It’s a bit quieter, I have adjourned to the bedroom while rugby continues in the living room downstairs. The Circle of Life is playing through those perfect white earbuds and I am reflecting on the flight back into Auckland.
The indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, refer to themselves as the Tangata Whenua (pronounced Tounge-aah-ta Fen-ooo-wa) which I understand to mean, ‘people of the land’ or to refer to a connection they feel to the land, to Aotearoa (meaning ‘land of the long white cloud’). And as I flew into my homeland, through that very white cloud for which the early Polynesian explorers saw fit to name this country, I think I understand that connection, or at least some of it.
After 6 years of being an expatriate my heart still leaps like a dolphin as I catch that first glimpse of the glorious and rugged coast. I am sure that part of the feeling is connected to my family, but another large part is still connected to this place, to this culture, to this atmosphere. Here I am part of the whole; in Australia I am still a New Zealander living in Australia, knitted to the place by circumstances but not by a common past, not by blood and earth. I could live in Australia the rest of my life and I doubt that the connection to New Zealand could be diluted at all. I could take up Australian citizenship tomorrow and still I would be a stranger in a [very] strange land.
In spite of this connection there is the twinge of a separation that I feel, one that makes me wonder if the longer I am away and the more I assimilate to Australia, whether the New Zealand I left behind grows and changes after me, changes behind my back and actually leaves me behind.
In chosing to leave it do I actually make myself more of a stranger to my own land. Does New Zealand recognize me? Does its heart leap as it sees me arrive through those gates? I wonder if the longer I stay away does the gap between the reality and the imagination get wider? Does my sentimental and perhaps imagined connection get revealed as something not only ethereal but unreal as well? And as such do I become homeless, rootless altogether??
Who knows… But I have 2 weeks to find out.
Miss Lisa says
Sorry if you think I’m unsympathetic Red :) – don’t forget Deeleea and I know each other personally so she knows (hopefully, or I may get a smacking when she gets back!) that I’m not having a go :)
Miss Lisa is laughing, and I’m almost crying as I read this, because you’ve struck a nerve. Because whether I acknowledge it or not, the melancholy for South Africa and home and family is always there. I think it’s the bond shared by – if not all – most expats.
I especially gasped at the part where you wrote about the country going on behind your back, because even though I haven’t been home in nine years, I know that the South Africa that I will eventually (hopefully soon) return to, will be not quite like the one I remember… Anyway, thank you for writing something that makes me feel a little less alone and a little less crazy. And have a WONDERFUL two weeks!