January 11, 2011

Two Days of Dunedin Discoveries

I do a lot of reading on "home" for my studies and came across this idea the other day: When discussing the nebulous concept of home, a distinction must be made between the actual geographic location of a place a person lives and where that person feels that she belongs.

Looking back along the peninsula from Tairoa Head
In New Zealand, I have struggled to feel that I belong.  I believe one reason is the lack of a feeling of connection to NZ's landscape.  Who could deny NZ's landscape is awe-inspiringly beautiful? Not me! It's stunning and I don't take that for granted - I am lucky to live in one of the world's most beautiful countries. But to date, while I appreciate and enjoy its beauty, I look around and I'm just not sure, yet, if I belong. I can look at it like a pretty painting, but I don't feel immersed in it. Maybe I don't feel quite welcomed yet. I still feel like a visitor. If I even just see a photo of Southeast Alaska or familiar parts of America, I have an instant sense of attachment, warmth, welcome, even possibility. It can be lonely, at times, to live without that sense of belonging in the place I'm standing. 

The logical part of me knows, of course, that it is rare (though not impossible) to feel 'at home' somewhere instantly, and that a slow evolution of feeling 'at home' is more common. None-the-less, that's perhaps been one of the most surprising challenges about migrating to NZ for me -- the amount of time that it really does take for a new country to feel like home.

That's why weekends like this past one are so helpful and encouraging.

I've mentioned my Alaskan visitors several times in this blog. But I have not yet explained that Kelly and Nick have come to New Zealand, based in Dunedin, for a full year! One wonderful part of their presence here is the added compulsion to explore! With good weather on our side, we checked out two areas of Dunedin that were new to me this weekend (and one of which was new to James!)

Descending back down to the plains near Outram, a new walk and a new view!

Steep and slippery in parts.

Along the road out to Harrington Point, new place #2!
Trees at Harrington Point Beach - had never been here before either!
When K and N have to go back home (and let's NOT talk about that day too much!) I will know many more parts of town, a multitude of new beaches and trails, several more cafes and activities, and even a few more local people. And maybe with a year's worth of good memories within NZ, its amazing landscape will start to feel like a familiar friend to me and I'll see myself standing in that pretty picture.

Cathedral Caves with Nick, Kelly and BT.


  1. After my sister's visit, I definitely felt more connected to NZ because we had traveled and explored the country a bit more. It really does help you feel more connected when you can say, "I've been there!"

  2. Hi Molly,

    Just came across your blog through Jenny's one and love it :) I am very interested in your PhD topics of home, identity, migration etc as they were (and still are) my fave parts of Human Geography.

    I'm a Geography graduate from Auckland Uni (completed my BA (Hons) in Human Geography a couple years ago) and for my dissertation I was able to focus in on a local migrant group in my community and explore the issues of trasnationalism and identity etc which I really enjoyed :)


  3. Hi Prisilla - thanks for checking out my blog! Your dissertation sounds great and it definitely seems we have similar interests! I'm also combining migration topics with looking at ageing in New Zealand - how older New Zealanders feel about the major changes in their country's demographics in their lifetime.

  4. Hi! Blog hopped to your blog :) I don't know how long have you been here for...but after 14yrs here, NOW, I have kinda started feeling it like home!! The process must have started after about 7-8yrs???