It’s time to come home

by Jake Quinn

Jake and Liv on Nananu-i-Ra, Fiji

Olivia and I are soon to move back to New Zealand. Moving home will conclude what has been a two-and-a-bit-year-long “OE” that didn’t involve living in London’s Clapham Junction. Rather, it begun in Kosovo, then shifted to Australia and Fiji. It’s been an incredible journey and I am so glad we did it. There really is no greater way to learn to appreciate your country like living aboard.

I have missed New Zealand. It is the things you miss that make you realise why your country is so special. Most of what I miss doesn’t have a dollar value. Much of it is simply about family, connectedness, a sense of belonging to a place and people. I care about my home, the places I have lived; The Waikato, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, I feel like I – in some way – own part them. You don’t get that anywhere else.

While in Fiji I have been working in a communications role with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for the Pacific, which is based in Fiji’s capital, Suva. It has been an interesting and eye-opening opportunity for me, exposing me to Pacific Island politics. I hope some of the lessons I’ve gained here will be useful to me in the future in NZ. The South Pacific is, after all, our backyard.

In terms of lifestyle living in Suva has been amazing and, at times, frustrating. On the weekend you are a two-hour bus and boat trip from snorkelling off a desert island or surfing (or in my case body-boarding, which some of my horrible friends say doesn’t count) warm water coral reef breaks. The work-life balance Fiji can offer is great – especially for international staff, when compared to other duty stations you could be posted.

On the frustrating side, Suva’s expatriate rents tend to be comparatively high, food options for some (such as those that require gluten-free stuff) can be somewhat limit, and getting used to the “Pacific way” of doing things can be a challenge for foreigners forced to adjust to the pace of life (and level of “efficiency”). Fresh food is cheap and good quality. Fresh tuna and snapper are affordable enough to be regular items on the dinner menu.

Fijians are warm and welcoming people. I recall mentioning to a colleague that in NZ I would occasionally feel threatened walking past a high school at the end of the school day, with hundreds of testosterone filled boys lurking about looking to impress each other. This is not something I’ve experienced in Fiji. Big groups of gigantic rugby playing boys wander past you, they move out of your way, laughing amongst themselves (more or less constantly), then they say hello, bula, yadra, moce or good day and are on their way. I will remember that about Fiji, it’s not intimidating.

So, where to from here for us? Well, for starters we are heading back to Tron where we are both from and where our parents live. I actually really like Hamilton, it’s home – sure – but I feel comfortable there. Day-to-day life isn’t a chore, the climate is favourable, incredible great outdoors stuff is at your finger tips in all directions, going to the supermarket is a 5 minute drive and there is always a park, that kind of stuff.

Hamilton has actually changed a great deal over the last 10-15 years. In terms of R&D it is now a place to be, plus there are some major developments on the cards that will bring sizeable economic and job boosts. As evidence, here is a rather inspiring recent article published in the National Business Review. It does a good job of highlighting some of this change that’s happened of late.

I’m really excited about coming home. Although, I must say, August was a rather aggressive, ambitious month to choose to transition back, weather wise.