Posted by: coloradokiwi | February 16, 2009

Going (second) Home Again

So I’ve been back in New Zealand officially a month, and the weirdest part is how unremarkable I’m finding it all:  I’m slipping back into my old/new life here, like into an old pair of sweatpants that have been tucked away at the back of the closet.    

There is a weird kind of time-bending stretch that your brain goes through when moving back to a place you once lived.  On the one hand, you sort of expect things to change more.  Buildings, sidewalks, and various other aspects of the landscape are EXACTLY the same, which creates this sensation of traveling back in time.  On the other hand, new and significant changes seem shocking and somehow unfair, as if I was supposed to get notices about this sort of thing.

***Aside:  Dear, sweet, sexy Toni Marsh.  The years, alas, have not been kind.  Don’t get me wrong, I would still totally hit that.  But she’s not nearly as hot now as she was just about four years ago.***

So, while easing back into the way of things in a new/old country is in some cases like riding a bike, in other ways it can be confusing and infuriating.

One thing that has taken me by surprise despite trying very hard to steel myself against it is the weather here.  I mean, it is despicable for a sunshine-loving person like myself.  This is allegedly summer, and it was at one point 9 degrees Celsius last week.  It’s cloudy a lot without being usefully rainy, and when the sun shines Antarctic winds gust.  In the meantime, there are other things I’d utterly forgotten about that majorly kick ass, like unpacking all our old things (sweet, we have an olive spoon!), having electric kettles and toasters finish their jobs in no time because we’re back on motherfuckin’ 220 volts on the grid, not that mamby pamby 110V shit in the U.S.  And so on.  A hundred little things that are subtle reminders that life’s different now.

Anyway, back to the point about mind-bending:  what is most mindbending of all is of course the smell of a place.  As everyone has experienced, smells are particularly memory-jogging, evocative of sometimes the quirkiest aspects of one’s past, and you just never know which ones will jog what.  When walking across the university square the other day I smelled a wonderfully familiar aroma:  the mixture of hops (from the Speights brewery), chocolate (the Cadbury factory) and coffee (the coffee plant which used to be Stewart’s and is now apparently Gregg’s).  Delicious!  Quintessentially Dunedin!  

But over the past couple of weeks other scents have leapt out and I sort become unstuck in time.  There’s stale piss, which reminds me of the time my wife and I lived in a particular flat, since this is the scent we walked past nearly every day.  There’s a vaguely tobacco-y smell given off by carpet in a room that is consistently cold and moist—a Dunedinesque smell that literally makes me shiver because it’s a visceral reminder of the lack of central heating.  There’s the smell of wet leaves mixed with pavement that reminds me of the walk I used to take from my first flat here up through the cemetery gardens.   And so on.  It’s creepy getting flashbacks like this, particularly as I’m living a different life now:  as a dad, as a career/life path, as a mindset with a different set of priorities.

***Aside:  I just spent this week touring the homes of potential home-care specialists (nannies, basically), and assessing the purchase of a car based on how easy it will be to maneuver the sprat in and out of a car seat.  I mean, holy crap.***

This all tells me that while the human mind wasn’t really meant to traverse the globe quite like this, it is nonetheless pretty resilient.  So what’s weirdest of all about all this is how it’s actually not really all that weird.


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