Kiwis in a foreign land

Up until recently, there have only been two kiwi staff at Bingham – myself and our Elementary Principal Malcolm. Strangely though, we do come from the same part of NZ, which is also kind of cool.

At the start of this term though, we got an extra one, Kirsten. And I guess that she has brought a little more perspective to me here in Ethiopia.

There just aren’t that many kiwis here. I live with three Americans (and I love them!), but with that comes a certain change in the way I perceive things, so that when I see a new kiwi (fresh off the boat!) that I am shocked at the accent, reminded of the sayings and phrases we use, and glad to hear some music from the homeland again (which reminds me I need to get some more NZ music).

This is also contrasted to when I get an invite to events with the NZ Embassy here in Addis. At the recent Waitangi celebrations, we went to the NZ residence. There were few actual kiwis, and more people from other embassies there! But with that came some great kai, haka and waiata.

By the time I return to NZ, I will have been away just shy of 2 years. In that time I have only interacted with people from the same culture a few times (apart from those who work here – in which case, like me, they are not quite as kiwi as they used to be). So going home, like coming here, will be a bit of a culture shock.

Many people don’t realise this, but culture shock is a two way thing. You get it when you enter another culture, and you get it when you go back. I know, I have had coming here, and when I went to England for a few weeks last June/July. And I will expect it when I go “home”.

My background for my computer is a quote “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” This is so true. I both love it and hate it. I look forward to seeing friends and family in NZ, but I also know that I will leave friends here, and I will come back and they won’t be here anymore.

So, despite being excited to go back, I am also nervous too. My culture will have changed. I will have changed. We will see how that works out.

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