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A Prelude to a Goodbye.



I have been putting off writing this post for a long time now.

I told myself the timing was never right. Or that it was too soon. Or that I had too much going on.
Which I did of course. But today marked a significant milestone in my life here in NZ. We had sent the boxes containing our personal effects that we had collected over the past three and a half years for shipping. A hard month and a half of packing, and a mad sprint to the finish yesterday, where Salmah only slept 45 minutes in 24 hours, and then had to rush off for her final day at her job at 4am in the morning, bless her soul.

But we made the deadline.

And now in as the adrenaline is ebbing out of my veins, I finally get a chance to contemplate on the past three and half years as a Kiwi, and how life was going back full circle, as I prepared to leave these shores.

It is impossible to capture every single experience in a single blogpost, but there are those moments that are impossible to delete from one’s mind.

In my time here, I have survived more than 11,000 earthquakes since the first event in September 2010. The first time I felt the earth move beneath me was perhaps the most terrified I had ever been, that cold winter morning at 4am, alone. And then there was the February 2011 earthquake that destroyed Christchurch, and killed more than a hundred people, where I was almost trapped on the fifth floor of a building that was just opposite the devastated iconic Christchurch Cathedral. Where I had to wade through liquefaction, water that was pouring out from the ground, to get to my car, and claw my way through rubble to make a path for me to return home to my wife and children.

These are incidents that one does not forget. Ever.

For more than six months, we lived like shell-shocked war veterans, our nerves frayed, always waiting for the next ‘big one’, where we would wonder whether we would live or die. And many big ones did indeed come.

But we held on. Persevered. Put our faith in the Lord. And that if we were to die here, it would be in the path of the righteous, in the path of seeking enlightenment. In the path of seeking knowledge.

And we held on.

But in all the fear and terror, there were also moments of absolute peace and tranquility. When things got so bad in Christchurch, we were able to secure some funds to go travelling - and when we were out there in the mountains, driving past the expanse of endless azure lakes, it was as if we were in another world, where the earthquakes of Christchurch seemed to be just a hazy memory.

These sights I would always remember. The Southern Alps, as timeless as the Earth, Papatūānuku herself. The ancient glaciers and the turquoise water of the rivers that they fed. The burning mountains of Lake Tekapo and the Lupins that decorated its shores like precious amethysts in the golden barrenness of the New Zealand plains. The majestic Remarkables mountains and lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. The vast expanse and towering peaks of the fjords in Milford sound. And oh so many, many more, too numerous to be contained and described in a single sitting.

These images would be etched forever in my mind.

But nature was not the only memory we were to take away from New Zealand.

Here our children had a good home. They had friends they loved, and teachers they adored. They were surrounded every day by all the good that being Kiwi had to offer - the genuineness of the people, the down to earth quality that spoke of good humour and helpfulness, the feeling of trusting  and being able to trust in return. Although they are too young to remember this, they will feel the effects of the Kiwi upbringing when they are older, as much as their father still remembered what it was like to be a Brit. And to be able to leave the negatives and take the positives of these cultures and meld them together with their own Malay culture of humility and gentleness. This will be the foundation of great men. At least in the eyes of their own father.

Perhaps the greatest treasure that we bring back - another son, Aaron. Born a Kiwi, though too young to remember anything of his life here. He too will be taught the values of his heritage, both by blood and by birth.


And so life has come full circle.

Aaron is as old as Adam when he first arrived. Adam is as old as Adel when he first arrived. And Adel is returning to Malaysia, a seven-year old primary schooler. Salmah is getting ready to start returning to her old life as a teacher. Back to a normal job, instead of waking up at 3am, and working until 7am, every day.

And me?

The future is still unwritten for me. I still have another six months to finish writing up my PhD. But that will be done back home in Malaysia. I just realised that I used the word home for Malaysia again, which was the exact opposite when I had gone to Malaysia 2 years ago for research, and returned ‘home’ to New Zealand.

So where is home?

Home is where my family is.

And as long as I have my family with me, any place where we strike roots is the place where I belong. Though there is a corner of my heart that will forever be New Zealand.


Comments

Fascinating.
What's written about you and your children, were a mirror image of you and your siblings that we brought up in the UK.
The formative years were so strong in shaping the family.
Salmah's sacrifices is a reflection of your Mom's many sacrifices and grits, helming the family those many years..
Allah be with you

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