Leaving anywhere is an ordeal. When you exchange the warmth of the familiar for the coldness of the strange, and couple it with the added stress of devastating the young lives dependent on you – psychological trauma, expensive teenage therapy sessions, and the prospect of haemorrhaging money from a stone in an overdrawn back account make you question your purpose in life. You question whether you are of sound judgement: am I doing this for the enrichment of all? Or, am I a selfish bastard engaging in a futile effort to reclaim lost romanticized ideas of jet-setting liberalized cultural experiences? They will all be richer for it. You tell yourself. But such a painting is hard to admire amid the shattered heaving sobs at the airport of fifteen or so lives you have impacted by going on this selfish journey. For me, there is the week that remains post teary airport farewell. A week without family. A week to consolidate the life I have made in the last three and a half years. A week to assure 150 adolescents, that their lives will carry on as if I was never here, and that their education would not suffer. I believe this; I tell myself. Still, leaving is hard. Harder still when you are aware that your family is now alone with no one, missing the life we started here. Now the chapter that we started writing three and a half years ago is complete. And despite the kaleidoscope of emotions of the last week and a half, as we made what seemed like never-ending good-byes. I am confident in saying that there will be no therapy bills, no regrets. The tentative scratches made in blindness in January 2013 have progressed into beautiful watercolours as the era of the Hartlen family in New Zealand winds to a close.
It has been a week and a half since last I saw my beautiful ladies, and life has rattled on as it does. And I, for the first time as I wait to rejoin them, find myself with time to reflect. I think the departure was hardest for the elder two ladies. Brynn, Clara and me, we’ll be fine. To the friends of Stephanie and Aurora, I am sorry. Things were only just getting started and I have taken them away from you for my own selfish pursuits.
But what a great age to live in! When face to face conversations are automatic. International travel is cheap. And social media an Omni-present force in our lives. Look at it this way: now you have a place to travel to, and we have permanent home away from home. We are all so much the richer for having experienced this all together, though, I realise – it may not seem like that now. If I am honest, it will be an adjustment for me too. I will miss everyone here, though I am questioning the impact I have actually had constantly, this is of course my nature. I am sure I have had some impact. I am sorry I did not prioritise the friends I made here properly at times, and I am sorry I did not forge deeper relationships, but please know I am exceedingly grateful for the ones I made. Let the parade of cross-visitations begin! You are welcome one and all to wherever we end up in Canada, Europe, or elsewhere. It is now our turn to return the kindness you have all shown us.
What am I looking forward to? Catching up with family and friends. Central heating: (Seriously! – You are not a tropical county despite singlets and stubbies in winter) more specifically being able to warm up by coming inside. Two lane roadways. Shops open past 5pm. If I am honest, I am more looking forward to what comes after this next year in Canada…
So what will I miss? $20p/month cell phone plans. Driving for an hour and being in a whole new ecosystem. Indian/Thai restaurants in every town with a population of 500 or more, independent businesses being the norm rather than the exception, and of course most of all… He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! Ka kite anō. Kia ora tatau! From the last Hartlen out of New Zealand on behalf of my family, until we meet again, thanks for making this last three and half years such an amazing journey!
Happily married to my beautiful wife Stephanie, and proud father of three beautiful girls, Aurora, Brynn and Clara. Master student, working in South America as a Social and English teacher: writing when I find time.