This is the beautiful area where I grew up, and where “Welcome to Paradise” is set.
When I visited New Zealand for the first time, on a vacation during my husband’s first working stint in Australia, I was underwhelmed. Yes, it was beautiful, the most beautiful and varied country I’d ever visited. But it was like being in the time and place where I grew up, so it wasn’t . . . exciting.
Well, except for having beaches. And rainforests. And awesome Maori stuff. But other than that.
Keep in mind that I’d just come from Australia, from sitting on the patio drinking a beer while the kangaroos hopped through the field beyond, and hundreds of exotic parrots swooped and called before going to roost in the trees. There are no native mammals in New Zealand. None. And not even that many birds. The bizarre thing about being in a New Zealand rainforest after an Australian one is how deadly quiet it is.
But, as you can see, New Zealand grew on me! And in appreciating its beauty, its solitude, the way you can be the only person on a kilometers-long beach full of the most amazing shells, I also came to appreciate the place where I grew up, and the peace my soul finds amidst all that space and solitude. Even the people, I realized, shared many of the same qualities: a focus on hard work, a reluctance to put oneself forward and dislike of arrogance, a value on good manners and humility. Now, every time I go “home,” making the drive from Spokane to Moscow, I feel that peace settling over me, and am so grateful for the place and the people who started me out on my journey.