Kiwi Diaspora Archive

We wind up Christmas Eve playing Ticket to Ride with our oldest son. He’s in fifth grade and not easily¬†fobbed off when he asks the awkward questions. ¬†He’s too old to be called a child but too young to treat as an adult. And the faith is strong in this one. Proudest moment of my life ¬†was this time last year when he declared: ” Mom I’m the only fourth grader who actually believes in Santa!” He said this with pride and not a hint of disbelief in the existence of magical creatures.

This elaborate ritual¬†glorifying the wonder of¬†childhood is Christianity’s¬†greatest triumph. Other than taking the art of brewing beer to it’s highest level¬†that is.

I lose Ticket To Ride and the guys wind me up. I’m fiercely competitive so it’s easy. We have some laughs and¬†my son¬†and I fight over who’s going to post Team America to my Facebook feed.


My cousins back in New Zealand ¬†rise to the occasion and post “New Zealand Whaka Yeah”.

Whaka is a Maori word; a grammatical particle. One reason why as a culture we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our native language sounds like a cuss fest but you know it’s not because we’re smiling as we speak.
It’s when you see the whites of our eyes you need to move back. Slowly.

We’re a self conscious culture as opposed to a confident culture but we cook a mean roast dinner and our nation was settled with a whole lot of mutual arse kicking.

New Zealand scenery is out of this world. I grew up on a movie set and had no idea. I was born in the most beautiful country and I now live in the most beautiful country. This is the duality of national pride I am blessed with this Christmas.

Belief is a mindset you can re adopt as an adult. The proof is in the giving. Stop Believing and all you receive for Christmas is socks and undies .
Maintain your level of Belief and anything is possible. Unless you are dealing with Wellington City Council (NZ) but that is another story.

Christmas Eve Yeah!

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A recent foray from my home in East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area to the grittier South of Market District (SOMA) in San Francisco.

SOMA is bordered by the US 101 freeway to the southwest. This North/South freeway runs through the states of Washington, Oregon and California. The US101 joins the commercial heartland of San Francisco to Silicon Valley proper: Santa Clara County, including the city of San Jose, dubbed, “the capital”, of Silicon Valley.
This is the Northern end of Silicon Valley. A corridor of tech innovation that begins in Southern San Francisco. San Francisco is located on the Northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula that separates the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean and runs down “The Peninsula”, to Silicon Valley proper.

The stretch of the US101 that runs from San Francisco to San Jose highlighted in red.

The stretch of the US101 that runs from San Francisco to San Jose highlighted in red.

A note: Living in Northern California is to be acquainted with the phenomenon of geographical nicknames based on whimsey  rather than logic.

Locals call the stretch of land between San Francisco down to Santa Clara County “The Peninsula”.

This label differentiates this area from the City and County of San Francisco, which is also part of the entire geographical area of the San Franciscan Peninsula but not part of, “The Peninsula”.

My SO and I are driving into SOMA for meetings at New Zealand  business incubator; the Kiwi Landing Pad. Then we are going to the St Francis Yacht Club in the afternoon.

The youth sailing teams are racing in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup and the New Zealand teams are looking good.

Driving in: A major event in the Bay area recently has been the closure of the Bay Bridge last week and the re-opening of the new Eastern span last night. Today we get to be among the first commuters to drive it for the first time.

The new eastern span of the Bay Bridge is a marvel of modern engineering. It has a price tag of 6.3 billion and a construction timeline of over a decade. Part of the design includes the world’s longest suspension span.

Bay bridge

The Bay Bridge. Fresh, funky and futuristic.

We traverse the Bay Bridge, drop off the US 101 onto 5th St and take a right onto Clara St.

SOMA - Entrepreneur Town.

SOMA – Entrepreneur Town

Disembarking onto the fragrant Harrison street, we encounter the sometimes distasteful odor of San Francisco city streets.

Harrison St predominantly smells of pee.

Negotiating a homeless man and a condom wrapper, we walk to the building that houses Kiwi Landing Pad and Startup HQ.

For over two decades I have been working at or visiting random warehouses that have nurtured fledgling Tech Start-ups. This is a high energy environment.

We are greeted enthusiastically by fellow Kiwis. Our conversation promptly turns irreverent. There is a humorous discussion about the possible provision of a mobile keg to KLP.

We arrive on the day of installation of the office artwork:




A  stylised Kiwi  (top left) can engender a bit of homesickness in the most hardened of expats.

Flightless no more, Kiwis are flocking to other countries in droves.

Stepping off the plane at SFO, motivated individuals can get a berth in the inclusive environment that has been set up at the Kiwi Landing Pad. This brings them in contact with valuable experience and advice of others who have gone before.

The artwork has been organised by Kiwi intern. Annaleisha Rae

Annaleisha is a 21 year old intern from the Auckland University of Technology, in her final year of a Communications Degree.

The conversation turns to law and order.

2 people were shot in this district recently. The door to the building had been kicked in the morning of the shootings. Our Kiwi residents in SOMA were aware that a shooter was possibly on the loose and couldn’t secure the building.A few hearts stopped monetarily but the shooter was promptly arrested later that day and life in KLP went on as normal.

Annaleisha feeds us updates about the races underway on the San Francisco Bay. The gorgeous Annaleisha has a long yachting pedigree; her dad is Tony Rae, a grinder with Emirates Team New Zealand.
She adds a touch of class to the mostly male cohort resident at KLP. However, there are female residents along with dynamic San Francisco Director Catherine Robinson blazing a trail for other business minded New Zealand women.

Annaleisha informs us that our youth teams have won the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.

We all, “Whoop whoop” in glee at our nations yachting prowess and prepare to depart KLP and move on to the waterfront.





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Russell Norman:

“A generation of New Zealanders are going to watch their children grow up via Skype unless real action is taken to reduce speculation and increase the supply of affordable houses”, says Norman.
Yes, the child abuse epidemic that started and escalated under the Helen Clark-Labour era is now so bad; according to Norman, we are now going to pop ’em out and frig off to greener pastures.¬†
Or maybe we will put the kids on an airplane with a Skype-ready camera while parents and grandparents stay in New Zealand and fiddle with with the retirement age.
When my husband and I left for o’seas, we took our children with us. Currently they are behaving so badly in San Francisco, they are making me wish I had left them at the other end of a Skype session.
Just kidding. They are our raison d’√™tre. They are why we left New Zealand. My husband sought to leave New Zealand ¬†so he could maximize his returns and have some time to play with our five children while we and they were still young. He has effectively provided for our retirement without being at the point of burnout or old age. As a software developer, Silicon Valley was always going to return more, and more quickly, than Silicon Welly.¬†
Me, I was dragged kicking and screaming to a place not of my birth. Family and community have always been firm points of anchorage for me. But I am now past the point of all consuming homesickness and I am philosophical about our future here in San Francisco. Ever since the dawn of time, people have left their community to forge out a future in a far off land. We are now more conscious of this due to technology but we also have technology to thank for the ability to maintain ties with extended family. 
I suspect that Norman is sucking up to Baby boomers and that what he meant by his press release is that grandparents would grow up seeing grandchildren by Skype.
This is not a fate to be rued. It is great that in these days grandparents can still be included due to the marvels of modern technology. In the old days, grandparents were largely isolated from adult children and their children, even when the move was from one part of New Zealand to another. Today’s society is far more inclusive.¬†
I’ll enjoy our contact with friends and family when returning for holidays. It will be all the more precious for being sporadic. And being expats doesn’t mean we are no longer Kiwis.¬†
With a net economic benefit to NZ. When I return, I’ll be patronizing those stores I am fond of on our return: Wildpair, Overland, Zeira (Kumfs), and Kirkcaldies to name a few. Despite our access to the neighboring shopping meccas of Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Vacaville and San Jose, I remain fond of the aforesaid businesses. They have great stock and most importantly they understand me. Americans might speak English but it’s not the King’s English. I am universally misunderstood. I am forever spelling things out as follows:
“M for Mary, O for Oscar, No, November, I for India, Q, Quebec, Uniform, Echo”. “No, E for Echo”. ¬†
I have been known to get annoyed and after having my patience sorely tested, snap:¬†“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”,¬†to the bewildered recipient.¬†
As a rule, Yankees think our accent is cute and fun. One lady repeated back to me with great gusto, ” Siven, Ate, /Niign. ¬†But the language barrier does get wearing.¬†
When I get the hence to speak to kiwis even if it is the maligned agencies of IRD or ACC, I appreciate the dialect of my homeland. I don’t have to deliberately slow my speech or reduce my contact. If I speak normally to Americans they look at me like I am a garrulous speed freak. Only a chat with a Scottish mate of mine keeps me grounded.¬†
We may have left for financial reasons and for the chance of being part of something bigger, but we’ll always be back. For the the shoes, coffee, the lingo and the luurve of the land, if nothing else, Hobbitses.

Annual picnic, July 2012, Menlo College. Atherton, Silicon Valley. 

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