Wellington is 1378 miles from Sydney and 11'713 miles from London. It will take you 3 hours to get to Fiji our nearest neighbour and a whopping 26 hours to get from Wellington to London. That's a long way from home and sometimes it feels like we live in a very different world. However at other times we might just be living in a quiet seaside town on the south coast of England as things are so familiar. It is very difficult to explain to people who haven't been to New Zealand how some things are so like home whilst others can be quite alien.
People over here do apparently speak English but sometimes I wonder. I can at times get a bit stuck when people ask me things in shops and it takes me a few seconds to work out what it is they are saying. Its the vowels that cause the problem. A sounds like E and E becomes I. Also, like the Welsh, all the sentences tend to end as if a question is being asked with an upward inflexion. There was a brilliant article by David Killick on the New Zealand accent in the Dominion Post. He quotes Arch Acker's 1996 book "New Zild and How to Speak It".
"It includes such classics as "Air mice poster" ("Air mice poster sleep while you keep making all that noise?") And the answer to the question "Do you speak English?" "Ear sick horse!" (Yes, of course.)"
My eldest daughter is already picking up the accent from Kindy. She has been heard to say "I wuw" for "I will" and "dress" is now "driss". I think its rather cute and I am rather pleased that my daughters will hopefully become proper little kiwis one day!
I was driving back across the hills between Lower Hutt and Porirua where the you pass golf courses and fields of sheep and I had a moment of confusion when I suddenly thought I was back driving across the Somerset countryside and the Mendips. The countryside was so familiar looking. The radio was playing the Eagles and I could have been listening to Radio 2. Its very bizarre how you can be 12'000 miles away and things are so very similar.
However I then got home and began adding the remaining items to our emergency pack before putting it back in the garage. This is something you just don't have to think about back in England. There is a distinct lack of Natural Hazards in the UK - many other unnatural hazards, but not many earthquakes or volcanoes!
Watching the latest episodes of "Torchwood" over the Internet and seeing all the familiar landmarks in Cardiff and London made us both rather homesick. We have both worked in London where you can't help but feel at the centre of things. Out here on an Island on the edge of the Pacific (where even U2 don't come on tour!) you can feel somewhat out of touch with the rest of the world. We still keep in touch with world events via the BBC news website where our part of the world is rarely mentioned. Its like we have fallen off the edge of the world.
However I still don't want to move back. The population of the UK is estimated to be about 61 million, 11 million living in London alone. New Zealand, which is a similar size to the UK, in total has a population of just over 4.1 million. It feels like a country that is just beginning its journey and is full of possibilities. People are generally optimistic and are looking outward for opportunities. The great "overseas experience" is part of the culture. Almost everyone you meet has spent time abroad and brought that experience and world outlook back with them. It is not an insular country and welcomes the diversity of its population. It obviously has its problems as all countries do but after 4 and a bit months here I don't want to return to the UK yet and hope that we can all eventually become Kiwis. "Uzza toe kay"?