Talk about a change in the weather. The glorious summer sunshine of my first week has been replaced with a relentless deluge – seriously, it hasn’t stopped raining for the past 5 days. I’ve never seen anything like it. At least it’s a blessing for the parched grass; it’s a lot less green here on the east coast of NZ than back home. The awful weather, along with Tom having a big presentation and deadline coming up, put a halt on our exploring for a while. So it’s been a week of snuggling up in bed with comfort food, Shark Tank episodes (our latest binge-watching obsession) and movies. Curious about the Maori-based story, we finally watched Moana, and I absolutely fell in love. If you haven’t already, go watch it. It’s beautiful, has an emotional original soundtrack AND a great message. Go strong female characters!
The rain also brought with it an onslaught of nightmares. Despite being so happy and relaxed while awake, I’ve been having persistent, vivid and terrifying bad dreams, often either to do with some strange creature trying to kill me, or my sister dying in horrific circumstances. I have the kind of nightmares where my dream-self recognises I’m dreaming, and tells me to wake up, to escape, but no matter how hard I try I am stuck. Sometimes these dreams become fully fledged night terrors – something I’ve suffered with infrequently in the past – where I wake up screaming, usually as my dream-self screams at the crux of the horror film in my head. I wake up in a blind panic, throat raw and heart racing. Once, this happened on a field trip in the middle of the Bornean rainforest, and it’s safe to say I gave everyone at camp the fright of their lives. I wonder if the dreams are my mind’s way of catching up with my body. So much change has happened so suddenly – it’s like my brain is processing all stress and worry of the past few months now that I can finally lay it to rest. Maybe, deep down, I’m still anxious in some way, even though I don’t feel it consciously. The distance and sheer joy at being reunited with my person has made the problems I left behind seem so much smaller, more manageable. But maybe they’re still niggling at me somewhere, whispering that I will have to leave, that my sister is suffering. Maybe it’s just a meaningless product of jetlag. Either way, I hope I get some more restful sleep soon.
Before the storm settled in, I met up with an old friend from home – Lucy, who I worked with in Cornwall, made the move to Christchurch a year ago, and we arranged to have much needed catch up. I was so tired courtesy of the nightmares that I almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad that I did. It was so nice to see a familiar face and hear all about the experiences of someone who’s taken this leap before. I also met the coolest bunch of Kiwi girls. I was made to feel so welcome, planning trips together that may or may not ever happen to hot springs, horse trekking and birthdays in Wellington, that so many of my fears about connecting with people here melted away. When two of them downed their drinks and nipped off (pun intended) for a spontaneous sordid piercing, I knew these were my kind of people. I’ve been lucky enough to get an interview at the bar a few of the girls work at, so hopefully some of our alcohol-spurred imaginings will one day become a reality.
This weekend, Tom and I had planned to go to the Mind, Body and Spirit festival I’d heard about in town. Well, I say ‘Tom and I’… I was super excited to go and Tom had begrudgingly agreed to accompany me. Clearly trying to find a way out, the day before we were due to go Tom sent me a link to ‘Armageddon Expo’ which, surprise surprise, was also happening this weekend. I hadn’t heard of the convention before, but oh my god I was more than happy to relent when I saw the guest list: Billy Boyd aka PIPPIN from Lord of the Rings was going to be there! I couldn’t believe my luck – less than two weeks in New Zealand and I had the chance to meet a bloody hobbit. So on Sunday, we donned our favourite fan shirts and embraced our inner nerds. The con itself was fairly small, but it was fun to see all the amazing cosplayers and look around all the merchandise stalls: replica Middle Earth weapons, old-school comics, Game of Thrones jewellery, hundreds of anime books I’d never heard of and a ridiculous amount of superhero t-shirts for Tom to ogle over. I couldn’t resist getting a Leafeon plush for myself (it’s my favourite Pokémon, ok?! And you’re never too old to enjoy cuddly toys). But the absolute best bit was of course Billy Boyd. Despite having met ‘famous’ people from my favourite films before, it was so surreal seeing a character I’d grown up with and loved for so many years in the flesh. He gave a hilarious Q&A session on stage for about an hour, telling us all about what it was like working on LOTR, kissing Aragorn and hanging out with Frodo, with a plethora of Scottish anecdotes thrown in for good measure. I even got a special mention after he spotted I was wearing my Fellowship top – Pippin, much to Billy’s disappointment, was last on the list. Afterwards, Tom and I queued for the photo opportunity (again, couldn’t resist). Totally worth it. I don’t know how someone as skinny as me managed to look so chubby, but man I am happy in that photo.
The weather is due to perk up over the coming days, and I’ll be glad to see the sunshine again. There’s so many places to explore here, from the wetlands around the corner to the mountains in the distance, and I want to make the most of the last tendrils of summer before autumn really sets in. I’m off to somewhere called Molesworth next weekend, helping Tom’s friend with some fieldwork, and I’ve got an exciting interview coming up, so hopefully I’ll soon have some more sunny stories to relay. Until then: peace, love, and second breakfast.