12. Big City Lights

Before we moved to the Kapiti Coast, I was under no false illusion that there’d be big malls and bright shiny lights. In my mind, New Zealand was a place you came to leave those things behind. I wanted somewhere where my kids would be free to be kids.

I don’t remember any part of my childhood being restricted by physical boundaries. Some of my best memories are the ones where I played with small metal cars in little tracks that I’d moulded out of mud and stones in my grandparents’ front garden. From my seat on the grass, I could see passers-by, traffic, and the little corner cafe. On many a day when Oupa was feeling generous, we’d each get a giant R1 coin and we’d run hurridly across to that cafe. Now that, that was an outing, a real treat! It felt like hours that we’d spend in that shop and what that R1 coin could buy us felt like, well, everything!

So, while I sit here tonight feeling strangely miserable, I struggle to rationalise why I miss all those modern conveniences that I’ve become accustomed to as an adult. My days are filled with laundry and deciding which fabric softener is best, which one is better for black clothing, and which is really just the most affordable. There is no telephone that rings and there’s only so many dishes a person can wash (and what dreadfully awful dish washing liquid is this anyway? Where is my South African Sunlight. Don’t even talk to me about your “Marmite”.). When the TV that I switch on for background noise echoes the beginnings of Dr. Phil, I shudder at what my everyday life in New Zealand starts to look like.

At the end of the day, all we really need is to feel like we are home. How long does that take I wonder? What defines “home”? The vast separation I feel, while I’m sure is absolutely normal for a new immigrant, is an emotion we must – just – manage. When the question surrounds your children, what kind of “home” do I want for them? I know that it is not  one that involves shopping for brand name clothing on a Saturday afternoon.  It is not one where they cannot ride a bike and explore the beauty of their very own neighbourhood. It definitely is not one that is riddled with fear that they aren’t even old enough, nor should they be forced to understand.

That, is certain.

As for the laundry and Dr Phil, well, I’ve decided to play some music, to open the curtains, to get back into an old hobby. Maybe next week I’ll step outside and build some mud tracks with the children and ride bikes in the park.

Today marks 1 month, 3 weeks and 1 day since our arrival. One day I will stop counting.


11 thoughts on “12. Big City Lights

  1. Anonymous says:

    I feel your pain and I have moved from Cape Town to some obsure one horse town 😦 Been here four and a half months and still miss family and friends so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Margie says:

    I have just found your blog and have sobbed my way through each of your entries… we are on the same path although just starting our adventure from here in Durban. This last entry sounds as if you are feeling really down and alone and I am sending you big hugs from South Africa – Yes the Sunlight Dish washer is great but remember all things that ARE NOT… those are the reasons that you made this move. Plus you have your family with you and that is worth more than all the Marmites in the world 🙂 Loving your entries – they hit me in the soft spot of my heart each time…small steps forward every day…


  3. Anonymous says:

    It took us quite a while to find our feet after moving to NZ. I was at home for 9 months before deciding to get a job, my word I did housework and washing every single day. We were first in CHC for 18 months then in 2008 relocated to Tawa in Wellington.

    A few tips…
    Our Mate is the same as SA Marmite, if you a Brovril fan you can find it by the gravy section…odd I know…for decent peanut butter try the select brand American style, just like black cat 🙂 if you like me and was brought up only eating Cross & Blackwell Mayo, Nola quickly becomes your best friend. After 9 years I never found a decent local mayo.

    If you go past Tawa, in Collins Ave there’s a fantastic SA butcher, Baasie makes the best wors and biltong and even stocks some products one cannot do without. Trust me you get cravings for odd things when they not freely available 😀

    You live close to Otaki, if you haven’t been told about this yet, they have outlet clothing and shoe stores on the main road, worth the trip. KMart will also become your best friend for growing kids wearing mufti to school, if there isn’t one at coastlands you can find one at the mall in Porirua.

    If you need to buy anything for your home, Briscoes always have sales on, if you can wait, you can often pick up goods 60% off…I bought a Gorge Forman steamer for $30 and we used it every day until it burnt out about a year ago.

    If you haven’t signed up for a One card and Flybuys, I suggest you do that as you score vouchers, free goodies and cash back which, as you will learn, every little bit helps. It took me a long time to put my pride in my pocket and make use of vouchers, I think we as South Africans are to proud to take “handouts”

    We have since moved to Brisbane in January, after 9 years in cold, windy Wellington, the gorgeous weather in Brisbane is just like my home town of Pietermaritzburg. So we start all over again thing time with a 13 and 15 year old in tow…

    Best of luck on your new adventure, it’s going to be hard and some days it feels like you want to throw in the towel and move home, all I can say is persevere, remember why you have made the sacrifice and enjoy the ride.


  4. MikeandJenny Hare says:

    Oh Loren I am sure that all this “new stuff”is very difficult for you and that it will all take a bit more time for you to adjust. Maybe too, your definition of home will become a reality in NZ when family members slowly but surely join you over there. You have been so brave and I truly admire the fact that you have made sacrifices for your gorgeous girls. Sending big South African hugs. Hoping that Aotearoa begins to feel more like home really soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Raewyn says:

    Loren I hear your loneliness and thank you for opening your heart. Your journey is one that not only SA folk can empathise with. Many of us are immigrants in different ways. I lost my husband in an accident 3.5 years ago and have recently ‘emigrated’ off the isolated farm that we lived on for 35 years to the city. It has been a huge move, one that we are adapting to. But the loneliness is often greater here than when I lived on the farm. The many and vast differences, the separation from our ‘norm’, the mixed emotions of moving forward whilst wanting to cling to the memories of our past. It is so hard some days. I really hear you.
    But I also want to thank you for making the move to NZ. We don’t see ourselves as being strange, or weird, or different. We see the rest of the world like that 😉 We are the normal ones 🙂
    You will soon grow accustomed to our ways and begin to enjoy our Kiwi lifestyle. In the meantime take the advice offered above, it is all good. I hope you have a good day building mud tracks.
    And hey! your definition of ‘home’ is perfect xxxx


  6. Paul Gaydon says:

    Very well put Lauren! Everyone who moves feels the same emotions, but the magnitude of our emotions depends on a multitude of things. If you were in a job you have much less time to overthink things and you would also be making friends and doing fun things which would make life easier.

    As a rule of thumb it takes about two years to get over a divorce, so I would think it takes about the same for a change in countries. I did both and really battled to stay sane.


  7. Nina says:

    Loren, I came across your posts quite by accident, I have no wealth of experience to be able to pass on, I am a kiwi, born and bred, but what I can say, and I hope I speak for many others, is that I love to meet people from different countries and ways of life, get involved with your children’s school or join a book group etc and I am sure the amount of friendly faces you cross will grow


  8. Carolyn says:

    Things do get a lot easier. We moved to Australia (from NZ) 16 years ago and at the time I thought we’d made a HUGE mistake. Now, I wouldn’t go back.


  9. Bob says:

    You need to get out, unfortunately you are stuck in a small town, so not much to see and do like the city.

    As someone else said, the mayo here is not good, all styled after the US versions. But you will find Cross and Blackwell tangy mayo at SA shops. Also Pam’s golden syrup (found at Pack n Save, New World and Four Square) is Illovo golden syrup, and their tinned guava halves are also sourced from SA.

    After 17 years here you tend to find substitutes for SA products, but there are some products like the mayo and Pecks Anchovette which there is no local equivalent, so we just grin and bear it when paying the inflated prices. Luckily here in Auckland things like Ouma rusks and Ms Balls are freely available at most supermarkets,


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