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Speaker: ReEntry V: Finding my Feet

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  • Rebecca Williams,

    great descriptions of something so many returning New Zealanders experience. some of what's happening to you certainly rings true with me. i'd say give yourself a couple of years to settle back in pretty comfortably (i've been home just over three years).

    one thing that might not have occurred to you is that part of the process of moving home is a grief process. i reckon, anyway.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    8 years away and now 8 years back and I still spend half the time wanting to be somewhere else.

    So for me, the fog clears intermittently :)

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 319 posts Report Reply

  • Edward Siddle,

    Daniel
    I enjoyed this piece and I appreciate precisely your hesitancy to get too decisive about how you feel. You say:

    "But to a returning Wellingtonian, these merits are filtered, unevenly and unpredictably, through a web of recollection and emotional response."

    I have this experience all the time. I was out riding my bike at lunchtime, and just riding past certain streets or parks still has this effect, five years after returning. And furthermore, after all this time, I still don't know whether it is the right thing that I'm here. I'm not sure if it is a common thing to take so long to really adjust back, or if actually the length of time it is taking just means it wasn't really the right move after all.....

    Wellington • Since Sep 2008 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    yes it does pass - in time - I'm still glad I moved back 5 years ago - I do visit my old home in Berkeley on biz trips a few times a year and I feel much more out of place/time there - and felt that way the first time I went back, the disconnect only got worse each time I went back for the first couple of years.

    There's a pretty well known 'happiness curve' for when you move to somewhere new (my wife studied it in psych class while I was going through it when we moved to the US) - basically it goes: at first you're on a high, everything's new, there are new people, places, sights, sounds - then after about 6 months you crash, you're home sick, you miss your larger group of friends, the world closes in a bit, you get depressed - it takes about a year to come out of it - by then the new place is home and you've settled in ....

    Coming back I found we went through all that in a rush - our 20 years past friends had grown up, were respectable, lots had moved away - the novelty wore off really fast, more like 6 weeks than 6 months - but then the downside passed quickly too - the kids were on their won timetable and got dropped into school at about the time when the down side should have started which I think helped (we'd done the round-the-world thing for 4 months before we arrived)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2200 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Lovely piece, Daniel, thank you.

    It has some nice resonances with a piece by James McNaughton in the new Landfall, in which he attempts to refamiliarise himself with his Wellington childhood home by using Google Streetview... while actually in Wellington. (If anything it makes him more homesick for what he hoped to see instead).

    And ditto the comments above on grief, and the Schroedinger's Cat-like feeling that your real life might still be happening somewhere else... and the weirdness of returning to an old place, vs starting new somewhere completely unfamiliar...

    For me the oddest experience was returning to Christchurch, location of my student days and, one would have thought, brimming with memories. It was oddly blank and impervious to my attempts to connect. I felt like I was visiting somewhere I'd merely visited briefly, not somewhere I lived for five years and moved from adolescence to adulthood.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    For me the oddest experience was returning to Christchurch, location of my student days and, one would have thought, brimming with memories. It was oddly blank and impervious to my attempts to connect.

    Weirdly, despite having never left the city, I've just had this experience. I'm trying to arrange a 20th anniversary reunion for our KAOS lot, thinking about what people who left would want to see, where they'd want to go... and it's all gone, or changed beyond recognition. I'd been here the whole time and never really noticed.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4378 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    It has some nice resonances with a piece by James McNaughton in the new Landfall,

    Aw, it's good to have him back too.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7412 posts Report Reply

  • Brenda Leeuwenberg,

    Nicely described. I've been back from Europe just over 2 years and it's still a constant pull for me - there are days where I just resent this town, this country, this arse-end of the universe. There are a few days where it's cool to be here (admittedly, usually in summer).

    Messages from friends in Amsterdam, or images of the canals in the evening light, still make me feel like crying. The most disconcerting thing about coming 'home' was finding myself feeling homesick.

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    I've been back some thirteen years now... from 6 years in Canada.

    I remember being very depressed for a couple of years after I got back - baffingling so. I remember one day being in absolute tears outside the Citizens Advice Bureau on Queen Street. It took a hell of a long time to adjust being back. It wasn't easy at all.

    At least now I'm starting to like Auckland. I'm currently enjoying that low sweep of suburb dressing the volcanic flanks up to Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) as I drive back over the Mangare bridge from the airport. It's an astonishing landscape, a marriage between the violent volcanic lava and the gentle rythmic pulse of suburbia.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 642 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    that's 'Mangere' bridge... sigh.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 642 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I don't have much sympathy for your middle class angst of "struggling" to fit back in. I find you comment that you feel brave and wise to be here incredibly condescending. Want do you want, a medal? You seem to be saying that somehow the country owes you adebt of gratitude for deigning to return to it's empty, culturally bereft streets.

    For goodness sake harden up, you carry on like you've been moved to Mars.

    Five generations of my forebears were born here before I came along. That means I have lost any sense of belonging - or wanting to belong - anywhere else. I am unashamed to say I am untroubled by any conflicted loyalties and I am patriotic New Zealander. Our people have and will achieve great things.

    I think you should be a little more pleased that somehow in the lottery of life, out of almost seven billion humans, you are only one of four million who have already won one of the biggest prizes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1825 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    For goodness sake harden up . . .

    Shouldn't that be FFS, at least?

    The pioneers have hairy ears,
    They piss through leather britches,
    They wipe their ass with broken glass,
    Those tough old sons of bitches.
    When c*nt is rare, they f*ck a bear,
    They knife him if he snitches,
    They knock their cocks against the rocks,
    Those hardy sons of bitches.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3628 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Want do you want, a medal?

    Chill, Tom. This is what moving does. I felt it leaving Hamilton, I felt it leaving Auckland, I felt it leaving Wellington, and god help me I felt it leaving Kidderminster. I think you're reading some very different things into what Daniel is saying than he likely meant.

    Also, I've just been on a Brazilian music jag, and I commend the word saudade to you.

    Now go cross the same river twice.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2977 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    For goodness sake harden up

    WTF???
    the essay in question is not a rugby blog.
    wtf has patriotism got to do with anything??? or forbears? or colonialism?

    Reading comprehension unit standard...not achieved. repeat next term.

    writing about personal, emotional experiences...no room for any of that sissy shit, lad!!! harden up!

    ffs, what a load of tosh.

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 635 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Yeah, Tom, that was weird, honestly.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7412 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    you carry on like you've been moved to Mars.

    Thing is, after almost 5 years away, for me returning to NZ on visits can be a little like arriving in Mars. Not bad Mars at all but a pretty major culture shock after Asia or the US or just about anywhere outside Australasia. There are very few ways it isn't thoroughly and often quite dramatically different.

    And I know a few folks who've found it either very hard or impossible to adjust,

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3628 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    DDang - sorry about that.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3628 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    For exposing us to untranslated French, or Arnie's stellar acting skills?

    Disabled embedding can be a mercy (although I tend to think of it as political strategy, funnily enough).

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Ah - the feeling of alienation from the land of your birth. Never had that feeling, never likely to have had it, always really interested to hear about it. I really deeply feel for those people who seem to be betwixt and between, and have that feeling of, as you said Daniel, dislocation. My sister in law has that. She's English, but my brother was ready to come home. It's taken her a while, and NZ just never seems to be home for her, but then neither is Britain. Hard, hard, hard. I hope things settle for you, I really do.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    For me the oddest experience was returning to Christchurch, location of my student days and, one would have thought, brimming with memories. It was oddly blank and impervious to my attempts to connect.

    Similar thing with Auckland. Not where I was from, but I spent 10 years there, either as a student or bumming around trying not to be a student or anything else much. It should be plastered with fingerprints of memory, but in fact it seems full of gaps now.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 805 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Ah - the feeling of alienation from the land of your birth.

    C'est la Vie.
    If you go away, what a life!
    If you come home, you're lucky.
    Wherever you are, you are still there.
    C'est la Vie!

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6356 posts Report Reply

  • Nat Torkington,

    Nobody ever told me that it was possible to be homesick regardless of where I lived. I don't know that I would or could have done anything differently, though, if I'd been told. It's an utterly foreign feeling, in all senses of the word, that past experience just doesn't prepare you for.

    It took us a year to really get over the worst. A surprisingly large number of people leave again within twelve months, the vision they had being sorely let down by the miserable day-to-day existence of incessant souwesterlies, poorly insulated homes, ratshit public transportation, high food prices, a vacuous mass media, and fewer and smaller niches than wherever we came from.

    Rebecca is right, we went through a grief process. Anger, denial, the whole lot. The mindgame that I found that worked is "don't miss what you don't have, enjoy what you do have". So I stopped pining for my geek friends in San Francisco and began gardening. I stopped grumbling about the weather and bought a fireplace that is a family ritual every night in winter.

    That lets me live here and enjoy it, but still I don't "fit". I misunderstand social cues, I still can't understand some people, and I'm periodically reminded that I think like an American ....

    Thanks for posting that, Daniel. You're not alone, it never becomes perfect but it does stop being horrible, and as you've discovered it's not the same when you go back either. Hang in there for a year, install a good fireplace, and see what you can grow in the garden ...

    Ti Point • Since Nov 2006 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    install a good fireplace,

    Daniel, was that cold house reference to the returning son in the Doc's Notes in the DP today, about you? If so I do love the synchronicity of NZ.

    Might take more than a fireplace though.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2157 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I'd like to think how New Zealand could be positively cosmopolitan. With slightly less than a quarter of the population foreign born, and another million or so overseas, you'd think that New Zealand would be significantly more international in tone and demeanour.

    We would be able to leverage that into creating connections; in business, society, science, technology, and other areas. While retaining an identity, we could be a lot closer to the Pacific, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

    But it seems to stubbornly resist that in favour of provincialism. Such connections are performed quietly and individualised. And I can't explain why. It isn't 1850 any more.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2137 posts Report Reply

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