Meeting people in a small town is much easier than in a million-city. Less people, bigger chance you see the same person again and again. I guess it also helps that most of the people in Queenstown are travellers who came here by themselves so are actively looking for others to connect with. I am no exception. I am much more open to start chatting with strangers because my only other option is going home and read a book. And since the book I am currently reading is somehow boring, I’m happy to hang around and talk to whoever is willing to listen to me :).
The very first girl I’ve met is Paola. It was my first day at work and I arrived to town a bit earlier than I was supposed to. I was killing my time browsing through different shops. In one of them I signed up for a prize draw, wrote down my name and handed the ticket to a shop assistant. I was about to leave when I hear her saying my last name (Mihelcic) loudly and perfectly correct (even though I wrote it with the little roofs – not sure what the English word is for those). “E pa od dakle si ti?” (Where are you from?) was the next thing she said. It turned out that she is from Porec (Croatia) and has been here for a few months. Sweet, I think you qualify for my friend! When you don’t know anyone, your requirements for someone to become your friend are pretty basic :).
I am slowly exploring and learning about the Queenstown housing situation. I’ll tell you more about it next time. But I went to see one flat and as I got there, there was one lady already there waiting. We clearly came with the same purpose so it would be awkward if we would stand next to each other in silence. After a few words have been exchanged, the usual question followed: “Where are your from?” People normally hear my accent so this is a pretty common question anyway. So much more in Queenstown where people who would actually be born and raised here are very rare species. Anyway, “Slovenia” was my answer, as usual :). “Ooooo, pa ja sam ti iz Zagreba!” (I am from Zagreb. Croatia.). “Ma ne, jos jedna, ha ha.” (Really, another one.). Her name is Ivana.
A few months ago, in Auckland, I met Tomi and Nina, a Slovenian couple who were friends of my friend Domen. We caught up a few times before they went travelling down south. I thought of them a few times since I got to New Zealand, meaning to send them a text and let them know that I am in Queenstwon now and they should stop by if they pass through this area. Well, they beat me. A couple of days ago I received a message: “Lana, you’re in Queenstown?? We just met Ivana, a Croatian girl, who said that she had just met another Slovenian girl, Lana, and that we should meet you. We told her we already know you, ha ha.” Balkan rules :).
I really wanted to get involved with the local sailing club, so even before I arrived to Queenstown, I emailed them. No response. I messaged them again. Nada. I was ghosted. Ignored. Like I don’t exist. I asked around where the club is located but when I got there… well, it is slightly different to Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron… There is a shed, or more just a little covered area with a table and couple of chairs lying around. And there is an old caravan with the words “Wakatipu Yacht Club” written on, but God knows when was it last used. Hm, I don’t think I will be able to find any information here…
My first day at work, my colleague was introducing me to all my new coworkers. “Oh, and you need to meet Richard, he is really into sailing!” “Hi Richard, Briar mentioned that you sail. Do you maybe know anyone from the local club? I really struggle to get ahold of them…” “Of course I do, I’m the treasurer of the club!” Awesome, I just gained another friend (I said my requirements for someone to qualify as my friend are pretty basic, remember)! “This Saturday, we have a man-overboard training. And the following Saturday we have our biggest race of the year, and we need crew, and yes, you are in.” Awesome, that was easy! “By the way, I think you need to improve your comms… :)”.
At the man-overboard training (where I learnt that falling off the boat in a freezing cold freshwater lake is just not an option!) I chatted to Steve who turned to be my neighbour (well, everyone is technically a neighbour in Queenstown), and hence perfectly qualifies to be my friend. He is a former enduro athlete who is currently coaching others. Kate, one of his trainees was preparing for Coast-to-coast race the following weekend and needed some more practise kayaking on the white water. “What are you doing this evening? We are going kayaking down the Lower Shotover River, if you wanna join us. It’s a rare opportunity since this part of the river is closed for public to use.” “Sure, count me in! Does it matter if I have never kayaked before??”
3 weeks, 6 friends. I think I’m doing great :).