This past Tuesday marked a year since Tom and I left on our adventure through Southeast Asia. We arrived back in New Zealand the week before Christmas and as we get back in touch with friends and family we’re constantly being asked – does it feel strange to be back? The answer is no. It feels pretty choice (that’s good if you’re not a kiwi).
Don’t get me wrong, we had the most amazing time, met so many awesome people and have had countless unforgettable experiences, many of which I’ve documented here on this blog but today it feels apt to write about why it’s good to be home.
Today is Waitangi day in New Zealand – our national day where we celebrate our heritage and what makes this little country special. To be fair all the celebrating I’m doing is sitting inside watching the cricket (a sign in itself that I’ve been starved of kiwiness for a while) but you can blame the atypical summer we’re having (or not having) for that.
This morning I tuned in to the news and the reporters were stopping people on the street to ask them when they felt most proud to be a New Zealander. This bit was accompanied by a montage of what the producers deemed to be our greatest moments – the vast majority of which were sporting related. I agree that there is a real proud buzz that runs through me whenever a kiwi achieves something notable on the world scale but when I think about THE moment I can’t narrow it down to one. That’s because in the past year it happened every time someone asked where I came from.
It sounds really naff but I honestly feel proud to tell people that I’m from New Zealand when I’m travelling. The response is always interesting and varies from place to place. In Europe, most people asked why I’d bothered flying all the way over there from the middle of nowhere. In Vietnam, most asked why we left considering we already lived in paradise.
There are some amusing perceptions too. I met an English girl in Saigon who’d actually lived in New Zealand for a year but was astounded when I referred to myself as a New Zealander. Looking perplexed she said ‘but I thought you were a kiwi?’ Explaining to her that as a nation we have a nickname for ourselves reminded me how cool our little country is.
The common response no matter where you go though is general surprise. This is because kiwis are a novelty no matter where they are in the world (aside perhaps from Australia and the pubs of London). It must be because we are so few and far away but it’s still strange considering that going overseas is so entrenched in our culture.
I think because we are quite distanced from the rest of the world that most of us are born with this curiosity about other cultures. I didn’t do the traditional Kiwi OE straight out of highschool or University but eventually couldn’t ignore the little voice inside that told me I needed to get out and explore. I’m so glad that I listened and have had some incredible times around the globe in the past couple of years. It’s funny though, the more I travel, the more I see just how wonderful New Zealand really is.
One of the things I totally took for granted before living in another country was being able to drink water straight from the tap. Since we’ve been back I can’t get enough and find it despicable how many plastic bottles of water are being consumed by this country considering that we have such a precious resource available.
I also have noticed that the sky really is blue here. No I mean really blue. I’ve seen some pretty beautiful places in the world but none of them have the blue sky to match a clear Hawkes Bay day. Currently I’m spending my days working on the family orchard and sometimes when I’m out in the trees I just have to stop and look at the sky. Something I would never have done before spending close to a year living in a city covered in a layer of pollution.
Late last year we hit up a local beach with the family and despite it being overcast and the ocean being freeze-your-tits-off cold it was just amazing. Mainly because of what wasn’t there – namely, loads of other people, hawkers, rubbish or pay per use loungers. I totally have a new respect for our lovely beaches now.
It’s more than just the natural beauty of this country that has gotten to me since being back. The little things I never took much notice of before are intensified. For instance, arriving in Auckland airport and being surrounded by kiwi accents I finally understood what my ESL training teacher was talking about when he made fun of my pronunciation of any word containing a vowel. It was kinda cringeworthy but also really welcoming…or wullcummung.
Also, since when did Watties tomato sauce taste so good even just on its own? Oooh or hot Vogels toast and lime milkshakes from the dairy*, warm date scones covered in butter… I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it feels good to be back because I’m able to appreciate just how awesome my homeland really is.
So Happy Waitangi day New Zealand! Cheers for being sweet as x
*A dairy is a convenient/corner store – one of the most misunderstood kiwi-isms I’ve encountered.