Meet Marie, a Polish- American married to a Brit, mother to a Thai toddler, living in New Zealand! Wow!

October 27, 2011 5 comments

This week, we introduce you to Marie! Marie is a food, culture and travel writer from Auckland, New Zealand. Marie is a contributing editor here at Pocket Cultures and has also just become a Mum to a lovely little toddler whom she and her husband have adopted from Thailand. Marie tells us a bit about her background, and some fun facts about Kiwis (don’t be surprised if you find them barefoot!)

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I was born in the United States and my family moved around alot! In fact, I’d say we averaged a new house in a new state about every two years. I went to England, where I did my undergraduate degree and met my husband, after high school and lived there for another ten years and then down here to New Zealand in 1999. I guess what has inspired the moves is simply the momentum I had going from my childhood. The U.S. is like 50 different countries, culturally, and so it became normal for me to enjoy moving to a new place to see what is good, different or interesting. After university, my husband and I went travelling around Asia and decided that instead of going back to Britain, we’d try our hand at living down here on this set of islands in the Pacific (New Zealand)…and we love it! Since moving here, we have also spent a lot of time in Thailand and S.E. Asia and have lived and worked in Vietnam and Japan.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. If you have kids, what culture do they most associate with?

My family is Polish American, which is a funny thing to say as we have no connection to the native people there. That’s a difference between the U.S. and some other, older countries such as China where both your ethnicity and your nationality may be the same thing. For my family, Polish would be the ethnicity and American is the nationality. I think this shows how multi-cultural the U.S. is and that is exactly the environment I grew up in (although some areas are more mono-cultural than not). I have always felt a part of a multi-cultural society and never really thought much about it until living in Asia where I started to realise just how “European” my culture is, as opposed to Asian. But having lived in so many places, I feel most at home in urban or multi-cultural areas such as Auckland. My son is just under two years old so he doesn’t associate himself with  much of any culture yet apart from that of his teddy bear. But my husband and I have felt a strong connection to Thailand since the first time we went there in 1997 and will make every effort to let our son know his first culture and language well. After that, it is up to him how much he takes on or whether he keeps up his language.

Why did you decide to become a Pocket Cultures contributor?

It may be a bit obvious from my previous comments why I have been drawn to Pocket Cultures. But I would add that, as a person who has lived in various countries, I have often observed the lack of real information out there about some countries. Whole cultures are presented in and accepted as stereotypes and, really, you can find one of every sort of person in every country. That’s what’s great about Pocket Cultures.  A real person will write about a real event that they attend or an observance that they make. This is only one person’s view from that particular country and there will be plenty of others who have had a different experience, but it is straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak (note: we have no actual horses who write for Pocket Cultures at present), and gives a true example. By reading these stories we can start to build up a more honest picture of what life is like for some people.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

Whew, now that I have a toddler running rampant in my house life is all about him! But, in my life as a freelance writer I would normally wake up and have breakfast with tea or coffee. my favourite thing is fried eggs on rice, but I wouldn’t say that is typical in New Zealand. Then, it’s on to email and deciding what I will work on that day. Then I will jump in the shower and have another cup of tea as I get into my work. If I get stuck on something, I may go out for a bit of a power walk to get my brain going again. Typically, I work up to lunchtime when I’ll have leftovers or something easy like dhal and rice (which I can also have for dinner once it’s made) or a salad. My brain starts to wane in the afternoon so I may go for a walk on the beach or sit in a cafe with a friend or just write notes or read something. In the evening I’ll have dinner with my husband (and now also with my son) and then relax with a book or telly (TV) until bedtime.Weekends are different as I try hard not to work. Instead we will go out exploring a West Coast beach or drive up to a small town farmer’s market or go for a bit of a tramp (hike). And there is always the washing to do, blah!

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

A quite well-known film about a small Maori community is Whale Rider. It’s really a beautiful film and I used to show it to my students when was an English teacher. I can’t imagine anyone not liking the film and it shows much more about New Zealand than just a bunch of adrenaline sports. More recently, the film Boy has won people’s hearts. It’s about a boy in a northern rural town (much of NZ is rural) and how he idolises his father even if he doesn’t deserve it. It says a lot about New Zealand but the theme of a boy and his father is universal.

Some of our most well-loved authors are Witi Ihimaera, Keri Hulme, C.K. Stead, Margaret Mahy, Katherine Mansfield and Lynley Dodd who wrote Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (http://pocketcultures.com/topicsoftheworld/tag/new-zealand-dairy/) for children. Another recent children’s book, called Quaky Cat, was written to help children deal with the large earthquake in Christchurch.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

That Kiwis have a bit of a dislike for shoes! Actually, especially in the summer, you can even see people walking round in the city with no shoes on. I think another surprise people get when they arrive in Auckland is how much of an influence Asia and Pacific Islands have on New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand does have a partly European history, but that is closly tied to its roots as a Polynesian nation first inhabited my Maori. Also, our location is much closer to Asia than Europe or the Americas and our connection, as a part of Australasia, is strong. New Zealand is very multi-cultural which is one of the reason I love it. A little side note for potential vegetarian visitors is that Kiwis tend to include fish as a part of the “vegetarian” diet. So, just be aware that when you say you are vegetarian, they might just offer you some freshly caught fish. The last thing is the internet. It’s terrible here. We don’t like it either and are trying to get better and cheaper internet services, but until then, if you are planning on visiting be forewarned!

About the author

Carrie McKeegan
Carrie is an American who just moved from Bali to Mendoza, Argentina. Carrie caught the wanderlust bug early on from her parents, who raised her in Mexico City. Carrie and her husband David have lived in New York, London, Barcelona, Costa Rica, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and Bali before moving to Mendoza. They are actively working to pass on the travel bug to their young son Timmy, who has already been to twelve countries.
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5 Comments

  • Thanks for the interview, Carrie! It was fun to think about these things and reflect on my place at Pocketcultures to boot.

  • Marie, what did you think of the film We Were Warriors (if you’ve seen it)? Its a bit violent but it’s such a good film!

  • Yes, I agree it was a bit violent, but it was a good portrayal of what some aspects of life are like for some people. You have to see “Boy”! It’s another angle on Maori life, albeit in a more rural location.

  • Vicki

    Lovely reflection on a life well lived…..with much more to come!

  • Richard

    Beautiful country, great place to visit. Internet is an issue but can be overcome with a little skill and cunning.