Never, ever could we have expected the job search to move so quickly upon our arrival to New Zealand. I have to take a moment to brag about Brian here and to attempt to explain the unbelievable sequence of events that occurred during our week in Auckland. On a Monday morning, we were staying at a posh AirBnB in the Ponsonby neighborhood of Auckland, nervously getting Brian ready for his first interview. The following Monday morning, Brian had five job offers and was prepared to accept one of them. Brian had sent out his CV and portfolio to multiple architecture firms weeks to months ahead of our arrival to New Zealand. Advantageously, as if the various firms were working from the same schedule, each one invited Brian in for interviews on a different day during that week. Luckily, our box from the States arrived just in the nick of time as it contained the interview suit. Each morning that week, Brian suited up and dropped ‘Poppy’s rock’ (his grandfather’s shiny black rock) into his pocket for good luck. Needless to say, he knocked every interview out of the park, forcing him to have to creatively juggle each firm’s assertive communications about hiring him.
We wish we had a video of the sequence of events that occurred on that first Monday night—it was like we were starring in our very own ‘Seinfeld’ episode. Brian spent a long time drafting his first Thank You email to the principal who had interviewed him that day; I combed over it countless times to look for mistakes, becoming increasingly irritated by how long it was taking Brian to commit to the ‘Send’ button. It wasn’t until almost midnight when he had finally sent the email, at which time I left the room for the bathroom. Thirty seconds hadn’t gone by before I heard a blood-curdling version of my name…”Kaaaarrrrlllllaaaa, Oohhh Nooooo!” My heart stopped beating. I came rushing back into the bedroom, a million scenes flashing through my head of what I was about to see. Brian’s hands were on his crinkled forehead, his hair was standing up like a porcupine, his face was pale. His voice quivered as he broke the news to me, “I wrote Peter. His name is Patrick.”
An incredulous fury welled inside me as I processed this. Brian’s significantly poor name-recollection had become a theme on this trip (he had called Doris ‘Dolores’, and he had called Melanie ‘Michelle’, and he had even called Chris ‘Jerry’, along with many more silly misnomer mix-ups that had made for some embarrassing moments with new friends). And now, when it was not merely a new friend, but instead a quasi-‘famous’ principal architect at one of the most prestigious architecture firms in Australasia, he had called Patrick ‘Peter’. And in our wine-induced, midnight states of mind, it seemed like a brain-fart that was just too careless to be excusable. I was beside myself that this had happened as I had read this email a hundred times over, but then I had the epiphany that Brian had been calling Patrick ‘Peter’ all day long as he recalled the conversations from his interview aloud. He hung his head dejectedly and I shouted at him, “You just lost this job!”
Brian got right to work drafting an apology email to Patrick, which seemed like the only thing to do in this situation even though it added insult to injury having to beg for this guy’s forgiveness so early on in the relationship. He sent it with a little prayer to the universe that Patrick would be easy-going about being called the wrong name (which seemed like a long-shot considering the stereotypical pretentiousness of architects!) It was a long night of tossing and turning as we oscillated between boughts of laughter (“I can’t believe I called Peter ‘Patrick’!”…“No, you called Patrick ‘Peter’!”) and groans of disbelief at the prospect that we had made it all the way to New Zealand and this slip of the hippocampus might prevent us from staying! Little did we know, not only would Brian knock three more interviews out of the park that week and receive three job offers, but Patrick would extend a “No worries, Brian” response and offer him a job too (even if it took two nail-biting days!).
Auckland for us was a refreshingly big city; a place that felt more like home, where strangers don’t ask you how your day is going and the pace of everyday life is further from ‘island time’ and closer to a ‘New York minute’. However, in contrast to home, we enjoyed watching the sailboats floating in and out of the harbor, drinking happy hour beers at the edge of Orakei Bay at low tide, and basking in the sun on the city’s beautiful beaches. It felt like a dream to be in a metropolitan place and be simultaneously surrounded by natural beauty. We daydreamed of living here and being able to take weekend trips to the wineries on Waiheke Island, or out to the surfing beaches by Piha, or up to the rural ruggedness of Northland. The one downside was the housing situation—a severely inflated problem ripe and ready to burst, making Auckland an expensive place for us to live. Additionally, New Zealanders outside of Auckland renounce ‘Aucklanders’ as being too fast-paced, rude, and flashy to be considered real ‘Kiwis’. In this vein, the other downside was that Brian’s keen senses sniffed out a familiar, high level of stress at the architecture firms that he spoke to, leaving him questioning whether this type of environment would allow him to find the work-life balance that he hoped to attain in New Zealand.
We had an unfortunate AirBnB experience at the end of that week, staying in a dark and isolated house during the Thanksgiving holiday in the States. Homesickness washed over us like a tsunami as we sat in our rental car and spoke to our festive families via broken connections. In our misery, we went to a classic Kiwi pub filled with gruff old men enjoying their Friday happy hour. We ordered ourselves large Tui beers with a side of fried oysters and chips. Our saying of the day was, “We didn’t have turkey on Thanksgiving, but we had Tuis!”
Faced with the daunting decision of whether to pull the trigger on one of his job offers, Brian felt compelled to make the trip back down to Wellington to give the firm there a fair shot (his interview had been postponed due to the earthquake, and this was the firm that he had begun correspondence with over a year ago). We made the very amateur call to drive the long, coastal route back to Wellington in two days (my grievance being that we were tricked by the fickle surf, as usual!), during which we passed through lots of weather and far more deforested hills and sleepy villages than our sensitive hearts could handle. We felt like silly vagabonds after driving for hours as it became dark and cold and we couldn’t find a place to sleep. We had to settle for a dingy motel in the middle of nowhere (Middle Earth?!), the only solace being that we got to join the local hillbillies at 7:30 a.m. the following morning for a huge Kiwi ‘farmer’s breakfast’ during the All Blacks vs. France rugby match. I think it dawned on us during this long drive that when you find yourself wide awake in the middle of a dream, your anticipation and expectations have brewed in your mind for so long that you are immensely vulnerable to the disappointments of reality. We experienced this confusing vulnerability on our ten-hour drive back to Wellington.
However, just as we entered the valley leading down toward Wellington, an uplifting magic stirred, breaking the clouds to expose a vibrant blue sky that made the place feel like a storybook city—the houses sparkled in the lush hills, the towers shined like diamonds, and water and mountains hugged the horizon in every direction. We were silent as we drove through the bustling, colorful streets, so different from the desolate and dreary post-earthquake city that we’d left over a week before. We were warmly welcomed back into our little AirBnB family and shared dinner with them that evening overlooking Lyall Bay at sunset. It felt so right–the spirit of New Zealand was palpable again! We nervously wished for the next day’s interview to go as well as the ones in Auckland had. When Brian walked out of that interview with a big smile on his face, a sense of relief washed over me and happy trumpets seemed to fill the air…the windy city it would be!