This morning I woke up all set to write a post on Dunedin and Oamaru and our slow, circuitous journey down around New Zealand’s southern tip. It was going to be filled with anecdotes about surfing in Dunedin and meeting up with Lily Motta’s friend Jono, who showed us around town. It would have touched on our spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Oamaru and our sudden head-over-heels affection for its Victorian limestone buildings, blue penguins, and quaint artisan shops and tea rooms. It would have been filled with pictures like these:
Instead, I’m going to have to skip straight to Arrowtown because, well, in the less than 24 hours I’ve been here, it’s already proven to be the most bizarre experience I’ve had so far in New Zealand.
Last night, after taking our gutless Nissan Sunny up and through an endless mountain range that kept making me feel as if we were on the Oregon Trail, we pulled into Arrowtown. From what I’ve heard, and can tell so far, it’s a small and cutesy little town about 20 minutes from Queenstown. Today we all slept in, thinking we’d explore this little town for the afternoon, then leave tomorrow morning to drop the car back off in Queenstown and figure out our respective lives. This is not how it ended up playing out.
In talking to the manager of our hostel — a 20-something American named Josh — this morning, we learned that the bakery down the street might be looking for people to work at the counter. Hayley and I stopped by and asked the bakery owner about it 20 minutes later. Exactly two minutes and zero questions asked later, we were hired and behind the counter.
I had quickly prepared myself on the five-minute walk from the hostel to the bakery with little key facts about myself that might prove useful in my “interview”: I love baking, have lived in Paris, have worked in the restaurant industry before. But somehow the only question the bakery owner asked me was my name. I think that once it became clear Hayley and I were native English speakers, we were deemed instantly qualified.
And so, rather than seeing Arrowtown, I spent today working behind the counter of a bakery. I dispensed carrot cakes and brownies and endless varieties of little savory pies into brown-paper sleeves, and I counted out New Zealand change with a faster proficiency than I’d previously thought possible. And then, at the end of the day, the pastry cases emptied and the cash registers full, Hayley and I walked the five minutes back to our hostel. We talked to Josh and arranged to work an hour each morning in exchange for free accommodation in a backyard caravan starting March 5. And then we looked at each other in disbelief at what we’d just done.
So here I am, in Arrowtown, and here I’ll remain until I’m not sure when. I suspect that after a few weeks, a month, or a bout of cold weather, I’ll be ready to pack up and move on again to some place new — maybe even some place with a cubicle and the warm glow of a computer monitor. But for now the idea of doing something different, something unexpected, something wholly impossible to imagine only this morning, is a rather comforting thought. It means I may be getting the hang of this whole whim thing after all. Or it could just mean I’m crazy – but I think I like the first version better.