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Whānau: Good as Gold

Editor's note: "Whānau" is the Maori word for "family." The artwork displayed is the work of the writer. Check below to see more of her work and order your own piece.

At what stage does a new place in the world become your home? For many who have made New Zealand their new home, that question was answered one Friday afternoon.

From what I’ve heard, from friends and stories online, it was just another busy Friday in town. People went to work, kids went to school, and Muslims went to pray, as is customary for them on a Friday.

As visitors enter the mosque, it is customary to greet them. For one man, reports have said that those were his last words. “Welcome brother,” he said to the man with the weapon. Then, he was killed.

I won’t recount that day — of the news reports flooding in, the numbers of the dead growing and growing, the injured growing. The story of what happened there isn’t mine.

But, I can tell you what it was like living in the capital of New Zealand for over 10 years, and how it all changed in a day.

I was in college in Texas when 911 happened, and we watched the world change. When I first arrived in New Zealand back in 2005, I remember thinking that in some ways it’s like going back to the 80s. Everyone knows each other. So much is based on the honor system. The idea that people are generally good and do good by each other is just assumed. And kiwis (New Zealanders) live up to that.

They have a saying "good as gold," which has similar meaning to "right as rain."

And to me it's so apt because kiwis are good as gold. They're a rare breed of society — uncourrupt and full of goodness.

Try tipping a kiwi waitstaff, and they’d laugh at you and hand you back your money. Lose your wallet in town, and it’s most likely going to be returned, money in tact (I’ve tested that one a time or two). Try looking at a police uniform for a gun, and you wouldn’t find it. Police didn’t carry guns.

They do now. Almost overnight, the capital changed. Sure, some of the things I listed previously changed a bit over time (some places have tip jars now), but security and armed guards changed over night.

Given all that change, though, there’s still an attitude that New Zealand used to address this tragedy that really sets it apart — one thing I have yet to see elsewhere in the world, and it makes me proud to live here: no notoriety.

Our prime minister lead the dialogue that we focus on the victims and survivors, not the evil human who did this. Many don’t know his name, but they do know the names and stories of the many killed.

The man streamed his rampage, but we aren’t watching it. I say we, because as I said before, I now know when a new place becomes your home. When you see it at its worst and you’re filled with nothing but pride.

For more artwork by Elaine, click here.

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