I am not from around these parts.
I lived in New Zealand until 1999. I love New Zealand as an entity, as a country, and its people are delightful. I do miss it. But it has a fundamental flaw that it cannot do anything about, and so is forever going to lose out, in my estimation.
It's too bloody small. And by being small, and, worst luck, at the arse end of the world, relative to the development of civilisation, nothing really happens there of any note. It gets ignored, dismissed, and generally loses out on any benefits other countries might get.
Now, NZ is hardly alone in this. There are bunches of countries where I hear their names and I don't have a clue where they are, what they are known for, or sometimes even that they existed. I don't know where Pago Pago is, or what happens in Guam, or who lives in Andorra. Spanish people, I suppose, though I only discovered Andorra's whereabouts recently, when it was a question on a quiz show.
But NZ is considered a force to be reckoned with above those countries, because of its association with Australia, its participation in World Wars I and II and beyond, and because it's vocal in its attempts to be noticed.
1998 was a weird year for me. I had a small group of wonderful friends who I loved to hang out with, were the funniest people I have ever known, and had creative ideas out the wazoo. However, we had no resources to speak of so it was a bit of thrashing around with no real action. But then, one by one, each of my friends disappeared out of my life. They all either moved away, or in one case died, in a very short space of time. And then I looked around me and saw that I had no ties anymore. And worse than that, I was in a rut that was very bad for me.
How do I deal with a situation like that? I was tempted to keep going as I was, in the hope things might change. But I also looked at my home town, and what I saw was a ghost town. Shops were closing, familiar landmarks were being covered over, and everything I knew growing up was, I realised, already gone.
I decided the best way to get out of my rut was to move away. And not just to a new town, where I ould end up in the same rut only with different buildings around me, but to a whole different country. Admittedly Australia is not that different to NZ, hence its attractive nature to ease the culture shock, but what it also had was convenience, proximity, and a "no Visa required" immigration policy between it and NZ.
And most importantly, it would force me to have to find a way to take care of myself, and not fall into a rut anymore.
It was a little bit hard to start with, as I had never visited Australia before, but having learned some skills as a website designer, and having a few friends I met online to help me, I soon found my feet, and things have turned out very well, for the most part.
That was exactly ten years ago, and I haven't regretted it one moment. I love it here, it feels like where I always was supposed to be. Melbourne, especially, is just perfect. I lived in Sydney for about a year, and didn't like it there at all, but here in Melbourne - well, I expect I'll be here for the rest of my life, barring unforeseen developments.
There are some things I miss about home - the beautiful landscape, the short distances to get anywhere, some distinct foodstuffs, and my family (though I visit often enough to get my fill on them when I can) - but Australia has so much more than NZ will ever have, so I can't complain really.
I am a little disappointed that I left NZ right at the point of its renaissance, when Peter Jackson single-handedly put it on the map and attracted all the big names to work there with him (even as we speak, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Guillermo Del Toro, and Neill Blomkamp, amongst others, are all working at Weta Studios for their next productions), and changing the face of the industry in the process, let alone the local identity of NZ. Oh well, I probably wouldn't have ended up working there anyway - I hate Wellington, and was already blacklisted from Weta, so it was out of reach.
So things are good here in Australia. Not perfect, but it seems to me I'm on the cusp of taking the next step, and if I'm careful and optimistic, I should be well on my way to a new stage of my life here in Melbourne.
21 hours ago