Running is one of the best ways to explore a new place. While I enjoy walking, the ground I can cover at a 20 minute per mile pace compared to even a relatively slow jogging pace is starkly limited. Certainly I can notice and recall more details about what I pass when I walk, but the allure of maximizing distance proves too strong a temptation. Besides, I tell myself, I can always come back for a more in-depth look at a slower pace… some other time.
Today I didn’t want to run even though I knew that it would be good for me to do so. I felt sullen putting on my workout gear, strapping on my GPS watch, locating earphones, etc. etc. etc. I made each task stretch out; I wracked my brain for something to prevent me from stepping out the door.
It’s a lovely day, with mostly-clear skies and a temperature of 55 degrees. So why the internal resistance to going?
At home, in Delaware, I seldom run by myself. I nearly always have at least one friend to run with and often several companions on the road or trail. As I prepared to run this afternoon, I felt the absence of my running compatriots–no one was expecting me or offering a listening ear or telling me about their week. Solo running offers the physical benefits of running with friends but lacks the social and emotional benefits.
I felt pretty sorry for myself the first few minutes. I missed my friends, I missed having a running schedule and that accountability that comes with it, I even missed the roads and trails near my house that are so familiar I can practically run them in the dark.
That’s when I opened my eyes (they had been open, of course; I’m speaking metaphorically.) to the world around me.
Here are some of the sights I saw (and impressions they made) on my hour-long run through Christchurch:
- New Zealanders really love their food. At a park about 1 km from our house there is a farmer’s market every Saturday from 9-1. The place was swarming with families, couples, singles, people with dogs, grandparents, high school students, and everyone in between. Located in the Riccarton Bush under huge trees and next to a winding urban river, the farmers market vendors sold everything from Chai teas to specialty bacon, flower bouqets to sandwiches, local produce to honey. We haven’t been yet as a family, but it’s shot to the top of my “local things to check out” list. I think it would be fun to let the kids each have $10 to spend on whatever they choose.
- New Zealanders also really love sport. My run took me to Hagley Park, a huge green space near the historic downtown section of Christchurch. I passed so many people out enjoying the day–many were out for walks or jogs or bike rides or roller skating. Many more were participating in organized sports, including boys’ field hockey (!), net-ball (a version of basketball without backboards), rugby, soccer, cricket, basketball, tennis, bocce, and more. One huge section of the park was taken up with a girls’ net-ball tournament.
- Christchurch homeowners like to fence off their own little properties. Since we arrived James and I have talked about the Christchurch practice of fencing off individual yards and properties. And I’m not talking about 3-foot high picket fences for looks or for pet/child safety; I mean invincible, completely opaque, 5-8-feet high security fences. Like we’re in South Africa. I don’t get it. And this seems to hold true throughout Christchurch, so it’s not just practiced in specific neighborhoods where trespassing, robbery, or other criminal activities are prevalent.
- New Zealand dogs are better-mannered than U.S. dogs, from what I’ve seen. Many New Zealanders own dogs, but I have not heard hardly any barking even though dogs live nearby. In parks and on trails I have passed lots of dogs, both leashed and off-leash, and not one has barked at me, tried to lick/jump up on/attack/rush/nip me. I imagine this is actually more of a trait of New Zealanders (as dog owners) than of the dogs themselves. Either way, many American pet owners could learn a thing or two from their Kiwi counterparts.
So much of life here in New Zealand so far requires the heart and mind to hold two seemingly-contradictory truths at the same time: feeling like time is passing too fast and also not fast enough. Missing my running friends but still reaping significant benefits when I run by myself. Hating to be away from home even while this is home for now.
I struggle sometimes about how much to share on Facebook and on this blog about the downsides, pain, irritations, and challenges of living in New Zealand.
In part it’s a problem of self-conciousness about the fact that many, many people would love to have the chance to do something like this, so complaining about it feels ridiculous (first world problems, anyone?). My feelings are probably not the most interesting thing for people to read about, nor why someone would choose to check in on our blog.
Yet it seems important to me that this blog doesn’t turn into a travel blog that simply highlights cool things we did or saw while in this beautiful country. While sharing highlights is a major goal I had in creating Familyship, this space also offers our family the chance to reflect on, process, and share various aspects of the full reality of our time here in New Zealand.
I don’t plan on making every post like this one–there will still be a lot of quotes from the kids, photo highlights, and newsy posts–but I may write them from time to time. It’s a way of writing my way into appreciation through living and sharing as honestly as I can what life is like here.