Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Friend from the future returns to the past... and I’ll take 4 servings of depression and change, with a side of irony, please.

And, with the “Facts of Life” theme song stuck in my head, I decided it was time for an update on my life as it stands today. On the eve of my 29th birthday, I look back at the previous year of craziness, sadness, and opportunity. February began a year that would change my life forever, mostly for the bad, some for the good. Like living a real-life soap opera, almost every 3 months brought a great deal of change.

February 1 of last year, my parents had a kitchen fire to kick off the craziness. The damage was restricted to the kitchen, yet the smoke damage was vast. We didn’t really see the impacts until the house was emptied later in the month and reconstruction of the kitchen as well as repainting the house, replacing carpet, updates etc. began. During this time, decisions were tough for my family as my grandmother was falling deeper into dementia, each time I saw her she was exponentially worse. My mom and sister were struggling through seeing the decline in her, while living in a rental house, with a declining dog, pressure from our insurance company and contractor, and the stress of having a fire.

Later in February, on my birthday, I had a phone interview with a potential PhD advisor at Massey University, in Palmerston North, New Zealand. At the end of the phone interview, I was told that I would be a great fit for the program and they wanted me to come. What a birthday gift! With that excitement, I had a great opportunity in front of me for my future and a great adventure. In March I decided that New Zealand would be a great choice for me, over Pittsburgh, and began to fill out paperwork and work on proposals. Life was starting to look up for me, so I thought.

In late April, I went home to see my Grandmother (Bubbie) for the last time. We all knew what was written on the walls, but that made it no easier. She had been in a nursing facility for months at this point and was put in Hospice for a marked decrease in weight. She no longer ate, was no longer drinking fluids, and could not take her meds. Toward the end she was her speaking was nonsensical and she was in and out of consciousness. Every so often, my sister could bring her back to reality singing “Bye, Bye Blackbird;” ironically, she was always referred to by my great grandmother as the Shvartzi (“black”) due to her black hair, the only one of my great aunts and uncles with black hair. She did humorously break out into a Christian psalm part way through “My Country Tis of Thee” (which we used to play together on the piano). My Bubbie died on May 12, and was buried on my parent’s Anniversary May 14.

After my Bubbie’s funeral, making decisions was even more difficult for the family and pressure continually increased to get the house done. While this was going on, my 14 year old dog was beginning her decline in life as well. A bit more irony here… my dog always had a special relationship with my Bubbie. When she was receiving radiation for breast cancer 9 years ago and stayed at my parent’s house, Pelle never left her side and even led her to the bathroom at one point, waited, then led her back to her bed. When she was a puppy, my Bubbie knitted her an afghan which through her growth became too small. Bubbie took the afghan to count stitches to make it bigger and Pelle, being the possessive pup, took hold of the afghan in her teeth and slowly pulled it back, never took her eyes off my Bubbie, and gave her a thank you lick when she let go. Pelle had to be put to sleep as she lost her ability to use her hind legs and was in great pain at the end of July.

August was full of stress and apprehension of the impending move to New Zealand, wrapping up loose ends of my life in the UP and moving all my things to storage in Detroit. The end of the month was a bittersweet time for me, saying goodbye to my friends and chosen family in Marquette. I then spent 3 weeks at home downstate with my family before crossing the globe for school. Apprehension mounted and I began to fall into culture shock (I never knew it could begin before embarking), but I tried to see people as much as I could and see my family before I left. Little did I know that would be the last time I saw my brother at the airport before my flight to New Zealand on September 23.

October 22 (NZ time), I got a call from my sister that my brother had died. I had been on my way to Kmart to buy hiking boots for a field trip to the volcanoes, with a half eaten apple in my hand, at the crosswalk of the Square and Broadway. My world pretty much stopped and I moved into mission mode. I knew I had to come back to the States, no question, for the funeral and be with my family. I went back to my room and made a Skype call to my friends, who I really needed at that moment, contacted the school to figure out what to do next, and started to pack. My supervisor, Gert, and his partner, Anja, took me out to the Tasman Sea for a couple hours with their neighborhood dog, Ziggy. This was some much needed time to think and breathe a bit, although it began a flurry of thoughts in my head of what to do next.

After a desperately lonely 30 hour flight back home, and bumming a couple cigarettes on the road (once an addict, always one), I arrived back to see my family in Detroit. The funeral and shiva for Sean were depressing as hell and began a very long process of reflection and soul searching. Over the next few weeks, I helped sort out all our stuff in boxes after the fire to distract myself and when not doing so, I debated and debated on where to go in my life. I didn’t want to let myself down, or the school, my family, or friends. While I don’t know how much I may regret the decision in the future, I decided to stay in the US and return to work. I wanted to be closer to home and have the support of my friends and family; I couldn’t even imagine going back to New Zealand as I hadn’t yet settled in and felt the chaos would have been too much for me to handle.

I concluded that my path in life no longer requires my obtaining a doctorate as I no longer have a drive to be in academia. With no desire for a life of academia, the path to a doctorate seemed excessive. I long for the people and adventure of New Zealand, the visiting of numerous volcanoes, the potential of trips to study exotic locations (like Indonesia), conferences in various places (like the upcoming Austalian hosted IAVCEI meeting), the cutting edge research, and the experiences of a new culture. Ultimately, without the desire to obtain the doctorate, it’s all a moot point.

A year later, on my 29th birthday, I will be returning to work in Marquette for my old company. I feel at home in Marquette and am blessed to have amazing people in my life here. The chaos of my life in the last year is balanced by these wonderful people and the knowledge that my family is only a few hours away. I have also resolved to make it a point to be present for more events with family and friends, so I don’t lose touch like I have in the past. Life is far too short for that. I will forever remember my time in New Zealand, and hope to return to explore more in the future. But, I have returned to the ‘past’ and am grateful for the normalcy which it provides.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Testing the new feed... And, a field trip I shall go!

So, I think I may have finally gotten Facebook to recognize my blogs automatically, so this is a test of that :)

Tomorrow, before it gets too windy, we are heading up to the TMZ (Taupo Volcanic Zone). I am super excited, actually. It will be my first trip to the volcanoes in New Zealand and its quite exciting. I will definitely have my camera in tow, so be ready for some pictures of it!!

Other than that, I am getting a bit homesick and missing my friends. Its rather difficult to make friends when you are not in classes. I know the others in the department, and they are very friendly, but I feel as though I have lost my social skills for hanging out with new people! I don't really know why, but this week is a Latin Film festival, so hopefully, I can meet some people there. I have been in contact with the GLBT group in Palmy, so I am hoping to meet some like minded people there. I guess my internal don't seem desparate feeling overrides the wish to have people to hang out with. Though I did meet one person online who I went out to a club Saturday night with, while it was fun, I think I need more chill things to do at this point. I long for the random adventures of the UP!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Astonomically Misplaced

As much of a geek as this may make me sound, if you really want to feel out of place and lost, look up at the sky. When you gaze at the stars and realize you don't recognize a single constellation, you will realize how far from home you are. I never really thought of how comforting the big and little dippers were, but they oddly add a major amount of comfort when roaming at night. I guess I will just have to learn to identify the Southern Cross now and get to know the stars above.

On another note, today I am moving to the new studio apartment at the Hub. Its on the higher end of the cost spectrum as far as accomodation goes here, but everything is included for about the price of most adverstised places at the moment. My officemate, Emma, said to keep an eye out in the coming weeks as students will be leaving for their summer vacations and lots of places will open. Hopefully there will be some gems that are found. I am not opposed to roommates I guess, but I would like to get to know people before I live with them, as long as I have my own space. I am not 100% sure I want an unfurnished place since that would involve furniture and such that I would have to deal with when leaving. However, furnished places are much more costly. Once I get a car, which I still plan to do, the price for rent goes up $35 a week, which is much more of an incentive to move elsewhere.

I joined a flatmate search service today, so hopefully someone will find a match with me and can wait a month for me to move it.  As you can all tell, I am pretty comsumed by finding a place to live and a car, so hopefully it will all come together quickly. And, in addition to that, hopefully my car will sell quickly in Detroit too. No bites in a month, but I would love to unload it soon and not have to worry about the costs there too.

Otherwise, things are progressing here. I have a schedule for the next 12 months of what I have to do for my research, so I really need to get on that and get moving. I have to be self motivated with it and get my butt in gear here. Its so much more laid back than in the States that its tough for me to get myself moving. I think it will come once I know I am settled, at least for the next month.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So, here I am, in a hostel… in New Zealand

So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then like any language, it must sometime be translated. Let’s put it this way… I am pretty tolerant of places I stay and have lived, but today when I arrived at the hostel, I bought 5 days rather than 3 weeks of a stay. I kinda want to wear socks to shower… my house where soda leaked through the floor and the floor bowed when you walked in was better than this place. There are stained carpets, chipped paint, somewhat unclean bathroom, spider webs and more. I will be looking at another place Sunday and will hopefully like it, assuming the pictures don’t need translation there as well. This just means more exploring at night, right? J Joanne – New Brunswick was nicer LOL!

The place I looked at on college had a patio door for a wall and windows, shower straight to a drain in the floor, and yeah... I hope this isn't a sign of all places in Palmy for living single.

Sunday I look at the hub for a more permanent solution!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Penis Envy

Why would I call a blog post that? Well, I just saw a commercial on broadcast TV at 8pm showing penis pumps and men talking about the need to enlarge themselves and going into detail about the subject. I suppose that despite the fact I am pretty out there and open myself about talking about sexually related things, after all I worked at an adult bookstore for 3 years, I am apparently still a little prudish somewhere in me since I think its pretty ridiculous to show a commercial for that during prime time public tv!

Moving on, I went to the Warehouse today. Think of Wal-Mart as a classy version of the Warehouse, like Target to Wal-Mart, or Meijer to Kmart. I went in and was quite surprised by the fact it looks like it is somewhere between a Home Depot style store with tall industrial shelves and a run down post Christmas Walmart. Some items are all strewn about randomly with handwritten signs, hence why they says it’s the place where everyone gets a deal. At any rate, I bought a $59 cell phone from there to go with the Sim card that I bought at the phone company, where they don’t require you to get a phone with the plan… they directed me to the Warehouse! Its so weird, I have no tax ID here and no verifiable address, yet they put me on a plan just with an email address. Incredibly trusting they are here- just like the airport, where I forgot to mention, I never went through security here before boarding my plane after leaving one terminal and going to another.

I think the laid back nature of this place is going to be a great influence on me!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My first few days here...

So, I have been in the land of Kiwi for 3 days now, and it hasn’t ben too crazy. I haven’t done too much since arriving as I wanted to settle in to the schedule. My first day here, I went on a tour of campus and met many people. I have to confess, I fear I will have some difficulty with many of the names as I was pretty out of it at the time. That evening we wnet down to the Irish pub for a couple beers to keep me up late. Friday, I watched TV and took a walk down to the city centre to have a look around. Suprisingly, Kmart is much the same as home, just with different styles and brand names… layout is very similar. Kmart was in the downtown mall, same stores but different names than home.

While taking a look around, I was cornered by one of the middle of the aisle sales kiosk employees, who was quite shocked by the accent and told me that they were both from Israel and invited me to Shabbat dinner. I am still astounded by the kindness of people here. Yesterday I walked around town a bit again and picked up a newspaper to start looking for apartments. Unfortunately, I need internet and/or a phone number to get anywhere, so when I am on campus, I will look. I may not even end up staying at the hostel – 13 days is the same as 3 weeks, due to differences in long- and short-term rates, so I may avoid it altogether if I can find a place sooner. I need to get a phone soon, so I can be in touch with people here, most likely texting mostly. I need to get an idea of who is on what network here since it still makes a difference in New Zealand- different prices to call and text different networks and landlines. Apparently, some people have a phone on each network to take advantage of all the deals and keep costs down.

I have been watching a bit of tv and reading my Culture Shock book and its pretty sad that I had to come all the way to New Zealand to get the Simpsons on TV! They have quite a bit of American TV here, though it is a bit behind… I still need to see if I can get my shows from home. I have to be careful of spoilers though, since Entertainment Tonight is on here for the current US shows that won’t be shown here for months. Like what happened in Grey’s Anatomy premiere! So, with these ramblings, I am gonna finish up with this note (written on Sunday to be cut and pasted whenever I have internet)… hope you all are well. I am gonna find a place to live and a car this week, I hope… wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Welcome to my blog...

I figure this is a better method than Facebook to keep people up to date on my time in New Zealand. This should prove to be a better venue for getting long posts across. I will try to make sure I keep it well updated through my time here.

Please feel free to post comments, questions, etc.