When you are a new (or relatively new) migrant, this happens a lot – and not just about people you don’t know yet, but about politics, historical common knowledge, pop culture and places. That’s why a lot of migrants talk about where they come from a lot and start many bits of input with “well, in America” or “back in Alaska”. Even though you cringe when you hear those words come out of your mouth (“this one time, in band camp”), for a long time that’s the only way you can chime into the conversation at all; that’s all you can offer. It takes a while to accumulate a stock of local knowledge and experiences to draw upon, allowing you to join into a chat with a group of local folks.
James and I seem to spend a fair amount of time with outdoorsy types – trampers (hikers), climbers, kayakers, cyclers. And these types in NZ seem to drop a lot of wilderness place names: valleys, plateaus, peaks, mountain ranges, rivers, bits of forest or coastline, even certain rocks they all ended up sleeping under in bad weather. In spite of my best attempts to engage, my eyes start to gloss over. It’s not that I’m not interested, but I just don’t know these places. Even if I could spot them on a map, or picture them in my mind, I don’t have a story to contribute. I can’t relate.
Last weekend (pre-bike crash), we spent near Wanaka in the Matukituki Valley – one of the place names I hear tossed around quite frequently in the aforementioned outdoorsy-type conversations. I’m pretty pleased to possibly be able to participate in the next conversation featuring this region of NZ. Of course, I still don’t think I’ll have too much to say about it. My story of the Matukituki will be something like, “It was hot and sunny, the sand flies weren’t too bad, I got a terrible blister, but man, it was stunningly gorgeous and I had such a wonderful time. Totally rejuvenated and so grateful to have gone there. ”
That’s about it for my contribution to the next conversation about the Matukituki, but it’s something. I could work on mastering the kiwi art of talking about the particular weather conditions in admirable detail for impressive amounts of time. But then that might make your eyes gloss over.
|Kelly crossing the very cold river|
|Nat and the view from French Ridge|
|James and I and our morning coffee|
|The Matukituki Valley. We're friends now.|