So I’m back in Boston, surrounded by the aging buildings of Boston University. The weather is cold, but snow has yet to fall on my watch. At work, a fellow student asked me about New Zealand. A sophomore, she was thinking of going in the fall and wanted to know about the program, the logistics, and the country.
Her questions made me nostalgic. I logged back onto my blog. I hadn’t posted anything for two months. Over the winter break, my grandmother had commented how I just kind of stopped after my Christchurch story. There was no conclusion to my New Zealand adventures. Nothing to say good-bye.
The abroad program had already ended when I wrote the last post. Therefore, on some level, I felt I had already said good-bye to the life I had been living in the country when I left Auckland. I had stopped playing the expat and was now playing the tourist on a tour bus with strangers all excited to see the famed wonders of New Zealand. I had switched roles, mindsets. An ending had already happened. There was no need for a conclusion at that point. I was way past the final chapter; I was in the prologue.
Still, when I sat on the Air New Zealand flight back to America after my adventures in the South Island, gazing out the window as the country fade into the grey skies, I wrote in my journal:
“I just watched the last bit of New Zealand green disappear. That’s it. The adventure is over.”
Some part of me had registered then that the ending, the real ending, had finally come. But there was still no time to really feel it. There so much more now to think about. I shut my journal after those few short sentences and settled in for the long plane ride, dreaming of a good taco and my own bed as well as dreading the shape of my country and my last semester in college. Plus, I was sick. Then there were two months of family, holidays, and lethargy to keep my mind occupied.
Honestly, I don’t think the end has truly settled in until now. As I look back at some of my posts and my pictures from my time in that little, often-forgotten country out in the middle of the Pacific, I’m starting to feel it.
I’ve recounted parts of the adventure to several people now and no doubt will do so plenty of more times (despite the fact that my blog was created to prevent that). I get wowed looks when I say where I’ve been, and I smile every time. I feel thankful for my astonishing luck and support, and pride that I pushed myself to go out that far.
But I also feel a bit of longing for those vivid greens, volcanic peaks, and violent sunlight. The people I met there were kind and unforgettable. The culture refreshing and fascinating. The places unreal and breathtaking. But every hobbit has to return home sometime…
I’m back inside the American bubble now, a changed and changing space but still incredibly insular. I will also be graduating in May, and another ending is currently creeping into my thoughts. And as time moves forward, New Zealand will soon become a only collection of anecdotes and otherworldly pictures. However, at least I know that for four brief months it was not some far-off, fantasy land, but a vibrant reality.