I shed a tear this morning .
I was at my favourite table in my favourite coffee shop getting ready to work but I thought I’d check the NZ Herald page first, just to ease myself in. Procrastination really is my middle name. The first headline was this.
Richie McCaw named New Zealander of the year
I don’t have the words to add to the thousands that have been written or spoken about this bloke. He is simply one of the best role models New Zealand has ever produced and he thoroughly deserves the accolade of New Zealander of the year. But what choked me up wasn’t just ‘Richie McAwesome’ but the other New Zealanders who were recognised.
Louise Nicholas who told her story of sexual violence and abuse and made us pay attention.
Rob Fenwick, who proved that business and environmentalism could live side-by- side and used to threaten to eat his own product (compost made from human waste) to prove how safe it was.
Selwyn Cook who provides work for people with disabilities in his 14 petrol stations.
John Russell, a school principal who mentors students and other secondary school principals. And the list goes on.
Being far from home, I am acutely aware of being a New Zealander. Every day someone tries to guess where my accent is from. Strangers tell me their dreams about visiting down under. The other day, customers waited for their coffee while the barista showed me his version of the ‘tribal dance’ (that would be the Haka, sir). I don’t know how many eyebrows have been raised when I mention the All Blacks (round here that’s a name that is easy to misinterpret).
The last time I visited the US I felt that New Zealand had barely made a ripple on the consciousness of the people I met. Things have changed. Even in Bristol, Virginia, a poster child for small towns, there are no blank stares although there is still a wee bit of geographical confusion.
I’ve become an unofficial travel agent and have sent suggestions for places to visit or stay to people I’ve met on plane trips. It’s made me really think about what is so special about New Zealand and why people should travel half way around the world to see it for themselves. Turns out there are plenty of reasons.
As Richie said, “Travelling round the world and being able to say you’re a Kiwi… that’s what it’s all about.” I really am so proud I could burst.