Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Life in Wellington, New Zealand

NZ has been my home for nearly 6 years now and I've always lived in Wellington during this time. Frankly speaking, it has never occurred to me that I would end up in this far, far away country, ever (dad once visited NZ in 1990s and has never stopped raving about how beautiful the place was; my only idea of NZ before I lived here was that it was a remote, 2-piece island that had a spine of live volcanos which could someday explode and the whole country would 'disappear'). My initial plan was to complete my final year study in Australia (I did a 2+1 twinning programme in uni i.e. 2 years in Malaysia and 1 year overseas) but the partial scholarship I had successfully applied for was too hard to pass up. Changed plans, flew to NZ.

In July 2001, I arrived in Wellington on my own and begun my year's study at Victoria University of Wellington. This is officially the first time away from home and I sure missed mum's cooking a lot! And I thought I could just eat as many fish 'n' chips, toast, milk and cheese (Kiwi food) as I used to in Malaysia - wrong, wrong, wrong. I ended up putting on 6kgs in 4 months which I finally got rid of 3-4 years down the road. Some of the surprising things I discovered about Wellington my first week here include:
1) it's smaller than Batu Pahat (my hometown) and doesn't even have a shopping mall,
2) it's hilly though you could walk everywhere (I'm used to it now; walking up 2 hills to work every morning is no biggie), and
3) it can get REALLY windy (occasionally I found myself 'floating' on the street or hugging the traffic light; trust me, you don't need an umbrella here when it rains - you'll be wasting your money and still get drenched)

My year as a student was not leisurely; when I wasn't at uni, I would be working as a checkout operator at Wellington City New World (and a few odd jobs here and there). I was cramming a 1.5 year programme into 3 trimesters to cut cost but was it worth it? Hmm, maybe not. Would have liked to enjoy my student life more (a bit of partying and socialising, some drinking maybe with no intentions of getting a hangover the next day, travelling etc). My flatmates would be getting smashed at home pre-party while I was either getting ready to go or return from work or catching up with assignments and studying.

Mum attended my graduation ceremony in 2002 and we did a bus-hopping backpack trip with Magic Bus around NZ in 21 days in between. She was horrified when I told her I had booked us a backpacking trip but really enjoyed it and said it was nothing like she had initially expected (she must have thought living in filthy rooms at dodgy locations...hehe...nothing like that at all!). Then we went to Melbourne and Adelaide for a few weeks and I spent the next month in Malaysia.

Most of my twinning programme friends went home to find work upon graduation; I bought a return ticket to NZ (this was in early 2003) to find work and to get permanent residency (I think only 3 of the 20-something of our batch stayed on; everyone else gave up and left). It was a risk I was willing to take for a better future for me and my future family. I was fortunate to find myself a job at Unicomm Accommodation (Vic Uni's largest student hostel) and worked my way up in the company for 3 years before it got sold (and I got retrenched). Here's a photo of me at my desk in Unicomm:


Interesting times working in a large student hostel where 80% of the students were first-years, workload was seasonal and it was deja-vu for me to some extent as I was a former student there and then returned as a staff member. Ended up working at Vic Uni after Unicomm and have been here for over a year now. Funny that I don't seem to ever leave the university environment!

The past 6 years was full of ups and downs - lots of challenges, happy moments and many tears of frustration. But it only adds to my life experiences and when I look back at the tough times I had been through, it was worth it. I came back and got what I wanted (NZ residency and now citizenship), and now I'm free to do what I want (travel, travel, travel!). There have been times that I wanted to give up, pack up my stuff and go home - it was a personally struggle but I made my choice and decided not to look back. I had friends and family laughed at my decision to stay in NZ ('What future family? You're too young to think about it at your age!' they said) but who's laughing now? In my opinion, it gets harder to relocate as you get older and with no strings attached at that time, why not 'suffer' a little for a safer country or second home to live in the future?

Wellington's a great place to live in (minus the weather, of course) - there's always something happening around the corner, be it a live band playing, events, dancing, performances, exhibitions etc. You just need to look around. It's after all the capital of NZ and the City of Culture :) To find out more on Wellington, click here: http://www.wellingtonnz.com/

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