distance

Some side effects are not known until they are experienced; nobody keeps a record, because the list would be too long. The side effects of distance present themselves to the individual as time goes by, and all cases are different.

I sat in Civic Square, after everything was established as being ‘okay’. For the time being. I walked behind a tourist family who chattered away, wondering at their whereabouts. The mother noticed the gulls padding around, screeching at one another, and commented that they must be back near the sea.

They were, of course, and yet all I could think about was seeing a lone seagull in Montreal, several months into my time there. Montreal is on an island, but it’s a long way from the sea. It was a moment not unlike the first rainfall that I experienced while there (rain! this is so exciting! it’s warm enough to RAIN!), but a little more emotionally fraught.

Homesickness is a bitch.

But this isn’t about homesickness, not exactly. It’s about difficulty, it’s about frustration, it’s about being in the wrong place – or someone else being in the wrong place, at least. It’s about distance.

I have already written here about how my dad is in Honiara, in the Solomon Islands. Fortunately, it has been a milder couple of weeks for them since the floods and storms and earthquakes of earlier this month. But the worry still exists – the thought that something even more dire could yet happen, while I sit in my windswept but mostly safe house on a hill in this strange little corner of the world I call home.

Then, closer to ‘home,’ yet still far away, Auckland looms to the north. Last night, I forgot to turn off my alarm, and so I woke up earlier than I meant to. In scrabbling to turn the sound off, I saw missed calls, texts. And so, I found out, seven-ish hours after the fact, that my mum had had a midnight ambulance ride to the hospital, and was still there.

Things like that will really reinforce the distance.

She was discharged late this morning, and I had just gotten off the phone to her when I sat down in Civic Square. I accidentally dropped a bit of my sandwich, and was inundated by gulls and pigeons. After the initial furore had died down, I watched them wait in hope, a couple of them clearly in positions of authority as they puffed themselves up and marched towards others, undeserving of this chance at scraps. I went to the library, I went to work, my head trying desperately to keep everything level. We drank gin and tonics at the end of the day, and I caught the bus home, everything still churning, and all sorts of write this down! ideas came and went, but this one was the most obvious one to stick with.

And so here it is. Distance.

when people are far away

My life is intrinsically tied to the Pacific.

Well, obviously, you might say. You’re from New Zealand. You’re from a city with two coasts. It makes sense.

But it goes further than that. My parents spent years working in the Pacific “proper” – Niue, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea. My childhood was full of shell necklaces and woven baskets, stories of tivaevae and dengue fever. My vowels of every Polynesian language were always carefully considered.

For so many years, the Pacific was a place where stories and trinkets came from – and then, last year, my dad took a job in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands. It is a place that people don’t really know much about, generally speaking – and when it does show up in the collective consciousness, it’s rarely for good reasons. Beautiful island paradise it may be in theory, it had the best part of a decade in a state of ‘unrest’ – euphemistic term for civil war, really – from the late nineties onwards. And like so many of us lucky island and coastal nations in this part of the world, it’s on that fun-filled ‘ring of fire’ that circles the Pacific – chances are pretty high that many people in certain areas would only know the name as a source of tsunami warnings.

It’s not fun to have family in a place like that when everything decides to happen at once. In the last week-ish, there have been deadly storms, causing flash floods and rivers to burst their banks and bring down bridges. In the midst of the storms, they were rattled by a 6.0 earthquake – fortunately not too strong in Honiara itself, as I understand it, which is a mercy given how hard it has been hit by the weather – and now today, another earthquake has hit the country, this time a 7.6. Hopefully you’ve seen it on the news – it was relegated to second place in the One News bulletin,with the royal tour taking precedence. It’s rather difficult to swallow the frivolous ‘here’s what the shawl-knitter actually has to say with regard to her conversation with Prince William’ tale when you’re waiting to see more details about how much more screwed up this place that is home to many NZ expats is getting.

I feel that I’m losing direction with this post, so before I go on a depression related tangent, here are a couple of photos that my dad has sent to me.

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