It’s become a habit of mine to focus on negatives and risks. I think it comes from a somewhat nervous disposition. I was a shy child, at six already falling into the ‘caretaker’ role – bringing Mum my teddy bear to soothe her heartbroken sobs after a late night phone call from a bad-news boyfriend. Smiling through the tightness in my stomach as my Dad clutched my hand, walking me to the door of the bus. Time always ran out fast on Sundays, signalling the end of every-second-weekend-with-Dad.
Coming over here I naturally had fears. None of them came to pass. Things have turned out really pretty great. I’ve found work, and never been unemployed for more than a few weeks. I have people here that care about me, and a couple of scruffy animal friends that recognise me too. Sometimes home can feel like owning a library card, and having a local fish and chipper.
I was originally going to title this ’10 things I love about NZ’ but it felt like I was trying to write a glib travel article. Instead, these are ’10 reasons why I call Christchurch home’.
- I find myself on the lookout for the ‘nor west arch’ and know that it heralds a hot dry wind and the ensuing irritability and bothersomeness. Lucky this is generally followed sometime later by a cool southerly change, bringing a blast of arctic wind even in the middle of January. When you become a cloudspotter and a local weather nerd, it must be love.
- The fish and chips here are off the charts. A cheap bit of battered fish from the dodgiest looking corner shop is guaranteed to be simply splendid, and far better tasting than anything from a nice restaurant in Melbourne. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true.
- You can take a walk along the beach with a view of snow-capped mountains just around the corner. It reminds me of the time I walked the Routeburn Track with Mia, a woman I met on the track who’d travelled from Beijing. She believed that to see the sun hit the snow on the top of a mountain was good luck. Cradled between the sea on the east side and the mountains out to the west, I feel lucky.
- I’ve stopped feeling like I need to search so hard, on the run from something nameless.
- Christchurch is a complicated city, and somehow I love it the more for it. It’s been kicked down and shaken sideways and broken up. The damage from the earthquakes – physical, psychological – is still very present and visible. And while I can’t pretend to understand what people went through during the big earthquakes here, I can listen. It’s a honour to be told about the hard times, to know someone’s story. Hearing the stories about the earthquakes, I remember all the times friends listened to me when I needed to talk. It’s healing for me to be able to be the empathetic ear for others now.
- Like in the tale of Goldilocks, Christchurch – and NZ in general – is neither too big nor too small, but just right. I like that there’s not too much traffic, that quiet refuges are easy to find even in the middle of the city. It’s a good fit for me.
- The All Blacks. Or rather, what they represent. When a sport takes on an almost mythical importance, there must be a good story behind it. And watching them play, I finally understand. The teamwork is solid, the play strangely elegant in its bash-and-crash brutality (all very sportsmanlike of course). Their confidence is paired with a grounded humility. Makes for magnetic viewing, even for a girl who grew up hating P.E. classes.
- Eating burgers and chips with the lad on a Saturday afternoon, parked up next to a golden field and watching the planes take off. Small moments build on each other to create something important – a shared history, good memories, a feeling of belonging.
- The little quirks of the kiwi accent still delight me, although hearing ‘good as gold’ in an Indian accent still counts as my favourite example. I also love ‘dairy’ (corner shop) and the endearing use of ‘wee’ (eg. ‘can I put this in a wee bag for you?’)
- I’ve been welcomed in to a family here, and am learning to relax more and to show up as myself (not without a few bumps in the road). Thanks for opening your arms to me, NZ. x