I remember the first time I met this tired colossus of Dutch humour and global experience. I went to pick him up first thing one Wednesday morning. He was late. Quite late actually, and I brought him in my beautiful brand-new Red Kona to record a podcast. That was one of the last times I would drive the Kona, as Steve has claimed it as his and refuses to share it. It is a pretty cool car.
Where was I? Oh yes, the story of Wiebe and the Wests.
So, the bedraggled bear-like character got an earful on the short car ride from Ponsonby to K-road. I chatted on about New Zealand, my family’s role in the whole EV movement here on these shaky isles, my kids, friends, and mental health issues. He didn’t blink or wince or worry. He did not run screaming from the car. He did make jokes and say something along the lines of: “Wow mate, you sure can talk!” Little did I know on that first day, that this was the beginning of a strong and beautiful friendship that has filled a space in my rather manic life. There is nobody like anybody else on earth, but I can absolutely guarantee, that you’ll never meet anyone quite like Wiebe. His booming voice and incredibly Dutch humour and accent mask a sensitive and introverted soul. I must have sensed it early on, as I have felt fiercely protective of this nomad since we met.
My EA and personal watch dog and gate keeper Hayley organized a “Landing Party” for our celebrity traveler, and he slept through most of it. After three days asleep in the cupboard under the stairs in our neighbours house (he was allergic to our house, so needed to crash someplace cat free, and our tenants and dear friends were gracious enough to let him sleep in their cat-free kitchen) he surfaced. Still tired, but ready to take a THL camper van on a tour around the Coromandel. This would give the gregarious grizzly bear more alone time, and he relished every moment. The scenery, the seclusion, the fact he could fast charge using the network my ex-husband and I have been rolling out across New Zealand since 2015. After his jaunt, my big boy (I openly adopted him shortly after we met) came home for a couple of days before heading South toward Bluff.
I remember that his fatigue was absolutely palpable. He felt and looked tired. Not your regular level tired, but bone-tired. The way you could only possibly feel after traveling over 100,000km and 34 countries. The kind of tired that comes from being in a different bed nearly every night for over three years. The kind of tired that comes from being a guest in a new home nearly every day. The kind of tired I can’t describe or imagine, and it is/was a tired that was keenly noticed by many of my friends as he wended his way back up to his Kiwi home base (our house) from Bluff.
Three months after our first meeting and I think I can confidently say that New Zealand has earned a special place in the electric (not flying unless absolutely necessary) Dutchman’s booming heart.
He’s excited to be heading home soon, and although he won’t win any houseguest of the year awards, I am going to miss him more than I care to think about. He makes me laugh and lets me have my moods. Even more importantly, he remembers to tell me he Loves me several times a day. Admittedly, I have told him plainly that he has to shower me with endless compliments and affection. I am incredibly insecure, and use humour to thinly veil an encyclopedia of hang ups and self-loathing. Now, I am sure I don’t need to point out the fact that we are not even remotely romantically involved. We are firm friends who enjoy a laugh at our own, and each-others’ expense. We are an odd couple of weirdos, with more in common than many may think. Neither of us are incredibly technical. People often assume we are, or perhaps want us to be. Neither of us have ever gotten used to people having opinions about us, especially when these opinions are sometimes formed without ever actually meeting us. We have a long list of inside jokes, the most common is which of the two of us is the most humble, as neither of us tend to come across as meek. He is loud. I am loud. He is undeniably world famous for his efforts and the vast traditional and social media that has shared his harrowing journey and narrative. I am, apparently, a hurricane. So we openly joke about our large personalities, and argue over who is indeed the most humble of the two of us. Oh, and in case you were wondering, it is definitely me.
So, as the hours close in and the moment approaches that this big bear climbs aboard a plane back to his regular life, with a stop in Bali to detox from all technology and just be, I am fraught with sadness. I am not an easy person to put up with, and I fear and crave connection with equal zeal. Somehow, this big goofy guy makes me feel quite alright just as I am, and that’s not a feeling I am often privy to. While he is vetting countless invitations to speak across the globe about his adventure, I am selfishly wondering who is going to fill the void left at my kitchen table when this relentlessly sarcastic mountain of a man is no longer sitting at it.
So, if you are a member of the EV community here in New Zealand, or anywhere on earth, when you cross paths with Wiebe, remind him that he is NOT the humblest. His small hurricane Dee is clearly far better at being humble than he can or will ever be.
And maybe give him a hug. And tell him I Love him. Thanks.