“What room am I in tonight?”
“You’re moving down to room seven tonight, you’re there tomorrow too, and then back in room one,” Sorren says. I hand him my key in exchange for another one.
“Coolio, and do you have room for me for another week after that?” I ask. Sorren flips through the booking sheet on the desk.
“We can, but you’ll have to move rooms again in the middle of next week.” He says, looking up at me questionably.
“That’s fine, better than moving hostels again,” I say. Thankfully I only needed to move hostels the first days I was here.
“Any luck on finding a job yet?” Sorren asks.
“Not yet, going to check around the restaurants again today. Hopefully, something pops up soon.”
Sitting in the library I make a few more adjustments to my resumé. It looks a bit funny, I have not had anything resembling shift work in ten years when I worked in a coffee shop and a cinema. But all the coffee shops here use espresso machines and is barista made coffee. Dunkin’ Donuts is not exactly high brow coffee. I spent six years studying math and over three years of analyst work and I am not qualified to make coffee or work in a kitchen. I cannot help but think it is funny, the path I chose.
I exaggerate the service roles and try to generalize my last position. I triple check for typos or errors and print off a set of my resumés head down into town. There are plenty of shops and restaurants with signs in the windows. I only go into the restaurants, there is no appeal for retail work.
“Your resumé looks good, we’ll give you a call if anything comes up. Thanks for coming in.” The barman has every intention of tossing the paper in the trash the second I am out of sight. He is not a good liar.
A few restaurants mention emails. I apply that way to conserve my resumés where I can. Head back to the backpackers a while later empty-handed. None of the restaurants wanted me to come back immediately, making empty promises of calling or emailing me in a few days. I’m doubtful. I have to hope that one of the email applications turns up a better result.
Thankfully there is plenty to do in Wanaka while waiting for work. There is a tiny, three screen cinema down the street from the backpackers. Cinema Paradiso does not have the typical seating in its theaters. Half the seats are couches, or big comfy leather chairs, or seats inside an old-timey car. They do intermissions for every film, where they serve homemade cookies and ice cream, coffee, beer, wine, and other food you can order to be ready for the intermission. The cookies are perhaps the best cookies I have ever had. My favorite flavor is the ginger and white chocolate. I can tell I come here often, and sometimes only for the cookies.
I find myself hiking often around Wanaka. My favorite is the rocky mountain path at Diamond Lake. An enjoyable hike that is not too hard nor too long, with an incredible view across Lake Wanaka and the surrounding landscape in all directions. There is a pile of rocks stacked and balancing at the top. I spend a long time at sitting at the top. It is peaceful and relaxing. I still wonder if Wanaka is the right place for me, but it is not so slowly growing on me. Ski fields are close by for the winter season. The only plan I had when I got to New Zealand originally, besides camp for a few months, was to spend the winter skiing. Wanaka seems to be perfect. If I can find work, that is. I do not really need the money, I could budget aggressively and survive the year with my savings, but I do not want to do that. But more importantly, I think I would get too bored without something more consistent to do. The sun is unreasonably strong this past week. I lay down on the rocks, my shirt set aside to dry, and allow the heat they soaked up from the sun during the day to leach into my skin. It is a little painful but comforting and soothing. I pick my now-dry shirt off the rocks a few minutes later, fearing getting burnt quickly in the strong sun. I head down the other side of the path.
“Hi there, what’s the cost for a drop-in class?” I say, asking the woman behind the desk. She has a bright, welcoming smile. Of the few yoga studios I have been to, this seems to be a defining characteristic of the teachers. I hope it is not the façade of business.
“Twenty for one class, or there are other options for more classes, and a mat rental is two dollars.” She says, pointing to a sheet on the counter with a breakdown of pricing. I thank her, opting for the single class at first. I am still warming up to the idea of practicing in a studio after spending the last eight months practicing on my own.
The class is wonderful though, and I buy a ten-class pass when I leave. Two months later, and I now have a recurring monthly pass and go six days a week, sometimes twice a day when I have the evening free as well. The classes provide better motivation and purpose than my own practice does. I relish the routine of waking up early, having a cup of tea, and heading off to yoga in the morning to start my day. The practice has been tough but rewarding when I see the progress.
“Alrighty, here’s the plan…” Sarah says. She is the front of house manager for a catering company I picked up a couple shifts with while looking for something more consistent. She is from Maine, and I immediately like her, though I cannot place why. She is showing me the seating plan and schedule for the wedding today.
“Got all that?” I nod. “Coolio, let’s get to it.” The wedding is taking place at the vineyard in town overlooking the lake. It is a good view for a wedding. The whole night I am trying to figure out what it is about Sarah I find remarkable. She is a good manager, but that is not it. “Meals are going good?” She asks. We all answer affirmatively. “Awesome-sauce.”
It is not until later in the night when I realize. She is holding a dish towel in hand. The laundry basket is across the kitchen. “Kobe!” she says, yelling it out as she shoots the towel towards the basket. I die laughing, nearly dropping the wine glass in my hand. It finally hits me that it is her slang and speech patterns that feel so familiar. It has been months since I’ve spent more than a few minutes with an American, and she is even from the same region. It is a little bit of home after so long on the road.
My phone buzzes in my pocket one afternoon a little more than two weeks after I arrived in Wanaka. I am sitting on the lakefront with a friend I met at the backpackers, Sam, an Englishman with a glorious mustache and passion for mountain biking. Not a lot else is taking up my time here, I still have not found work besides two shifts with the catering company.
It is an email from one of the restaurants in town The Landing. I had forgotten about The Landing having applied to a multitude of places. ‘Can I come in tomorrow for a trial shift tomorrow?’ the email asks. Hell yeah, I can come in tomorrow I reply. I use a less casual wording in my response.
“Hi, are you Tanner?” A woman says. A melodic Irish accent greets me. Slight but confidant, Sinead manages the restaurant. I introduce myself. She shows me around the restaurant and bar and explains the position to me. We go over the menu and drink list, the bookings, table sections, the till system, and introduces me to the kitchen staff. Ben, the head chef is English. The other chef, Ruairi, also Irish, is Sinead’s boyfriend. They arrived last year to work a ski season here in Wanaka and have been here since. They are getting sponsored through the restaurant for long-term work visas. Katie is the other front of house staff is English. My whole time here in Wanaka I do not think I have met a single person working in a restaurant who is a Kiwi.
Katie and Sinead are discussing something about ordering more wines behind the bar. There is a table that looks ready to order. Katie and Sinead are too busy to notice. I head over, assuming being used to American service standards will get me through anything. As much as I hate the tipping culture in the States, it does mean you get excellent service.
I blag my way through as best as I can and feel decent when leaving the table. Nothing dramatic like forgetting an order or impressively memorizing everything on the first go as if I were in a movie. A normal, insignificant moment all told.
“Are you good to stay on for a while tonight? I was planning on only having you on for a couple hours, but we’re busier than I expected.” Sinead says.
“Yeah, of course,” I say.
The night goes by without much issue, Sinead correcting me whenever I do something out standard. “I’m going to put you on the roster if that’s alright. I was impressed that you just seemed to go for it.”
“Definitely,” I say, thanking the classic American way of fake it ‘til you make it. The job seemed easy, I will only be working part-time, which is all I wanted. All the other staff seem great at first impression. I have found exactly what I was looking for here in Wanaka.