Hi :) I’m Katie, a 16 year old Aussie/Kiwi. I lived in New Zealand, where I was born, for nine years, in Belgium for five years, and I’ve now been in Beijing, China, for almost two years.
What does a normal summer look like?
There’s no typical summer plan for my family. My parents and I end up in completely different places doing completely different things. For example, last summer I first participated in a service project in Brussels, then went Wales and France, back to Belgium, then finally back to Beijing. My parents stayed in Beijing for most of the summer, then came to Brussels and afterwards went to a wedding in Ghana. And this changes every year…
The last time I spent the whole summer with my family was in 2007, if I remember correctly. We went back to New Zealand and Australia for 5 weeks. The next year, I went to the States to visit friends; in 2009 I went back to NZ alone to visit relatives; last summer I went to Europe and spent only a week of that time with part of my family.
What would my perfect summer be?
I’m torn between the idea of returning to my original home in New Zealand where I have family, and returning to Belgium which was my home for more than 5 years. I never felt torn between them until I left Belgium. When I was living in Belgium, I was quite happy to take any opportunity to go back to NZ. However, now that I’m in Beijing, I feel more torn between the countries. Just the other day my father asked me where I would like to spend next Christmas. While I have family in NZ that I would love to see, I also would like to go to Belgium where my immediate family will probably spend Christmas, and where I have good friends and many memories. I don’t know in which country my ideal summer would be as I’m deeply attached to both NZ and Belgium.
What am I doing this summer?
At the beginning of the summer, I will be attending a 12 day program in the States, in D.C. and New York, then coming back to Beijing for the rest of the summer, trying to get ahead in my school work for next year, and possibly doing a summer job.
What is my favourite summer memory?
My favourite summer memory would probably be spending time with my relatives in New Zealand, where I can also escape the summer heat as that is New Zealand wintertime. It’s nice to spend a decent amount of time back in the place that I’m tempted to call home, to reconnect with people and remember where I’m from.
The country I call home definitely depends on my mood and whom I’m talking to. When talking to Australians I can feel right at home — until they make fun of New Zealanders, at which point I jump to the Kiwis’ defense, and realize that I am more of a Kiwi than an Australian after all. To add to that confusion, after living in Belgium for 5 years, I had become quite attached to their culture, and I spoke French better than I did English. Then I really did not know where to call home.
After much contemplation, I decided to give NZ that title (most of the time) because I have the family that I’m closest to there, old friends, and it is what I describe as a “fall back country”. A fall back country is like a safety net, it’s the place where I can go back to and feel comfortable and at home with family around me, if I should ever need that at any point during my life. For me, that place is New Zealand.