Warning: straight ahead to ramble city. I've kept it on the down low while I was away, but for (at the time of writing) the last month or so I've been travelling. It's a massive 6+ week trip that's been in the works for a while and because I'm me, I managed to schedule all sorts in that week before I left (moving in with Zee, closing the lease on my old flat, endless leaving things/handovers, getting a new passport etc etc). I surprised myself when I was finally got on an AirNZ flight at Heathrow, and flew to LA.
Let me tell you right now, the plan to keep my eyes open on an 11 hour afternoon flight to LA was not a viable one. Especially cause cattle class (even with the infamous Skycouch) was absolutely hellish. The first few hours were fine, but towards the end I was flagging. Poor Zee, the sleep deprivation made me both unreasonably silly and a grouchy grouch.
We waited two hours only to get back on the plane for the final leg to NEW ZEALAND! Ahh! We didn't quite sleep the whole 13 hours there, but we tried. Skycouch again, bit of an epic fail. (Next time, in the battle between premium economy vs skycouch I'm going premium economy). Poor Zee barely slept and I got yelled at by a grumpy guy in front who thought I was holding up his chair (I wasn't) and petulantly told me he was going to call the air hostess. Sleep deprivation makes children of everyone.
I was apprehensive about coming home after so long. Three years is a long time to be away. Would I hate it? Would I love it and not want to leave? How much has travelling changed my perception? How are my family doing *really*? Would Quinn remember me at all?
Coming through the arrivals gate to see my sister + my Dad waiting for me was emotional. Being back home where things were both intimately familiar was strange, and stranger still were the small little changes that had taken place in my absence. New buildings that had popped up. Shops that had been replaced by other shops. My dad had painted the front room of our house and changed the curtains. Everything felt exactly the same and completely different at the same time.
Mostly, I slotted right back into New Zealand as if I'd never been gone. Running errands and organising things. Everything had both the laid back attitude that I remembered, but was also ridiculously busy, as if everything I had planned to do only just fit in it's allocated time frame.
Those first few days were quiet. I met my mother for lunch, moved my money from one bank (ANZ) to another (woo, Kiwibank!) and did a lot of driving around the city. I was keen to show Zee how pretty NZ could be, even Auckland (the sprawly city that it is). And oh, I'd forgotten. I'd forgotten how very pretty New Zealand is. The rolling hills and endless horizons and beaches and native bush. So pretty. So ridiculously pretty.
I did find the rural kiwi accent to be a bit grating, and perhaps it's just the randoms I ran into, but goodness, I wasn't sure whether it was a reflection of the level of intelligence of the folk I met, or perhaps it was just kiwi colloquialism, or maybe it was just the accents but some of the people we met while out and about were pretty casual. Uncouth, almost. It was disorientating and I found it really, really distracting. I also really disliked having to filter through what they were saying to understand what they meant/wanted.
Also, food here? Stupidly expensive if it's not NZ grown. The prices for some things were similar to the UK (insert example) but it really was hard to get used to the numbers. A dinner out in NZ (something we regularly do in London) for two was easily $100+. A round of wines for three was easily $35 (what?) and mediocre cocktails that have limes in them (apparently, grown out of season limes are to blame for both the averageness and the price) were a whopping $19 a pop. WTF. And then Zee talks me down and reminds me that, actually, I'd happily spend £8.50 on a mojito in LCC, or even Fish in a Bag at The Folly is £9. If you take into account the exchange rate, it's about the same. (Though, if it wasn't for the limes I'd hope it'd be cheaper).
I got used to everything being about $50. Groceries always came out at $50. Gas in the car for a half tank, also $50. Everything was $50, standard. It was quite bizarre.
And oh, I'd forgotten how delightful it was to have a dog that loved you. Being back around Quinn again was THE BEST! I adore him, the funny little pup he is! He's SO small. Tiny - it was inconceivable that he's that small. And then, the more I was around him, the bigger he seemed to be. I love him, he's so delightfully uncomplicated, and so loving. He still gets excited when you get home, he's still super cuddly and likes to be near you, and still knows all the tricks I taught him when he was a tiny tiny pup.
He's definitely getting old now. He's almost all white, and he's now bald on his nose and his ears. At 7 years (this year) I think that's probably acceptable. He's a bit more spoilt than he ever was with me, I think. He's now got full run of the house and sleeps wherever he wants to (definitely wasn't the case before I left). He's often saved steak and every few days eats fancy human food. He's well cared for, and is happy which is reassuring.
Overall it's been pretty great. We've got a few weeks here, and it's stretched out nice and long in front of me. The weather is amazing (blue skies, I'm pretty sure I got sunburnt driving around today) and I'm glad to be home. I really don't want to think about leaving just yet.