When you’re in an unfamiliar place, even the simplest tasks can prove troublesome. Take getting the mail for example. Seems like a no-brainer: go outside, get mail, return home. Easy, right? Unfortunately, my first mail-getting experience in New Zealand wasn’t such a walk in the park.

I did the first part–“go outside”–just fine. The sun was out, and one might even say I sauntered to the mailbox, overly confident in my ability to retrieve its contents. I tried so hard. I tried from all angles to get the mail out. I looked for a sliding door, I pulled and pushed on all sides and underneath. I tried to squeeze my hand into the small slot where, I presume, mail is inserted. No luck. I even tapped the box on the top and said “please”–but nothing.

Then I had a brilliant idea. I’d find something long and skinny to stick inside and grab the ever-elusive mail–kitchen tongs! I got the tongs and marched proudly back out to the mailbox, eager to put my plan into action. I looked both ways to make sure no one was watching and clumsily fished around inside for a piece of mail. Nothing. I gave up and leaned on the mailbox to think about my next step, swearing under my breath.

The top lifted up under my weight and nearly hit me in the head. I hastily grabbed the mail, hid the tongs inside my shirt so no one would witness my stupidity, and sulked back to the house. Victorious, yes. But also a floundering American.

Anyway, moral of the story is that things don’t always go as you plan, and there are constant surprises in foreign countries. The next day enforced this ideal, as I had my first run-in with New Zealand law enforcement. I was pulled over on my bike by a very sassy police officer, who informed me that its against the law to bike without a helmet. I found it interesting that I can hire a prostitute if I want but can’t bike without adequate headwear. Now whenever I go out, I have to attempt to squeeze my big head into a child size helmet with flames and race cars on the side, dashing all my hopes and dreams to become a trendsetting fashionista.

Despite all of this, it was a happy new year indeed. I rang in 2014 with candles and homemade pizza. Of course when I bought ingredients for this pizza, I had yet another floundering American experience. I swiped my card at the checkout and the machine told me to insert it. I inserted it and it flashed in capital letters, “SWIPE CARD,” and so on. This went on for some time before I just handed my card to the cashier.

It was smooth sailing after these events. I spent the next day exploring the famed Hamilton Gardens and Lake Rotoroa. I biked down a dirt road near my house and even found a community garden. So happy 2014! I think it’s going to be a good one.




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