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Thoughts of Home – Wellington, New Zealand

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I’m scheduling this to post while I am on a flight from Dubai to Moscow. Flights always make think of home, so prior to my flight, I decided I would google promotional videos of Wellington, New Zealand. I’ve seen so many Dubai promotion videos since I’ve been here… I think I’ve nearly memorized the one they screen before the plane lands. I wondered how Wellington would be portrayed. Somehow, I ended up viewing this old chestnut.

Ah, the Absolutely, Positively Wellington video. Apparently it was released in 1991, but given I was four then and probably wouldn’t remember much, I feel it ran for a good many years after it. There are so many things in the video that have met their demise. Len Southward. The Akatarawa Shop. The animals featured. Ansett. Ironically, the Mount Victoria Bowling Club still looks exactly the same – except when it is hosting the Unholy Masquerade, of course. I do think including the (now dilapidated) Kapiti cheese is pushing the boundaries of Wellington, but times were obviously tough in 1991, and Wellington needed the lucrative tourist pull of a giant piece of cheese. I am sure there are many childhood photos of me hanging out on that cheese, an ironic twist considering my now dairy-free diet.

Being homesick is strange. I miss weird things. I keep thinking about how much I miss running around Oriental Bay. If you have been to Oriental Bay, you will know why. It is beautiful. My runs often produced the following scenery:

Looking at those photos, of course you feel a bit homesick. What an amazing sight. I miss the luxury of being able to walk outside at the moment, let alone run. But what I tend to forget is the 60km/h winds that haunt Wellington. The four degree mornings. The fact that I haven’t been for a run around Oriental Bay for over a year. In fact, its been a year since I moved out my flat, which I loved, on Wakefield Street. It was right in the city, one block away from the entertainment district, two minutes to the National Museum, five minutes to the water. It was fantastic. But it also cost $450 a week, and despite being built in 2012, was freezing cold in winter. It was also a bit cave like, and very narrow. Looking back, its easy to remember all the good things about a place, particularly when things are hard in your “new life”. Rose tinted glasses crop up often.

After moving out of my apartment in the city, I stayed with Alana and Hayden in Churton Park (kitty-sitting!) for a bit before moving into my last flat, in Wadestown. I loved that place too. It was small, but in a great location, and had a garage for my little car. It was right next to Otari-Wiltons bush, was incredibly quiet, and it only took me 15 minutes to get to work on the bus. I remember sitting there many times over my last few months in New Zealand and wondering how on earth I could savor the experience of being in native bush, seeing Tui and Kokako outside and not living 50 stories in the air. I don’t think I really knew what I was in for, coming to Dubai.

The view from my old flat
The view from my old flat. A rare sunny day over summer 2016/2017.

I think it is easy to get hung up on being homesick. It is very difficult moving to a new place. We are lucky that we don’t really have to contend with the language barrier here, but basically, your whole life has been thrown upside down. For those of us that had careers and came to support out partners, we’ve been suddenly put out of a job, and often the purpose that comes from a job. I’ve come to accept a lot of things about my shift to Dubai now, but its taken me awhile. I have only recently felt in a good enough place to admit some of the things that I miss about home.

That I miss the people goes without saying. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert, so it’s not as drastic as you would think. I still keep up communications with many people – some of whom I chat with more than I did in New Zealand! But for work acquaintances, or people you didn’t see much, or extended family – its hard. You want to communicate with people, but it’s also quite tiring. You are trying to make new friends here too, and you somehow end up filling up your days, even if you aren’t sure quite what with.

There are the big things that I miss. Going outside. Walking places. The freedom of driving around, New Zealand drivers are nothing on Dubai drivers. The comfort of always being about twenty minutes from home, anywhere in Wellington. But its the little things that make a place feel like home. I miss the banter with Tommy, Taryn, Nic and Matt at work. Almond Hot Choc’s with Niki, Tea with Virginia, chats with Bob. Walks on the waterfront with Laura, visiting Alana and Hayden’s for a BBQ and to visit their awesome fat kitties. Drinks at Motel, the Library or C.G. Merchants. Dinners with Kelly and Amelia. Driving out to Paraparaumu. Brunch with Matt most Sundays, wherever we felt like driving. Weekend walks with mum, or even by myself up in the hills. Birds outside my window. I even miss the rain a little bit, sometimes.

The Wellington Waterfront. I love this place.
The Wellington Waterfront. I love this place.

And the food! Which is ironic, because Dubai has so much amazing food. But I had a solid rotation of lunchtime treats. Pork and chive dumplings at Dumpling’d. Roti wraps and kebabs at Satay Me. Cashew Chicken at Aroy. Shortbread and tea at Colonial Cafe. Honey soy noodles at Chef’s Palette. Chicken and almond sandwiches at Wishbone. These were all within a five minute radius. I’m pretty sure there was a month when I solely consisted on bagels from the Wholly Bagels in our building, when I was too busy to leave work during the day. When I went away to Dubai for five days last year, it closed down. Were my bagel purchases keeping the store afloat? Did it ever reopen? I can look at all the things that I miss with a feeling of appreciation now. Not a sense of impending doom. They are things that I remember and think of fondly, rather than being the aspects that grind you down from a distance. I remember reading this post on the Residents of Wellington – a very cool blog, by the way – about whether the writer would ever want to leave Wellington. I think it’s an interesting perspective. However, I certainly think living away from Wellington is the best thing you can do to appreciate it. There is no where in the world like it. But that is the point – there is a whole world out there to explore. If there is no where in the world like your home, doesn’t that make you want to explore the rest of the world… see what the fuss is about? Yes, sometimes its hard. Or unpleasant. Or downright disappointing. But it’s there to be explored. Picking your life up and shifting half way across the world isn’t for everyone, but it does certainly change your view on things.

While Wellington might not always exist in its current format – it is built on a major fault line, after all – New Zealand will always be home. It will always be there, waiting for us to return one day. And we will. Just not yet.

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The 58th Floor is the travel and lifestyle blog of Belinda Birchall, based in Dubai. It provides advice and information on travel throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as useful information for living in Dubai - and anything else of interest!

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