‘How long have you been here? when do you go home?’ and of course, ‘where in Australia are you from?’
‘The part called New Zealand’ I bat back, motioning a knife to the heart. Sometimes I illustrate the lake and the mountains in the middle of the North Island. Sometimes I draw the whole map. Sometimes I smile and nod.
They say there’s a three month homesickness, six months and one year. I floated past three months without looking back but I’m gearing up for a month-six change of heart. It’s an onset reminiscing Wellington’s waterfront, Mum and scenic hikes with basic nights in DOC huts – but it’s less like mourning and more like a deep appreciation. Naturally I miss the familiar setting and people as I settle in the UK, but you can build a home anywhere. So I’ve shut the door to NZ for a while, even if the grass is greener and there are more hills.
Up until now I’ve unwaveringly answered no to missing home while conceding to missing Mum. After a recent trip to Portugal I craved NZ culture. It’s a great novelty being coined a traveller but you’re also a mispronouncing outsider with weird cultural norms and occasionally a presumed lack of career ambition. I countered the deportation jokes post-Brexit with my dual citizenship but I still avoid most words with vowels because apparently I can’t pronounce them right – namely pen, six and deck. I don’t even mind being an assumed Australian surfer, it’s tempting not to argue with that one and take the street cred.
The cheap flight novelty has not worn off. Travel has never been so easy – too easy. Is that a thing? Spontaneous trips around Europe are a dream-come-true. Essentially every pay check has played some part in the next adventure, which in turn has completely negated my saving scheme.
I love England despite the forecast, but no matter how long I stay here I’ll never say yes to mushy peas with my fish and chips – I just don’t understand that culinary logic. Aside from that, an efficient train service, ageing population, hierarchical schooling and letter boxes being a narrow hole in your front door it’s not that culturally different to Aotearoa.
My life’s not as exotic as my friends at home seem to think, unfortunately. I still over-commit to work under-commit to everything else. I still watch an episode of Neighbours a day and I still call sweet-potato Kumara. I advertise NZ at any opportunity and have been known to recite the National Anthem in Maori to spread the word. I subscribe to British citizenship but I’m so thoroughly kiwi and I don’t think that will be compromised ever. Although I still don’t know which box to tick when ethnicity comes up and there’s no Pakeha/European category. I’d tick British if I didn’t get questionable looks when the tick didn’t match my accent and I look like a fraud (which did happen when I wanted a library card).
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been here for years and sometimes I feel like I’m brand new. I answer indefinitely to the ‘how long’ questions and sometimes I add well, life just happens and we all nod knowingly.
I’m 11,617 miles away from Taupo but I’m a phonecall away from my life-coach Mum and £500 away from a return flight. Next time I’ll answer, I am home.