It’s been a week now since I arrived in Wellington. It’s been an exciting and strange new task to acquaint myself with my new city for a few months. The hills and tiny, winding streets are much different from the flat, expansive land back home in the midwest. I’m talking streets at what feels like 45 degree angles and more stairs than you ever want to see at one time in your life. I’ve been coordinating my days around going down into town only once if I can in order to save my legs. I won’t need leg day at the gym here, that’ll be built into my everyday routine.
One of the trickiest things to get used to is walking on the left, which I know sounds like a pretty easy task. Since the cars all drive on the left, the people follow suit on the sidewalks as well. I’ve been trying my best to adjust but I still feel like I’m always in someone’s way or accidentally cutting someone off while just trying to make my way. This is frustrating because with this comes a feeling of being out of place, like I’m lost or not supposed to be in this country at all, which is obviously dramatic but it still bothers me. And sometimes I am genuinely lost but I know that understanding the streets and levels of the city will come with time. I’m hoping a feeling of being where I’m supposed to be will also come with time.
Being from the midwest, it’s in the culture to smile/wave/say hello to complete strangers you see passing by on the street. Coming to Wellington after traveling around a bit, I finally stopped looking like a complete tourist walking in large packs of people. I walk around alone a ton now and I was very tentative at first to even look up while walking past someone. At home, I usually make casual eye contact and smile when I’m in a good mood.
I’m unsure as to why I felt so guarded at first and scared to simply look at people. Today, on the way back from the vege market (that’s what they call farmer’s markets here), a guy I was passing on the stairs said hi to me and I think I actually jumped. I said hi back of course and that was that. A simple exchange, just a gesture for acknowledging another human’s presence in your space. But it made me feel a little like I was at home. Being here does feel a little like I’m being punked and someone’s going to jump out to tell me this is all a joke. That’s actually how beautiful and unbelievable this country is. So a stranger saying hi to me feels very much like a friendly reminder of my new reality; I’m here, this is now. I do have my place here just like I do in Minneapolis, and feeling comfortable with it will come along.