6 February 2017

Go to lissacarlino.com

Happy One Year Anniversary of Finding Joe Wellington!

Thanks to everyone who followed along.

I haven't talked to Joe since June but you know... life happens.

If you're interested, please check out my site lissacarlino.com where you can read under The Knackered Truth about our time in New Zealand. I'm currently posting a series about how we moved down here.



13 July 2016

Launching A Website

Well, it's happened. 

I've done the website thing. It's weird. It feels awkward. But it's necessary.

I get to create. 

I get to write anything my heart desires. 

I'm looking forward to sharing stories from living abroad under The Knackered Truth category. And I'm excited about the Random Uncategorized section, where I'd love for other writers/artists to share their work, too. 

So, follow me there! 

Still trying to work out a few glitches. But for now, 

welcome to lisscarlino.com

14 June 2016

The End or The Beginning

The Bay of Plenty

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a few reasons.

First, I’ve been super busy with life; projects, illnesses, kid, you know the drill.

Second, I’m in process of getting a web site so I can keep all writing, guest blog posts, happenings organized in one place and I was hoping to have it going now but I don't.

And third, I don’t want to say goodbye to Joe Wellington. The blog, not the person. The person is still found, just saw him last weekend. We’ve both been carrying on in our everyday lives, so haven’t seen as much of him lately but I’m still quite pleased we've reconnected.

But I’m really, really sad to end this blog.

When I began WJW over two years ago, it was about my search for an old friend. It was a cool story, fun, and I loved crafting blog posts about our adventure here in New Zealand to share with loved ones back home, while getting creative and trying to tie in the quest for Joe.

Before moving to New Zealand, I had a great life in Vermont. I lived there for ten years, continued my education there, met my husband there, we played in a local band together, I began my career, we bought a house, learned how to landscape, had a baby… we were really doing the adulting thing right. I loved my job. I worked hard to get promoted and met some co-workers who are lifelong pals (some I’d even consider family). Still, something else called to me.

NZ sunset from our balcony

It was quite a jolt to the system to leave such lovely things behind. It was hard being a new mom. And it was hard moving overseas. But it was also hard leaving my career, one I was passionate about and couldn’t help but be drawn to. Starting this blog gave me something to do that was mine. In between nappy changes and tantrums, taking a moment to write was always sacred time where I could be selfish, yet I envisioned a way to connect with others. It was my time to make sense of the day, the week, the year. A way to breathe and cry if I needed, a way to process new sights, anxieties, and adventures I was experiencing as a new mom and expat.

Writing has always been a constant companion from the time I was eight. To the outside world, I was a performer- perfect and on cue. But I cherished time in the quiet of my room where I could just be alone with paper and pen in hand. Writing has been calling me for a while now and this time, I'm paying attention.

When I lived in Vermont, I didn't do much writing for myself. Instead, I put my energy into essays and final exams. Moving to New Zealand and starting Where’s Joe Wellington helped reconnect with my passion for writing, and I’ll forever be grateful. Aotearoa is now my muse.

photo of me in NZ taken by Steve Waller

So, now what?

I'd like to say thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for liking my Facebook page, thank you for following on Twitter. Thank you for sending me tips on how to find my pal, and for your interest in our New Zealand adventure. Thank you for believing in me, and offering mothering and writerly support when I've been homesick or question my confidence. 

I’m going to change the name of the Facebook page, and eventually the blog. I hope you'll stick around. Please continue to follow as our journey in Middle Earth continues. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm working on a web site. I’ll have a new blog with lots of photos, sharing our experience in New Zealand. I hope you continue to read and enjoy, because trust me, I'm just getting started with these adventures!

photo of me in the Coromandel by Aaron Carlino

As Keri Hulme writes at the end of THE BONE PEOPLE, the book Joe Wellington gifted so long ago in San Francisco,

            "Te mutunga — ranei te take"
            (the end - or the beginning) 

25 March 2016

I'm Joe From Wellington!

By Joe Wareham

It was around Christmas 2015 when my sister, who lives in the States, sent me the link to Lissa’s blog. My first reaction was embarrassment. I'm a fairly private person, have always avoided social media like Facebook. Even with my friends I'd often deflect when they ask how I'm doing and what I've been doing— send the question right back to them to change the subject.

Hearing someone I hadn't seen for 18 years had been maintaining a blog for two years talking about me, sharing pictures of me- was quite a shock. I wasn't angry with Lissa; even though I hadn't seen her for a long time I knew she was a good person with no ill intent. Of course I thought about writing her right then but after reading some of her blog: the car chases through the city and the taps on stranger’s shoulders, the more sentimental side of me hoped we'd just bump into each other one day soon. I live on Oriental Parade opposite the city’s most popular beach. Everyone ends up outside my house at some point in a Wellington summer.

Oriental Bay, where Joe lives
photo courtesy newzealand.com

Six weeks later on a February Wednesday night, a good friend of mine texted me (and all my other friends) telling us about the article on Stuff, the online version of the newspaper. Again, I wasn't upset, just a little embarrassed and unsure what to do. The next morning, seeing my picture on the front page of the paper with the headline: "Do you know Joe?" well, I just couldn't stop laughing. And I was still pretty embarrassed.  When my parents saw the paper, they noted the "don't ask" look on my face and just laughed and stayed quiet, knowing I didn't want to talk about it.

It was obvious any sentimental notions I had of bumping into Lissa on the beach would have to be laid to rest and that I was actually going to have to do something.  So I finally wrote her, told her I wanted to meet. And honestly, after we agreed to that, even knowing the reporter from the paper and a photographer would be there, I wasn't nervous at all.

I chose to meet on top of Mount Victoria. To me, Lissa’s blog is about this wonderful city, her journey to the bottom of the world and her adventure here. Nowhere else gives you a better view of this city then the summit of Mt Vic. I've spent around 30 of my 39 years living on its Western slopes. From the summit you look south and see the hospital where I was born, look north and see the elementary school where I spent most of the 1980s. Look west and you see almost every house I've lived in. And look east and see the airport that brings people here and takes them away.

On Friday morning, 5th of February, I drove to the top of Mt Vic to meet Lissa and her husband, Aaron. I was only a little nervous until I arrived, started walking up the steps to the summit and saw the Dominion Post photographer at the top snapping away at me already. Oh god, what have I got myself in to? But it was too late to turn back and I didn't want to let Lissa down so I put my head down and soldiered on.

February 2016 atop Mt Vic
photo Aaron Carlino

As soon as I saw Lissa my nerves melted away. I gave her a hug and knew I'd done the right thing. I only feel bad that it took me so long to hear about the blog, and then another couple of months to do anything about it. What Lissa and Aaron have done- moving to this little city at the bottom of the world- must be very daunting and at times rather lonely. I wish I'd bumped into Lissa back at the start, been available to help her and Aaron settle in while they make a life here.

Reconnecting with Lissa and getting to meet Aaron and their son has been wonderful.  Seeing her again after all these years brought back a lot of memories of that time in San Francisco and Minnesota all those years ago. To be honest, it's been a long time since I made any new friends or reconnected with any old ones. I have my small group, people I've been close with for 20 years but don't really make much effort to meet new people.

Aaron & Lissa Carlino with Joe Wareham
Oriental Bay, NZ February 2016

This whole experience has taught me two things: I realize now I've been far too private a person. Ending up on Stuff and seeing my picture on the front page of the paper made me realize I hold back too much, aren't open enough with people. Reconnecting with Lissa and making a new friend in Aaron, it's just been lovely. I only hope they'll stay here and we can all become even closer. I know other old friends from my high school and college years would like to reconnect with me like that but it's something I've always avoided. I realize now how wrong that was of me.

Who knows I might even make a Facebook account.... one day.

1 March 2016

Finding Friendship

On Saturday we had a glimpse of what life was sometimes like back home. Surrounded by people with whom we can joke, share stories, eat excellent food, and overall find comfort. We attended a barbecue hosted by Joe Wellington that was great! Friendship is hard to find and we've been fortunate down here.

These may be some of the nicest people I've ever met. Of course, I wouldn't expect Kiwi's to be any other way. Most of the group were friends Joe's had since high school. He's incredibly lucky to have such lovely people in his life.

Joe with his best mates

A 2016 remake of our 1998 San Fran pic

Hanging out with this group reminded me of my husband's friends back home that he's had just as long, if not longer. We all try to stay in touch on Facebook, but my husband and his mates have their own online group site they are always chatting on. It also made me reflect on the bond I have with my best friends back home, Dan and Nancy. We keep in touch. It's easy and works both ways- I call, they call. Naturally, after having such a lovely time and feeling nostalgic, I was met with a severe bout of homesickness the next day. I cried. A lot.

Lifelong friends back home, 2008

I think it's easy for people across the globe to think we're living down here having some big adventure- snapping pics of gorgeous landscape and embracing a new culture. In chatting with my aunt this week, she reminded me of this perspective. It's true; we are having a big adventure. And it's been wonderful. Like I've said many times, we've met marvellous people who I can't imagine not having in our lives. It's also the only life our son knows.

But what we don't talk about much is the endless amount of homesickness that sits in our hearts on a daily basis. My husband compares it to a bungee cord that keeps yanking us back to reality that we're doing this alone and we miss our loved ones immensely. Everything takes work and feels that much harder. And it takes real effort for both parties to maintain the relationship from afar.

My best friend Dan and I have maintained our bond for twenty years because we communicate. Combined, we've lived in eight different locations (maybe more) in our lives only living in the same state for about a year of our friendship. Crazy! Yet, we stay in touch. He's not on Facebook and we don't text. It's via email or phone calls that we correspond. We've always tried to line up our trips back home so they match in order to get together, and he didn't hesitate to be Man of Honour at my wedding in 2008. When it was time to move house, he and my dad road tripped halfway across the country in order to help. That's what true friendship is about.

My Man of Honour, Dan at my wedding 2008
photo by JP Candelier

Of course Dan and I have run into uncomfortable comments through the years about men and women not being able to be friends (trust me, I heard a lot of that with this Joe Wellington thing, too) but come on. That's complete rubbish and invalidates that I have a say in who I have sex with, if you think about it. Growing up with two older brothers, I guess I always had an easier time getting along with guys. And, not that it's anyone's business BUT my husband is more than my best friend. He's my soul mate; my life-partner. So, let's not worry about that sexist, opposite-sexes-can't-be-friends stereotype any more (also: it's 2016).

My girl, Nancy and I always have the other's back. The past twenty years, we've challenged each other and then we challenge you! Ha ha, and don't ever mess with us if we're belting out a Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand duet... we can't be silenced (did I just admit that publicly?).

With my best girl, Nancy, night before my wedding

But back to my point of this post.

Lifelong friendships are a gift. They're rare. Sometimes you outgrow the friendship, but even then, it's still a part of you. Maybe those friendships lost end up coming back to you. Reconnecting with Joe again has been awesome. He's as I remember him to be and I'm so grateful to pick up where we left off.  I don't want to speak for him, so I'll let you wait to read his post. It's been a crazy month!

There are people in this life who get you. There are people who will lift you up, always be in your corner, allow you to be flawed without judgment, and people who will cheer you on. It's a gift to find such people. Bring them in, embrace that connection and don't forget how important it is. It's difficult at times. Most relationships are work. But if you can communicate (talk and listen- a lot of people forget the listening part), you'll open yourself up to a loving life. Friendship is love.

And I believe in love. In all forms.

Thank you to Joe, his family, and friends for allowing my family to share in your celebration. It was nice to feel 'at home'.

P.S. These are my views on friendship only. The above men in the photos do not endorse the love message. Although they're lovely people and probably are okay with it, they're just dudes. Nothing more.

7 February 2016

How I Found Joe, Part One

My exact words upon seeing the paper, "this is crazy this is crazy this is crazy"

Ok, wow. So it's on the front page of the paper. Joe and I from 1998 are on the front page of The Dominion Post. Every time I see it I laugh, because when that photo was taken I never imagined it'd be on the front page of a newspaper in New Zealand!

People suggested earlier in the process to contact media but I didn't think I'd have to. That was a really intimidating idea. Surely I'd find him before having to go to this extreme measure. But on Saturday 30 of January, I woke up eager to take another step closer. I didn't think I'd actually find him; maybe he was living in another country? 

Picking up the newspapers my father left scattered around my house from his visit, I thought contacting The Wellingtonian and asking them to print a blurb with his picture would be enough. When I tried to find who to contact, I only found a general newsroom email. So I wrote, asking if they could help me find my long-lost friend.

Sunday morning the phone rang. A reporter just as excited as I and very willing to help, we agreed to meet. Things sped up quickly from then on.

It didn't take long for tips to come in after the article went live Wednesday night, only hours after meeting with Jessy. Someone contacted her with a definitive “This is Joe Wareham”.  The name sounded so familiar. How could I have forgotten?

My husband and I googled. Facebooked. Nothing. Still nothing, even with a new surname. I found other Wareham’s online but pretty much felt like this was going to be another dead end. Joe Wareham was going to be just as hard to find as Joe Wellington. 

Aaron, my husband, wanted to call the numbers listed under Wareham right then. He was so excited and certain this was going to be him.
I wanted to wait. 
I needed to wait. 
Slow things down a bit.
Comments under the online article were toxic; people trying to turn the story into something it wasn't. I'm aware that’s the risk you take when putting yourself or your story in the public eye. Reminder for the future: Don't read the comments. The good ones will find you
I wanted to wait to see if Joe would reach out to me. This has been about my journey, but now I’ve put him in the spotlight and if he doesn't want to be found, I want to let him make that decision.
So I tried to sleep. But my phone kept buzzing with new information. 
Someone messaged my Facebook page to tell me my long-lost friend from 18 years ago is Joe Wareham. Two people telling me that's who he is. Soon, three. Then four. Five total over the course of 24 hours.
A friend of Joe’s wrote on my blog, asking me to email him. I did, straight away. Two in the morning by the time I finally fell asleep. 

Thursday morning was hectic. More notifications, emails, pictures sent. Two television producers sent my personal Facebook page messages asking to meet- they loved the story and would like to help with the search. It was lovely but I was completely overwhelmed. 

And then, an email from Joe’s friend: Joe knew I was looking for him, would contact me when things settled. My heart was racing. The story could've stopped there and I would've been satisfied. I knew he was here. He knew I was here. That was enough. 
Needing to get out a bit, my son and I escaped to a friend’s house and thank goodness I did. Spammers started commenting on my blog, which really freaked me out. I knew I was taking a risk but I didn’t think I was doing something wrong. Truly. The panic set in. I called the reporter, needing guidance on how to handle it all. 

"This is between you and him. Focus on that. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. It's about your friendship, your story," Jessy said. 

The good will find you.

I received an email from Joe.

Joe Wareham is the Joe Wellington I’ve searched for. Two years of wondering, now over.
We exchanged a few pleasant emails and I was surprised to learn he had known about the blog since December! He offered to meet up. He suggested the lookout at Mount Victoria, with views of Wellington Harbour. He said it’d be fitting for my blog, which he understood was much about my adventure here in New Zealand, and not just about him.

I asked him if it'd be okay to let Jessy know we were meeting and that she'd probably want to be there. If not, it wouldn't deter me from meeting. This was something I'd waited two years for. 
My adrenaline kept me awake most of the night.
Was he upset with me?
Had he read my blog?
Why didn’t he reach out when he learned of it in December?
More importantly, is he getting on ok with all this unwanted attention?

How I Found Joe, Part Two

Trying my best to answer questions
photo by Aaron Carlino

The reporter waved as we pulled into the car park at Mt Victoria, my husband in the passenger seat. They hooked up a microphone to get some clips for the online story. That was pretty cool and all but honestly, my thoughts were swirling. I couldn't even form a sentence. 

Before arriving, Joe sent an email telling me what he’d be wearing so I knew what to look for. Imagine that! Joe 'Wellington' helping me with the search! 

He also noted that if there were cruise ships in the harbour, the lookout would be a bit busy. He wasn’t wrong. Two tour busses pulled in just behind me. This made me very nervous that he’d be a no-show.

Seeing Joe for the first time in 18 years atop Mt Vic
photo by Aaron Carlino
photo by Aaron Carlino

But he showed.
As soon as he hit the platform atop the stairs, I knew it was him.
I waved, in case he didn’t recognize me from the photos in the paper.

I've found Joe Wareham
photo by Aaron Carlino

Both of us grinning, we hugged.
After checking in on how the other was coping with this, we didn’t miss a beat catching up. As comfortable and genuine (although definitely awkward with the media there) as it was when we met all those years ago.

Beautiful Wellington in the background
photo by Aaron Carlino

“Have you been quite homesick?” He asked.
Such a simple question, but one only someone who could relate would ask.
I nodded, grateful for the sincerity, familiar sorrow from when I was 19 returning briefly.
 “Oh, I probably could’ve helped with that a bit when you arrived,” he said. 
We laughed.
That’s just like the Joe I remember. Kind, thoughtful words even 18 years later.

I apologised for making such a big stink of it. He said he should've reached out when he heard of the blog, but was too shy. I don't blame him. Looking at it from his perspective, it's pretty weird that someone would blog about searching for you. But that's how my creative mind works. And anyone who's read the blog knows it's how I've coped with moving here; a creative outlet that's given me a way to keep my loved ones overseas in the loop. 

"But it worked! I found you!"
photo by Aaron Carlino
Jessy interviewing Joe. I think he reveals here he didn't see
the psychic in San Francisco, only waited while I did!
photo by Aaron Carlino

Joe, you've got a lovely home
photo by Aaron Carlino

When the reporter and photographer left, the three of us continued to chat as another tour bus rolled in. I took this opportunity to do a celebratory jig around the lookout in honour of finally finding Joe.

We exchanged mobiles and took selfies. He’s said he’d like to catch up some more soon (we’ve got 18 years worth!), which I’m eager for. He’s even said he may write up a post from his perspective for the blog. I'd love it. 

It's been an amazing week. So much anxiety, uncertainty, excitement, moments of shame, insecurity, but ultimately, the good will find you. There's no expectations on my end. It's been thrilling, I'm very grateful for his openness. It's a fun story to think we met so long ago in the USA and now here we are in New Zealand. 

I couldn’t have done it with you, Wellingtonians. Thank you.

This time I’ve got several pictures, a number, an address, and I’ll be sure not to lose touch with Joe Wareham from Wellington.

Joe and Lissa February 2016 Mt Victoria
photo by Aaron Carlino