The wind whipped around me in a flurry of rain as Fern grabbed my hand to lead me up the hill. The farmland stretched to the edges of the hills that shaped the gentle valley below. As we reached the top, the pain in my body mixed with the elements overwhelmed my body. I let out a soft cry, just as we reached the top and burrowed into Fern’s chest. In a tender moment of triumph and pain, he just held me. As he always has done, he just held me.
New Zealand has been a mix of magic and hardship. Fern and I have had to make some hard decisions about the road ahead, and recognize the amount of emotions that come along with that. I live with a constant expiration date in either country I preside in, and each time I have to leave another home and family behind.
We are excited for the future though, and we know that are many endings and beginnings. Fern was accepted for a job in Dunedin, which is near the bottom of the south island. We have enjoyed a lovely couple of months with family near Wellington at the bottom of the north island, but Fern has felt called to head south for work. While I am away in Oregon, he will settle a place for us and establish some roots for it to be a decently smooth transition when I return back to New Zealand in September.
Fern and I have gone on many hikes in the past couple weeks in between balancing work happenings and the winter weather. Every hike seems to lead to a ridge that overlooks the valley below, which allows for a stunning view of the place that we have lived in. Settlers have changed quite a bit of the landscape in 200 years, but it still is fascinating to see the amount of wild bush still protected.
With such an amount of forest, there are a multitude of birds that I have never had the honor to see until now. I have not seen a kiwi bird, as they are rather rare, but I have been able to listen to the sweet song of the tui, wood pigeon, fantail, bell bird, and many other birds that I am unsure of the spelling of their names. Nonetheless, I will never tire of listening to their song as we walk through the wild bush of New Zealand.
My health continues to have good and bad days here, but with Fern by my side, it makes life a whole more functional. I would not have reached to the top of mountains, nor trekked as far into the bush without his help and encouragement. The pain never completely goes away, but I at least know how to keep it at bay, even with the amount of hills in a “casual walk”.
New Zealand is a laid back culture, but it also has a big heart for people, the environment, and makes stellar (very strong) coffee. The food is also different in the understanding that I somehow can eat gluten here and feel totally fine. So anyone who has a gluten allergy in the states, I suggest traveling to a country to see the difference!
All in all, I am excited to head back to Oregon to see my dear friends and family, and to share some of my time in New Zealand. The land of the kiwis is no longer a place of travel for me, but it is a place where I call home. I will always feel between two worlds now, but it makes life all the more sweeter, and time with family and friends all the more precious.
Fern and I plan to apply for the partner visa in September, as the process may take some time and requires medical tests that I will have to get done while in the states. We have spoken with several people who have had the hardship of the visa process, and it takes a long time for the paperwork to go through each channel it needs to. It may be over a year before the visa is processed and finalized for us to be able to live in the same country.
Fern and I have had talks late into the night about the visa process, and it takes a toll on our emotions at times, so please be understanding when asking about the process. We are living it in our every day thoughts and conversations. It is our challenge to face together, and we really do appreciate the kind words and empathy of others as we figure it all out.
All that being said, thank you to everyone who has supported us through this process! We greatly appreciate your help, and would not have even been able to be together during this time without your generosity! Thank you for being a part of our story.
My time here in New Zealand is coming to a close soon, but it is not without hope for the future. When I return, life will look quite different for Fern and I, but we are holding onto every moment we can. Life feels preciously short, yet, we have a beautiful lifetime ahead of us.