“Whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua” / “As man disappears from sight, the land remains”
When you’re far from the place and family you grew up with it’s easy to feel a little displaced sometimes or forget how much you miss home and everybody there. Even when I’m in Canada, just the passing scent of freshly cut grass or salty ocean air or Finley Quaye crooning “It’s Great When We’re Together” on the stereo can transport me right back to being a beach bum kid and I find myself feeling quite homesick. Going back to New Zealand made me feel just how much I love not only the people who make the place home, but the land itself and all those little things too. For example, sand or grass between my toes, PIES! (Oh Canada, you make delicious fruit pies but they have nothing on a good ol’ petrol station steak and cheese pie), melting fruju dripping down my arm, the sound of some lovely King or Christie kids giggling or arguing, hanging out with either Nanny or Nanny Vi in the garden – or with one of the loveliest men to have existed, my Grandad – incorrigible prickles in my feet, Koroua’s whistling, sitting on the beach with Mum watching Papa surf, waves – whether on a sunny blue day or a powerful stormy day as long as they’re REAL waves (if you hadn’t noticed, I love the beach). What made this visit even more special was that my parents joined us there too, the first time we’d all been together in NZ for about 9 or so years. The strange yet familiar journey I made with my parents and sister around the country was both gratifying and bittersweet. I know that my experience of being home will never be the same as it was when I was a kid, and in some ways that makes me sad… but different is not necessarily ‘bad’. In going home now I was also able to see everything through appreciative and adult eyes (ha!) and experience it in a new way. I think that may be why I have been feeling it so much more profoundly this time; that is, I’m not only missing home, but an idyllic time that will not be the same again. And I’m sure next time will be new again. But each time will be wonderful and each time I will cherish the time I get to spend with my lovely family and the beautiful place I get to call home.
Ka kite ano, Aotearoa. / I will see you again, New Zealand.
31st December 2015
Road trip day! We got up earlyish and said goodbye to the Kings then we were winding our way along the Thames coast. We took the real nostalgic tour, heading through Paeroa with its giant L&P bottle and on to the Mount where Papa finally found himself a wetsuit vest. Had lunch there, people-watched (so many teenagers ready to party for New Years it was slightly overwhelming!), bought bikinis, went to Papamoa beach, toured through the houses we used to live in, then hit the road again. We stopped at one of the many berry picking farms and got some homemade boysenberry ice creams, complete with flake, and kept going on to Ohope. New Zealand’s apparent “favourite beach” was not as busy as we’d anticipated – probably in part because of the small surf – but there was enough surf to play on anyway. We hung out there for a bit, then carried on to Opotiki for the BEST fish and chips I think I’ve eaten in my life (Mum’s paua fritter was to die for). We ate those on the beach and watched the dying sun go down before threading our way along the windy coast roads all the way home to Omaio. Nanny (again with those lovely happy tears) was waiting amid the stench of rotten corn and Uncle Willy was ecstatic to see us all. We toasted the new year in with a quiet glass of wine and the sound of the ocean crashing on rocks.
1st January 2016
Happy New Year! A very different feeling to last year’s first morning (i.e. no vodka shots had been consumed thank goodness)! Papa was itching for a real surf so after sharing coffee with my Uncle Jimmy we headed off to search for the so far elusive waves. We first checked Morrises Bay but the waves weren’t quite breaking nicely yet, though the swell was definitely being pushed in by the oncoming storm. We kept going, on past Hawai (note, not Hawaii) where it was rather flat and grey, all the way to Opotiki. After a failed mission there was nothing to do but grab a giant scoop of lime ice cream from the Tirohanga dairy and head home where a thousand family members were waiting to say hello.
2nd-3rd January 2016
These days were still stormy but being home made me too excited to stay housebound, so I put down Keri Hulme’s The Bone People and headed down to the beach. Even with the wind and rain Brooke still wanted to go for a swim and I – even with all my complaining – could not be the wuss who didn’t go so it was into the water with me! It proved to be quite gorgeous actually. By the next day, however, the storm had overfilled the river’s banks and it had found its opening to the sea, turning our previous swimming spot into a churning mess of brown water and broken tree limbs.
4th-12th January 2016
Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Omaio – just as it was getting sunny of course! – and drive back to Hamilton. Happily though, it was time to start getting ready for Aunty’s wedding! We spent 3 days prepping and were relieved when it was finally the 7th! As I was part of the wedding, I didn’t manage to get any photos but luckily there were plenty of people handy with a camera around! These images are stolen from Matt’s Mum and Dad (thanks Fiona and Graeme!). It was such a lovely day that matched the lovey couple so well. I’m so happy I got to be a part of it all! The rest of the holiday was spent with visits – including some great ones from Sam, Nick and the gang, and Kate and Josh.