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Travellers Chair by Emma Brooks

This week we continue our occasional series that focuses on families that have chosen to make Raglan their new home.

When Keri Bolton-Oetzel and John Oetzel relocated to New Zealand from the States, it was a move of many contrasts. The couple and their two boys, Spencer and Ethan, had been living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but a desire for a slower way of life led them to swap the dry, dusty desert for the laidback lifestyle of Raglan.

John, a professor in the Department of Management Communication at the University of Waikato, and Keri, a professor in psychology, made the shift nearly two years ago. Here’s their story:
Why did you choose to live in Raglan?

John: We were looking to leave Albuquerque. We decided to have me search for a job and there was an opening in Waikato. The more I found out, the more I liked it.

Keri: I looked at a map and found Raglan. I said, “When you go, see if it’s somewhere we could live.”

John: When I came for an interview they brought me here. I knew Keri would love it.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. If I was going to move around the world, it was important to me to be around water.
Is there anything you miss about life in the States?

Keri: The only things I miss are family and friends. Our boys have a good relationship with my mum and her partner; we Skype and send care packages. We’re fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit. I have two research projects in the States that I’m still working on, so we travel back for work and see family too.

John: The green chilli of New Mexico. You have it in everything — pasta, burgers, veggie burgers.
Do you feel you’ve achieved a better work/life balance since making the move?

Keri: In the States we were both teaching full-time, involved in research and being parents. When we moved here we were determined to make it different. I’m helping on some research projects at Waikato -Tainui College. I go in about once a month and then work from home.

John: Usually during the semester I go in about three days. When classes aren’t in session maybe one or two days and I get to work from home. The commute isn’t that hard.
How have your sons settled in?

Keri: They really do love it here. They’ve become quite engrained in the community. Spencer does karate at the Town Hall, they both play soccer. They took a Surf Lifesaver class yesterday. They were learning to boogie board and they rode a wave. Spencer said, “This is the funnest time I’ve ever had in my life”
How do you like to spend your free time?

John: Just being outdoors – we’re always outdoors. We like kayaking, paddle boarding, mountain biking and tramping. We’re going camping in the South Island in January.
What do you like best about life in Raglan?

John: The laidback lifestyle. It’s an easy-going place, not a lot of stress. I’ve been a volunteer fire fighter for about a year — they’re a nice group of people.

Keri: We’ve met some really amazing people. I love the diversity — there are so many different people here, everyone gets along and it’s friendly. It’s a really unique community for that. And the geographic beauty; the water, the hills.

Emma Brooks

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