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From Colorado to New Zealand and back again

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By James Steindler 
Sopris Sun Correspondent 

Trista Hackett is a neighbor who recently settled in Carbondale after falling in love with the Crystal Valley. She has a vibrant smile and personality to match. Say hi if you see her around. 

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Q: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

A: I was born in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. My family lived in Colorado for a bit but I mostly grew up in Arizona. I went to elementary and high school there. Then I moved to Washington (state) after I graduated before moving to New Zealand for college.

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Q: Why New Zealand? 

A: Well, my aunt married a Kiwi, started a family and she’s been there ever since. My dad, her brother, wanted a change of scenery as well so he got a working class visa and then was able to get residency. The fact that I was able to have residency meant that going to university there would be a lot more feasible financially. 

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Q: What do you study? 

A: I’m studying for a Bachelor of Arts in education. I really enjoy getting to teach people and especially if kids can be excited about what they’re learning. 

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Q: What is New Zealand like? 

A: New Zealand is beautiful. The people are very unique, special and very fun to be around. One thing that I always found funny is that you can just go into the grocery store barefoot if you want. They’re just very relaxed.

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Everywhere you are in New Zealand you’re a pretty short drive to the beach, so there is a definitely a relaxed beachy vibe. While I was there I learned to surf and I really enjoyed that. It’s just a really beautiful place with some really great people. It’s colder down south — you know they’re flipped from us

I think they try to do a really good job of spreading Maori culture and teaching it. I think that’s really cool because it’s a very interesting culture. Maori is also a really cool language. 

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Q: Do you know any words in Maori? 

A: I know kia ora which means ‘welcome’ or ‘hello’. 

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Kai means ‘food’.

Wahine means ‘woman’.

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What else… haere rā… I think that means ‘farewell’ (it does). I’m not great at it. 

Q: Will you go back?

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A: I think I’ll have to go back to finish up my degree, even if that just means taking exams. It’s a little tricky to say because everything is kind of up in the air with COVID. I want to go back because I have family over there and it’s really beautiful. I’m definitely not opposed to going back and visiting.

But I’m getting pretty attached to being here so…

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Q: What brought you to the Valley?

 A: My brother and his wife live here. They came and visited me in New Zealand. He proposed to her and they talked about the wedding and how it was going to be this past September. I was like, ‘there’s no way i’m missing that.’

It was in March, right when COVID was hitting and everywhere was starting to lock down. My university went online. I was starting to see the writing on the wall and getting worried that I would end up kind of stuck and not make it to my brother’s wedding.

I booked a plane ticket and the next day New Zealand fully shut down and stopped flights. I made it out in the nick of time.

I was with my mom in Oklahoma for a bit before I came out here. I told my brother, Ridge, ‘I kind of would like to live here, do you think I can find a job?’ Well, I was worried for no reason — it just happened. I started working at Avalanche Ranch and lived in Ridge and Sarah’s camper topper. We put that on top of the hill and I had about a three minute walk to work every day. And so I was able to be here for the wedding which I wouldn’t have missed for the world because it was the most special wedding ever. 

Q: What kept you here?

A: I had an amazing summer and met amazing people. I just fell in love with the valley. 

With everyone here on the ranch, I just feel really lucky to have met the people I have and gotten to feel like I’m part of a little community. 

Also, I met a really amazing guy named Ben. 

Q: You were due to go back to school after the wedding? 

A: Yes. It was kind of a given that I would have to return to New Zealand for my exams. I started the process, moved out of the topper and went to visit a friend in Arizona. While I was there I got an email that I was going to be able to take the exams here in America. 

I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m staying!’ 

Tags: #James Steindler #Trista Hackett
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