Sunday, February 5, 2012

See ya later Wairarapa, it's been grand

On Saturday I said goodbye to a life in the Wairarapa I never expected to have but now cannot imagine my life without, and although I'm back to the suburban/city life I grew up in and belong in, living in the country is something I never expected to like but will never forget.
So I'm saying goodbye the best way I know how - by writing about it.

These are my Top 10 Wairarapa Moments:

1. The house that has no love
There's something about a big abandoned house that makes any creative dizzy with dreams, and the house on the hill just out of Carterton is enough to make any of them insane with an overload of ideas. It's like a blank canvas, where anything is possible; it's like that old saying, "one man's trash is another man's treasure" and seeing this beauty wasting away is simply heartbreaking.

2. Bright lights, “big city”
I've been pretty lucky to have had a great flatmate for the last year - a flatmate I've cooked with, gone to the movies with, shared my problems/stories with and whose problems/stories I have listened to - and one of my favourite memories is a very early one: a trip around the flash... and not-so-flash (ie. tacky) Christmas lights of Masterton, which ended with disappointing unmixed McFlurry's which did little to dampen the childlike excitement of the night.

3. That day it snowed
We all remember that beautiful, beautiful day when the whole country turned white for the first time in 50 years. I could think of no better - if a little dangerous - job to be doing at the time than journalism. With gumboots on and as many layers of thick clothing I could handle, my day was spent chasing photographic gems: children making snowmen, rows of rural letterboxes covered in an icing of snow, long country roads indented with the swirling marks of slow-moving tyres, sheep foraging under the snow for food, and pukeko trudging through the white stuff with no idea what's going on.

4. Up in the air
I did think twice about adding this to the list, considering the devastating hot air balloon crash that killed 11 people on January 7th in Carterton. But, in March last year, hot air balloons were still magical and it was one of the most important items on my bucket list that I got to tick off for free, so although it is not something I would ever do again following the crash, I'm glad I did do it because I'm never going to forget how it felt to rise up into the air at the same time as the sun early in the morning with 22 other balloons surrounding me and spending two hours breathing in the fresh air and seeing the world like I had never seen it before.

5. The best New Year's Eve ever
You know you have an amazing group of friends when they leave the bright lights of the capital city to drive over the Rimutaka Hill and spend New Year's Eve with you in lil' ol' M-Tron. Up until the very last minute, I think the whole of New Zealand was hoping the weather gods would change their minds and give us a sunny New Year, but that didn't happen and I'm glad it didn't because if we had better weather, we would have found something to do in Wellington and never would have ended up getting drunk at my flat, attempting to "shuffle" and dancing to old Beatles records to bring in what is set to be the best year yet, 2012!

6. Family time
I don't ask for a lot. I don't ask for people to go out of their way for me. But they so often do and it warms my heart each and every time. When I moved to the Wairarapa, I didn't expect people to go out of their way to visit me because I had made the decision to move away, so I should visit them. But two of my favourite  recent family memories are my whole family coming to visit me - once for mum's birthday when we went out for dinner in Masterton, and once earlier this year when we had one of our favourite family dinners: fish and chips in the park. After packing ourselves full of beautiful deep-fried fish and good kiwi chip butties, we wasted no time and comandeered the flying fox, all of us taking at least two turns - some of us stupid ones going backwards or attempting to stand up - and then tackling the swing bridge, swings and jungle gym. Mature I know.

7. Celebrate good times
Thsi year isn't just a new beginning for me; it's also the start of a new career for my flatmate who started her first teaching job this year. To celebrate both our new jobs and to say goodbye, we went to Martinborough, home of the famous Martinborough Fair, beautiful wineries and gorgeous country restaurants - by far my favourite Wairarapa town. During such an unpredictable summer where it can be raining and freezing one day and too hot to function the next, we were incredibly lucky to have the perfect weather for the perfect night. The sky was blue and there was not a breath of wind or a drop of rain, and we enjoyed a beautiful meal at Cool Change, a new restaurant which is totally awesome and I think you should go there, followed by the most delicious gelato I've ever tasted (except for Kaffee Eis in Wellington) at It's Quite Cool.

8. An introduction to farm life
Of all the people the Wairarapa Times-Age could have chosen to be Rural Reporter, they chose the girl who grew up in the suburbs and had spent some years working in the city. Needless to say, I had no idea what I was doing, but I was willing to try. One of my favourite rural reporting memories was one of my first, when I went to a farm to talk to a farmer about a bridge over the Ruamahunga River that would stop cattle polluting the river. But to get there, I had to sit on the back of a quad bike in my dress and flimsy ballet flats, get trampled on and licked by dirty working dogs, and hang on for dear life while the farmer drove for miles across his land to get to the bridge. But despite the culture shock, I felt exhilirated at the end of it; ruined shoes, dirty dress and messed up hair notwithstanding.

9. Hello Mr Chicken
In my first few weeks as a Masterton resident, my partner and I went for a walk to the supermarket along a seemingly suburban road, and, to our surprise, were joined by a chicken. Sure, to people who had lived in Masterton for awhile that would have been nothing out of the ordinary, but to us it was hilarious. But, after living here for a year, I've discovered sharing the road with animals is a regular occurrence, from sheep, to cattle, to dogs on motorbikes. Which brings me to my next memory...

10. Man's best friend
Country roads are anything but long and boring. If the fresh air and feeling of complete and utter freedom is not enough, you should have been on Te Ore Ore Road on the one day I did not have my camera with me. So I'm driving along, and suddenly I look to my right and there on a farm motorbike is a man - most probably a farmer - slowly driving along the side of the road with a big brown dog, about as big as a retriever, sitting infront of him, tongue hanging loose, both man and dog sporting that classic country "what road rules" attitude.

To sum it up, I would not change a thing about the last 18 months. It hasn't all been smooth sailing, but everything that has happened has been a learning experience and I feel like I'm going back to Wellington a new person; a whole person with her eyes wide open to the world.

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