One thousand three hundred and thirty days.

That’s how long I’d been away from New Zealand, and how long since I’d seen my family in person.  But really, it didn’t feel that long.  Regular Skype contact and Facebook updates mean that keeping in touch with friends and family on the opposite side of the world is easier than it used to be.

Still, it’s a long time between drinks, and it’s surprising what’s changed.

A city has been levelled.  Fast food and beer are about a dollar more expensive.  An overweight German geek, whose name sounds like it was invented during a bubble in Y2K, is championing liberal tech policy.  State highway one is slightly less of an embarrassment.  Bars and shops I used to frequent have gone.  My parents have started winding down the old family home in Wairoa.  Brothers and cousins have grown up.  Friends have gotten married, brought houses, had kids.

But Auckland transport is still shit.

Experiences change your perspective and I’ve certainly had a few of those over the past 4 years.  It did feel as though I was looking at things through a different set of eyes.  Ironically it’s not until you go elsewhere that you realise what you took for granted, and the opportunities you missed.

What follows is a set of pictures from a very short 3-week trip back “home” to New Zealand.  In addition to catching up with great friends, my family and getting plenty of sunshine, this holiday also included a wedding in Wanaka, a 30th birthday on Waiheke Island,  Milford Sound and an emotional tour through the destroyed remnants of a city I once called home.  But that’s another blog post.

2 thoughts on “Homecoming

  1. K. Konstantinidis (@kkonstan)

    “Home” in quotes indeed.

    I’ve done this expat thing for half my adult life now and I think that this is the bitter truth, there’s lots to gain but one looses his sense of home.

    I mean it’s still there, but you see it with new eyes every time you go back and it’s clearly not the same. The others see you differently too. Not always in a good way too, mind you. Of course there are sad exceptions like Christchurch where there’s not much to see when you go back…

    Visiting the place I was born and grew up and were some of my good childhood friends still live is always very painful and emotional. While I’m not currently at the other side of the world like you are, I don’t go as frequently either.

    The question for me is, if you can’t call your former home home again wether you can ever call the new one home. I wouldn’t know, not yet anyway, but this is my current experiment, trying to settle in the UK and raise my son here and see how it goes. It might work, it might fail, I might get bored and move on to some other place, nobody knows.

    It’s probably too late for me, but I’m wondering how my son will describe himself in 10 or 20 years from now and wether he’ll have a place to call home. Born in Los Angeles, raised in London (at least for now!), of Greek descent, with close relatives in Greece, USA, Australia, New Zealand… it’s not going to be as easy as it was for me I suppose.

    1. Alex Post author

      To be honest I used the quotes in “home” quite flippantly. But that doesn’t change the sentiment; had I thought about it deeply, they would still be appropriate.

      As to whether you can call a new place home, I consider home to be the place that the people you are closest to reside. When you think about it in terms of people rather than places, those of us that move around run the risk of spreading our concept of “home” rather thinly.

      My family ties are such that there will always be a home for me in New Zealand, and for that I am grateful. New Zealand is an anchor in that sense. Friends are more complicated because friendships are based partly on circumstance – I have some fantastic close friends in both London and New Zealand, and I hope I never lose touch with any of them.

      But I have more friends in London than any one place in New Zealand. London is my residence, my career, my life and thus my home for the foreseeable future, and that’s why I quoted it.


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