Living on the other side of the world, geographically far from home – and here when I refer to home I am referring to the place I am from – has made me think about the notion of “home” a lot. Of course, distance from family and friends are the things that make it hardest to be living in another hemisphere. But I have also come to have a deeper sense and appreciation for the idea of turangawaewae. In Te Reo Maori, this literally means place (turanga) and feet (waewae). So, taken together, a place to stand or “standing place”.
Through different stages of my life I realise I’ve had various turangawaewae depending on the particular phase, but they have all been in one country. Now however, I find myself questioning whether I have a turangawaewae here in this country I am now living in, so far removed from where I originally felt a sense of standing place. Not being fluent in the local language and not always fully understanding the culture and cultural intricacies going on around me (despite the best efforts to understand!) sometimes have the effect of undercutting any sense of standing place I might be carving out here for myself. Perhaps it is something that comes with time – a long time maybe. More than this though, I have realised that whilst turangawaewae is in part connected to the people and culture around you, it is perhaps even more deeply connected to the place, or the sense of the place. Here, I have grown accustomed to land that is so flat, in places below sea-level, stretching out as far as the eye can see, scattered with windmills and canals. It’s beautiful, but it’s so far removed from the place I am from, where I have known hills, forests, lakes, rivers, beaches and mountains all my life. I know that every time I fly back home, no matter where I have been overseas, as soon as the plane breaks through the final layer of low-lying cloud and the beautiful deep azure waters, sandy shorelines and lush green hills are revealed to my eyes once more, I once again feel a true sense of turangawaewae.
Even if home is the only place on earth I will ever truly have this real sense of standing place, it’s nice to know it is always there to return to, and that time away cannot change such a deep sense of connection. Seeing things like the beautiful images on this person’s blog which I recently discovered, and the enjoyment that others from other places get out of visiting the place I call home (as shown in the super sweet video below) makes me realise even more that I should feel fortunate to know the meaning of turangawaewae.
Photos above taken by me, coming into land above the hills of Te-Whanga-Nui-a-Tara and the sparkling waters of Tamaki Makaurau, February 2012.