I’m just settling down in my new flat to watch Flight of the Conchords with a warm mugfull of Milo – a Kiwi original similar to Ovaltine, another take on “nutritious” hot chocolate. I am officially unpacked and it feels great. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this particular flat – just the idea of getting settled in a place – but it might not be so bad after all for the time that I’m here. My landlord, Rob, says the loft in town should be ready in three weeks, but from my dealings with him I’m prepared for it to take longer. There are some people in life who seem to live within their own Standard Time. One was the lead singer of a band I was in – if he said practice was at 6, there was no use showing up before 6.30. Me and the other band members called it JST – Justin Standard Time. And so it appears Rob operates on RST. The first day I met him, he called saying he was five minutes away. Forty-five minutes later, he pulls up. So when he says three weeks until the lofts are ready – and I’ve seen for myself that construction hasn’t even begun yet – I won’t be surprised if three turns into six…or ten.
But thankfully I think my present accommodation should be better than expected. It’s a townhouse located a twenty-minute walk from Cathedral Square. My room is on the ground floor with the garage, looking out on the back patio. I have my own bathroom, as bizarre as it may be – there’s no separate shower, just one room with a toilet, sink, and showerhead raining down over it all. Upstairs is the kitchen and lounge and above that are the other bedrooms. There are four other flatmates – a Kiwi couple, Kenny and Helene; Romain, a French guy currently pursuing his PhD in speech science with a focus on the New Zealand dialect (which, coincidentally, was the fastest accent to develop, forming in only one generation); and Yu, a Japanese student who dreams of leading winery tours in France for other tourists. Her father runs a hotel just outside of Tokyo, so I’m hoping to get to know her well in the chance of a hook-up! Overall, the flat is clean, safe, and warm – and with it being the equivalent of October weather right now, I am thankful.
It’s amazing how the simple act of putting away your suitcases and backpacks into a closet and having your clothes sorted into drawers changes things dramatically. It represents you are going to stay in this place, be settled, if just for a short while. As much as I love to travel, as much as I love to move and start afresh, there’s another contradictory desire within me – to be put in a place, to make a home out of it. To develop a routine, discover my favorite supermarket, and where to find the best cup of chai in town. Maybe that’s it though – the whole restlessness vs. routine debate. It’s not that they oppose one another, it’s that they keep me balanced – they keep me moving but they keep me around.
So yes…clothes are put away, sheets and the cherry-blossom duvet cover I take with me everywhere are on the bed, and soon pictures and posters (including a Pacific-centered world map I’ve bought!) will be up – all small acts in the process of making a random room with white walls my own. Already my spirits are lifted. Not that I wasn’t happy at Amber and Andy’s – I couldn’t have been more blessed with a place to stay for my first two weeks. It just didn’t feel like I had really moved here yet, it was as if I was still in transit. Living in their house, eating their food – I was ready to get started with my life here. And so here I am, in a room of my own, and about to start work tomorrow at Statistics New Zealand. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like…getting ready the night before, making your lunch, taking care of any last-minute ironing (okay, not really). It feels like the first day of school all over again. I just hope the teacher likes me.