My Dearest City,
As an adopted Aucklander for the past half-decade, I’m used to hearing quips about ‘dorkland’ and ‘jafas’ (which means something entirely different in British slang, by the way), bandied around by the other two-thirds of the nation, but I’d always presumed they were made somewhat in jest. However, Auckland, having spent the past six months or so exploring more of this wonderful nation in greater depth, I’ve discovered the animosity to be somewhat more deep-seated than that. Maybe my lack of Kiwi accent subconsciously encouraged more folk to be more forthcoming with their opinions, but I was surprised and somewhat infuriated by the scale of the cynical sentiments towards you, further compounded by the fact that some who sought to assassinate your character had never even set foot on your streets.
You’re not always easy to live with, Auckland. You rain too much, you’re overpriced and often bad value — but it’s not your fault you were poorly planned, and now, it seems, you’re a victim of your own success. Each year, across the board, you’re voted as one of the most liveable hubs on Earth thanks to the likes of your eateries, city beaches, stunning harbours and verdant, volcanic land. Revered by so much of the outside world — whose residents you embrace with open arms — yet sneered at by so much of your own nation, you’ve become burdened with a paradoxical image problem, Auckland, and that makes me sad.
Sure you have your faults — who doesn’t? — but you are beautiful, Auckland.
It amuses me, and others too, having lived in places such as London and Hong Kong, to hear non-Auckland Kiwis criticise you for your cultural coldness, congestion and crampedness, when to me — and many overseas visitors — you have the vibe of a welcoming, laid back big town. I smile when I think back to that sunny early January day five years ago when Heather and I first met you, you were so quiet, we thought something major had happened before discovering you must be the only hub of significance on Earth that essentially closes down over Christmas. Auckland, it’s all part of your charm.
It’s been more than nine years since I left the UK, during which time I’ve also lived and travelled around a couple of other continents, but you were the first place that really felt like home. By that, I don’t mean you remind me of home, Auckland, rather the place I’m meant to be — for now, at least, anyway. Heather feels the same, too. The year before last we spent some time in Asia, then Heather went back to Scotland to visit her family. She told me that she felt homesick for you, Auckland, while my excitement to see you again even took me by surprise.
I love the black sands and wildness of your Waitakeres, Auckland. I’m awed by your Hauraki Gulf islands, and the heavenly white sands of your Pohutakawa Coast. Your suburban social scene is stunning, while come nightfall, that jungle of masts protruding from the shadows of the shimmering city skyline that creeps into view crossing the Harbour Bridge still sends a shiver down my spine.
Sure you have your faults — who doesn’t? — but you are beautiful, Auckland, so don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise, and take it from an outsider, you’re a city of which the rest of your country should be proud.
I don’t know if I’ll stay with you forever Auckland, but I do know you’ll stay forever in my heart.
Jamie Christian Desplaces