Kaikoura, New Zealand is very different from where I live near Boston, Massachusetts. But it’s also similar in smaller, more subtle ways. Something I’ve noticed is that even though the ocean looks so different from the ocean I live near back at home, it feels just the same. Near Boston, the ocean is a dark navy blue with bright sandy beaches. Here in Kaikoura, the beach is made up of small gray rocks, and the water is bright blue. However, it smells the same, and has the same peaceful and calming effect that I feel when I’m sitting on the beach back at home. It’s amazing to me how something so far across the world and so different can make you feel right at home.
Something else interesting that I’ve noticed is that the culture here is so different. Where I live back at home, people are generally very independent and are always moving quickly from one thing to the next. However, here in Kaikoura, people are a bit more laid back, and things generally move a little bit slower. Nearly every person I’ve met has been so kind and welcoming towards me, even though at times it is clear I am not from around here. I had a particular encounter a few weeks ago that made me realize just how different that culture is. I was biking along Beach Road, and a woman in her car was driving behind me. I slowed down to let her pass around me, not realizing that she was also slowing down to turn. Eventually she turned and rolled down her window to say something. I was fully expecting her to reprimand me about not knowing what I was doing (you New Englanders know what I’m talking about). Instead, she rolled down her window, and with a smiling face she apologized and went on her way. I’m sure she could see the surprise on my face! It’s clear to me now how each individual community member has the incredible power to change and define a community.
~ Heather Sweeney (Gordon College)