Sometimes you make a plan. You consider every detail carefully, you dedicate time to researching and investigating all your options, contacting the right people and arranging everything just so. Everything is going to come together and work out just the way you want it to, and then….you can see where I’m going with this, right?
Wrong. The plan works, you arrive in New Zealand with a year-long working holiday visa, have a job interview the next day. It all seems great – the people are friendly, you’ll get to see plenty of Auckland’s harbour and islands, and the pay is alright.
You get offered the job the very same day, and because you are not one to make any decision quickly, you ask for time to think about it. And while you’re thinking you realize that the plan you so carefully made (actually, I confess, not quite so carefully in my case) was all along not what you actually wanted, but what you thought you should do.
So in the end you follow your gut and you turn down that job in Auckland. You throw the dice, leave your entire New Zealand summer up to chance, and see what happens.
Sure, it means you might go jobless the entire time you’re here. You’ll be missing out on a regular income and the peace of mind that comes with that. But you have savings, and several ideas on how to live cheaply in this more-than-expensive country.
You might be missing out on meeting some new buddies. But you’ve done this before and you know full well that working such long hours in close proximity with the same people means that while they might become some of your best friends, they can also be the exact opposite. And of course there are other sources of companionship than work.
As for missing the incredibly enticing chance (note the sarcasm) to serve the public and clean up after them, well…you get the idea.
And you have your summer free, rather than being bogged down until April in a job that only allows four days free at a time, which sounds great but is not long enough to get you anywhere near the South Island.
So you go online to see what’s out there, and within a day of registering on a house sitting website, you have an offer to spend six weeks in Decanter Bay, on the Banks peninsula outside of Christchurch.
You’re in Auckland, with friends, which is a very good reason to stay in this city. It’s winter, and thus cold-ish, but Christchurch is further south, and thus probably even colder. The place is isolated and there’s work to be done there. Six weeks is a long time.
But the house is in a beautiful secluded bay, with an abundance of solitude, fresh veggies, mussels and eggs, and a wifi connection. You ask a million questions, consider carefully (not making any decision in a hurry, right?) and then you say yes.
You arrive, and find yourself living in a quaint homestead built in 1851. It faces the gorgeous bay, because people arrived by boat back in those days. You are surrounded by rocky green hills dotted with extremely pregnant sheep and a few very new lambs, tall green trees and plants of every kind, and lots of peace and quiet.
The house is cozy and homey, heated by a wood burning stove and decorated with the children’s artwork. Everywhere you look there are cookbooks, baking equipment and ingredients. For you, this is heaven.
You are in charge of keeping the fire going, feeding ten hens and a rooster, tending the lawn and vegetable garden, as well as temporarily bossing around and cooking for a 21 year old Frenchman.
You find out that when an escaped hen (not my fault!) suddenly has two chicks following her around, you don’t worry about her, chuck her some grain when you can, and hope the chicks don’t get eaten by ferrets. You can’t decide if you want her remaining seven eggs to hatch or not.
The chickens normally produce 2-3 eggs per day at this time of year, so you are shocked when, on the third day, you find a total of nine in the coop. Omelets for breakfast! You wonder briefly if maybe you’re over-feeding them.
You wake up every morning to a stunning view. You discover the unique song of the bellbird, the loud flapping of wood pigeons, and how to prepare mussels, artichokes, kale, and other foods you’ve never cooked before.
You pass your days to the soundtrack of gentle waves lapping on the beach, a crackling fire, baaing lambs, bawking chickens, and the twittering of birds.
And that’s just the first three days. Aren’t you glad you turned down that job in Auckland?