It’s occurred to me recently that people other than my parents read this. It’s also occurred to me that people other than my parents might find the whole thing kind of confusing: all this talk about Christchurch and Vietnam and Tennessee. Who am I? Where do I come from? Why do I keep talking about growing up in Christchurch when I am so clearly and American? And why, why does it have to be so complicated?
So here are some frequently asked questions, based on every conversation I’ve ever had with a stranger:
Who are you?
OK, so I don’t get asked this often, if ever, by strangers in real life, but since I have managed to write this blog for half a year without including a single picture of myself, it’s maybe a valid question. I am a 25 or 26 year old (I always forget which) female person with one passport issued by the USA and one by New Zealand, though I have a crisp, West Coast American accent, which tips the national identity balance in favour of the US. And my name is Whitney.
And as for why there aren’t any pictures of me… I hate having my photo taken. Hate it. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than being on the wrong end of a camera; holding what may have started as a natural smile for an unnatural period of time. Cameo photos are even worse, since I tend not to react well when I realise I’m being captured. So pretty much every photo of me looks like this:
Where are you from?
Lots of places.
No, where are you actually from?
I don’t know why that first answer is invalid, but it’s rarely accepted. Interestingly, it’s also invalid when I simplify things by choosing a place. Because then, when I elaborate, I am told that I’m being misleading since I haven’t lived in Oregon since I was twelve; or because I don’t have a New Zealand accent; or because I only lived in Tennessee for eighteen months; or because I can’t really count going to college in New York as living there.
It’s a golf question: he with the lowest score wins. But if you’re really curious, here’s what the course looks like, sand traps and all:
- 0-12: Eugene, Oregon
- 12-16: Christchurch, New Zealand
- 16-17: Knoxville, Tennessee
- 18-21: Geneva, New York (though I’ve been told college doesn’t count)
- 22-23: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- 23-24: Washington, DC
- 24-26: Christchurch, New Zealand
- 26-now: Wellington, New Zealand
Ages are based on how old I was when I moved there. Sand traps exist between Knoxville-Geneva and Geneva-HCMC, in which birthdays were celebrated during transitory periods and have been lost; similar to the way a year shrinks when crossing the international date line.
What are you doing in New Zealand?
Ostensibly, getting my MA. I’ll start writing my thesis any day now… As soon as it’s neither too cold to concentrate nor too beautiful to be inside.
What are you going to do after that?
I don’t know. I’d like to put my post-graduate experience to good use by permanently adopting this lifestyle of sleeping til I’m done and not ever really having to be anywhere. I’m not sure how to make that fiscally viable though, so… PhD?
I’m considering a move; what are some of the long-term side effects of living in New Zealand?
On the plus side, the sheer inconvenience of most things has made me endlessly patient and taught me to see joy in hard work. I’ve also discovered that it’s possible to make all these things I never would have considered otherwise: yogurt, tortillas, marshmallows… It’s very empowering to no longer be under the oppressive thumb of those tyrants at Stay-Puffed Inc.
The flip side of that coin is that living in the warm embrace of democratic socialism has made me an unbearable critic of all forms of non-socialism. I like that my education is subsidised; that my health care is free; that my car insurance costs $11/month; even that there’s a 15% sales tax. Why? Because I believe social and environmental costs of consumption should be included in the price. Seriously: unbearable.
This isn’t really about you, but where’s Old Zealand?
It’s an island off the coast of Denmark.
How can one get in touch with you?
Easy! Via electronic mail!