Surviving Kiwi-land

Playful lines…travelling clouds… the year’s systole shows the darkest long night…like a milonga.

Sticky Tangos hang on to these hands of mine that need to write…but what to write? …I’m out of practice, the words stumble clumsily, sleepily, drowsily… One, two, three…and they start to come alive, regaining their usual magic…Sun rays  from my lineage heat up my blood like an Aztec dance. A Spanish guitar strings a flamenco flooding my room, filling it up with all the flowers of its Latin scent.

I look out into the darkness of the window that cries a cold  rain. I now realize that I am in Wellington on a winter night.  My gas stove is on, candles, loud music, humidifier and two electric heaters! It is my 4th winter and I can’t get use to these polar winds.

Excuse me! I am Mexican. Like me, many arrived for different reasons …Argentinean, Chilean, Colombian, Peruvian, Brazilian, Bolivian, Uruguayan…Latinamerican living in New Zealand. Our particular circumstances made us uproot from our home land and throw ourselves like seeds into this beautiful land, peaceful but not lifeless. We came here maybe searching for a quieter life, maybe in search for better opportunities, to broaden our horizons. Maybe curiosity was the engine and one day we found ourselves landing on this city.

I do not know about you, but the first thing that crossed my mind when I arrived was: “There is nothing here!”. I was born in Mexico City (with 25 million people).  My first encounter with  Wellington was Cuba street, the bucket fountain to be more specific…Yes, I am also smiling.  I looked around and saw many bare footed people stuck in the 80’s fashion. People of all backgrounds, color, type and attitude. The capricious architecture was an enigma. Looking for a definite style I stumbled upon a combination of Art Deco, Baroque, Classical English style and other kind that I still can’t understand. I then walked into Lambton Quay…the stores and cafés showed me a more cosmopolitan face…I am not going to lie. It was hard for me to adapt, to make sense of this country. I travelled it from north to south, from tip to bottom…I hated it and loved it the same.

Therefore I am obliged to ask myself: How did I survive in this Kiwi-land?

First of all I had to let go of any preconception of how things should be. I then discovered that this country is in continuous self exploration. People dress in a free style, starts anything that comes into mind and make a business out of anything, they are not afraid of failure, they keep trying. It is a DIY culture. There is no sense of social ridicule. There is no obvious classism or racism, at least not like we find it in Latin America.

It was in this social freedom that I could let go, loosen knots and re-create myself.

Today it does not matter where I am from, where did I grew up, what school did I attend or what is my education degree. It matters that I am here and now. My presence is another piece of this eclectic, kitsch and adventurous puzzle that conforms this country.

I confess that there are some days and nights (specially in winter) that I ask myself Why I am still here?…but in a clear morning (also in winter) I admire the landscape that the window shows me…The mountains, the little houses nestled in the hills, the clouds travelling briskly, touching the horizon surrounding the harbour. It is the reflection of the boats sailing swiftly and the fresh breeze coming from the south that give me a straight answer.

NOTE: I wrote this note in winter. July 2005