Following on from my poem on Day 21 about the Lemon Tree and moving to New Zealand, the Silver Fox visits the blog today to talk about emigration.
There is a truth universally acknowledged that a family in in search of a good fortune must be in want of a new country...
When Serenity and I decided to come to New Zealand or Aotearoa one frigid day near Christmas in 2003, it was not the result of a deep discontentment with our life in Devon. The south-west of England was a lovely place to live… the moors were magnificent, and our house dated back to the 9th century… it had timbers taken from the Spanish Armada in 1588 for God’s sake! BUT the way things felt in the country around us was becoming disturbing. The pressure of teaching was building… constant changes to the way we were supposed to teach and report on students. Our son was not allowed to play barefoot in primary school, or even climb the frames in the playground (they were later taken down) as it was deemed too dangerous for the children. Basically, political correctness was getting in the way of living.
Serenity turned to me on that cold day and said, “What can we do to make it better?” And we decided the answer was to move away… a long way away!
After consulting an atlas, the jewel of the Pacific it was. Hectic planning followed, and it must be said that quite a few of our friends and relatives were unhappy at the idea. In fact, we have lost touch with some great friends who almost considered us dead! Still, it was a good decision for OUR family, and the three of us grew more and more excited as the day to leave came.
Since arriving here in the Northland of New Zealand, our lives have grown better and better. The country has given us so much opportunity. We were never really treated as ‘outsiders’, and the teachers at the school in Kerikeri are a wonderful bunch. There were however some things to get used to…
I always describe New Zealand like "Britain through the looking glass". The first European settlers called it "The Britain of the South Seas" or "Britain…only better!" This makes sense to me, at times it is familiar… BUT just when you think you have the country figured out, it whacks you round the head with a Jandal (a flip-flop to some).
The language is mainly English, but not to learn the wonderful, earthy language of the Tangata Whenua or the original Maori inhabitants of these islands would be a crime. Maori seeps into everything, as it should. Place names are at times unfathomable. Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu anyone? It translates into English as “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as ‘landeater’, played his flute to his loved one”. See what I mean!
Of course that is a very unusual example, but other words include Aroha (love), Whanau (family), Kai (food) and of course Kia Ora (which is a great umbrella term, meaning ‘Hi’, welcome or ‘I agree’). The list goes on… even English words are turned upside down…Wellington boots are ‘gum boots’, flip-flops are ‘jandals’, crisps are called ‘chips’… and actual chips (that you have with fried fish) are called ‘hot chips’… even beer is served not in pints but in ‘handles'…
We have a very different set of animals and plants, too! No foxes or badgers but we have possums (cheers Aussie!) no snakes and no dangerous spiders (although the White Tail Spider can give quite a nip… Thanks Aussie again!) We are surrounded by huge native ferns, and the most heavenly tropical trees and birds. There is so much to say, but I really don’t want to be a bore, so I will close by saying that none of us have EVER regretted setting foot on the soil of Aotearoa, the ‘land of the long white cloud’ :-)
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