This is a story about home. Actually, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. I suppose that, when one really examines the content of this story, one sees that it is about remembering home when away from home, when in the home of kiwis and sheep, with some particularly homely weather. Got it?
New Zealand does not have a rainy season. Anything that you have been told about the country receiving copious amounts of rain in the autumn months is a blatant lie, and the person that has told you these lies has already been tracked down and taken in for mandatory reeducation. If you are in New Zealand in the autumn and see droplets of water descending from the sky, as if dropped by some unseen being beyond the clouds, do not be alarmed, for it is not rain. If it were rain, it would stop after a reasonable amount of time, and not continue for days. No, what you are seeing is not rain. It is something incomprehensible, unleashed for some unknown purpose, perhaps the cleaning of rooftops or the enjoyment of ducks.
Regardless of the origins of these frequently and lengthy cascades of water, many students over at the University of Waikato have taken to staying inside and relaxing as of late. And when one stays inside and relaxes, one visits social media sites. And when one visits social media sites, one sees an inevitable slew of vacation and graduation pictures (Congrats, Class of 2015!). Between the fall of rain that was not rain outside and the shiny, happy pictures posted on Facebook walls, one does not feel particularly motivated to finish out classes.
Occasionally, when I walk outside, and the grounds crew is manning the massive lawnmowers that sweep through the athletic fields, I’ll catch a whiff of that wonderful combination of cut grass and gasoline. Suddenly, I’ll be back at a park in my hometown, where the scent is almost lost amidst other scents, of burgers and waffle cones and maybe a hint of wood smoke. Somewhere close by, there is a band playing, a blur of people gathered right below the stage dancing in a big happy throng. But the band is background noise, an accompaniment to a good conversation among friends, reclined on lawn chairs and blankets, trapped in the throes of summer like the Lotus Eaters, with no need or means of escape. The sun, though already low in the sky, has dipped further in the last eternity, though I could tell no passage of time. Out came the fireflies to take its place, wheeling tantalizingly out of reach. One comes to rest on my finger, and I’m walking to class again, the ground is covered in leaves, and clouds are already blocking out the sun for the fifth day in a row.
But occasionally, on good days, the clouds will part and I’ll do something interesting.
I woke up at four one morning to catch a bus to Auckland. The transportation center where I stood for the better part of an hour was across the street from the Peaches and Cream adult shop, a name that I have been saying with less and less irony these days.
I had come to the city to meet a friend, also travelling abroad, and on his way home from Australia. We had hoped to make our way out to one of the many islands off of Auckland’s coast, but the attendants at the wharf informed us that the trip was closed due to weather.
So we chose a different island and set off. Waiheke is primarily known for its wine and beachside houses, neither things that either of us were capable of affording, but we tried to make the best of the horrors of being trapped on a sunny island for the day. Planning a budget expedition was fairly easy, replacing wine with cider and cheese with fries. Part of me would love to return some day and sip wine by the ocean, but until then, I’ll just have to content myself by yelling impotently at the grapevines and stepping all over their nice beach.
But even without the eighty degree weather and enterprising lawnmowers, it felt like I had stepped back into the lull of summer again.