Our copious bags picked from the conveyor, we bundled our trolleys in a daze to immigration, only to be faced with a long queue; a confused and slow-moving posse it would take an age to process. We dutifully stood in line, perched wearily on our luggage wondering whether our friend Bridget would be waiting in the lounge to meet us.
Looking about, James spied a shorter queue, but this one was marked ‘Residents Only.’
“Hang on,” he exclaimed “Aren’t we Residents?”
I dragged myself from my trolley stupor and looked up.
“Hmm?” James pointed. I looked. “Oh!” I agreed, “Maybe… Wow!”
I was suddenly awake, thrilled at the thought that I might already be classed as a New Zealander. Fatigue melted away as, leaving me in charge of the copious luggage, James ducked under the ropes and approached an airport employee. His huge smile told me all I needed to know and we wheeled our belongings merrily over, casting superior looks at the line of tourists behind us. The desk clerk cheerily took our passports.
“Welcome to New Zealand,” she said in that familiar tone that I recalled from my first trip – as though we were old friends longed for, or the plumber finally come to fix the ever-dripping tap. James and I looked at each other and smiled deep smiles, smiles that started in our bones and welled up in our eyes. It was right that we should be here. New Zealand was where we were meant to be. We were satisfied.
Without ado we whizzed through “Nothing to Declare” and out into the hall and the warm embrace of a grinning Bridget. In the temperate New Zealand evening the lump in my throat turned to tears that trickled down the sides of my nose. I knew exactly why I was crying – I was home again. The three years since I’d left through this very building suddenly seemed like a dream. All that had mattered and all that had filled my thoughts was New Zealand. And it was the land itself that made me feel this way; the earth under my feet, the vitality of the raw landscape, the tangible energy of life here. I was dimly aware that I was expecting a lot from my new country, that it, and I, had a lot to live up to, but I was too tired to let that worry me. Right now I just wanted a strong drink and a comfortable bed. We had done it. We had moved to New Zealand. But the reality wouldn’t sink in for a long time yet.