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  • Writer's pictureTai John

Lessons & Blessings

Updated: May 26

I always say life is a series of lessons & blessings. What that means to me is, that the experiences you go through & people you meet throughout your journey in life are either a lesson or a blessing. Whether good or bad, you can learn from the experience or individuals, & grow from them. Essentially everything you go through & everyone you meet has made you into the person you are today, the evolution never stops.

From Auckland to Christchurch, New Zealand

All in all, it's safe to say, I was not too fond of Auckland or the so-called "best hostel in Auckland" either. After my four-day stay, I was more than ready to move from the North Island where Auckland resides to the South Island to the city of Christchurch, which is where I would be living & working. After prepping everything for my check out & departure the next morning, I spent my last day in Auckland going on a beautiful tour from morning to late afternoon & night galavanting around with a few friends I met at the hostel.

On the Go Again

Wednesday, September 7th, I woke up bright & early & got my two heavy ass bags as well as myself out to the front of the hostel to meet the Uber I preordered the night before for a 10:00 AM pick up. So here's where the fun begins, it's cold as the devil's heart out as it's supposedly Spring here but it feels more like Winter, & I'm waiting out front with my bags as time just tick, tick, ticks on by until it gets to 10:00. No Uber. 10:15, no Uber. Even watched as someone else got into an Uber, but not me. I check my Uber app, & everything is in order, but still no driver. So I began to get a bit irritated at this point because there is no way to contact the driver in the Uber app...weird. After the clock struck 10:30, I canceled my Uber & ordered another one which came in no time at all. Nice Uber driver but, I def should have taken his comments about how heavy my bags were more seriously & I'll tell you why in just a bit.

Airport Annoyances

If you read my prior post, Kia Ora from New Zealand (if you haven't, you def should), then you already know what a hassle I had in the airport departing Texas. I figured since the contents of my suitcase had not changed, I should be fine because while they were still heavy ass bags, the weight has not changed. Boy was I totally wrong, but we'll get to that part in a bit. I feel it's worth mentioning how unique things are in New Zealand airports as opposed to in the U.S. For instance, despite the late Uber ride, I still arrived at the airport 2 hours early, as accustomed, but apparently, that is not the custom in Kiwi land. I arrive at the check-in counter with my trolley of bags & the lady sitting behind the desk looks at me & says, "We don't start checking baggage in until 11:35." I looked slightly puzzled because, in my mind, I'm like my flight is 1:35 but I politely say okay & go sit down with my bags. They are so laid back because they legitimately did not open the check-in counters until the clock struck 11:35. So here's the deja vu moment, struggles with my bag weight again!

I thought I was done with this since my bags weighed the same as when I left Texas after taking out multiple clothes items. Nope, each bag could only weigh 32 kg (70 lbs). I kid you not they had to weigh exactly 32 kg each & I had two bags to check. I pulled to the side by the weight stations, opened both of my bags, & spent a good 10-15 minutes unpacking, relocating, & weighing each bag over & over. You'd think that was it right? Nope, I had to pay like $200 something NZ ($100 something in U.S. dollars) for my 2nd bag because I didn't do it right online. I, ready to get past check-in, quickly pulled out my card ready to tap, the check-in lady looked shocked I was willing to effortlessly put out that kind of money, but just like when I was leaving Texas I was ready & willing to pay for the extra weight. But, as stated in my prior post I learned that's not customary for New Zealand airlines. I made it through security & to my gate only to sit there waiting for my flight which was delayed by an hour. But, as I mentioned before they're so laid back that the gate staff didn't make a fuss, didn't even mention the delay. While most of the flyers including myself kept checking the departure board & looking confused as to why no announcement was made until the flight we were waiting on landed & the flyers departed the plane. If it's one thing I learned, New Zealanders are wayyyyy laid back about everything! I eventually get on my delayed flight & it's off to Christchurch, New Zealand!

More Lessons with a Sprinkle of Blessings

The immediate blessing when arriving at Christchurch airport was that I finally was able to get my New Zealand phone SIM & get my phone set up with a proper plan where I can use my phone without wifi. The original SIM I was set up with at the hostel in Auckland, courtesy of my so-called travel concierge was pure crap. I had to top up about 5 trillion times & I could barely use my phone. After getting an Uber from the airport it was about a 20-minute drive to my second hostel stay since I have not yet found permanent accommodation. I had enough of having to sleep in a bunk-bed style dorm room, so upon arrival at the hostel, I opted to upgrade to a private room, which is a blessed feature this hostel offered. Just from looking at the pictures below, I don't need to say much, this hostel was an upgrade for sure & made me feel so much more comfortable. I still have to share a bathroom, but even the bathrooms, kitchen, laundry, & just everything is so much better & top tier in comparison to the last hostel I stayed at. Additionally, this hostel is a 10-minute walk to my place of work, a win-win all around. The only thing that wasn't easy was having to drag my two heavy-ass bags up 2 flights of stairs (pictured below) because this hostel does not have an elevator, as New Zealanders are "big on fitness". The lesson here has def been to bring an empty suitcase next time I move my life to New Zealand or any other country because hauling 2 heavy ass bags & a backpack by myself has been beating my body up. Between that & the walking, I sprained my right foot. Imagine having to continue working & walking everywhere with a sprained foot. But I am doing it & even treated myself upon arrival to an Italian dinner.

She Works Hard for the Money

Speaking of working, I have been a working girl since I landed in Christchurch. My first day of work was the day after I arrived in Christchurch on Thursday, September 8th at 7:00 AM. I secured my position as a guest services associate at a 4.5-5-star distinguished hotel. I feel like the question of how I transitioned from working as a mental health counselor to working at a hotel is on many people's minds. The simple answer, I have not lost my passion for the mental health field in any way shape, or form despite the crappy company I previously worked for, I'm taking a break & seeing other ways that I can not only help others but help myself. I can always go back & counsel when I'm ready.

It has been quite the experience training, not a bad one at all just lots going on all the time, especially on a Friday, which makes sense if you consider the time people usually book a stay at a hotel. I do everything from checking in/checking out guests, baggage service, & even valeting cars. Yes, valeting cars, which I must say driving in New Zealand with everything being on the "proper" side has not been difficult or much different for me at all, I can drive anything I feel from big trucks to SUVs, to cars just not manual...yet lol, one day. I am proud of the way I have been handling my first 4 days of work thus far. Every day has been a learning experience & everyone I work with from managers & so forth has been so friendly & helpful. I'm proud of myself because I recall years ago when I started my first big-girl corporate job. I cried through training & was told I needed to be stronger. This time around, as I've been getting adjusted to this new role, I have not been hard on myself at all. No tears, & no complaints, just been taking it one day at a time with a positive attitude & the mindset that I will soon get the hang of things & into my groove.

Change in Pace, Change in Perspective

I can say my first week & a half in New Zealand has been a culture shock. From the unexpectedly cold weather, hilly terrain, long walking treks, laid-back vibes, & friendly energy. It has made me appreciate having a home with heating & air conditioning. Having my huge private bedroom, bathroom, & walk-in closet. A free washer & dryer. The freedom to hop in my luxury SUV & come & go any & everywhere I please. The ability to either cook food to my liking or go buy it, because let me tell you, my picky behind has been eating a meal a day & not a full one at that because me & the food here do not mesh well at all. I had one good night in Auckland where I & a friend found a hidden Chinese restaurant with the most bomb food, we got so much food for our money we had leftovers to take. In Christchurch, I found a yummy pizza place not too far from my job, but that's about it. I feel as if I have just been wasting money on food & wasting away from lack of eating & walking everywhere. Hopefully, when I find my permanent accommodation I will be able to grocery shop & cook again.

New Zealand has given me a greater appreciation for the privileges I've had for most of my life without realizing they were luxuries. It's taught me to be more patient & relaxed, as I said Kiwis/New Zealanders are very laid back. It's helped me keep my head up, smile, & be more cordial, & outgoing. It's also taught me resilience, especially with the great amount of time I have spent by myself. Being in tune with my solitude is nothing new to me but it hits differently when you are oceans away & a whole day ahead of everything & everyone you are used to. Sometimes I question how everything is going to play out here for me & then I remember what I would tell my patients as a mental health counselor, "Try not to focus so far into the future & focus on today & tomorrow at most. You don't need the unnecessary stress or anxiety." I'm taking it all one day at a time & that's all that's really in my control, what I do with the time I am given each day.

Love & Loss

Regarding time & how precious it is, I must say the tea I have spilled on my current happenings in New Zealand would not be complete without mentioning that on Wednesday, September 7th, which was my last day in Auckland, one of two of my favorite uncles, also my dad's twin, passed away. I mentioned earlier that I had been having phone trouble until recently & I needed wifi to use my phone. Well, I had a ton of missed calls from my mom the day before & I didn't see any of them until Wednesday morning when I awoke to the gut-wrenching text message that my uncle Junior passed away. I was in shock & still am in disbelief. I don't think the reality of it has hit me yet & I don't think I'm ready for it. My uncle Junior always showed me, unconditional love, & embraced my quirkiness from a young age. By quirkiness, I mean when I was little I would keep chicken bones & cheez-it crackers in my pockets of whatever outfit I was wearing & he would always come over & ask me if I had anything for him & then eat whatever I gave him from my pocket. Matter of fact the night my mom went into labor with me, my dad couldn't make it because he was working so my Uncle Junior drove her to the hospital. My mom told me it was the ride of her life lol.

On a cold night in Brooklyn, New York, my uncle took the liberty of creating his own lane & sped between cars, literally knocking off their side mirrors just to ensure my mom made it to the hospital to have me. If that's not love, I don't know what is. I still have the black leather boots & black leather jacket (pictured to the right) he gifted me when I was young & I can't wait to pass them on to my child someday. I always worried about losing someone who meant the world to me when I was halfway across the world & couldn't do anything about it, & it happened. This one hurts like hell. I haven't truly grieved as I feel I have been so distracted by getting acclimated to New Zealand but the emotions & memories come in sporadic waves. I had to ensure I gave him the proper respect he deserved from me because he meant just that much to me & always will. I love you so much Uncle Junior, may you rest in paradise, you are so greatly missed.

And that's the tea. Stay tuned as I continue my journey & keep my family, especially my dad in your prayers, he didn't just lose his brother or twin, he lost his best friend & a part of himself.

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