Life is what happens while we’re making other plans. Or sitting on the beach.

February 28, 2011

They say that time moves at a different pace in the tropics. That the temperature is too hot, the air itself too languid for anyone to entertain thoughts of travelling any faster than a moderate shuffle.

Despite that dearth of forward momentum, my one-year contract in the Cook Islands somehow managed to come to an end, resulting in my return to New Zealand in mid-February.

Where did that time go? How could 365 days possibly zoom by so fast? If it wasn’t for the 25,000 photos bunging up my computer’s memory, I might be tempted to think my time on Rarotonga was merely a dream.

The white sand, the cobalt sea, the brown girls: surely I did not just spend an entire year in their enchanting company.

Apparently so.

Back in New Zealand, I’m forced to walk faster, think faster, react faster, hell even talk faster.

The adjustment period has now stretched into its third week and I still feel like Adam, standing outside the garden gates, talking around a mouthful of apple, saying, “Uh . . . Eve? I gotta bad feeling about this.”

For starters, there are a lot of white people in this country. I’m used to being in the minority – the token white boy in the office. I liked that feeling. It made me feel special. Here, I’m just another old guy with a funny accent who could stand to lose 30 pounds and probably should shave every day just to be on the safe side.

Other adjustments:

* I haven’t driven a car for a year.

* I haven’t eaten much in the way of vegetables for a year. I’ve barely eaten meat in that time. There are brightly-coloured packages in the pantry and none of them say ‘Instant Noodles.’

* There is hot water in the shower. There is water in the shower.

* There are no lizards scuttling across the walls. There are no ants in the kitchen scouting for crumbs.

* Complete strangers not only do not greet me on the sidewalk, they make a determined effort to avoid eye contact.

* I no longer have the bed to myself. I no longer have sole rights to all the covers and pillows. I can no longer snore or fart without comment.

* I have to share. Bathroom time. Computer time. The toothpaste.

* There is a TV in the house. And a DVD player. I have forgotten how to operate the remotes and I don’t really care.

* I am no longer a working journalist. I am no longer working as anything.

* I am a former Island Boy. An ex-Island Boy. And I don’t like the feeling. Not at all.

***

I spent a large portion of that time on Rarotonga with a camera jammed into my face. Between the beautiful scenery and the even more beautiful people, it’s a wonder I didn’t burn out my Nikon’s motor drive.

Since returning to New Zealand, the camera has hardly been out of its bag. My inspiration well has run dry. Where’s a fair maiden in a coconut bra when you need one?

The camera might have gathered dust for several more months had Geon Art Deco Week not been held in Napier shortly after my return.

I’d missed this event in 2010 and so was pleased to have the hoopla to distract me from my post-tropical trauma. I’ve included a small collection of my photos with this blog posting.

Art Deco Week celebrates the 1930s and highlights the fashion and architecture and modes of transportation that were in vogue when Napier was being rebuilt after being levelled by the 1931 earthquake.

And then, mere days after Napier residents parked their Model Ts for another year, Christchurch is devastated by the second earthquake to strike the Canterbury area in five months. Lives are lost, historic buildings crumble to dust and an entire country mourns.

I wonder which architectural style will rise, phoenix-like, from this shattered cityscape? And will anyone be celebrating it 80 years from now?

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