Standing at the dining room window, watching our two middle kids walk away from the house and off to school, it stuck me how adaptable and trusting all four offspring have been. Whilst one might reasonably expect a child to trust their parents, I am still impressed by how readily ours accepted and absorbed the fact that we were moving to the other side of the world. There were concerns about missing friends and family and the odd moment of ‘I’m not going’-ness but, all things considered, they took to the idea very quickly and with hardly a moment’s hesitation. Last week, the three eldest started at their respective schools and the youngest spent her first few days at the local kindergarten. Enrolling the kids in the schools and kindergarten here could not have been easier, with Kiwi pragmatism and ‘can do’ attitude sweeping away all our worries about visas, eligibility and paperwork. At each, we went along for an informal chat with the principle, discussed our situation and the perceived needs of the relevant child, passed across copies of previous reports and achievements and toured the schools. That was it. No drama, as they say here, no hassles, no bureaucracy, just common sense and a clear ‘Put the child first’ attitude.
Each is set out on a broad open campus, typical of many schools here, with expansive playing fields and sports facilities, sun-shaded outdoor picnic tables and benches for lunches and breaks surrounding single-storey classrooms filled with artwork and inspirational posters. The Kiwis place great emphasis on character development and good citizenry and it is common to find schools promoting ‘virtues of the month’, such as ‘approaching each day with a smile’ and helping maintain the cleanliness and fabric of the school’. From what we can glean, the younger two are perhaps having the easier time of settling in, whilst the older two are finding the delicate process of making new friends is taking a little longer. Early teenage years are never easy but, although we have no concerns at this time, it is still difficult to witness these quiet struggles without feeling a twinge of guilt and a modicum of helplessness.
For all those quiet parental concerns, the last week has seen several new friends coming over to visit after school and yesterday we hosted a birthday party for nine pre-teen girls, not including our own. This event was a risky venture for, over and above all the usual risks of children’s birthday parties, we had unknowingly invited one or two who have been marginalised for various reasons. A number of mums mentioned this in passing but we chose to plough the UN peacekeeping furrow and carry on regardless. As firm believers in blank sheets, clean slates and speaking as we find, we felt that this was the only fair thing to do. After all, we have pitched up as outsiders in this small community and have been welcomed with warm smiles and kind gestures. As things turned out, a good time was had by all and, just maybe, a few fences were mended. The birthday girl had a marvellous time, not least because, for the very first time her birthday party was on a beautiful spring afternoon rather than a grey autumn one. In place of the previous cramped living rooms and fast food restaurants, she and her friends had the run of the beach sloping down to the rolling Tasman Sea, all framed by one hundred and eighty degrees of sky blue horizon. I hope that the day will remain with her as fond and cherished memory.
Elsewhere, the hunt for the job we need to secure our future goes on. The twice weekly ritual of scanning the papers and calling the recruiters that I have settled to has started paying dividends. As things stand, I have been shortlisted for two roles, one heading up the contact centre for a public utility who are on a mission to modernise their customer service department and the other as an operations manager of another centre in the capital. I applied for the former through a small firm of head-hunters who interviewed me and have ‘pitched’ me to their client in turn. From what I can ascertain, the centre is set in it’s ways, the management jaded and it will take years to get anything changed. The latter role is better though, to date, having been through CV selection, an interview with a panel of senior managers, two sets of psychometric tests and another interview with a management psychologist used to check candidates’ suitability, so I’m wondering what the heck it is all leading to. It would seem, from conversations with those in the know, the Kiwis are apparently very big on all this testing and it is widely used, so I had better get used to it.
I have also had some very interesting exploratory interviews with a large nationwide organisation and it’s new subsidiary. From these initial meetings and a tour of their operation, I have hopes that something will develop so, having suddenly got superstitious, I’ll say no more for now. Finally, we have seen a senior immigration officer this week and he was helpful in resolving some of our concerns and advising on turning a formal job offer and the requisite paperwork into a work permit. Once we have the permit and I am working, we can start the formal application for longer term residency. All in all, we’re gradually settling into our various routines, balancing the starting of new friendships with maintaining the old, comparing new possibilities to the well-known, while all the while pinching ourselves.