This piece originally appeared on tinyletter.com/Terhys on June 9th, 2015.
Confusing weather patterns were something I got used to while living in Boston, although the mercurial weather of New England could not prepare me for going to sleep in a Japanese spring and waking up in a New Zealand fall. It was odd, one day smelling flowers on the breeze, the next seeing trees with dead leaves dispiritedly waving, then falling in the wind.
I was excited for New Zealand because of all the obvious reasons, and because after four months of living a life lost in translation, I’d be able understand everyone around me. In the first accommodation I stayed in, between the Kiwi and the British accents, I understand about 50% of the speech around me. Technically this was an improvement from my time in Asia – but while I conceptually understood they were speaking English I couldn’t easily comprehend them, and the whole effect was more frustrating than simply being unable to speak the language.
So, I reverted to the tactics I used in Asia: head cocked to the left, mouth slightly open with index finger resting on lower lip and a question mark dancing on my brows, or the doe-eyed gaze and blank smile of someone who is content in their ignorance.
My first stop in New Zealand was Christchurch, a city unremarkable to me except for the way it reminded me of New Orleans in one sad way: after immensely destructive earthquakes a few years ago, the city still has significant damage that has yet to be addressed by the government. After that, I hopped a train and scooted off to the west part of the South Island, which was absolutely stunning.
There were snow peaked sharp, jagged mountains, sheep and cows that were fluffy as, and rivers with Listerine blue water. Turns out, that water color is due to sediment from the surrounding mountains that reflects bright blue or green, depending on the light. The South Island of New Zealand has roughly 1 million inhabitants, so the landscape feels wholly untouched – except for the sheep of course.