On Talking About the Weather

Michael Turgeon University of Auckland, New Zealand


August 31, 2017

What I’ve learned about living in another country is that 90% of the time, life is much of the same. However, that last 10% is where memories are made, where stories you’ll re-tell for years are born, what most of your phone space will be dedicated to, and what most of your blog posts will be about. However, despite the selective amnesia towards the unglamorous 90%, it still has plenty of value, and honestly, many of the formative moments of my New Zealand experience have happened when I didn’t expect them.

Last Wednesday, I showed up to an evening meeting for Music Production Club, which for me is more about connecting with like-minded Kiwis than it is about learning the intricacies of Ableton Live. However, over the 6 weeks I’ve been attending the University of Auckland, I’ve had a hard time breaking through. In both Music Production Club and elsewhere on campus, my interactions have seldom ventured beyond pleasantries. I didn’t travel half way around the world to talk about the weather, that great equalizing force that gives any two humans on planet Earth a common thread. When my attempts to dive deeper are unsuccessful, I can always fall back on my cohort of American friends (and often it is quite tempting to do so), but connecting with locals is the difference between saying I “visited” New Zealand and I “lived” in New Zealand.

Falling victim to the doldrums of the semester, nobody showed up to Music Production Club that day except for two particularly intrepid Kiwis, Jade and Alex. The room was booked from 6-9pm, but I figured we would be out in 20 minutes max. But in contrast to all my previous interactions with the locals, we stayed the whole time and then some. The conversation started out like many others- mentioning how temperatures were venturing into the mid-60s and how the sun was finally starting to dry the rain-soaked terrain of central Auckland. However, as we pushed the conversation further, we soon reached uncharted waters. We compared our cultures and debated the merits of our differing customs and slang. We came together in admiration of Kendrick Lamar’s new album. I discussed my fears and excitement regarding my upcoming South Island trip, the perils of solo travelling, and how 5 months in New Zealand is nowhere near enough. Alex lamented how his most successful music is also what he considers his worst. Jade told me about the struggles of being Maori in New Zealand, and about this secret place in Rotorua where hot springs meet the cold river, where the locals gather under candlelight to make music and dance. Even if I never talk to these two again, I’m forever grateful that out of 7 billion people, the three of us shared a room that evening to just be human, together. And if I had somewhere to be that night, it wouldn’t have happened.

Frankly, the last two weeks have been fairly uneventful, but that’s okay. When you live in another country, there will be days where you feel restless and uneasy because you should be doing something exceptional, but if you are too focused on what’s to come, you’ll miss what’s right in front of your nose. The mundane can be uncomfortable and the routine can be suffocating, but if you fight the inertia and push for an opportunity, it will be there. It’s okay to talk about the weather, but you have to keep talking.