Just about a month ago I got on the plane to Fiji. I’ve been in New Zealand for four weeks now, in Wellington for three. It’s the end of my first week of work; I’m going to the pub with some new work friends this evening and am helping another new friend move out of the Maple Lodge tomorrow. I looked at some heinously awful flats last night and will probably be looking at some (less heinously awful, I hope) this weekend, with an eye to moving out myself one of these days. I just got my IRD number and can now be paid, which will be a novel sensation I’m sure. It was very exciting yesterday when someone was giving me directions to his (heinously awful) flat because I got to be all cool, like I knew where I was going: “Oh, Majoribanks Street? Right by that bar called Sandwich and then you make the left? I totally know where that is.” I still always order a chai latte or a hot chocolate when I go out for coffee but at least now I know what a flat white and a long black are. I don’t quite live here live here yet, I don’t think, but I’m getting closer; I’ve had several New Zealanders tell me I don’t have a strong American accent, so that must mean something, right? The time since I was snorkelling in Fiji seems to have passed very quickly; I can see now why everyone told me at my goodbye parties that a year would be nothing.
I feel a little sheepish that I don’t have much to report, that I’m not doing very well with the travel-blogging thing. I’m hoping to do something touristy this weekend but for the most part I’m just doing regular stuff like walking to work and going to the store and getting books from the library (except they make you pay to put stuff on your hold list KILL ME NOW) and I guess I’m basically the same person I was a few weeks ago, just as you’d expect, though I feel a lot less anxious and emotional than I did right before I left. I haven’t thought very much about…I don’t know, emotional things at all. Hi, do you know me? Have you read this journal ever, at all? Then you know that that is very unlike me. I think it’s because I don’t have anyone I’m really close to here yet, and for me talking = thinking and since I haven’t found anyone I can really talk with I guess I’m just not…thinking very much about some of the big stuff that was happening with family and friends when I left. For maybe the first time in my life I’m just taking life as it comes, the way people have been suggesting I do basically since I was seven years old.
Or maybe, actually, it’s just because I’m having a lot of fun, a lot of very simple, straightforward plain old fun, like sitting around talking and laughing and drinking tea and playing games. I’m just feeling really social and it’s surprisingly satisfying, considering I don’t feel super close to anyone I hang out with. I think there’s something about traveling that makes it feel very easy and normal to hang out with near-strangers; I don’t feel super intimate with anyone I know here but I feel fine talking about semi-personal things and I like having stupid private jokes and sharing laundry with my roommates. I like nodding when someone says they went to Fidel’s for lunch and knowing where that is, or talking about what a fun night out we all had last Saturday, or about where to get cheap shoes. Last night I spent half an hour with two other people playing with—hold on, now—a bandanna. Like just a regular cloth bandanna, the kind hippies wear folded in a triangle on their heads. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t really spoken to anyone all day at work and apparently I have a set quota of words that must come out of my mouth per day lest I combust spontaneously, but tying that bandana on different peoples’ heads in different ways was more amusing that I think is probably legal. That’s my life right now: walking around, drinking chai lattes, wondering where the hell I’m going to find another pair of work pants, eating Cadbury chocolate, attempting to play Scrabble, texting people about what topping I’d like on my pizza this evening, pinning up pictures of foxes that my nineteen-year-old German roommate draws for me. I have to go to work now, which has been more difficult to get used to than I’d like to admit, but that’s it. I don’t have any ties here, no one that I’m close to, no one from whom I want anything or who wants anything from me, no one to hurt or be hurt by. It’s the most free I’ve felt for a long time and I am surprised at how much I like it, at how much I don’t miss home.
Right before I left I was moaning to my friend Calin about something or another, sitting in her car in front of the Blue House. “You need a break from…all this,” she said, waving her hand at the house, at Ballard, at Seattle, at perhaps my life in general. I told her that I thought that that probably wasn’t possible, that, you know, wherever you go, there you are. Can’t run away from your problems, can’t ever really escape.
Maybe, though, you can leave them on the plane to Fiji, for a little while at least. Maybe you can balance out novelty and history long enough to try to find a new place, one that will surely flesh itself out with its own relationship intricacies soon enough. It hasn’t yet though. I probably have a couple more weeks. I know I won’t fully feel as though belong here until life starts getting more complicated, but here in this pause, this bright easy moment of the past month: my eyes open wider, my heart beats stronger and slower, and I find a calm I wasn’t expecting.