It is my birthday. Fifty-one spins around the sun and who knows how may more I get to take. The journey is still interesting. Slowly I am getting to be more comfortable with who I am as I begin to unravel that who I am is not at all what I thought it might have been and yet everything I have always been. Makes no sense at all, does it? My mantra: I don’t know.
In computer code,
alert( 'Hello World!' ) creates a pop-up window on the screen that says “Hello World!” Consider this post me as that pop-up box. Back in May and early June, I wrote a post a day about moving to New Zealand. And then…
Cue the crickets.
So what happened? Maybe you’re wondering if we have the internet in New Zealand? The answer, of course, is yes. We have the internet and it has been the focus of most of my attention for the past four months. I recently completed an intensive 15-week long, coding boot camp at Enspiral Dev Academy in Wellington and have now begun working there.
In one of my previous lives, I was a computer coder. In between stints working for North Carolina Outward Bound and guiding bicycle tours, I obtained an Associates Degree in Web Technologies. I then worked full-time as a software developer for a year before deciding to sell the house and go nomad. That was five years ago.
In that time, my wife and I have lived in six different locations in the United States, have had two extended stays in Spain, and moved to New Zealand, back to the States, and now back again to New Zealand. Whew!
During all that movement, the idea of being a full-time software developer has travelled with me. Along the way, I’ve built a few websites for friends and pottered away on various learning platforms like Udemy, freecodecamp, and Codecademy. I was interested in working in technology but had not fully committed myself to it.
That started to change in 2018. When we first decided to move to New Zealand, I intended to enroll at Enspiral Dev Academy. I went there to watch a graduation ceremony and the space and atmosphere instantly felt like home.
It seemed perfect: a fresh start for my life in a new country. One problem: they could only accept New Zealand citizens and residents, and I did not fit into this category. So I spent that first year in New Zealand wondering who I was and working as a cook.
But the idea of a coding boot camp was ever-present, and I started to research doing one online. I was close to signing up for one when we rather abruptly decided to return to the United States in 2019.
When we arrived back in New Zealand this past June, I again was unsure what I would be doing for work. About a week into our quarantine period at an Auckland hotel, we received the news that our application for a Skilled Migrant Visa had been accepted. We are now officially residents of New Zealand, meaning I was eligible to enroll in the coding boot camp. I did so immediately.
It was a great decision. I learned so much about software development, but more importantly, I got to build strong connections with a small group of participants and staff during an intense period of learning. It was an experience similar to being on an Outward Bound course.
My days were full: up by 5 a.m. at the latest to go for a run, at Dev Academy around 6:30 to study before class started at 8:45, and home around 6 p.m. to eat and relax a bit before an early bedtime to do it all again the next day. Dev Academy emphasizes personal growth alongside the technical skills required to get a job as a software developer. We would begin each day with a few minutes of mindfulness and twice a week participated in yoga sessions. My first impressions were correct. This place felt like home. Fortunately, even with boot camp over, this is a home I won’t have to leave for a while.
This week I am transitioning from the role of a Dev Academy student to that of being a boot camp Facilitator. This means that I’ll be aiding the Lead Teachers with delivering the program to students. It’s an incredible opportunity for me to be able to keep learning while helping others.
It has been a whirlwind since we landed in Auckland. I have not been this busy in years and it feels great. It is a reminder to me that having the courage to try something I’m not sure I can succeed at usually leads to unimaginable positive outcomes.
We have been back in New Zealand for just over one week. Now that we are here, I’m on to worrying about whether or not we’ll be able to stay. Our fate now rests with Immigration New Zealand. If we’re not approved for a Skilled Migrant Residence Visa, this will be a short stay.
I imagine that pressure on the New Zealand immigration system is mounting. They are dealing with the immediate challenge of closed borders due to Covid-19. There will likely be a tidal wave of visa applications for people wanting to come to what appears to be one of the safest places in the world. I hope we are far enough ahead of that wave to surf to not get swept up in its tumult.
We talked to an airport security officer last week who said there were already 10,000 people looking to return to New Zealand, many of them residents and citizens who have been living overseas. What will this do to the job market and housing costs? How will the country cope with these increased pressures?
I know we haven’t been back long, but this feels right. This is where I want to be. Everything just feels lighter here. There are many challenges ahead for this to truly be home for us, but I am excited to face them right now.
Overall we are enjoying our time in Managed Isolation. They are feeding us too well with not enough opportunity to burn it off. I hear we drew a good straw. Many of the other facilities are in downtown Auckland where opportunities to be outside are much more limited and have to be supervised closely. Though we can’t access it, we are surrounded by natural beauty. We can watch the tide fill and empty the basin in front of the hotel and see the light change during the day on the slopes of a nearby extinct volcano.
Parents play with their children in the yard as runners and walkers do multitudes of laps up and down its gentle slope. Many of the “guests” here have visitors who come to see them from behind the safe distance of the double row of fences surrounding us. Now I know what zoo animals must feel like as they pace back and forth in their cages while people beyond the bars gawk at them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. It’s so good to be here, even with our extremely limited freedom. What I remembered about being here still feels true: the societal mood here is more relaxed, friendly, and open. There is less tension in the air, even in a place where people are being held more or less against their will for two weeks. Even in this, people seem happy.
Perhaps we’re all just happy to be in New Zealand, glad to be away from wherever it is we were before. Name just about any place in the world and New Zealand is probably a saner place to be right now.
People have been saying “welcome home” to us and for now, it feels true. We are home. Home so far away from home.