Windy Wellington. That was all I knew about the capital city of New Zealand, not that I knew much about the country either. Other than the famous quips about the sheep, farmland and Lord of the Rings, this isolated oceanic country held an almost intimidating amount of unfamiliarity to me. It was simply a place where I was to spend the next few years away from home in, a place where I would be pursuing my university education and where the remaining teenage years of my life were to be shaped.
The cool, crisp breeze was what greeted me when I finally arrived in Wellington. Like all new visitors, I was whizzed past attractions like the wonderful Te Papa filled with rich cultural history amidst its modern architecture, the beautiful Mount Victoria where I was mesmerized by the spectacular view of Wellington, and the breath-taking Kapiti Coast where I had my first taste of the deliciously creamy Kapiti ice cream.
Although my new life was exciting, it was not always so enjoyable. Apart from coping with the biting cold (considering that I come from the hot and muggy Singapore), other simple things like the transportation system were sometimes incredibly frustrating. When I finally discovered the existence of the economical “day tripper” bus ticket, I was already mourning over the loss of precious dollars. It took me another few more weeks to figure out how many bus sections there are from one place to another and I am now thankfully armed with newly-acquired knowledge of the bus system and its irregularities.
Later still I found out that sandals are referred to as jandals, that “how’s it going” is the way people say “hi” and they don’t exactly wait to hear your answer, and that “see ya later” is the version of goodbye and not that you are really going to see them later. I learnt that my country (which is the size of Lake Taupo) shares the same population size as New Zealand, that rugby is a national phenomenon and even if it is not your preferred sport, it is never wise to openly publicize that. I also discovered that the word “Kiwi” can mean a New Zealander, a bird or a fruit.
Within a year, I grew accustomed to the crazy Wellington wind, familiarized myself with the Kiwi accent, made some great friends, learnt to end my sentences with “eh”, celebrated my 17th birthday on the vertical bungy in Courtney Place, fell in and out of love, entered university and grew up a lot. Within a year, Windy Wellington has become a place familiar to me, a place that marks my threshold of beautiful memories and a place where I celebrate my youth and maturity.