This is a guest post by Arlene Brake. Arlene and I bonded over the Fez Bus Tour, hot Turkish men and dancing barefoot ’round the fire. She’s a native Kiwi, originally from Rotorua. I asked her to contribute a post to honor #blog4NZ.

Kiwi.  No, we are not named after the fuzzy brown fruit.

Actually, we are nicknamed after the fluffy brown bird native to New Zealand. However I don’t think it is this fluffy brown bird that makes us Kiwi, I think what makes us Kiwi is our grass roots, up-bringing and open, hospitable culture.

Last week I was hanging out with a German girl — she had known me all of two hours — and, out of the blue she announced: “Kiwi’s, you’re all the same.”

Now, I was stumped as to why me stretching up and reaching for some spices from a cupboard lead her to this revelation!
For days my mind has been pondering this —what do all Kiwi’s have in common?
Well, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Kiwi kid who spent all summer long challenging each other with who could create the longest, gnarliest, fastest and slipperiest slip and slide, amongst siblings, cousins and all the other kids on the block. Summer afternoons spent cruising up to the dairy to spend ya pocket money on jelly – tip ice-creams. The rumbles of laughter after loosing a jandle …or two to the clutches of the roads melting tar seal?

I remember as a child my favorite pets were wild rabbit or possum babies Dad had ‘come across’ in the bush. Every time Dad went hunting I’d look forward to the possibility of him returning with a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed gift for me.

Then, there were the family outings to the bush to collect firewood for the winter. The whole family piled up in the 4×4, roaring around the dirt roads, me squealing with laughter from the back seat as I became airborne so high my head would hit the roof, whilst my mother clutched the armrest so tight she left nail marks and growled for my father to behave.

Food. Food is a big thing for us Kiwi’s. Seafood is one in particular. As an infant my favorite food was fresh mussels. I was mad about them — I couldn’t get enough. Twenty-five years later nothing has changed!

And, I mustn’t forget the national ritual – The Hangi. This a practice of teamwork, Kiwi hospitality and indulgence. Any excuse will do! The men digging the hole, drinking beer, preparing the heated rocks between sing along or two. And the women peeling the veggies and wrapping the food in muslin cloth in preparation to be stowed away in the earth until ready to eat. Children running barefoot and carefree. After hours of anticipation everybody comes together to celebrate the fruits of their labor by sharing the tender, smoky, melt-in-your mouth goodness we call a Hangi.

Maybe it’s these things that make us Kiwi’s “all the same”  — the pure pleasure in simplicity of life?

I’ve always wanted to travel. Since I was a child, I was aware New Zealand is very far away from the rest of the world. Middle Earth, some might say? For me it was the curiosity of that big, wide, far away world that drove me to venture so far from home.  It is only that far from home when I realized it is these things mentioned here… that is what make us “Kiwi’s” and keep us connected.

Which ever random place we may find ourselves, from having “Kia Ora – choice bro!” excitedly proclaimed to you by an Arab amongst the bustling, smoke ridden souks of Marrakesh, to the union of thousands of drunken and disorderly expat Kiwi’s sporting various famous NZ icons, or participating in London’s annual Waitangi Day pub crawl. No matter where you are in the world there will always be something to remind you how special it is to have The Land of the Long White Cloud, our homeland.

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