Stephanie Brake
Stephanie Brake
New Zealand 2011-2012
Stephanie Brake earned a Bachelor of Arts in Entertainment Industry Studies from Belmont University with a minor in Spiritual Formation. Volunteer work on a farm in Waipahi, New Zealand will provide an opportunity to dig deeper into social justice, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and a host family in the South Otago region. " Read More About Stephanie →

Happiness Loves Company Too

I boarded an international plane back to America nearly two and a half weeks ago, and if I was being 100% upfront, I was extremely torn. I returned to five pm sunsets and cloudy skies, to welcoming warmth and winter chill. I returned to Christmas bedlam and New Year fervor. I came home to the dawn before political back lash in 2012 and to the chaos of filling out job applications. How do you honestly pull yourself away from Beauty once you’ve seen and touched it? How do you remove yourself from a location that encompassed 24/7 of healthy living, where all you had to do was say “yes” and it was available?

My best friend in the States explains it better than I probably ever could. Here was our conversation, through online interaction, after my first few hours away from Marama…

December 13th at Rucksacker Backpackers in Christchurch. Me:   “So, I’m off the farm. I barely slept last night a part from Clyde coming to visit (she stayed with me the first night and the last night I was there). And this morning I stayed strong until I hugged Tina goodbye and got in the car. I’m assuming Giselle couldn’t see my tears because I was wearing sunglasses, and I held back most of them on the way to the bus stop in Gore – even when we passed the boundary sign on the way out (god that was hard to see). Then Giselle cried after my luggage was put under the bus. Then I lost it too.

And cried most of the way to Dunedin where I met Graham for lunch. You know how much I hate crying. The worst part is Dunedin is two hours by bus.

Things have been better since but my heart aches a lot. Now I know how you felt when you left your friends in England. We practically had a new family, pure and precious and unconditionally loving to us, and it’s almost like they were only there for an instant and suddenly yanked away. Neither of us have any idea if we will ever see any of them again. I only wish I had as much time with them as you had in Sunderland.

How long does this feeling last?”

Heather Cooprider:Stephanie, darling, first of all I am so sorry you have to go through this. It is without doubt one of the most weighted feelings you can experience from a life abroad.

With that said, it is also something that fundamentally moves you. It is my belief that you will now always have a life that goes on there, continuing to live and work and be with the farm. It won’t only be a memory. A piece of you will forevermore be there, watching sunsets from your window and laughing at the table with Giselle, Graham, and all of the beloved people you became a community with in New Zealand.

Of all the things I could say about our shared experience of loss in this, I want to say that I am glad we can share it. I can’t express to you in this message how crushing the moment was on the tracks to London, listening to Southbound Train, staring out the window, and crying silently, watching shadows of my experience and the people I loved flash past me over the summer fields. It would never come again the way it had been, who I was there could not be who I am now, because the train kept going, with or without my consent.

Yet, I knew then as I know now that I left a part of me back there in Sunderland, and that part would continue to walk the littered streets past the pubs full of people, it would stare out across the English channel while crossing the Wearmouth bridge, it would cook soups from scratch for beloved flatmates and friends, and it would smile and laugh with a freedom the part of me writing this message matches when I call out to its memory.

I am sorry, and yet not sorry, to tell you that the feeling never goes away. It fades, as you continue to live where you are and who you are now, but it will never leave you. The weight will hit you unexpectedly, when you’re walking, or talking, or about to sleep, and you will stare off for a moment, caught back up in the life you had, the community you were in. It will cause you to talk about it with people who will never fully understand, and after time they will understand less and less, as time departs farther from the moment you were at Marama. I am sorry that this may not be the news you wanted to hear, but I feel it is my duty as your best friend to tell you the truth.

Just remember, you are not alone. I deal with this as you do, and though it was a different place, a different experience, it is still a shared weight, and something we can hug, laugh, and cry over. You will be fine. It may be difficult to come back, hard to adjust, but as long as you know a part of you still lives on there in New Zealand, the weight will be a blessing.

I love you very, very much. And I am with you.”

I found myself persistently asking what will you remember the most? …the hard work and proving you could do it? Sure. …the lessons you needed to learn and the education of organic farming/gardening you acquired? Of course. …the sights, the smells, the raw liberty? Absolutely. However, now that I think on it, no tangible object or intellectual property could truly come close to the souls I’ve met and engaged with along my journey. So, I’d like to dedicate my last entry to those of you who became a part of the Lumos project too. Below are the moments and the once-strangers-now-friends who got me as close to earthly rapture unlike ever before.

Alec, from Scotland, & Martie, from Seattle – our “poo”losophy revelation planting pumpkin seeds; singing Akuna Matata in the spa pool; the pyro master; random facts; creating the recycling center; your love of whiskey and avocados; Peter, the neighbor, asking if you would trim his gross bushes since they were brought to the country from a Scotsman; crutching practice

Shelby, from San Francisco – laughing at my pronunciation of bible and key Southern phrases; finding Wally (New Zealand’s version of Waldo) on every page except the last one; ghetto mocha; making the best pizza I’ve eaten while abroad; your pride over weeding perfectly all around the strawberry plants; reading neurology articles out loud; acid jokes

Laura, from Tasmania – the Ted walk; the “ghostbusting queen of drenching”; you and I hiking to the river; the first person to ever get a song of mine stuck in their head; whipper snipper vs. weed wacker; perfecting rhubarb crumble; the lengthy debate over 1080 with Graham

Jana & Justus, from Bavaria – nicknaming you “doch & oder” and you nicknaming me “thingamajig”; the tailing marathon; 2 marbles left on your first try playing Solitaire; the other Germans and their world record of the shortest WWOOFer stay; missing Beau’s birth because we were tailing in the wool shed; watching the movie Babe and laughing our heads off at the scenes with the three mice; Spot’s death procession; potato salad masters; a record of 14 liters in one milking; illegal sweets/treats; playing games of Rummy; using your fascination with German breweries as a bribe to get me to come to Nuremberg

Agata, from Chicago – hugging me as I cried after finding out my dog in Tennessee was killed; watching the sun disappear from the airstrip and later star gazing in the spa pool on my 23rd birthday; photo session with putting sunglasses on Hatch; playing with the ‘flyshooter’ in the dining room; finding the giant wall painting in Gore; your incredible chilled, chocolate drinks; Tom’s high-pitched squeals as you tried getting him back into the pig pen; going to the river to cool off; your creation of a ‘tree obstacle’; the most hilarious chicken herding attempt I’ve witnessed

Dave – the “slacker” or earning every Speight’s you drank; our waves and salutes as we passed one another; bringing you sunscreen because of your lack of memory (and getting burned anyway); your soft-spoken voice and kindhearted nature; singing “It’s Not Easy (To Be Me)” by Five for Fighting after picking us up from the river; how I never beat you outside in the morning; Tina – “You naughty sheep!”; your beautiful and intelligent son; becoming champion herders for morning milking with Missy & Beauty; countless chuckles and timeless conversations over things that mattered and things that never would; having a theory for everything; your contagious smile and laugh; a day out in the paddocks on the quad bike; fencing (or our best attempt at it); my jealousy over your ability to tan; having the touch with animals; my ride to Gore and back; chocolate sprinkled cupcakes for my birthday; my kayaking partner

Giselle & Graham – the people who gave me the opportunity to change my life for the better; my new, adopted Kiwi relatives

Over the last three months together, we labored toward the future of Marama Organics and toward ourselves, just as those before us had and those to come will. We stood the test of time and nationality and cultural differences. Here’s a final, written toast to each of you and the permanent impressions you’ve marked within me. Here’s to your faces I shall never forget. But most of all, thank you for teaching me that our short and self-driven lives should never be concerted from behind the curtain, and rather, LOUD and proud and front of center stage. May the lives you lead be long, jolly and full of music.

You are all rockstars. Know that I was incredibly happy with your company.

Bon voyage,
~Stephanie Brake


“‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think.  Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”  ~A.A. Milne

One thought on “Happiness Loves Company Too”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *