January 23, 2012

Inevitable Comparisons

A bit of West Coast 'highway'.

I think it's natural, even unavoidable, for a migrant with two or more countries to compare 'here' to 'there'. I try not to do it TOO much, at least not out loud, because I know it gets old for people to hear.  But I believe it's a necessary and common way for many migrants to create links between what are otherwise often disparate 'lives.'  

And yet, while I value this comparison, and believe it will (and should) continue (to some degree) for many migrants throughout their migrant existance, I also find myself not needing to do quite as much of it lately. And I recognize that to be significant too.  In some ways, I am more able to let here be here.  This place, any place, just is what it is.  And lately, in many ways, I've been able to live a bit more in just this time and place.  This year, my 5th in New Zealand, I have been feeling - at best - more enjoyment and comfort in life here, or - at worst - simply resigned to life here.  (Hey, being "resigned" to something may not sound as nice but it is still a form of acceptance that I will embrace!)

Last week I had a chance to do a bit of comparison -- between 'here' and 'there' (Alaska and New Zealand) and between 'now' and 'then.'  "Now," is January 2012 and "then" is 8 years ago, January 2004 when I first arrived in New Zealand. Within weeks of showing up at the Dunedin Airport with a suitcase and a backpack, I had bought a $700 car and started driving around the South Island by myself.

This road trip included some time on the West Coast of the South Island - known for its wild terrain and narrow, windy roads where 2nd gear is common.

Its notorious for its heavy rainfall and dense temperate rainforest. 

It's famous for magnificent mountains rising from the sea, with glaciers pulsing down the valleys.

 It is remote and sparsely populated.  Sound and look familiar?  Hm, just like Southeast Alaska.

I have not been back to the West Coast much at all since 2004. Until last week. In 2004, I was a bit homesick.  I was a little bit nonchallant and unattached in relation to the staggering beauty of the West Coast.  Afterall, I'd come from, dare I say it, a place where the glaciers flowed even grander, the forest grew even more densely, the weather was even worse, the population was even smaller and quirkier, and many things could eat you.  Maybe.  I suppose, in hindsight, I had a bit of trouble just enjoying what I was seeing on the West Coast because I was so freshly removed from Alaska -- and, I knew I'd be going back.

Now I have been away from Alaska for 18 months - this time - and perhaps more significantly, I don't know when I'll return, either to visit or to live. So last week I visited the West Coast with less-biased, less divided eyes.  And what I found was SO wonderful.  I found that the West Coast is strikingly beautiful.  It's wet and wild and remote.  It's covered in native New Zealand bush with kea flying overhead and fantails buzzing you.  I found that driving my little car along the only bit of space between the sea and peaks was breath-taking.

I walked to hidden lakes and remote beaches.

Koru, or a fern frond and a NZ icon, with lake. 

I watched sunsets and hung out under the full moon. 

This time, I was just a little bit more "here." 

But I'd be lying if I didn't mention that along with my new-found appreciation for enjoying the West Coast for just exactly what it is, I love that it just feels so... Familiar.

This could be SE Alaska or West Coast, New Zealand!!


  1. Your pictures are gorgeous - makes me want to visit the S.I. even more. I'm glad that you're feeling somewhat more at home in NZ. I hope that as time goes by, it becomes even more familiar and comfortable to you. I like what you said about letting "here be here" - can't explain why, but that resonated with me :-)

  2. hmm, srsly I can't imagine moving from Alaska to NZ. For me, inhabitant of large European city, it's like moving from Heaven to Heaven 2.0.
    These places are sooo amazing. Maybe one day... ;)

  3. New Zealand: Alaska, Without the Bears.