...So this week marks two whole years since we packed our bags and made the big migration to New Zealand. I feel a lot more settled than we did after the first year; since last October we've bought a house, moved the rest of our stuff over from the U.S. and generally feel a lot more settled in for this here kiwi adventure, however long it lasts for. A lot of the smaller things that bugged me more notably at first bother me less -- the higher prices, the cultural differences, the occasional person's rather stereotypical impressions that all Americans are arrogant louts, etc. On the other hand, other things still get to me sometimes -- the general "smallness" of country can make you feel a bit claustrophobic. It's hard not to feel disconnected from the rest of the world sometimes. I still haven't really learned to care about rugby or cricket in this rather sports-obsessed place.
One thing I've told a lot of Americans when they ask me about New Zealand is that it's not perfect, which I know sounds kind of negative but it isn't really meant to be. There's this fantasyland Oz view of New Zealand out there which is good for us but also can lead to shattered expectations for many an immigrant from other countries expecting all the problems in their lives to magically disappear when they move to another land. Of course, nowhere on Earth is that perfect, really. New Zealand's got its problems; the crime situation especially among youth is a real worry for me, even if it might be a bit overblown in media coverage from reality. I don't think I'm being negative so much as I'm being a realist rather than an idealist when it comes to my adopted nation.
But there is a heck of a lot of beauty here, of course. Auckland is a nifty town, with the amenities of most big cities but nowhere near as crowded as say, Los Angeles; where you can drive pretty much no more than 30 minutes in any direction and be at a fantastic beach; where cultures from all over the world rub elbows (it's at least as diverse as San Francisco); where there's an endearing small-town feeling for a place of over a million people, a sense we're all in this together way down here on the southern edge of the world.
Being here in an election year for both New Zealand and the US has been quite fascinating, as I've blogged about frequently lately -- it really lays bare all the big and little differences between the way these two nations do things. I'm proud to have lived in both of 'em, and look forward to what year 3 brings. (The main challenge: Peter starting school! Urk!)