The Life of an Apple Picker

Life doesn’t always go as planned. That particular reason is, of course, why I embarked on this adventure in New Zealand. I’m here to experience a different side of life, and live out the ridiculous. I must say that this first week of being an apple picker on an orchard has been just that. It’s not the most exciting work, but it does place me solidly outside any other experience I have had in the workforce.

Essentially, my entire job is exactly what the title “apple picker” sounds like. I wake up at about 6AM every morning (which is not the easiest if you’re not a morning person), and eat breakfast with the other workers before heading out to start picking for the day. Altogether, I work between 9 and 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, picking apples and placing them in large bins to be shipped away to stores. For now, we are paid hourly, yet that changes next week when we begin to be paid for each full bin of apples.

The work itself is not the most interesting thing in the world, yet it is work that needs to be done. All of us strive to make the few hours after work as much fun as we can, which has led to quite a few ridiculous conversations and a $2 buy-in poker night using black beans as poker chips. Saturday night promises to be the most fun yet, as we are planning a beer pong tournament with different teams representing their country of origin (France has a bit of a head start considering there’s about 9 of them). Sitting around the table with people from many other countries is what I will always associate this job with. The work itself isn’t worth raving about, but the people that I’m doing it with are an incredible group. We spend most of our time talking about/comparing our lives growing up in different countries, and learning all the rude phrases we can in each of our languages (which we say to each other frequently). This will definitely be a group of people that I’m going to miss when this work is over.

The area that I’m now working in (Hawke’s Bay) is an absolutely gorgeous area. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of my home in Northern California. The vineyards stretching away to the rolling hills covered in trees sometimes fools me into thinking I’m driving on one of the roads back home. I haven’t had too much time to discover what’s around the Hastings/Napier area, yet what I have seen so far is fantastic. Nate and I were able to take a walk through Napier and check out the “sea walls”, a collection of murals along the walls of the city that promote marine conservation. The last mural in the series was on the side of a small shop, and the owner of the shop saw us checking out the art on the side of the wall. She invited us inside to chat about it, and it turns out she knows the artist and the person who organized the whole movement. Apparently, all of the artists will be returning to the city next month for a second round of murals, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with and have a chance to watch them work.

The coastal cities of Hastings and Napier are probably one of the places that I feel the most at home in so far. They aren’t huge by American standards, yet they are a comfortably large size (about 130,000 together). They are both distinctly different and interesting cities with a lot to see in them, and I can’t wait to explore this place. Although I don’t have much time off of work each week, I’m determined to use it well.

This apple picking experience has instilled in me one particular lesson so far, and that is the value of time. I have been busy before, but never to the degree that I actually don’t really have time to do anything. I have about 4 hours after work each day, and one day off each week with which to do something other than work. This may be standard for some of you, but this is a new experience for me.

If I learn nothing else from this job, at least I’ll have learned the value of time. With so little time off, I must pick and choose what I would like to do with the spare shards of time that I have. I’m looking forward to the future shenanigans that my fellow apple pickers and I get into while I’m in this area, and the friendships that will continue on after we go our separate ways. Having friends around the world is becoming a common thing here, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever see any of them in their own countries. That, however, is an adventure for another time. For now, the rest of New Zealand awaits and there’s far too much to see for me to leave now. I’ve been here nearly two months already and have learned a lot about myself and my place in the world around me. I still have a little over ten months left here and plan to learn and experience at least a thousand more things. How about them apples?

(I had to have at least one apple pun in this)

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