Living In New Zealand for 8 months
On 11 February 2013, I said goodbye to my family and friends in the Netherlands and went off to New Zealand to make it my home for 8 months. Strangely enough, I felt very calm on my way from Amsterdam to New Zealand, I was not at all nervous. When I called my parents at the airport of San Francisco, where I landed for a transit, they were surprised to hear I wasn’t tired despite the long trip. They had expected me to be totally exhausted, but I still had loads of energy. I was mainly excited for what was to come.
After a few more hours of waiting and flying, I finally arrived in Auckland, New Zealand. I remember that my first experience in New Zealand was being engulfed by the sweet scent of flowers as I walked through the airport. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome gift. How is it even possible that an airport smells nice? With unfortunately no time to spend in Auckland, I boarded yet another flight heading straight to Napier, the famous Art Deco town.
Working in the orchards of New Zealand
At the airport in Napier, I met the man who would be my boss for the duration of my stay in New Zealand. He drove me to my new home in Hastings, located in Hawke’s Bay. In the middle of an apple orchard, a beautiful big white house welcomed me to what would be my new home for the next 8 months. In New Zealand, most orchards can be found in Hawke’s Bay. It was in some of those very orchards that I would spend many hours working. My boss was generous enough to give me two days to get over my jet lag, and so on the third day, I started working.
At first, I was a fruit picker. Since I was the only girl in a team of 12 men, I became the team leader. Although I was very hesitant to be a team leader at first, I ended up enjoying It after all. It was really quite challenging being a team leader to 12 men from Vanuatu. The men have totally different values about women than men in the Netherlands do. They did not take kindly to a young woman telling them what to do and the language barrier between us made it even more difficult.
It was only after a few weeks had passed, after countless conversations about families, compliments, and jokes, that they were finally prepared to listen to me. Even then, they often argued with me. But they always ended up apologizing afterward. It was always a nice gesture, especially since sometimes it came from a man old enough to be my father. Besides, I understood perfectly well that it had been difficult for them to accept me; a young, white girl with no experience in fruit picking as their team leader.
Working in orchards in itself is quite challenging. I worked in peach, pear and apple orchards for 6 days a week, 9 hours each day. It was tiring but I liked my job. More so because I could eat as many fruits as I liked. The fruits were always so big and juicy and I would eat till my stomach would hurt. I especially liked working under peach trees. The branches of peach trees grow towards each other, providing shade from the blazing sun.
Exploring the land of the kiwis
On the weekends my housemates and I would visit different places near Hastings. I remember that one time, we went to the Art Deco weekend in Napier and to Taupo
where we had an amazing time. However, I think that the best part of the trip was the drive back home. In the middle of the night, under the brightest stars that I had ever seen. It probably was the best drive that I have ever had, well perhaps, excluding the part where our car broke down in the middle of the road. But even though our car broke down and we had to wait in the cold for a towing truck to pick us up. It had all added to the charm of that night.
My stay in New Zealand was truly amazing, in part because of the many great friends that I made. One of whom was an 18-year-old guy from Vanuatu. Together with him, we explored the rest of Hawke’s Bay. It was particularly adventurous when my Father joined me in Zealand on his way back from a trip to China. We hired a van and embarked on a little road trip. We drove to Mount Maunganui, explored the area of Rotorua; famous for its hot water pools, and hiked a full day in Tongariro National Park; New Zealand’s oldest national park. I loved cooking in the back of the van, walking barefoot and eating healthy delicious food. Most of all, I loved the fact that my father was there to share this experience with me, even if it was only for a few days.
After three months of exploring the northern island, I decided to visit a friend who lived on a farm on the Southern Island. Since he had to work most of the time, I busied myself by traveling around the Island. I started in Queenstown where I wish I could have stayed forever. The air there is so fresh and the scenes of nature could easily pass for a set of a movie. If I didn’t have to return to the Netherlands to finish my education, I may have looked for a job and stayed in Queenstown.
My travels also took me to Milford sound and Mount Cook. Although, many people say that the Milford sound is great, I personally found Mount cook much more impressive. However, the road through the rainforest towards Milford sound I would definitely recommend. Staying in little cabins on the way there really made me feel like a survivor. Especially because most nights it was freezing cold and I had conveniently forgotten to bring my winter clothes.
After visiting a boring town called Invercargill, I returned to Queenstown and went up to Rangitata on a Kayak adventure. Back in Hawke’s Bay, the picking of a new apple species began, calling me back to work. For the remainder of my stay, I spend most of my weekends in a town close to Hastings called Waimarama; where I made more Maori friends and learned about their history.
It is not Goodbye
The last few weeks in New Zealand passed really quickly and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to my second home. Ever since I got back to the Netherlands, No week has passed by that I haven’t thought of New Zealand. I really wish to go back and hope to spend my honeymoon in New Zealand. I know there is so much more that I still need to see and to experience. And what better way to do that than with my significant other.
By An expat from the Netherlands