I see them in the street way before one of them tries to shove a flyer in my hand. They’re all wearing black t-shirts with the logo of a photography exhibition currently showing (and soon to be finishing) at Auckland Art Gallery emblazoned on the front.
I’m jet lagged; putting one foot in front of the other in the gorgeous sunshine in an attempt to reset my body clock takes all the energy I can muster.
Three days beforehand I’d boarded a flight in England where I’d spent a couple of weeks visiting family and also attending a funeral and headed first to Singapore where, with my next flight delayed, I sat at the gate’s waiting room trying not to let exhaustion creep in.
Then, having made it to Brisbane from Singapore, I’d taken a short (short, but terrifyingly turbulent) flight to Auckland.
After 30 hours of travel I needed to walk, to be out in the sunshine and out of my apartment where I knew sleep would come all too easily.
I see him way before he sees me actually. He’s outside a cafe I go to regularly, trying to talk a bunch of twenty-somethings with bandanas in their hair into going to the exhibition before it closes next week when I feel the plastic coating of the pamphlet brush against my hand.
I don’t hear what he says; I’m listening to High Contrast, something up-beat to keep me awake, but I take a guess that he’s telling me about the exhibition.
I take my ear phones out.
“I’ve been twice,” I say, continuing on my way but turning around to address him, “it’s amazing!”
He lifts his arms up in victory and turns to face the table of people behind him as if to say see, there you have it, that girl’s been twice and she said it’s amazing.
I walk away smiling, loving that feeling when you’re not a tourist anymore; when you can recommend places to others. I love getting so familiar with somewhere that people see you walking confidently in the street and instantly feel like you’re the right person to ask directions of.
I’ve lived in Auckland for eight months now. Before that, two years in Australia. Before that, I was in England having never travelled before.
When I first arrived in Auckland I hated it. Well, I loved some things about it but I felt like I was a piece of a puzzle that didn’t fit. I was stuck in a rut, living in a hostel, not getting anywhere.
Then something clicked and all of a sudden I became a part of the puzzle. I realised that everything was going to be ok and started to see that Auckland was a city I could actually live in.
As I turn the corner onto Victoria Street East another feeling creeps up inside me. From my feet pounding the pavements so I don’t fall asleep, to my stomach which is still sensitive from my three turbulence-filled flights right through to my heart;
I’m in the right place.
I’m exactly where I want to be right now.
And, maybe the most important one: