Stranger in a Strange Land: Part One

From the depths of Hell itself, a bitter, cold wind invaded the city. Grey Buildings, once standing proud and tall, huddled together in the loneliness of Winter. A lone pedestrian, perhaps the last in the city, hunkered down in the safety of his winter jacket.

Who am I kidding? This was Brisbane. A city of one-hundred-and-fifty degree shade, and air-conditioners in every window. Colourful puddles that used to be cars swirled with puddles that used to be people. Even the spiders turned to frying eggs on the footpath. It was what the locals call, “a bit warm”. It was on such a day that my loving husband of twenty years suggested a move.

“Move? Away from Brisbane?” I asked. I was so surprised that I may have forgotten to say that last bit out loud. It was a serious question though; serious enough for me to put down my meat pie.

Brett ignored my temporary mutism. “Yes,” he persisted.

Brett, my previously unnamed and oh-so-patient loving husband, wiped away any sweat that hadn’t turned to steam. This was serious for him too; serious enough for him to put down his sausage roll. Quick as a flash, a huntsman spider scurried from the shadows to claim our lunch.

“Move away, like to the Gold Coast?” I asked. The Gold Coast, a place known for its hunky men, teetered on the edge of my comfort zone. Beyond it lay only dragons and mystery. I looked around for a serviette. Finding none, I wiped my fingers on my blue singlet.

“I was thinking…”, Brett paused for dramatic effect, “New Zealand.”

A crack of thunder whipped the sky. Moments later the tropical rains fell. The city cooled from “a bit warm” to what the locals call “a bit wet”. I’d heard of New Zealand before, of course. I wasn’t uneducated. Plenty of gullible German backpackers spoke of a mythical, bucolic country just off to the right of Australia somewhere. One had even tried to show me a map. Suckers.

Brett looked into my doubting eyes. He tenderly scooped his mobile phone off the kitchen bench. Those bits of electronics that hadn’t melted blinked New Zealand’s seven day weather forecast. As trump cards go, it was a good one.

“This is why,” Brett beamed.

“What are these numbers? And why are they so low?”

I soon learned that those German backpackers had spoken the truth. Despite the evidence, it seemed unlikely that a country would use only two numbers for the temperature. It felt almost un-Australian.
“Ha! See this picture here! New Zealand is fake!” I held up Brett’s phone a little too triumphantly. Bits of plastic oozed through my fingers.

“That’s Ryan Goslings naked body.”

“The other tab! It’s a typical New Zealand house, not an air-conditioner in sight!” I exclaimed, feeling justified in my excessive use of exclamation marks.

“It’s because they don’t need them.”

As I bookmarked Ryan Gosling’s photo, I let the news gently ooze onto my brain. Much like everything else in this country, once it settled, it couldn’t be scrapped away. I was tempted. Not sweating my bodyweight each and every day was appealing, but there was a downside. There had to be. The universe didn’t give without taking away.

“How are the meat pies over there?”

“Better.”

I may have given Brett a pass on the whole weather thing, but this sounded a lot like treason. A snap decision later, I wrestled my wallet away from the huntsman and booked my flight to Wellington, New Zealand.

Not only was I going to be the first Australian to move to New Zealand, I was going to be the first to expose its dark underbelly.