Part 6: Back 'Home' to Palmerston North
April 22nd: After a day's respite, it was back to the airport for me again today. I was finally going up north, flying via Christchurch to Wellington. When I booked the tickets, I was a bit annoyed that I couldn't get a direct flight, but it turned out to be a very good thing indeed, because it meant I got to see Clive! (my host-father) He'd been away at work in Palmy when I was in Chch earlier that week, so I hadn't gotten to see him - to my great disappointment. However, he called while I was there, and when he heard that I'd be flying back via Chch, asked me to leave my flight information with Ruth, so he could come out and see me in the airport! Yay! :-) I was incredibly touched that he'd do that, and SO grateful that I got to see him. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, my host-family means a LOT to me, and have really become my 'second family', so I'm glad I got to see at least some of them. It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to them when it was time to board my plane.
Once in Wellington Lauren and Tane picked me up and drove me to their place for a quick lunch (lovely, lovely kumera soup - yum!) before heading off to Palmerston North. Lauren had very generously offered to drive me there, and it provided us with an excellent chance to catch up and have a bit of a nostalgic drive around Palmy. Lauren and I met at Freyberg High School, so of course we had to drive by there and have a bit of a wander around to see what had changed. Not too much fortunately, so it wasn't too disconcerting to be back. The same can't be said about Winchester School (my old primary school) though... perhaps not so strange, considering it's been 20-21 years since I attended that school, but I still feel that time should stand still while I'm not in Palmy - so there! ;-)
Lauren and Tane dropped me off at Dot & Brent's place at around 5. Dot and Brent (and their kids) have been friends of my family ever since 1990 when we attended the same church as them, Nina and I went to school with their two youngest children, and Mum and Dad became very close friends with them. They were there for me when I returned as an exchange student, and I ended up in the same Youth Group as Tim, their youngest son, and their oldest son is now living in London and is the godfather of Jordan - so yeah, all in all, a very close friendship has survived between our families for more than 20 years - of COURSE I had to see them when I was back.
It was still too early for dinner when I arrived, so Dot and Brent asked me if there was anything I'd like to see while in Palmy. Since they lived just a few minutes walk from the house my family and I lived in the first time we were in New Zealand, I told them that I'd really like to go past there. I'd checked in the white pages that it was still the same family living there as when we rented the place, so even though they might not remember me specifically, I knew that they'd remember my parents, and wouldn't mind me dropping by. Turned out that Dot knew them too, so even less reason for concern on that regard.
... I'm not... altogether sure it was a good idea though... At least, it was definitely very, very bittersweet. Once again I'd expected time to stand still, and once again I'd been shown very forcefully that that was not the case at all!
The owners were home, and they did indeed remember me, but it turned out that they had subdivided the section of land, had built a new house where the garage used to be, and were now renting out the old house to another family. I know it's completely unfair, but it was horrendously disconcerting. I was invited to go for a walk around the garden of the old house, and then shown around in the new house. I didn't care much about the new place, to be honest, but went along with it to be polite. I stepped from the patio into the living room - and almost burst into tears when I recognized the old living room arrangement! "I had not expected to get this emotional!" ... but I did. Could hardly speak for being so choked up. Really, really weird!
We walked back home shortly after that, and Dot got dinner on the table for us. Dinner was as Kiwi as Kiwi can be :) Lamb chops for mains and then a Pavlova with feijoas and hokey-pokey ice cream for dessert. Yum! Shortly before I left Denmark, Dot had sent me an email, asking me if there were any New Zealand foods I specifically missed. My reply was an instant FEIJOAS! I fell in love with this fruit back in 1990, but have been completely unable to find it anywhere outside New Zealand. It wasn't in season when Lars and I were there in 2004, so I hadn't had any since 1999! Dot reassured me that they would be in season while I was there, and had proceeded to get a huge bag full for me! I was a bit afraid they wouldn't live up to my expectations, but fortunately they most definitely did :-D I think I can best describe their taste as being a bit like a mixture of kiwi and pear... it still annoys me that I couldn't bring any home with me ;)
Saturday morning Dot had invited Tim and his family over for brunch. I am SO glad I got this chance to see Tim again! He used to be one of my best friends when I lived there, and it was great to spend some time with him and finally get to meet his wife and children :)