In January, 2010, our family arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, where I was to begin work as "Senior Fellow for Congregational Studies" at Laidlaw College.
Though we had been planning to move since July, 2009, we were nevertheless shocked to find ourselves in this new land, beginning our life again from scratch. In the months before our move, I had a dizzying number of things to do to be ready to go by year's end: sell vehicles, prep our house to be sold or rented, close various accounts, navigate immigration channels to secure residency visas, arrange an international move with all of the various customs requirements, etc. There was always something needing my attention at that time. As a result, I had thought very little about what we would need to do once we arrived in New Zealand. Now here, we faced the immediate challenge of putting back together all the various things we had just dismantled. But rather than having four months to do this (as I had in the US), we had two, maybe three weeks.
We were alternately excited and shocked - and in both instances, highly adrenalized. Our emotions were raw and at any given moment, as least one person in our family was in crisis. It was an exhausting time. And at the same time it was incredibly...energizing? Powerful? Vital? I'm not exactly sure. But one thing is certain: as a family we had never depended on each other the way we learned to during that time. We had a lot of fun exploring the stunning new place we now lived. We also spent a lot of time grieving. Through it all, we were patient and avoided trying to fix each other. Instead we tried to simply listen and be present as each person worked through, in their own way and time, the full spectrum of their emotions.
Perhaps some of you reading this have closed a chapter in your life, packed everything up, and moved halfway around the world. You know what this is like. We did not. Obviously. Now we were immigrants living far from home. We knew virtually no one, had no mode of transportation, and only temporary lodgings. Furthermore, our possessions would not arrive for another four months. It was crazy. And good - an adventure unlike anything any of us had experienced.
In short order we purchased a car and found a place to live. We set up bank accounts, cell phones, and utilities. We purchased appliances. We enrolled our kids in school, bought them uniforms and supplies, and sent them into a completely different educational system. We were introduced to, and pleasantly surprised by, "socialized" medicine when one of our kids fractured his ankle just after we arrived. We borrowed furniture (camp tables and chairs, a few mattresses and a futon), basic kitchen items, and enough plastic plates, bowls, cups, and utensils to get by. We bought a second car. And then, two weeks after we arrived and most of the basics were covered, I began work.