Critical Care/Emergency Nursing was an employment field in New Zealand defined as having a shortage and since Rebecca was an emergency room nurse, it gave her a distinct and decisive advantage in applying for and possibly getting a job there. Otherwise it is significantly harder to even have a chance of getting a long-term work visa for New Zealand. If offered a job, Rebecca could get a temporary work visa, and I would also be allowed as her spouse and based on her merits, to piggyback in with her. Like some barnacle stuck to the side of her ship as she traveled from the US to New Zealand. Eventually, it was my understanding, we could both apply to be Skilled Migrant Workers, a more permanent status, which sounded like we were coming across the border to pick lettuce for the season. But being ‘skilled’ were quite good at it, and could hence stay a little longer.
Other critical shortage fields were things like “Logging and Forest Industries”. My brother and I had once cut down an absolutely enormous—I mean humungous, giant— dead maple tree in our parent’s back yard many years ago. It was so old and huge that for years we had called in the ‘Grandfather Tree’. It took us days to take it down, with one guy up in the higher branches with a chain saw whacking off huge limbs one at a time, and the other guy on the ground directing the lopped branches toward the ground with a series of ropes to prevent them from killing the guy in the tree or falling on the nearby house. Actually quite an achievement, but I hardly thought that that singular, though impressive, accomplishment would qualify me for a position in the logging industry.
Another field where there was a shortage was Biochemical Engineering. I had often thought some sugary salty tasting chemical with no calories and no real salt in it would be a game changer in the food industry particularly among dieters. But I had never really fleshed out the details or chemical structure of what that might look like, so that also seemed like a no go.
Believe it or not, another shortage area was for Thai Chefs (high school graduates take note!) Could I learn to make a passable Pad Thai and distinctive-enough peanut sauce in only a short period of time? It seemed unlikely.
So it seemed Rebecca would have to provide our way in. My medical degree (I am a physician) was no longer current and active. And despite how fulfilling practicing medicine can be, I was no longer interested in working as a doctor at this time.
After obtaining her New Zealand nursing license, Rebecca went on-line and arranged to be notified of any and all nursing position openings in the various Boards or Ministries of Health in the various provinces throughout New Zealand. We had our favorite places based on our brief visit and on-line research but realized we couldn’t be too fussy.
After a while, emails began to arrive notifying Rebecca of openings. Most of them were for nursing positions for which she had no interest or aptitude: elderly care, psychiatric nursing, rural health. Finally a few emergency nursing positions began showing up. Where was Hamilton? Would we like living there? How about Dunedin? It was frightfully cold there for the two days we were there in the summer. But it did have the steepest street in the whole world! Would that distinction be enough to offset the cold? We decided she should apply for all of them, and massaged each individual cover letter that accompanied her Curriculum Vitae to reflect this:
“After visiting New Zealand, we decided that Nelson was the place we most wanted to live, and I welcome the opportunity to apply for the position in your wonderful community.”
“Of all the places in New Zealand, Hamilton was the one place that we . . . “
“It would be a dream come true to live and work in Tauranga, our favorite city in New Zealand.”
The problem was that we hadn’t been to most of these cities. Most were on the North Island, and in fact we had spent only one day on the North Island itself, jet-lagged in Wellington before venturing to the South Island where we thought all the fun stuff was. What we were saying wasn’t exactly untrue however; we did research the cities on the Internet and look at the requisite images of sheep on hillsides and of people frolicking on beaches. They all seemed beautiful and interesting. We truly did think we liked them, or at least hoped we would if we ended up there.
Finally, Rebecca was offered a phone interview for a job interview in Tauranga—let’s see, North Island, fair-sized city, several hours from Auckland, has a shipping port, mild climate, teaching hospital—never been there. “Hey, Paul, can you remember exactly what we said in the cover letter to Tauranga Hospital?” Actually Tauranga is located on the Bay of Plenty, one of the spots where Captain Cook, the intrepid British explorer first landed and seemed to like, hence calling it the Bay of Plenty because of the fertile land and estuaries being able to provide food and sustenance for his crew. If it was good enough for Cook back in the 1700’s, it should be good enough for us now.
The interview took place by phone on a snowy February day in Colorado. Rebecca chased me from the house several hours before the interview claiming I would just get under foot and be in the way. I thought I should stay around since I could silently mouth responses she could make during the interview itself, or write down questions and slide them over to her for her to ask during the actual interview. She, surprisingly however, did not feel this would be helpful. I was banished, not being allowed to return and had to stay outside driving around in the snow (it was coming down heavier now) until I was notified by phone that I could return.
Well, the interview went very well, Rebecca impressing them not only with her nursing qualifications but also with her sense of humor. The job description had actually listed having a sense of humor as one of the job requirements. Typical New Zealand. Apparently along with being able to treat critical, life threatening motor vehicle accidents, strokes and cardiac arrests, it was deemed equally necessary to be able to interject a witty comment now and again, and likewise to be able to respond with appropriate good humor. I liked it. If offered the job, she would have to begin working in only five week’s time.
After an interminable amount of time driving around and then simply parked outside in the now thickly falling snow, Rebecca finally notified me—I think she purposely let me sit out there for longer than needed but I’ve never been sure— that I would be allowed back into the house. She felt she had nailed the interview. They would let her know their decision one way or the other in about a week.
Finally the day and time of the phone call arrived. Rebecca turned to me. “You do realize,” she said, “that our life may be about to be dramatically and irreversibly changed forever.” It suddenly hit me that we might very well actually be moving to New Zealand. We might actually have to dump ALL our stuff (house, car, furniture, jobs, routines, family, friends) and move all the way around the world. Did I really want to do that?
I said to Rebecca, “You know sometimes I just say shit, it doesn’t mean we actually really have to do it.”
Just then the phone rang. They offered her the job, her being the most qualified (and I assume humorous) candidate. After thanking them vociferously, she hung up the phone.
We both hugged and high-fived each other. Then we glanced around at the dirty, cluttered house that surrounded us, the junk, the mess, stretching out seemingly endlessly in every direction until it finally stopped and was curtailed by one of the house walls. A cluttered, dirty house that had been our home for the past ten years. There was a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff. Could we take a break today and start tomorrow? How far away was New Zealand and why again were we deciding to go there?