Finding home 7,600 miles from home: To Christchurch, with love.

Days Abroad: 47

There are few things that I detest so much as the feeling of helplessness. It is a heart-wrenching feeling sitting 12,230km from home and watching videos of the hills where you’ve run and spilled your guts many times go up in flames.

I have never really grasped the concept of home; never really knew where that was for me. Last year, with my family spread over three cities, my definition of home being wherever my family is fell through. Home was not South Africa, home was not Auckland, home was not Rangiora, home was not Christchurch. I decided that home was wherever I was, wherever I laid my head down and whichever streets I was walking along; that is where home is.

I found myself sitting in bed this morning, however, watching a video of the Port Hills fire, tears thick in my eyes thinking, “that’s my home.” There are too many deposits of my heart all over that Garden City for it not to be home. So, I now find myself sitting here having to redefine home. Home is wherever I leave a deposit of my heart (which is easy because I carry it around very loosely on my sleeve). Home is South Africa. Home is Auckland. Home is Rangiora. Home is Christchurch. Home is Austin. Home is scattered all over Europe and the Pacific. Home is wherever my eyes have stretched in wonder, softened with tears, crinkled with laughter and burned with fury. Home is not, and does not have to be, one place. It took me leaving every concept of home that I have ever known to realise that. Such is the life of an immigrant baby with a serious case of wanderlust.

To my beloved Christchurch,

You took me in when both of us were broken and in need of repair. Both of us with the desire for a little extra love and a sense of community. Heavens knows, we both found it in each other.

We have had a beautiful love affair, you and I. The early mornings running in the hills and on the fields, hunched over exhausted. The late nights dancing in the streets with my girls as the rain danced down from the stars. The long days of sleeping in English, dancing in Drama, and fighting for my passions. The months of having to start over again. Learning to drive, embracing the feeling of being lost, exploring your festivals and flowers, and pushing myself far beyond my comfort zone.

When I think of you, I think of healing and growth; restoration and renewal. And that is just in the journey that I have had on your plains. Those thoughts echo the journey that you have been on since that fatal day in 2010. It breaks my heart that people here do not know of your struggle and triumph, and that the world is so big that we did not all stop when your hills were ablaze.

You are so beautiful, in your gardens, architecture, and history; you are strongest and most beautiful in your people. To the people that call you home, I am proud to call you my neighbours. I am proud to have spent time learning from your strength, resilience and determination; to have grown under your sense of togetherness and your refusal to go down easy. No matter how many curveballs our rickety fault-line, frozen,  wet winters and dry summers want to throw you, you always get back up with fire in your eyes. You always cultivate your gardens and go for a run at Hagley park. You always, always turn up.

Perhaps that is why the world is largely oblivious to your struggles, because you are that person with a big smile on your face that turns up to help others when your world is crumbling. You carry your struggles and defeats with dignity. You are a great city Christchurch, beautiful in name, in sight and in your people.

Kia Kaha Christchurch. I am proud to call you home.

One thought on “Finding home 7,600 miles from home: To Christchurch, with love.

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