Our department has hired more internationally trained and born staff lately, and we found that it was pretty hard to find any New Zealand born English teachers. Of the 20 plus people who showed up, counting spouses, we found 5 that teach at least one English class. Two of those only teach one English class. There was some debate about the head of our department, who was born in the UK but moved here at a relatively young age. We're calling him British because he had a British passport first. Either way, the Kiwi Teacher is becoming an endangered species at our school.
So the BBQ fired up and some beers opened, and the conversation turned to what people were doing for weekend trips during our precious last months of golden weather. People are taking surfing lessons, going to concerts in the park, snorkelling at the marine reserve, tripping up to the bach up the coast, and heading to the spate of weekend festivals that shoehorn themselves into the last days of summer before the rainy season starts. We sounded like a bunch of tourists, and when combined with our earlier foray into census taking we seemed like a bunch of tourists.
So we had to ask the question out loud: when do we stop being tourists and become locals? Most of the people from the UK still felt like tourists. Their opinion on the matter is that New Zealand is so different from the UK that everything feels new and novel. A lot of them feel like they're getting a second shot at childhood or their early 20s. They're making the most of it and feel energised by access to the sheer amount of things to do outside of the pub atmosphere.
One guy made the observation that you become a local when you start taking your vacations in Australia. We all had a laugh at that one. It's a common joke that New Zealanders consider Australia a foreign land: it's the place where people go to make their fortunes, get civilized, become part of a bigger player in the global community and generally up your game. New Zealand is still very much out of the way, more so than Oz, and it's funny to us immigrants because both are down here together. Alone.
This person hit on an interesting point that made me think, a little too seriously to pursue conversationally without dragging down the tone of the party. I haven't gone to Australia for any of my vacations, but I also haven't been taking many local trips that could be called 'vacation', either. Those of us who didn't see ourselves as tourists anymore were probably more likely to take our national back yard for granted. We don't spend our weekends doing things out of the ordinary, for the most part, and stick with the usual: meet with friends, go to the market, watch a movie, etc. I did this in Montana and am falling into the trap here. We still haven't done some of those crazy things we talked about doing when we moved here. We haven't gone bungy jumping, sky diving, sea kyaking, snorkling, black water rafting, blow carting or hiking on volcanoes. We have gone swimming (of course), yachting, fishing, hiking, and sledding on volcanoes. We've seen fire dancers, listened to local bands, watched protests, gone to parades featuring santa with a water gun, dressed Peter in colonial garb and put him on Maori TV (more on that later), learned to haka, and enjoyed Chinese New Year.
We don't own any greenstone necklaces.
We know and like many Kiwis; most of our close friends are fellow immigrants.
So while I feel very much a resident and less a tourist, I still feel very much like there are things that I still want to get out of my time here. But, like any local, I am very comfortable in my locale. I find myself saying, "I don't have enough/convenient vacation time", or "we don't feel like we have the money to spend on that." We're hoping that will change once we figure out if we'll be moving back to North America. If faced with a deadline we might make better use of those things that we can't do anywhere else.