Why do they dislike each other?
Ghosts from Yesterday - We expected them to be friends, but they weren’t. We could not understand why they were tense and hostile with each other.
For several years we helped two migrant couples and their children. They both arrived in New Zealand at about the same time. Their stories were similar. Both came from central European countries (different countries) where both families were facing persecution. They arrived in New Zealand with their possessions in suitcases, penniless with no English.
We were able to support them in various ways. This involved several social occasions – barbecues and the like. We worked with Government services to find them housing and we expected their friendship with each other would blossom. But it didn’t. The opposite happened. It dawned on us that they were avoiding each other.
What was the problem? We speculated that they might have received unequal treatment for government social services? But that was not the case. It was obvious that the wives were aggravated by each other. How frustrating! Here they were in a new land facing a new day, but something was souring their relationship.
It took us years to work it out. The source of their distrust and dislike of each other went back three hundred plus years. To both of us, born and nurtured in the new world, it seemed inconceivable. But, the truth is that battles, massacres and enslavements from centuries ago are still alive in their culture. Their soured relationship had nothing to do with the present and what had happened in New Zealand. They were carrying heavy cultural baggage from centuries past. It makes me think of the war in Ukraine. The conflict is not just about what has happened in the last twenty years. That land has been fought over for centuries. To say that the past haunts the present communities, particularly in the Dombras, is close to the mark. The demons of centuries past will continue to trouble this region irrespective of how the present battles are resolved.
I know that many come to the gorgeous Coromandel for a new start. I have talked with people who have settled here, who want to leave their ‘Auckland life’ behind. They are not talking about family and friends. They are talking about responsibilities and attitudes that were part of their pre-Coromandel life. Sounds good to me!
In fact, for Pauline and me, coming to Mercury Bay is a new start. We now own the Informer. For us this is a new day and a new challenge. I am hoping that this new challenge will not be confined by our experience and memories of other places. Any of us can easily slip into ‘steady as she goes’ mind frame. We could see the life and attitudes of Mercury Bay and the Coromandel in terms of communities we have known. I think the more exciting thing would be to be open to the possibility that here something new and different confronts us.
We have lost touch with the migrant friends I talked about. I have been wondering about their children. Are they as shaped by the painful history of their country as their parents are? Somehow I doubt it. I hope the spirit of this country will free them from the mould of their ancient history. The fact that I have many German and Japanese friends is something my parent could never have envisaged or approved of. I see it as being a freedom that has been given to me because I belong to a new, young country.
Mercury Bay and the communities of the Coromandel are newish. And they continue to break ground for more housing – not just for holiday batches but for permanent residences. The Coromandel communities are already different from the towns and cities we have come from. It is not just the scenery. It is the spirit. Many of us openly acknowledge we have come here for a new and different life. Building communities that are more open and accepting than the ones we have left is a worthwhile goal in my mind. I like this quote -
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt