Of sand and sheep.

With many of the larger arrival decisions made, we’ve transitioned to the process of settling in, really settling in. Being that this is already our fourth move in just 20 months of marriage, we’ve gained experience which helpfully expedites the process. While this move is bigger and more exotic than the others, it still involves some of the usual necessaries, such as cleaning.

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However, since this chapter of life in New Zealand is to be our longest yet, we’re more intent to cultivate an environment within which we can really flourish. Exactly how one successfully cultivates such an environment, I don’t know, but for us it means a good amount of intentionality on the front end. We’re working hard to establish a routine that will benefit us both time for growth and time for leisure. Time for labor, time for rest; time for reading, time for walks.

Below is a picture of the new environment which we find ourselves in. Before coming to New Zealand we were told it was a place with beauty that can’t be captured by a camera. Whoever said that is right. From our deck we can see the ocean, with its hourly changing shades of blue, we can watch the inlet fill up and empty out, and we can hear sheep ‘baa-ing’ as they graze on the slopes to our west. We truly are in a place of astounding natural beauty, and I hope we never get over it!

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Part of settling in, and really the reason we are in New Zealand, is my (Luke) beginning my studies. So, on Monday last week I completed the final necessary paperwork and officially became a PhD candidate at the University of Otago. On Tuesday I met with my supervisor for the first of what will be regular meetings every three weeks throughout my time here. I’m very excited to have finally begun this program, as it’s been a very long time in the works. Below is a picture of some of the buildings on the campus, which, for good reason as you can see, was last year listed as one of the 10 prettiest campuses in the world.

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A final part of our settling this week has been getting to know some new people and begin what we hope will be some friendships to help enrich and sustain our time in Dunedin. We’ve already been invited over to dinner by two different couples who too are in NZ for PhD work, and by one of our new neighbors for a BBQ (the people in NZ really are as nice as they’re rumored to be!). Perhaps this, the people, is the most important piece of the puzzle for settling in. After all, part of what it means to be human is to be in relationship.

Below you see some pics from our most recent adventure to Tunnel Beach with our new friends Josh and Anna Hurd. We’re really running out of categories to describe the beauty here!

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And so the weeks ahead will involve establishing a cadence that is not only sustainable for the long term, but nourishing in the here and now. Steph is back to work part-time and I am back to my studies full-time. Beyond those things, we’ll be exploring more beaches and watching the sheep graze on the hills around us.

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It’s a chocolate fish kind of day

Marry a beautiful girl and steal her away to an exotic island. Check.

By God’s grace we’ve arrived and are settling into life in Dunedin. The following is a quick overview of what life has looked like this week as we’ve worked very hard to get settled.

On Tuesday we arrived in Dunedin after three smooth and on-time flights. The only real scare was on the final leg of our journey, from Auckland to Dunedin, where we realized that they were going to enforce the 16lb weight limit policy for carry-on luggage even though they hadn’t on any other leg of the trip. What do you do when you have between 17 and 23 pounds of stuff in your bag but can only board the plane with 16 pounds? You improvise.

In the end, our suitcases only weighed 16lbs. However, the coat Stephanie was wearing had pockets stuffed with products and shirts and socks stuffed down both sleeves. I had at least 25 dvds in my coat pockets, a book snugged into the back of my belt, and was literally wearing Stephanie’s purse while keeping it hidden under my coat as I smiled and handed my boarding pass to the check-in lady. You improvise.

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Descending on Dunedin was beautiful as you can see. We were very fortunate to be welcomed at the airport by friendly familiar faces we know from Denver. In addition to picking us up, our friends, the Heims, put us up in their lovely home for 3 nights and took us around the city to get a feel for it. (This is also in addition to tons of helpful advice on how to prepare for our move)

Tuesday we opened a bank account and met some other students in the theology department at the university. I (Luke)  was also able to pop in and say hello to my supervisor, Paul Trebilco. Wednesday was a holiday here in New Zealand, which limited what we could accomplish, but we were still able to buy a pay-as-you-go cellphone, get another tour of the city’s different suburbs, and begin calling rental listings to set up viewings.

Thursday was the day we needed to get some wheels. Peter took us down to a place in Dunedin called the Kaikorai Valley in which there are a number of used car dealers and dropped us off with a warm ‘good luck’. Thankfully the process didn’t take long and after only a couple test drives (with a few minor curb-checks to get used to driving on the other side of the car and road) we drove away the proud owners of our little Nissan Pulsar.  Within 20 minutes we even had insurance purchased for the year on the car!

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It’s amazing how getting the car gave us a sense of ownership and belonging here in Dunedin. Before the car, we were visitors, people at the mercy of anyone who would give us a ride. After the car, we had a place to put our stuff, we had the means to go and to make things happen and get settled. And since the car, it’s been off to the races.

We’ll spare you the details of our house hunting process. Let’s just say we are extremely happy and thankful to have found, after probably 8-10 showings and countless hours of looking at houses online, the place we’re going to call home in New Zealand. We’ll post pictures of the house another time.

It suffices here to say that God has been extremely gracious to us. Every step of the way he has met our need and seen that we are provided for through family, friends and even strangers. With this house, we are more than provided for. We have found what will be our home.

So with that said, it’s a chocolate fish kind of day. You see, here in Dunedin there is one of the Cadbury chocolate plants which produces the many candy yummies that are exported around the world. One product is a chocolate covered, marshmallow fish. A very New Zealand practice, we’re told, is to give someone who has achieved something a chocolate fish. And so we, the proud owners of new bank accounts, a phone, a car, and now the renters of a great house, have bought and given ourselves a chocolate fish for getting settled so quickly here in Dunedin.

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Preparing to depart and arrive

We’ve covered the process of getting ready to go to New Zealand as it involves the visa application process. Here we’ll cover the final steps in getting ready to board the plane and what we’ll need to do when we arrive in order to get settled for this new chapter in life.

First things first: pack, pack, pack. What do you bring with you when you’re moving halfway across the world for 3 years and can only take 2 suitcases and a carry-on each? Well, not much. Air New Zealand limits a traveler’s bags to 50 pounds (or up to 70 if you’re willing to spend some coin). The crazier stipulation is that carry-on suitcases can only weigh 15 pounds(!), which is remarkable since most carry-on suitcases weigh 7-8 pounds on their own.

So what do you bring? Clothes, computers, books (important ones I’ll need constant access to for research), personal items that make a place feel like home, and toiletries.

Most importantly is the clothes. Dunedin is a coastal town similar in climate to Seattle or Vancouver, BC. It doesn’t get very hot, think upper 60’s in the summer, nor does it get very cold (I think 40’s in the winter). But, it’s a damp kind of cold in the winter and, since most housing is poorly insulated if insulated at all, clothing to keep one warm warm warm is key. For us, this means wool. Lot’s of it.

The packing process has been spilled out over a couple of weeks and even now, a day before departure, we haven’t finalized the last few items we’re taking or leaving so that our suitcases are below the weight limit. For me (Luke) the difficult part is choosing which books to take and which books to leave.

Still, there’s something very freeing about taking minimal amounts of ‘stuff’. And, as we’ve found, there’s something very freeing about giving stuff away; about having less stuff overall. We’ve only been married now 20 months, but it’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ you can accrue over time.

Okay, what will we need to do when we get there? Lot’s of things!!! Thanks to some good friends also living in Dunedin that we know from our time in Denver, we have a friendly face to welcome us at the airport and a couple places to stay for around two weeks while we try to sort the following out.

First, we need to set up a bank account in Dunedin so that we have purchasing power for everything below. Also, there’s a bit of paper work I’ll need to attend to at the university so that I’m officially a PhD student at Otago and can begin receiving our stipend monies.

Second, we need to find housing. Since Dunedin is a university town, this shouldn’t be an overly onerous process, but we want to find a ‘home’ while we’re there and not just a place to sleep, eat and study. Environment is very important to the human psyche. The first 10 days or so will include a fair amount of house-visiting, and hopefully, the signing of a lease.

Next, we’ll need to buy a car to get around in for 3 years. For us the car will serve a very utilitarian purpose, point a to point b and back, so it need not be anything particularly nice. It will, however, be a bit of a change to drive on the left side of the road and right side of the car.

Finally, we’ll likely need to furnish our new homestead. This will probably take time, but a few things are key. One can only sleep on the floor using a pile of books for a pillow for so long, so a bed, some pots and pans, plates and utensils, a table, and some chairs will be our first targets.

After this, I think settling in to a new environment will involve driving around the town a bit to get a feel for the area, learn how to best get to the university, and a few long walks on the beach to help us unwind from a whirlwind couple of months.

Your prayers are appreciated as we fly out tomorrow at 3:35 from Denver and will be traveling for a total of 18 hours before arriving in Dunedin on Tues, Feb 5, 9:10am local time.

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How we got here

We’re a couple days away from moving to Dunedin and the last few months have been a whirlwind, to say the least. How do two people prepare to move (almost) halfway across the world? There’s no manual or checklist that I’ve seen, but here’s a brief overview of how we’ve done it.

March 2012 – we accepted my (Luke) offered position to study at the University of Otago in New Zealand instead of a couple other offers in Scotland and England (perhaps more on that another time). Adulation and relief follow, having finally figured out where we’ll be moving and knowing we have nearly 11 months before the move.

June 2012 – we update our passports and decide to remain in Denver for another four months. Life is breezy. We still have a sold seven months before the move.

July ’12 – we get fingerprinted at the police station and send off our applications to the FBI for our official background checks which we’ll submit with our applications for our long-term visas. We also move from one town home in Denver to another, putting most of our stuff in storage in Denver, giving a large amount of furniture and other goods away, taking our clothes and other necessities to our new home, and bringing the majority of my library back to Nebraska to store with my parents. Let’s be honest, moving is about as enjoyable as a hernia anyways, but moving one’s possessions to three different locations is especially nightmarish.

November ’12 – our time in Denver is up. We move the rest of our stuff and our persons back to Nebraska where we’ll live until the departure. Two days after we get back, the real “fun” begins. It’s medical exam time. In order to apply for a long-term visa to New Zealand, one is required to go through an extend medical exam. These exams include the usual physical checkup, blood work, urine samples, etc. The bonus feature is that New Zealand requires chest x-rays to provide evidence one does not have TB. The kicker is that the health forms are complicated, like immigration reform complicated. But, after the help and careful work of 2 doctors, at least 4 nurses, 2 x-ray technicians and a radiologist, all 38 pages of the forms are filled out, signed, dated, and initialed correctly.

The final piece to our visa puzzle is the ‘proof of relationship’ section of the application. Let’s just say we were required to prove not just that we were married, which would have been easy enough, but that we’ve actually done life together for as long as we were saying we had. In addition to copies of the marriage license we had to provide proof of living together via copies of tenancy contracts, evidence of paying bills together, joint bank accounts, insurance policies, proof of correspondence over the length of our relationship, pictures of us together at different times in different places, proof of vacationing together, etc, etc, etc.

Once we completed this final stage, we were able to mail off all three sections of the application to the New Zealand Embassy in Washington DC and pray we were approved for the long-term 3 year visas. I (Luke) would receive the student visa while Steph would receive a 3 year work visa that would allow her to receive health care in New Zealand. God was gracious: after 2 weeks we received our visas!! It was a stressful process and I’m thankful nearly everyday that it is done and we have our visas in hand for the duration of our time in NZ.

Since this post has become rather lengthy already, it will suffice to say we had many other details to attend to. Including, preparing Stephanie’s work files for transition to her working remotely from New Zealand, selling one car and putting the other in long-term storage, and on and on. It’s been a ride!!!

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