}

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Twenty years ago today

Twenty years ago today, on September 12, 1995, I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist, beginning the arc my life has followed since. Twenty-one years ago, I never could’ve imagined how different my life would become, and I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me it was even possible. It all began, really, 20 years ago today, and this is the story of what led to that day.

In early 1994, a good friend of mine who was a travel agent gave me a ticket to fly to Berlin (travel agents could do that back then). I’d never visited Germany, the land of many of my ancestors, and I was keen to go. I had a great time, apart from language difficulties: My high school German and cramming in the weeks before I left weren’t really of much use, and I struggled.

I visited only about 3½ years after German Reunification, and my hotel was in the former East Berlin, where English wasn’t as widely spoken as in the former West Berlin. I had no idea how limited my own abilities in the German language were until I was fully immersed. I managed to get through those to enjoy my visit.

That Christmas, my friend gave me a ticket to fly anywhere in the world that United Airlines flew. My first thought was to go back to Germany, but my friend gently reminded me that this was a bigger opportunity, so I broadened my thinking.

I then thought of South America, but remembering my language difficulties in Germany, I figured travelling to a continent when I didn’t speak or understand either Spanish or Portuguese wasn’t a good idea. So, I decided that wherever I went should be English-speaking. I thought of South Africa, but it didn’t feel safe enough to travel to, especially alone, and English wasn’t necessarily the main language I’d encounter. That left Australia and New Zealand, and it was about as far from Chicago as I could fly.

My original trip was to be a couple weeks or so in Australia, and something like three days (!) in New Zealand. I arranged the time off work, and was ready to go.

My friend was on Apple’s eWorld online service, which was international, something America Online, my service, wasn’t. So, I asked him that if he was in an eWorld chatroom with folks from Australia or New Zealand, would he see if anyone would be willing for me to email them to get advice on what to see and—maybe even more importantly—what not to see.

My friend gave me three email address: The first turned out to be a bad address, the second was an Australian guy who told me he’d be happy to give me advice, but he was far too busy right then, so I should contact him closer to the time. The third email address was Nigel’s.

Over the following months, Nigel and I emailed back and forth, and I eventually joined eWorld, too, and we chatted online. It soon became clear that we were onto something bigger than the both of us, which led me to change around my itinerary to spend more time in New Zealand.

On September 12, 1995, I got off a United Airlines flight from Melbourne, and met Nigel in person for the first time. Over the couple weeks that followed, he showed me some of the main tourist spots in the upper North Island, and I also got a job, which was an important task.

Finding a job mattered so much because it would be what would allow me to move to New Zealand to be with Nigel. It, too, was a step in the process that began on this day.

I’ve written a lot about the things that happened in the past twenty years, but not a lot about what came before it. That’s mainly because the day eventually became “lost”, particularly after I became a permanent resident. I talked about all that back in 2011’s September 12 post.

November 2 has always been the important anniversary because that’s the date I arrived in New Zealand to stay. I like to remember this day, though, because it led to the bigger one later on—and many happy years.

Today also begins what I (not seriously) call the “Season of Anniversaries”, and an annual series of blog posts commemorating events that have marked the progress of my life in New Zealand. It’s all in fun, really.

So, today's may be a minor anniversary, but it’s still an important milestone in this journey. Back in 2012, I posted something on Facebook that’s still as true as ever:
“Never underestimate the power of love to make the improbable possible, or to transform the unlikely into an entirely new life.”
The journey toward my entirely new life “began to begin” twenty years ago today. I’m the better for it.

Previous posts about this anniversary (the first three only mention it):

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Where it began (2010)
Anniversary of the beginning (2011)
Another anniversary (2012)
18 years ago today (2013)
19 years ago today (2014)

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