New Zealand: Week 38 – The End.

I have this thing where I don’t like saying goodbye. I find myself becoming a bit of an ostrich if a goodbye is imminent and bury my head in the sand until I can ignore it no longer. I think this can be seen quite clearly in that my blog has been left abandoned since April 2015, and my story of New Zealand left incomplete. Also in that I first drafted this “goodbye” post on the 1st of January 2016, came back to it in March and it’s now nearly July and close to a year since I left New Zealand (cue sobbing).

To be honest I haven’t wanted to write about the end, my last holiday, my last term in New Zealand. It was too sad to think that that year was over. To final. Even now, almost six months (now 11 months) on from my return to England I’m not fully home, there’s always half a mind on making my escape back to the land of the Long White Cloud. A part of me will always be on the other side of the world, part of me will always be thinking how soon can I go back? But as we enter 2016 I find myself wanting to complete the story, to put those memories down on (virtual) paper and be able to look back on the whole year. My year. The year where I became more sure of myself, the year I backed myself to “fake it til I [made] it”, the year I will never forget and the year I found myself two fellow wannabe Kiwis who became my other family and who are always up for some “I wish I was in New Zealand” wailing.

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My third term in New Zealand was a long one, and I ended up battling a wave of unexpected homesickness right before the Easter holidays. I think cabin fever had played its part and as Good Friday dawned I escaped on a plane to Wellington. Two nights away from Christchurch, a good old Kiwi game of rugby and a weekend of pleasing myself was medicine enough. I landed back in Christchurch ready for the quick turn around to hop on the bus down to Timaru. A reunion of the self proclaimed New Zealand family, with movies, the traditional trip to PaknSave and more laughing than I had done in a while.

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From Timaru Maddie and I would head north while Kat would head south, our final gathering before The End. Up next was a quick stop over back in Christchurch to see Ed Sheeran perform, before Maddie and I jetted off to the Cook Islands. It was a journey that included a 10 hour layover in Auckland airport, but was worth every single minute as we eventually stepped out on to the sandy beaches of that island paradise.

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Days were spent on the beach, snorkelling in the sea and at the poolside of the resort a short walk down the beach from our guesthouse, whose staff greeted us with huge smiles every time we showed up to take advantage of their sun loungers. Evenings were spent splashing out on dinner at the different island restaurants, a luxury all previous travelling had not provided, there was no pasta and sauce on this holiday.

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“Are you pissed off you’re leaving?” Asked the driver of our airport shuttle when the time came to leave.

“Yes!” Was the answer that greeted him.

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Before Maddie left and before the final term started, there was time for a rugby match. Back in Christchurch and back watching the Crusaders. A good game but a loss for the Crusaders, not the best way for Maddie’s first New Zealand rugby match to end. Although far more shocking was the fact she had been in New Zealand for 9 months and not made it to a single match.

ANZAC weekend brought a long weekend and another visit from Maddie. This time accompanied by Magnus and we were all off to the rugby. A better game, an even better result, all preceded by a moving ANZAC tribute and an attempt from us to sing the New Zealand national anthem.

There were to be no trips in my last term at CGHS but working in ESOL, Learning Support and Maths (even now I’m still not sure how I pulled that one off) became so routine and so normal and so familiar that after the unsettled nature of last term this one felt just right. I found something that fit. But it meant that all too soon it was time to say goodbye. Presents and cards and hugs and speeches and balloons and notes from teachers I’d worked with that made me cry and baffled looks from colleagues and boarders when the head teacher announced to the whole school I was leaving to go to university.

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One last weekend in Christchurch horse riding, drinking and the final gathering of the New Zealand family in New Zealand. There was dessert, finally, at the place everyone had told me I must go to before I leave. Then at 5am we headed to the airport and Sydney for one last adventure. But that’s a story for another day.

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An STA mix up with flight times, a delayed flight from Christchurch to Auckland and a pit stop at a bin half way between the Auckland Domestic and Auckland International terminals to remove 2kgs of my heaviest and most accessible possessions meant I didn’t have much time in departures to dwell on the enormity of leaving. Probably for the best, as a gate side emotional breakdown would not have been ideal. During boarding a fellow Brit noticed my passport and we got chatting. It turned out that he would spot me again in Kuala Lumpa airport wandering around aimlessly and point me in the right direction of our next gate.

And so 13hrs later I landed in London and we sat on the runway for a while. Finally, I got to speed through customs for the first time in a year; no questions asked about visas or intentions and without having to complete yet another arrivals card, only to be held up at baggage claim because they couldn’t open the plane’s cargo doors. There were groans from an Airbus load of (tired and grumpy) passengers, united in annoyance as we were told something and nothing sporadically for the next couple of hours. As I was sat of the floor of baggage claim I remembered my buddy from the plane, hopefully he made it to his connection to Dublin but it looked like his his bags wouldn’t be joining him there.

Eventually “We are going to try turning the plane off and on again.” Came across the tannoy after almost two hours. It did the trick apparently, and I was almost mown down by one person’s luggage trolley as they raced forward to the moving carousel.

Three countries, three planes, well over 24hrs travel time, more thanΒ two hours waiting for luggage and I was finally home.

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