By Vanessa Gordon

Maya Angelou once wrote "The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."

This quote speaks to my core. I long for that safe place. That place where you walk through an imaginary door of belonging, security, and acceptance. That magical place that you can be authentically you.

I have lived in many places in different parts of the world but there are only two places on this planet that I truly call home.

Some may say that they are two very different worlds. But to me, they are the same. They both make me feel equally free.

As soon as I step into the familiar territory I am completely one hundred percent free. Free to be me.

Kokopo East New Britain, Papua New Guinea and Island Bay Wellington New Zealand.

Yes, there are differences, cultural, geographical, economic, environmental, language, food, and climate.

One sits on the equator and is either hot and humid or; hot, humid with a chance of tropical showers year-round. And an extra side serving of occasional volcanic tremors.

The other is the most southerly capital city in the world that is cold and damp with strong gusty northerly winds that can chill you to the bone. Also with a side of shakes.

Both sit on tectonic plates.

My mother is a Tolai woman from Bitapabeke Village in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. My father was a tall brawny man from the seaside town of Island Bay New Zealand.

Two free spirits that met in the Pacific in the nineteen seventies. The world at the time probably looked at their union and thought they were mismatched that they were so dissimilar and that they were worlds apart.

But contrary to what a passerby thought besides gender and the color of their skin they were very much alike.

My mother is one of eight children, her father John ToBobo was a layman in the United Church and held a distinct chiefly position within his clan and village. He was a leader and a disciplinarian he was the epitome of a Tolai man custom and tradition was paramount. He was dedicated to family, culture, and church. My mother left home at nineteen to pursue nursing but then became one of the first indigenous flight attendants for an Australian airline. She was the firstborn daughter and her curiosity led her away from her island home. She wanted to see what the world was like outside of Kokopo.

My father is one of six children his father Arch Gordon was a layman in the Catholic Church and also held a distinct position (almost chiefly) within the community. He also dedicated his life to the church, the community, and his family. Like my mother, my father the firstborn of six sons was also an adventurer he left home at a tender age of seventeen to see what the world was like outside of windy Wellington.

If it weren't for their adventurous spirits and fearless attitude. I may not be sitting here right now in my suburban home in Australia writing this piece. Thank God for the seventies and the cultural shift that gently ushered my parents to leave their comfort zones and explore.

My parents told me many stories over the years, some legends, some urban myths, and some cultural myths about their island homes. They would tell me about traditions and superstitions about places and people.

When I'd go to my respective homes for both short term and long term visits I feel so close to the place, to the land, to the sand, to the water, to the people. I can't explain it without sounding super-spiritual its just this unexplainable sense of belonging.

I recently started a work in progress and set out on a quest to find out more about their respective island homes but more so to find out about their fathers in particular. I never had a relationship with either of my grandfathers they both passed away when I was three.

As a woman of color living in a land that's not my own; don't get me wrong I love Australia and I am grateful to call it my home away from my other homes, but it's like the transit lounge of my life. (It's a very long transit eighteen years to be exact.) The thing is I have no spiritual connection to this place. I am just a guest. A visitor, I respect the rightful owners and am thankful for my little space in the corner of the transit lounge. But I'm curious. I want to know more about my place. I want to find out all the nitty-gritty details about my ancestors which might explain more about my parents and to some extent I might discover more about me.

A few weeks ago I set out on my quest. First stop, New Zealand.

I found out so much!

So so much!

Stay tuned for part two coming soon.

Photo: Tapu Te Ranga Island Bay Wellington

Photo: Vanessa Gordon