30 December 2012

Honey, I’m home!


Home is where the heart is, they say. Well, New Zealand certainly holds three things very close to my heart: most of my family, my best friends and delicious food.

One of the best things about returning to New Zealand is being able to see the people I feel closest to, my extended family and my women friends. This year I timed my visit particularly well and was able to enjoy my first family Christmas since my mum died in April 2008. I like to think of the aunt and uncle I stayed with in Hamilton as my surrogate parents. Because they’ve known me all my life and they know my history, I can relax with them, be myself. They are helpful and supportive, and they always make me feel so very welcome.

Christmas dinner with the whanau

I also got to catch up with those of their kids and grandkids – my cousins and second cousins – who still live in Hamilton, and said hello to another, who now lives in Australia, via Skype. My aunt and uncle held a dinner party for some people they know who were also close to my family – my dad’s cousin and his wife, and a good golfing buddy of my mum’s and her husband. And my uncle drove us all the way to Whangamata, a beachside town on the Coromandel peninsula about an-hour-and-a-half’s drive from Hamilton, so I could catch up with another elderly auntie.

I also enjoyed a lovely dinner and catch up with relations from my dad’s side of the family: an elderly aunt who is the sole survivor from my dad’s siblings and in-laws, and her children – my cousins – and some of their children. That was fun too.

Though a couple live in faraway lands, the majority of my close women friends live in Auckland. I was blessed to stay once again with dearest Rosie and her son Stephen and cat Fluffy in their house in Titirangi, a suburb of bush, birds and beaches. Another good buddy, Sue, lives nearby, so the three of us shared dinners and lunches out, went shopping together and saw a few movies – The Hobbit, Skyfall and Quartet. I had a lovely long lunch, with those magnificent publishing women I used to work with at Auckland University Press, and heard about their latest doings and the hot gossip, and we shared a lot of laughs. I also long-lunched with Jo, my oldest friend – we worked together at Air New Zealand many eons ago – and caught up with her news of family, job, etc. I spent the night at the house of friends Carol and John – Carol and I taught English in the same language school – and we ate a yummy meal, drank lots of wine, and chatted till the wee hours. And I lunched with Cathy, another former teacher at that same school. She had visited me in Peru so it was great to catch up with her again.

I value having all these wonderful people in my life and it’s so good to be able to come back to New Zealand and pick up again as if our last conversation was just the day before.

Fresh flounder straight off the barbeque

And, last but by no means least, food! One of the great things about New Zealand is being able to eat a huge variety of fresh, delicious food … with confidence. And, by that I mean, without worrying about what nasty bugs and beasties you’re going to catch from the unwashed or washed-in-bad-water vegetables and fruit in your meals. Of course, you can contract stomach-churning diarrhoea-inducing bugs from any restaurant in any country but the chances of that happening are just so much higher in under-developed countries.

I also love the variety of food available in restaurants and supermarkets. I ate Italian, Turkish, Greek, Thai and good old Kiwi fare, and enjoyed every single mouthful. Christmas dinner was that traditional Kiwi staple of roast lamb with mint sauce, plus the English traditional roast turkey, as well as delicious ham on the bone, and all the trimmings. Divine! And then there’s the seafood – my favourite, and the one thing I missed in land-locked Cusco. Ah, the seafood … I’ll say no more as my mouth is watering at the very thought of it!

Thanks, New Zealand and my fellow Kiwis. It was another truly wonderful visit home.