Family split by Covid reunited
By Pam Ferla
When Kochu Rocky waved goodbye to her husband and young family in South India, and boarded a plane to Auckland, she did not know she would not see them again for two-and-a-half years. Their plan was to take first step towards a new life in New Zealand, with husband Joseph and their children Juan (then aged 10) and Juvena (then 2) joining Kochu in a few months’ time.
But Covid dealt a cruel blow, with New Zealand borders closing just three weeks after Kochu arrived on a study visa in February 2020, to pursue a Masters in Business Management in Auckland. She also volunteered as a caregiver and early childhood teacher. A year later, she got a job at Tairua Aged Care and lived in the town while keeping in touch with family in sub-tropical Kerala, via phone calls. She is grateful for the support she has received from staff at Tairua Aged Care during this difficult time.
Joseph, Juan (now 12) and Juvena (now 5), finally arrived in Tairua just before Christmas 2022. Relaxing on the sofa in their new rented home in Tairua, with their lovely children snuggled close by, the couple told their story.
“Joseph and I wanted our children to live in New Zealand for a better standard of life and education, “explains Kochu. “We checked the internet and decided this country was the best place to live peacefully. There are also good universities here.” Joseph is a welder and also worked in his father’s supermarket. After leaving Kerala - a tourist area known as queen of the Arabian Sea, population of 35 million - he finds life much quieter in Tairua. He enjoys fishing and made sure his rod was packed in his luggage.
Juan loves doing origami (it’s interesting and challenging, he says) and has some impressive displays around their home. In India he studied chemistry, physics, maths and biology in a class of about 17 children. Asked about sport, Juan smiles and says he likes football.
Kochu enjoys sewing clothes for her children. She says that during all those months of separation, the hardest thing was not being there for her children and missing their growing up milestones. “It was also hard for me when they were sick and needed their amma. (mother) “And my little girl thought I’d disappeared forever” Kochu’s parents helped Joseph care for the children, but he found it tough not having his wife by his side.
Kochu returned to India last September (as a surprise!) and stayed a couple of months before the reunited couple travelled to New Zealand as a family - at last. Asked about funny experiences while adjusting to New Zealand life, Kochu had no hesitation in saying “the Kiwi slang”. She laughs when recalling the time in Auckland when her flatmate was cooking a chicken in the oven. “I wanted to use the oven so asked if the chicken was nearly cooked and she replied “She’ll be fine”. I wondered who ‘she’ was and how being fine related to the chicken. It’s also confusing when people say ‘sweet as’. I wonder, sweet as what?”
Joseph wondered how hard it would be to get a job, but successfully applied for three. He now works at Tairua Four Square Supermarket, which he enjoys.
Juan and Juvena started school in Tairua just before the summer holidays. In their lounge there’s a splendid dolls house and Juvena spends many happy hours playing with this. It was a gift from Kochu’s previous landlady and close friend, Helene, who has become a big part of the family. Kochu also appreciates the support of friend Petra, who taught her to drive. Juan has also received gifts and the warm-heartedness of these friends is helping the family settle in their new life.
“The last three years have been very hard for us,” she reflects . “But now, at last, our dreams have come true.
Caption: Happy to be together in Tairua at last - Joseph and Kochu Rocky with their children Juan (12) and Juvena (5).