Thursday 18th September, 2014: Pt Chevalier, Auckland, New Zealand (Caroline to Katharine)
I’m home. Just to say it feels good. But here’s the thing: both Jez and I feel completely weighed down by things. We have so much stuff. After living out of two suitcases between four of us for two months, every bulging bookcase, every box of toys and every pile of fluffy towels feels heavy and, well, excessive. Everywhere I look there are things to put away, to mend, to take to the hospice shop, to get the tradey back to fix. How can even our most precious things – our paintings, our mementos, even books – feel so heavy?
Here is my question to you – how do we bring the simplicity and slowed heart-rate from our time away back into real life? Perhaps it’s as simple as choosing to do it; grabbing the ‘zen-ness’ with all our might and tying it to the nearest fencepost (or more likely, washing line).
I began this letter thinking it was the end of something, but it may actually be the beginning: moving from stories of travel to ‘de-briefing’ and reminding each other how beautiful life can be when you just. slow. down.
My smiles began the moment I stepped over the threshold of flight NZ0080 from Hong Kong to Auckland – “Hoy there, welcome. Just turn to the luft and take your sate”. Seeing Maori faces on the crew made me realize they’d been missing from my vision for two months. (It also reminded me how close I am to facing my next big writing project…but more on that in person, baby). New Zealanders have a certain look about them: an open frankness, a no-bullshit realism, and a slightly apologetic way of holding themselves – all part of the Rubik’s Cube of being a Kiwi from this quirky, post-colonial place we call home.
As if my re-immersion into beautiful, little Aotearoa wasn’t complete, the hostie assigned to our section was my sister-in-law Wandzia’s good friend (who incidentally was celebrating her 29th year of working as a flight attendant “and still loving it”). Then I watched an incredible new Kiwi flick, Dark Horse, starring Cliff Curtis as a chubby, bi-polar, Maori, genius chess player trying to save his nephew from gang life, and teaching kids to play chess to stay sane. OK, so it sounds like an unlikely winner but Curtis was incredible and I was moved by the based-on-real-life story. It has Kiwi Classic written all over it, Once Were Warriors style. Can I blame my tears on the altitude (again)?
It’s 7.35pm and we’ve been in our PJs since 4pm trying to keep the girls awake. Lights out now. I have my laptop by the bed for the inevitable 4am wakeup. But whenever I do wake up, it will be in my own perfect bed next to the most patient, loving, fun travel companion of all time. I am not the same person who woke up here two months ago. I am braver and happier. I know where I am going.
Let’s promise ourselves and each other to fight the normalcy that will sneak back into our lives faster than an Elam student to a wine-sponsored gallery opening. And normalcy, dear friend, is what should be avoided at all costs.