What rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem, waiting to be born?

Things have gotten better since the last entry. Those things all being my experience of existence of course, things going on in my body/mind.

Much more than in the month we were travelling, things seem quite surreal. I know how to live this urban existence, so it’s quite easy to just go along and do the things I need to do. Get the phone turned on (phone companies the world over suck, in case you had any doubts: the DSL package that was supposed to arrive on Thursday came on Tuesday, the phone service that was supposed to be switched on Wednesday just came on today, Saturday, after days of harried conversations conducted at phone booths); research over the internet, comparison shop and then purchase consumer goods and appliances; discover what works and what doesn’t in the house; talk with real estate agents; get caught in traffic; visit friends.

Yes, friends! We spent the entire day with a couple we met originally over the internet and had a half hour coffee with in San Francisco, two lovely people recently from Washington state a few weeks ahead of us on the expatriate timeline who Kathy and I feel quite harmonious with in worldview. They plied us with good conversation, local information, kiwi speculations, wine, food, and a beautiful moonrise.

But waiting to ambush us whenever we let ourselves get too tired or run down are the freakouts, the what are we doing heres? So when we dragged ourselves home after this wonderful but tiring day, more socialization on a far more intimate level than we have had for five weeks, ironically, the tiredness of our body/minds bred some fierce angst.

And since we arrived in Christchurch, the more “normal” the activities we pursue, the more surreal it feels. When I felt fiercely that “this is not my beautiful house” I felt much more grounded, real, than I do when I wander around now feeling that it is really quite acceptable, this place I now live. The more I live my regular day to day life, the stranger it feels. I do it with ease and yet the familiarity of a deep connection is missing. When things are fresh and new the experience is much more intense and pleasant than the floating disassociative drift that is becoming a more common feeling now that my life is more normal.

Some of this is definitely the difference between being in the city and being in the country. It’s quite clear to me now in which environment I feel best. Even though Christchurch is a super pleasant city environment, it’s still sensory deprivation compared to rural living.

Not to be discounted is the often heard wisdom that it is different to live in a place than it is to be a tourist. Is this the hard work of reestablishment finally catching up with me after a few weeks of adventure?

Also demoralizing are the time scales it seems wise to operate on in order to properly lay the ground for our grandiose plans. It was so exciting a few weeks ago to think that we could purchase a turnkey lifestyle/organic farm/artists’ colony property in the Coromandel. The real estate listing had, apparently, everything we were looking for including a new funky lodge-type residence. We could have diverted our container at sea and moved right in, skipping all this messy groundwork. Even if we had already sold our place in San Francisco it would have taken all of our cash, though. And unfortunately we are far from selling our place in San Francisco.

The story with this house here in Christchurch is the same. It’s held its value in the 14 months since I bought it, but the heady days when one could flip a property after a few months and double one’s money are over. It’s a good redevolopment situation, but it will take money, entreprenurial work, and most importantly, time to come to fruition. It’s clear that our future dreams will run more smoothly with periodic infusions of capital, and so this is time we must spend.

Instead we are here doing the hard work of recreating normal lives, learning our way around a new place that we don’t intend to be for more than (we hope) a year or so, making connections, building the infrastructure of our daily lives, trying to wrest a sunny garden space from an indifferent yard, trying to make ourselves comfortable in a place we plan on leaving. All of this somewhat unrewarding work at the same time as we try to extend our skills and keep the machinery of the big dream not just going, but growing.

It’s wonderful to have our connections that we started building a year ago: the burners, with whom we can now argue policy and talk dreams via Tribe; Maggie, another in a series of honest, knowledgeable and capable real estate agents I have been lucky to have in my life; the folks I found via the internet that run regular german-style board game nights; the folks we spent the day with yesterday. I think the real treats, though, are the continued pleasant suprises of the culture here from the kiwis we meet doing our everyday things. The extensive recreational and adult education resources available in Christchurch. The appliance salespeople who will talk all day with you about a $10 rake. The pacing of the culture here, where stores close at 4, or 5, or 6 so people can go home and have a life and it’s OK, there’s time to do it tomorrow, or a few days from now when the Easter weekend is over. We’ve had two invitations to Easter Sunday dinner from people with whom we’ve had very superficial business connections. An embarrassment of the riches of human kindness.

And it is becoming clear to us that we can make a difference here. It’s not all filled up yet, and there is space for us to do things to support and strengthen the aspects of this country that attracted us in the first place, things that are under siege here as anywhere else in the developed world. But such achievement requires a bit more studying, research, accumulation of oomph before we can go out and stake our claim, make our place, start living (in a bigger way) our dreams. Pacing!