Expiry: Indefinite

Yesterday morning I walked down to Immigration half an hour before they opened and stood in the queue for a while before taking a number and taking a seat, my application with its two laughably unflattering passport-size photos in hand. A nice man called me over to his desk, I paid him a hundred and sixty dollars, and he printed me out a shiny blue-and-white sticker that says “New Zealand Welcomes The World: Rugby World Cup 2011” and stuck it in the penultimate blank page in my passport.

The sticker also says “ Permanent Resident Visa,” which means…I’m done. “Visa expiry: indefinite,” it says. I got residency in 2009 but had to spend at least 180 days per year in New Zealand for two years before I could get indefinite visa, which allows me, theoretically, to get on a plane tomorrow and come back to Wellington in five or ten years and still be able to work and vote and collect unemployment and everything else. Among the other immigrants of my acquaintance in Wellington there’s a lot of talk about Your Two Years; some people will go back and forth and cut it quite close. It wasn’t very hard for me to do even though I’ve traveled a bit since May 2009, but it’s still a milestone, even if a slightly anti-climactic one.

Last night at a friend’s birthday drinks at the bar down the road from my house I carried my passport in my back pocket so I could show everyone my hundred-and-sixty-dollar sticker (or, really, my seven thousand dollar sticker but let’s not get into that) and that was pretty fun, but other than that nothing has changed, really, since the last time I wrote about the American thing or the last time I wrote about everyone leaving. I live in Wellington, as I have done for quite a while now. I have no plans to leave; most of my plans involve deciding what to wear to this weekend’s theme party or updating my CV or whether I will be able to do a flat pike on trapeze this weekend. I don’t know how long I will live here but I suspect it will be for many years; I used to say I would spend my thirties here, as if that was some huge unimaginable chunk of time, but I’m forty in four years and I know that will go like nothing. I know there was a time when all my energy, it felt like, was directed towards that shiny sticker, but it’s so hard to remember. It’s so hard to think about all the anxiety and the unknowing, the inability to make plans, the dread that I would not be able to come back and that I would have to revert to my plan B, when really if I was totally honest I didn’t even have a plan B. The fear that I would have spent all that money for nothing, nothing.

How often do you get what you want? How often do you know what you want? I got it, I got a thing I wanted. I am so lucky to have got what I wanted. There is a little part of me, however–even though I would never want to go through this whole thing again–that wishes I could have that same clarity and focus again, the way I did in 2008 when I was living at home and I really just did not know what would happen next. All I knew was that I wanted New Zealand permanent residency, and everything was about wanting New Zealand permanent residency. I have New Zealand permanent residency now, thanks to my sticker. I got what I wanted. It’s just funny to think that I can’t think of anything else that I want, now, with the same intensity as I did back then.

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  1. I went to my naturalization ceremony by myself. The process had been grueling, and I wasn’t excited about anything except never having to go back to an immigration office to be treated like a head of cattle.

    But afterwards, I kind of wished someone had come with (both to have been witness to the capital-K-krazy of that ceremony), but also to have marked it somehow. It was wildly anti-climactic, but it also was an accomplishment that someone who hasn’t gone through that process can’t appreciate. I remembered the sleepless nights before interviews, the obstacles that seemed to have been purposefully put in place. It seemed funny looking back, like, “Did I really get that worked up about this?”

    But, it’s done. And I can come and go, like you now. Congratulations, Chiara. You made it through the gauntlet.

  2. All I have to say is that better be one HELL of a pretty lookin’ sticker, girl.

    Oh I lied.

    I have another thing to say: I’m so glad you’re staying.

  3. And when did I only have just one thing to say? Maybe this is what growing up IS? A lack of crazy necessity to accomplish and finish things, growing into acceptance and hopefully, eventually, some sort of zen-like nothingness?


    I’m going to keep living with passion, and I’m pretty sure you are too.

  4. Congrats!

    I remember the summer my brother and I hiked the JMT and you came to meet us at the end. There was one afternoon standing on Silver pass (or some other pass, I forget) and looking back and saying we were just there 2 days ago and beyond those mountains before that. It was kind of an epiphany that we set these long term goals and then we can look back and be amazed at how far we have come, especially when we didn’t always know if we would make it. You did!

    The community development lesson that I was teaching this afternoon was about choosing indicators to measure our progress towards our vision. It is quite a brave thing to have a vision. But the reality was that the projects we were discussing (mostly more rice-banks) were all started without clearly articulated visions, and in the middle of it we are doing this semi-academic exercise to set up a framework so that we can self-evaluate and hopefully bring greater clarity to the next project. I guess, I think that sometimes the vision can grow out of the daily life.

  5. You have so many stickers in your passport! And soo many stamps!

    I just wanna say, Congrats. And also… have you registered to vote yet?

  6. Maybe your next goal could be becoming an Amerikiwi like Parsons?

    Would you ever like to be a citizen of two countries at once? Or is that just *my* deeply-held desire?

  7. Options. It’s all about having options. It’s not exciting because it doesn’t actively change anything, but there should be some sense of relief just because the discomfort of having no choices is gone.

    Related to nothing, I saw a sign that advertised “baggle with cream chesse” today at a cafe nominally run by native English speakers. Baggle!

  8. Not “nominally run”, sorry, “run by nominally native English speakers.”

  9. Meanwhile, the permanent residency in my mirror-image odyssey? Still churning.

    Although yesterday I did sign off on the final version of a form that required, inter alia, an accounting of “membership in or affiliation with every organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society,
    or similar group in the United States or in other places since [my] 16th birthday”

    VUW Muppet Club, baby. Put it on my questionnaire, lawyer transposed it to the form – so it must actually be required. Let’s pause to contemplate that for a bit.

    (Also had to prove that I don’t have syphilis or TB. I guess nobody has told them about the invention of antibiotics.)

  10. First of all: Congratulations!

    Second of all:

    whether I will be able to do a flat pike on trapeze this weekend

    Tell me more! I want to hear about your circus classes, yes yes I do.

  11. Congratulations Chiara. Hard won, but worth it. I’m happy for your accomplishment, and looking forward to you finding and fulfilling your next “want”.

    cheers from Glasgow.

  12. My friend, Carolann Solebello, just released a new CD and one of the songs is, “Someone Else’s Dream.” The first lines are, “What do you do when all you’ve ever wanted comes knocking at your chamber door?” It’s a very good question. I have no idea what the answer is so if you find it, please let me know!