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March 18, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Weekly Rant – Being International

On the survey form for the Performance Arcade recently held at the waterfront, I immediately circled my home as ‘Wellington City’. Then my eyes caught sight of another category, and I circled that as well, connecting both circles with a primitive ampersand to denote that I was, in addition, ‘International’.

Come May, it will be two years since I first set foot in Wellington. I tell my friends, colleagues or anyone who will listen that I feel, and have felt, very much at home here. My friends, colleagues or anyone who will listen would also be quite aware of what I think of my ‘home’ country.

Where before I was always the odd guy always smiling to people in the streets, now I finally feel normal and welcome. Within two months of my arrival in
Wellington, I was interviewed for a Youtube video campaign by Education New Zealand. In that video, I effused praise for Wellingtonians: “it doesn’t matter
who you are or what you do; the people are very open and friendly”. I’m glad to say that those early words still ring true, and weren’t just fluky first impressions.

Now, almost two years later, my Physics research has taken me to Christchurch and Auckland, allowing me to tour those cities as well. However, in those places I never found the things which have made me fall in love with wellington: its walkability, its delicate balance of working professionals and students, and its surrounding hills which provide refreshing solitude.

In the Performance Arcade, my eyes were caught by a girl on rollerskates dressed in a sailor-like beige jacket. below those were tights and kneepads, on her back the words “take me somewhere”, her eyes blindfolded. After ogling for a moment, her companion spotted me and asked if I would like to take her somewhere to which I agreed. I asked the blind sailor where she’d like to go and she replied, the beach.

As I took her hand and we plodded along—her unsteadily as I realised how terrible a guide to the blind I would make—we introduced ourselves and Beth, the blind sailor, commented that it was strange to meet a person by only hearing their voice, without seeing their face. She then very hesitantly asked if I was raised in another country.

I then realised that even without seeing my face, my international origin was still apparent. Perhaps I’m not alone in this situation—of finding myself at home in an adopted country, yet finding that the adopted status might never disappear. Perhaps there is a beauty in this duality, just like in quantum mechanics, of being both from Wellington City and being international.


Chun Cheah

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