My first winter in a town of a thousand rainbows
I consider Rotorua to be a town of a thousand rainbows – literally and figuratively. I have never seen a place where rainbows appear almost every day after the sky pours down its blessings.
Its aptness, in my experience, is as equally emphatic as the rhetorical “sunshine after the rain”, especially after experiencing three months of winter here.
As I set foot in this country, the first things I noticed were the enthralling landscape and the cold weather, at least for an Asian like me who is accustomed to a tropical climate. It was November when I arrived which is apparently summer in New Zealand, so I couldn't imagine what the winter would hold in store for me. But for obvious reasons, down jackets and some pairs of thermals will be necessities when that time comes. This may sound exaggerated, but for an Asian who has spent most of her time in the tropics, the apprehension is real.
Autumn to winter
Just like any other place in New Zealand, Rotorua’s landscape undergoes a cyclical natural process of transformation in preparation for the cold winter months. I was anxious and excited at the same time. Stories of -1 to -5 degree Celsius temperature that chills to the bone, frozen car window panels, and fog that can seriously reduce visibility to a few yards, come to mind. Thus, I made some quick visits to winter boutiques and second-hand shops to secure some down clothing.
The transformation from autumn to winter can be seen as soon as the cold wind from the South breezes over the North Island. Surrounding trees and vegetation change their colours which offer patches of various pigments and shades that add drama to the incoming metaphorical solitude. A good time to visit the popular Wylie street and Magical Park, as the variety of trees in these areas capture the shades of colour that capture picture postcards scenes.
Winter to spring
Winter comes and covers the landscape with a cold breeze that permeates even when the sun shines. During the night, the temperature drops significantly, twice more than during the day, you realise that it is definitely winter. Be prepared as when the morning comes your car will not start easily, thus a battery starter will be handy, while a blurry windshield indicates it is frozen, so make sure you have a standby pail of water to wash away the thin layer of ice. These happened to me a couple of times on a weekly basis. Sometimes rain pays a visit; at night it offers a sense of comfort that the temperature the next day will be bearable compared to when the sky is clear; while light rain during the day also means that there will be a rainbow nearby.
The frequent visits of rainbows offer relief that the process of change continues and the changing seasons will eventually unfold a new variety of colour that will make one smile knowing that spring will soon sweep over the sleepy horizon. Lively birds play and whistle, flowers start to bloom, skies open giving way to the long-awaited comforting warmth of the sun; natural drama that started long before these patches of islands we call New Zealand had seen human habitation.
For me going through the winter is not about surviving the days, it rather serves as a chance for me to experience all the seasons New Zealand has to offer. The cyclical change is part of the process that does not only add drama to the frisky landscape but preserve the character of the animals, trees, and people that thrive in this place. One can never claim to have truly experienced New Zealand without going through this cycle. The continuous unfolding of these natural experiences eases the worry of having to undergo the same cold winter nights the next year, rather it reminds us that “sun shines after the rain”, the same level of expectation as when leaves fade and fall which signal trees will temporarily slumber but will wake up again to show new colours that enlivens the soul. It has no beginning, as the cycle is a continuous loop of people, rainbows, rolling hills, lakes, rivers, animals, and majestic trees that extend far and wide.
Meeting new friends, experiencing Kiwi culture, environment, and going through the seasons form the colours of my rainbows. Rain is the cliché that invigorates the soil that supports habitation. This is the place called Rotorua – a town of a thousand rainbows. This November, I am celebrating my first year in New Zealand. It has been a rainbow for me – literally and figuratively, and I am hoping to find a pot of gold at the end of it. The cycle continues and I am happy and excited to once again experience it in the years to come.
About the contributors
Melanie Dublin from Manila in the Philippines is the mother of a three-year-old. She is a psychology graduate and is completing a postgraduate diploma in Applied Professional Studies– Mentoring and Leadership at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology in Rotorua. Having worked in the social welfare department as a center psychologist for nearly five years, she had become passionate about working with the community particularly with youth.