Last week I was in Paris, waiting with thousands of other Eurostar commuters for more hours than usual to queue for trains back to London. French customs officials were striking to show what travel would look like in a post-Brexit world, and I had a lot of time to think on my feet about what I have seen so far in Europe and what I missed about home. This was the day before the mosque attacks in Christchurch. Strangely, everything I thought about while being a part of that slow moving mass of people hasn’t been altered one jot by the actions of one man’s murderous insanity.
New Zealand is a unique and wonderful place to live. It is beautiful, and in the main, Kiwis are easy going, compassionate and patient people. I say in the main, because there are also people who aren’t like that, but generally we are engaging, friendly and open-minded. We also know how to pull together when disaster strikes or a monstrous atrocity, like last Friday’s attacks, occurs.
‘There is always space to be found, some solace from the crowds and rush hours pale in comparison compared to the huge exodus of people from home to work and work to home on a daily basis in London.”
Our reputation overseas has been positive for many decades. The English always ask questions when they work out I’m from New Zealand – they almost always say they have either been to New Zealand, or would like to one day, as they have only heard great things about it. The French too, were more friendly after I told them we were from ‘Nouvelle Zealande’. Kiwis earned huge respect from the French after the service and sacrifice of our armed forces in World One and Two, and apart from the blip of the Rainbow Warrior, New Zealand and France has enjoyed a solid and healthy relationship for a long time.
Being in two huge cities for the past two weeks also puts in perspective the ease of living, even in our biggest cities. There is always space to be found, some solace from the crowds and rush hours pale in comparison compared to the huge exodus of people from home to work and work to home on a daily basis in London. While I am a tourist here, I can easily see how much of a grind it would be living in London, even taking its obvious allures into account.
We forget sometimes as well, how utterly stunning the country we live in is. A few years ago my brother and his family visited us in Auckland and as I drove him to the North Shore I was lost in the traffic and thoughts of other things. He said to me, “you do know how lucky you are to live in such a beautiful place, eh”. I reminded him of that the other day – if only because I moved to Auckland from the South Island 14 years earlier and South Islanders mistakenly believe we have the far more attractive island – with its mountain ranges, wide rivers and stunning beaches. In truth, the whole country contains unique, breath taking vistas, and Kiwis enjoy access to nearly all of it.
“We all deserve to live in safety and peace, in the best little country on earth.”
The past week has been a huge one for all New Zealanders, whether at home, or overseas. I feel the need to connect with fellow Kiwis and find a way to make sense of the incomprehensible. I’ve done that a few times over pints at wonderful pubs and there is no sense to be made of it, because it doesn’t make sense. What I have accepted, without question, is how proud I am to be a New Zealander, how proud I am of my fellow Kiwis – from our prime minister and leaders and representatives of other political parties, to church leaders, and the general population who have shouted down hatred with compassion and care.
We will have some very difficult days ahead of us still, but I have no doubt we will deal with it in the way that Kiwis generally do and we will be a better country and better people for it. There will be many issues to solve, and measures to enact to ensure that nothing like the Friday mosque attacks ever occurs again. We all deserve to live in safety and peace, in the best little country on earth.