Just over two weeks ago we touched down at Dulles Airport in Washington DC. One of the first things I noticed – apart from the heat – was a star spangled banner fluttering in the light breeze. I noticed several more as we located our rental car and started driving to Winchester and so I began to count. It takes about seventy five minutes to drive from Dulles to Winchester and as we reached the outskirts of the city I stopped counting. We had passed no fewer than 87 american flags!
I’m pretty sure there is a New Zealand flag flying from the top of the Beehive in down town Wellington but I’m racking my brains to think of where you would see another one, even if you did drive north of the city for seventy five minutes. Most of the flags I observed on the drive to Winchester were not positioned in front of civic buildings or large office blocks – the majority were out the front of ordinary homes. Admittedly we were in town close to the 4th of July Independence Day holiday, but I suspect that most of the flags we passed were on display year round (my American friends, please jump in and correct me if I’m wrong!).
I consider myself to be a proud kiwi – in fact I’d go so far as to say my pride has grown since moving overseas – yet I would never consider flying our flag outside my home. I’ve never donned a t shirt decorated with the southern cross or the silver fern. We do own a New Zealand flag but that was only purchased as a decoration for Olive’s children of the world birthday party. The most patriotic pieces of clothing in our house are the black t shirt emblazoned with a white kiwi that Richard bought to wear in the New York marathon, and the girls’ traditional Maori outfits.
We all know that the United States has a reputation for patriotism but seeing all those flags hammered home just how great that pride is. And it made me feel very foreign. Dorothy’s famous words seemed to reflect my feelings perfectly – “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Whilst I share a language with the inhabitants of our new home I do not share a culture, and I don’t say that to be negative. There will be many differences to learn about and explore, and hopefully I can share some of my culture too.
My kiwi above doesn’t look too happy does he! That’s not a reflection of how we are feeling. Whilst there is a good deal of stress and anxiety, there is also excitement and anticipation in our little family. Our mantra at the moment is most definitely “kia kaha” and we are counting on all your aroha and support as we embark on this big adventure!