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Conner's Big Adventure 2017

NZ - North Island Part 3 - The People

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 22 April 2017 | Views [601]

Music, food, dancing, friends, perfect day :)

Music, food, dancing, friends, perfect day :)

We were warned before we ventured North that the inhabitants of Northland, the northernmost province in New Zealand, are of a different variety. By this I am guessing they were referring to the observation that shoes and shirts are entirely optional, and the only hurry is in getting out of the rain when a storm hits or getting to the beach for a perfect kite-surfing day. Everyone we met during our stay came with a ready smile and open conversation. Parents easily make conversation with you in the parks, people smile and wave as they drive or walk by. It was like a non-creepy version of Pleasantville. Even so, socializing doesn’t come naturally for Gregg and me, so when the opportunity came up for Gregg to join a local Friday football (aka soccer) game he was a bit hesitant. Also, he’s never actually played football (slight deterrent...). It came about after a Zumba class of mine. Zumba has been a great confidence booster for me socially. Everywhere I’ve been to a Zumba class, US or abroad, I have made instant friends with at least one or two people. Dancing just makes people happy :-). On the North Island there were three such wonderful ladies that became true friends over the course of our stay. Jocelyn, Bronwyn, and Stephanie. As we were heading out after a class Bronwyn mentioned that her husband was starting up a Friday game "just for the blokes" and Gregg was invited if he wanted to come. We said thanks and we would see what we were doing Friday and maybe he would join in. Neither of us said it out loud, but we both knew that meant “Thanks, but I don’t think so”. I thought about it the whole way back to the bach, and I kept thinking that it sounded really fun, but I would be too shy to go so I shouldn’t pressure him. Then we had a conversation back at the bach about living in the moment wherever we were and not letting opportunities pass by because we were shy, or embarrassed, or nervous (you know, the deep stuff). What better way to learn the way of the locals then with a Friday game? He decided he would go and if it was horrible he wouldn’t go back. I’ll save you the suspense, he had a blast :-). Turns out they only had three guys show up, so the wives all came and they had a great game that was competitive, but in that fun way where everyone is laughing at each other feeling like 10 year olds. They decided to just make if family Friday, so Conner and I joined in the next two weeks. Others joined in too and it ended up being one of the major highlights on the North Island, and we made some fantastic friends. They all laughed at our weird shoes as we shared ciders at half time (playing soccer in five fingers was not as bad as I thought it would be), and later the kids had their own game. That was almost better than playing myself, watching Conner happily chase after the ball with a troop of about 15 other kids :-). If you know Conner, you know that this is a rare sight. He is much more of a one-on-one kid, but he ran around and had a great time for three hours like he’d known these kids his whole life. This was exactly what I had hoped for when setting out on this crazy adventure. Natural friendships are few and far between for me and this was definitely a happy time :-). Stephanie invited us out to their bach (which didn’t work out because of schedules, but we appreciated the offer) and we ended up hanging out with Bronwyn’s family again after the Manganui waterfront festival. It was such a good time for everyone. The festival was a perfect final weekend with a day of good food, good music, dancing with Conner on a grassy hill, watching paddleboard races, and friendly people. Everything that we had come to know and love about life on New Zealand’s North Island.

Tags: football, kiwis, manganui, new zealand

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