. We got our cell phones hooked up as well--we purchased them prior to arriving (because they are EXPENSIVE here) and because they have to be internationally capable to be used outside of the US. Which most phones purchased in the US are NOT.
All in all, we're starting to feel a little more normal--Keith just got through with a head cold and I'm starting in on it now (woo hoo!), so we are figuring out where to buy cold medicine and what the Chinese herbalist around the corner suggests to use :)
To say that moving to another country is stressful is the biggest understatement I could make right now. I really have no idea how to put all my emotions over the past weeks into words. It really is something you have to experience to truly get a feeling for what we've gone through.
Let me paint my picture here: the kids and I got over to Auckland. But not as we originally planned. We left Denver to fly to Houston and, after a 90 minute layover, grab an overnight flight to Auckland (roughly 15 hours). We started off late from Denver (because of hail AND a tornado) and showed up in Houston 10 minutes after our planned departure time. The ever-so-helpful people with United didn't call ahead (even after my request as well as another passenger's request to do so) to the airline to ensure they didn't leave without us. So, we got stranded in Houston overnight. I REALLY don't enjoy Houston. We'll just leave it at that.
We ended up getting flights to San Francisco the next day that connected to another flight to Auckland. The United service rep couldn't guarantee that me and my children would be seated together and didn't even make the effort to try. She simply told us to call the next day and see if they could figure something out. Oh, and they didn't give us any help with overnight accommodations (because it was the weather's fault, not the airlines). Grrr.... Luckily, I have amazing in-laws and they helped us find a hotel nearby and took care of that headache for us. (Thank you!!!!)
The next day, we got to the airport early and talked to a United rep. They told me tough luck on sitting next to my children. Luckily, the people on our flight moved around to make it work. However, I called Air New Zealand to check on our tickets with them to Auckland at the same time--not only had they identified that we were not seated together and "corrected that issue", but they also upgraded us into a seating section known as a "Skycouch". (Google it--there are videos discussing it. It was amazing) ON TOP OF THAT, they refunded the excess fees they had previously charged us when we had to change our flights. There is a reason they receive outstanding customer service rankings time and again--fly them if you have the chance, they are amazing!!! I've signed up for their frequent flyer program myself.
We had 8 full sized checked bags that we lugged through security and customs once we reached Auckland--and after 2 hours in customs, I come out with my children to see.......my husband in a head wrap, crying just outside security. I've never felt more helpless in my life.
Turns out, he had a head-on accident on his new electric scooter with a cyclist going twice as fast as him. He ended up getting a massive gash just above his left eye resulting in 10 external and 3 internal stitches. After taking the dressing off, I was highly amazed at the abilities of the ED doctor to stitch up the gash. Let's just say, it wasn't a great first impression of New Zealand for me.