My first few days in Dunedin have been extremely pleasant; I’ve been living in a flat that is cozy in nearly every way without actually being warm. The outside is quaint, each bedroom is charming, and the living area is…Well, the living area looked like a 1970’s office space until my flatmates and I took it upon ourselves to do some rearranging. When we arrived, the kitchen table was up against one wall, right beneath a large bulletin board with a series of flyers on how to conserve energy and what to do with our rubbish. An oversized calendar, a wall clock, a microwave, and a jubilee of pens all succeeded in making the space look like an old-fashioned corporate break room.
In a matter of minutes, we relocated many of the informational flyers and the clock, moved the microwave off of the kitchen table, and scooted the kitchen table away from the wall. In an attempt to spruce the place up, my flatmates and I posted a series of memorable quotations on the cork board that had already been uttered by one of us in the past week. Given the time it took us to revamp the kitchen and accumulate odd inside jokes, we expect that our flat will grow to be more homey as the days go by.
Meanwhile, I am hopeful that I will grow more accustomed to the cold the longer I live here. Walking down the streets of Dunedin, I’ve seen women in dresses, runners in shorts, and several people in T-shirts. I’m still routinely losing feeling in my extremities and wishing that a fleece onesie will magically appear in my room. I’m certainly not the only one; I think my laptop may also be wishing for a fleece jacket or a trip to Hawaii right about now. My third night here, my computer felt like a block of ice and refused to hold any charge. Thinking it was on the verge of collapsing, I rushed it to the library and prayed that some heat might revive it. The jolt of warmth seems to have set it right, but I have taken to tucking it into my bed when it’s not in use.
As for the New Zealanders, their warm personalities seem to counteract the cold weather. Coming back from the library the other day, I turned a corner just in time to watch an adorable three-year-old who was walking with his father trip over an orange cone which marked a construction zone. I immediately froze; I could see that tears were about to come to his eyes, and I was worried he’d gotten scraped up by his spill. But before so much as a wail from the child, another man walking in front of me scooped the little tike off the ground and placed him into his father’s arms. What shocked me wasn’t just that it took under three seconds for this whole event to take place, but that there was no look of “Who is this man picking up my child?” on the father’s face. There was virtually no other exchange between the two men; one smiled his thanks while the other hurried on his way. Perhaps the little boy was just as stunned as I was, because the teary-eyed look had vanished as soon as he’d found he was no longer lying facedown on the ground, but rather was being hugged tight in his father’s arms.
Inspired by this display of kindness, I asked a woman walking a few paces in front of me if she needed help carrying two bicycle wheels. She gave me an odd look and shook her head “No” and I realized that maybe they weren’t all that heavy, and instead of being a nice gesture it looked like I was trying to steal one off of her.
As I wondered why anyone would steal a single bicycle wheel without a tire on it, it started to rain. In a few short moments (as is customary in Dunedin) the sky was completely overrun by clouds. While I watched giant droplets slide off the hood of my rain jacket, I couldn’t help but smile as I thought back to another drizzly afternoon a few days earlier. I had just been about to leave the post office when I remarked to my friends how the rain had come back full force since we had ducked inside. A man who had just walked through the doors quickly corrected me, saying “It never rains in Dunedin! There’s only liquid sunshine!” So, while I probably won’t offer to carry anyone’s bike wheels for a while, I can certainly strive to embrace the type of Kiwi attitude that is capable of turning storms into sunshine.