I spent last week in New Zealand. (You'd never know this if you only read my blog. I'm constantly aware of the huge holes in this blog. I'm not sure what that's about.)
We went over there for a very close friend's 50th birthday party. Ken grew up in Wellington and although he's essentially lived in other countries since he was 20, he still has a close community of family and friends in NZ and in Wellington in particular, as we discovered when we were there. Seeing him in his 'native environment' was a very pleasing aspect of the trip for me. It added another dimension to my understanding and made me feel even closer to him. I wasn't the only one. At the party I gave a short speech about our friendship and one of Ken's teenage sons came up to me afterwards to ask questions about some of the things I'd mentioned - eg work that Ken and I had done together when this boy was a preschooler. It gave me a jolt to realise that children don't really understand or pay much attention to what their parents are doing outside of the home, until they grow old enough to think about it. It's only when we're adults ourselves that we can see our parents as people living their own lives. (I wasn't able to see my father as 'just a man' until I was 40.)
It was 26 years since I'd last visited NZ. I spent a month there in 1982 and saw the famous sights. I'd had no reason to go back in the intervening years. Going back for a personal reason, rather than as a tourist, was wonderful. We did a bit of sightseeing on our own at times, but the week was framed by time with friends. After three days in Wellington we drove up to the southern side of Lake Taupo and stayed in a chalet high up on a hillside with an expansive ever-changing view north across the 50 kilometres of the lake. With us were Ken, his sister, his teenage daughter and his friend Tim. We went to local thermal pools, kayaked and swam in the lake and shared the cooking. It felt like being back in a group household where everyone knew the rules - it all went swimmingly. One night I went outside to look at the sky and was overwhelmed by the number of stars - there was barely a moon, which must have helped - the entire sky was dotted with points of light, thousands of them. I've only seen that many stars on one or two other occasions in my life, from central Australia.
From there we went north to Auckland via more mud pools at Rotorua. In Auckland we climbed the 600 year old extinct volcano in the harbour, on a beautiful sunny day. [Co-p and I both found this steep climb on volcanic scree effortless, which made us feel good about our fitness levels.] We went to dinner at my friend's house and let off fireworks on the lawn (it's legal there, unlike here.) We saw a big flock of real-live genoo penguins at an antarctic-themed acquarium. We went out to dinner with more friends, including Ken's lesbian cousin who runs a beautiful textiles shop. Finally, at the airport Webfrau and I had a chat and chai latte together, which put me into a good mood that was only minorly dented when airport security took away a large tub of handmade body lotion (potentially explosive? Ridiculous.)
I came back feeling quite rejuvenated, though I wish the school holidays could stretch on for another few weeks. I experience them as holidays too. I'm not looking forward to the school year starting again. I suppose I should think about why that is so and see if I can remedy it.
However, tomorrow we're going away for another week at the beach (though the forecast is for rain all week.) I need a week of staying in one place and reading (and swimming, walking, doing jigsaws etc.)