Every once in awhile I stop and look up at the Kaikoura mountain range or the vast ocean and think, “It’s not hitting me. I don’t really know how grateful I am to be here in New Zealand.” Finally, five weeks later, I think I’ve finally landed in the country. Maybe there was too much for me to process at first: graduating college, spending a summer filled with adventures and new friendships, then the quick transition to this unreal job. I remember trying to explain in those first couple weeks how surreal it all felt. It couldn’t be reality- it was too strange and sudden of a transition. And yet, at the same time it felt so natural to be back at the Old Convent, a second home of sorts. It was so good to be reunited with my church and my home-stay family. All good experiences, but I mostly was living day to day, and couldn’t grasp as a whole the reality that I was in New Zealand for the next year.
Now, I think I’ve finally landed in New Zealand. I’m starting to see what a privilege it is to be here at this particular time with the unique people this semester, and this year. I’m starting to figure out what revives me in my off time- journaling and praying from the tree house or other beautiful places of solitude, going on runs around the farmland full of cows and horses, spotting native birds along the way, and having coffees and one-on-ones with friends.
But I also feel the distance of New Zealand. The waves of homesickness that have hit me often take me by surprise, and it has taken me a while to identify that heaviness I sometimes feel as homesickness. Part of it is that I’m starting to realize how many good friends I’ve left behind in Massachusetts and New York. Certainly too many to adequately keep in contact with them all. The friendships I have here in New Zealand are awesome, but they can’t know me after six weeks the same way I am known by my friends of three or four years. We still have so much to learn about each other in this community, and are still finding out new things. But sometime it’s nice to just know and be known by an old friend. I miss that, and now that that is gone I realize I’ve taken that for granted.
But that’s life, isn’t it? We’re always taking things for granted. I look back at many times in my life and think of those daily mundane moments that have come to an end, or those ever present friends that are more distant and infrequent. Here in New Zealand I miss my U.S. friends, family, and homeland, but when I go back to the States and am reunited with them I guarantee I will be longing for my kiwi friends, whanau, and whenua.
So how do we do it— enjoy the present and not take it for granted?
…I’m not sure. But I think a key component is being thankful. Starting and ending each day with a time reflecting on all the good God has done and is currently doing. I know there are so many things I’m subconsciously grateful for and probably taking for granted that I could vocalize more.