My own immigration story

Hi friends, this week’s post is my family’s own immigration story. I know I’ve mentioned some parts of our story before, but this post will give you an in-depth account of our move across the globe to the bottom of the world!! Why not grab yourself something to drink and settle in for a read then?

Let’s start at the beginning then… 

I must have mentioned before that I left Sri Lanka when I was two years old for Zambia where my dad started a job. I don’t count this as immigration as we returned to Sri Lanka for the holidays. Mind you, this time of my life will always be memorable as it was my childhood and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. The friends I made, the experiences I had and the sights I saw, are ones I don’t think I could have had anywhere else. I discovered my love for reading and geography thanks to the teachers I had there!! Also, I gained a brother and sister, so I guess that’s a double bonus point for Zambia!!

I suppose the actual immigration or migration was from Sri Lanka to New Zealand! The five-ish years we spent in Sri Lanka was a growing experience that added to my teen years. When I migrated to New Zealand in the mid 1990’s I was actually in my late teens. We moved to New Zealand thanks to my dad’s work qualifications under a skilled migrant visa and now call Auckland home. My siblings and I were quite lucky that our parents taught us the value of hard work along with a respect for our Sinhalese culture and traditions. Had it not been for them, and my parents’ sacrifices, I don’t think we would have achieved the things we have now. So for all of these and so much more, I can truly say I’m grateful for my parents for making those hard decisions all those years ago!! 

I’m not sure if I said it before but I actually had to repeat my last year of high school in New Zealand as I didn’t have enough credits to enter university. So after I graduated high school or college as they call it here, I entered university to pursue a science degree where I majored in Geography. Both my siblings followed suit some years later with them both entering the engineering faculty to pursue their respective fields of interest. Now, as far as I know, the jobs we’re doing now are several ‘degrees’ away from what we studied originally, but I’m pretty sure what we did take away from those formative years helped in building a solid foundation for all three of us. In my opinion, this is the ultimate dream for many migrant parents!! 

Those years, the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, were not just filled with study, but also with quite a bit of creativity. My father, bless him, like his father before him, dislikes being idle and really enjoys doing something with his hands. To date he’s tried woodworking, gardening, cooking, painting, and more recently he’s started to create Buddha statues. He also held positions in one of the Sri Lankan association’s in Auckland back then. I mention these as it’s his work ethic and his personable nature that all three of us have inherited, to varying degrees. 

girl and boy standing in front of table with two birthday cakes. flower arrangement in between cakes and shelf behind them with trinkets. girl in colourful dress has arm across boy in white tshirt.
Celebrating our birthday in NZ

So in those years, along with homework and assignments, we would be helping with stage productions, going to temple, and supporting our dad in his community work. The whole aspect of adjusting to a new country and a different way of life didn’t quite hit until some time. I suppose the New Zealand accent and unique expressions made their way into our own vocabulary over time, but I do remember those first few years in university where I struggled to understand what some of my classmates were saying!! Most people in those years were quite welcoming and kind. Thankfully I didn’t encounter too many instances of bullying or discrimination. I can’t speak for my siblings, maybe their experience was different to mine. Even though most of our friendships were with those from the Sri Lankan community, us kids made friends with ‘Kiwis’ from school and now through work. I’m not sure about my siblings’ experience with making friends as they are more outgoing than me, but I actually found it a bit daunting. I was quite shy back then and making friends was a bit scary for me. You’d think as someone who had moved across the world before it would have become easier but alas that was not the case. Not until I hit my thirties anyway!!

I remember back then I had so many hopes and dreams for my family. The main one was, for my parents anyway, to have a house of our own. We achieved this dream in the late 2000’s when the three of us started working. I suppose if I had any for myself, they sort of merged with my parents’ one for me: graduate, get a job, get married!! I know it sounds a bit boring, but when you come from a South Asian family this tends to be the norm. I’ve actually achieved most of these goals. Although I am divorced now, I’d like to think I experienced some aspect of real life when I was married. If you’re wondering what happened, I’m sorry to say I won’t be revealing anything here. It’s in the past and that chapter is behind me. My work and my family is more than enough for now. This blog was part of a dream, a sense of hope that I could become a creator with my words. I’d like to think I’ve achieved that to some extent now. Now that my family and I are citizens of New Zealand we can truly say it feels more like home. Sri Lanka will always be in our hearts, and Zambia in our childhood memories, but New Zealand helped us grow up into adults and I for one am truly grateful. As migrant families go, I’d like to add that my family is just an average one. Although my parents came from simple backgrounds, they sacrificed quite a lot to give us a life rich in culture and tradition, access to the best education in my opinion, and the ability to reach for the stars in everything we put our minds to!! 

Well, that’s my migrant story. I hope it helped you learn a little about the person I am. I hope you are counting down the weeks to Christmas as I am!!

Stay safe and keep reading

Miss Mahee

image of portion of world map showing journey from parts of world to another. green background. grey shape with black cursive letters on it reading 'My own migration journey...'
My journey across the seas…

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