It happens every so often. I can honestly say it hasn't happened lately because the Lone Star state is so
I have said it before, but I cannot relate to all of you hometown kids. You were born, raised, educated, and married all in the same place. I understand the reality of it, but I certainly can't imagine what that would be like. I've lived everywhere, it feels like. And though most of those everywhere's are within driving distance and can be revisited with little trouble, a few are not. New Zealand is one of those. It is a lengthy, costly trip, and it's one that I plan on making something in the next 1-3 years, depending. I have to take Jake, though, and show him all of the things and people I love.
I was 9 when my family made the lengthy trip across the ocean to live in New Zealand. I will be honest and tell you that many of my New Zealand memories from childhood were not incredibly fond ones. Oh, I have some good ones, but the ones that stick out are the memories of my first days in public school. Of being ridiculed and teased for my accent and for my lack of worldly knowledge. At this point in my life, I am shocked at the things that the kids talked about in my elementary school. I had no idea what they all meant back then, but I knew they were not nice. Now I am 34, and I know that I was right. Also, my family traveled a lot to towns close to our home in Rotorua (maybe the smelliest town in the world). I have so many memories of us piling into our olive green station wagon, headed down the windiest two lane roads known to man, me being so carsick that I almost matched the color of our car. I feigned sickness so often to escape the awkwardness I felt at school. I got tired of being the odd man out and of being taunted for it almost daily. When I finally left New Zealand, I was certain I would never return.
Then came four years of college and graduation. I had made plans to go to Thailand and work in an orphanage for a year. I had been talking about it since high school. And then God stepped in and sent me a different direction. Through a series of events that could have only been orchestrated by Him, God sent me back to New Zealand. I was young, naive, and I was energetic. I did not even think to be apprehensive or afraid. I just wanted to go, and God provided a way. Within 4 months of graduation, I returned to New Zealand to work with missionaries Zane and Cindy Edwards in Bible Baptist Church in Manukau, New Zealand.
That was my year of firsts. First time to live in Auckland. First time to be in the minority, as I lived in a primarily Polynesian community. First time to live on my own. First time to be a church piano player. First time to wear corn rows. First time to be engaged. First time to be unengaged. First time to kayak. First train ride. First vacation on my own. First time to hear someone say "Bob's your uncle".... I still think that's kind of hilarious. First (and hopefully last) time to have my car stolen. My goodness at the firsts. Lots of ups and downs, and I loved it, most of it anyway.
New Zealand is a beautiful place, and during my year there, I was able to see so much of the country that I had taken for granted as a child. I had no idea how blessed I had been. And I was happy to revisit things I had loved as a child, mostly foods like sausage rolls, toffee pop cookies (biscuits), pineapple lumps (chocolate candy that tastes nothing like pineapple). But the thing I miss the most about my days in New Zealand is not the landscape or the beaches or the weather or the hiking or the food. The thing is miss the most is the people. I miss driving down to Mission Bay with my friend Christina and having cappuccino, which was never quite sweet enough for me. I miss going to the gym with Michelle in Howick and working out for hours but never seeing the scale move one little ounce (or kilogram). I miss hanging out with Flo and her babies Canaan and Michelle, smelling the non-stop curry that the downstairs neighbors were cooking. I miss standing outside after church and listening to the guys perform near perfect renditions of all of their Boyz II Men favorite songs. I still don't know how they learned to sing like that. I miss hanging out at the park with our church youth group (that was actually made up of plenty of young adults), having luncheon meat sandwiches and chicken flavored potato chips. I miss driving half an hour into downtown Auckland to visit the one Starbucks because it was one of the few places that reminded me of home, not to mention the fact that it was the one place to run into American tourists. I miss the occasional opportunity to see those sweet familiar faces that I had known from our church in Rotorua from my childhood.
So I will go back. I have been researching plane tickets, and it is not cheap. But I save up, and I will go back just the same. My friends have moved and married and divorced and remarried and nothing is the same as it was. But that's life, and I will go back to see the changes. The city will be different and grown, and so will the people. I know of at least one New Zealand family that I will have to travel to Ethiopia to visit, and don't worry, Michelle, I am coming back to Ethiopia, too. Just give me a little time. In the meantime, my New Zealand friends are welcome to visit me. I will make room in my small apartment or I will find you a place to stay. Just say when, and I will show you the sights of Dallas, Texas. I will teach you about Mexican food, and I will show you the wonders of the outlet mall.
In the meantime, though, I am praying for cooler days and the reminder of the place I love (and because I am so tired of the heat I could scream). New Zealand friends, pray with me, and if you can send yourselves over here, that'd be great. If not, I will take the chicken chips and pineapple lumps, thank you.