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Yesterday, on the anniversary of my arrival, I earned the status of citizen.
Sat between two others, I watched families and individuals one by one being given their certificate of citizenship by Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt.
In many ways, my English-ness shines through; I can be quite reserved at expressing emotion, but the collective happiness of 48 people officially becoming a Kiwi was emotive enough for me to choke up a tad.
For me, that journey started when my social science teacher asked me, a year after my arrival, if I thought I was a New Zealander.
Cue identity crisis at age 13.
Of course I didn’t then, but I wanted to be; I saw positivity and ambition in the people I met, something I was not necessarily surrounded by in England. Through high school and university, and now at my first job in journalism, the people I met and the experiences I have had increased the desire to be officially called a Kiwi and so I applied for citizenship.
The diversity in recipients hinted at the different stories and lives we have all led, and the forces that have influenced us to be sitting there together in that one room in Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand.
I see my own story in many of the people I have met in my decade here — my family moved from Northamptonshire, England to sunny Hawke’s Bay for the chance of a better education for my sister and myself, and a better quality of life.
I think it fair to say no matter where someone originated from, those desires were a common denominator of citizenship recipients yesterday.
Invercargill’s Civic Theatre was humming with the chatter of new citizens and their loved ones after the ceremony ended, and it became evident how varied everyone’s lives had been up to that point.
Some recipients hailed from South Africa, and others Sudan, The Philippines, Venezuela and Germany, and each of us took part in what Sir Tim said was the largest ceremony in Invercargill yet.
We were all given a kowhai tree to commemorate our citizenship. Mine will be donated to Bush Haven, a local sanctuary for injured kereru.
Mrs Karen Elisabeth Auckram (British), Mr Anand Navinchandra Mistry (Indian), Mr Victorio J Yumul Cacdac (Filipino), Mrs Lourdes Gadingan Cacdac (Filipino), Master Lei Dylan Gadingan Cacdac (Filipino), Mrs Beverly Jane Claridge (American), Dr Elnazeer Ramadan Kangar Elfaki (Sudanese), Mrs Josephine Taclindo Figalan (Filipino), Mrs Kahealani Patilda Letaauso Fiso (American Samoan), Mr Eucharist Kentala Fiso (Samoan), Mrs Jetty Paulien Henderson (Indon esian), Mrs Mottu James (Indian), Mrs Syeda Hufsa Reem Kazmi (Pakistani), Mr Patrick Victor Madden (South African), Mrs Deborah Adde Madden (South African), Mr Daniel Patrick Madden (South African), Miss Siobhan Elizabeth Madden (South African), Master Kieran Phillip Madden (South African), Mr Jacobus Maree Meyer (South African), Mrs Cornelia Elizabeth Meyer (South African), Mr Adrian Sauro Milanesi (Venezuelan), Mr Robert Miller (British), Mrs Norisah Newman (Malaysian), Mr Dominic James Newman (British), Mrs Mary Shirley Reece (Solomon Islande), Mrs Arlyn Barnes Reyes (Filipino), Mr Jose Eduardo de Guzman Reyes (Filipino), Miss Hannah Luiz Barnes Reyes (Filipino), Mr Roger Frederick Rutland (British), Mrs Ruth Alison Rutland (British), Miss Syesha Aoki Casareo Sarical (Filipino), Mr Sulpicio III Salgo Sarical (Filipino), Mrs Charmaine Joy Casareo Sarical (Filipino), Master Caleb Rafael Sarical (Filipino), Master Pierre Andrei Abejar Casareo (Filipino), Mr Fhumulani Sabelo Shavhani (South African), Mr Vinay Sood (Indian), Mr Royce Errol Alfonso Tolentino (Filipino), Mrs Kerri-Lee Gunter (South African), Mr Christian Frans Gunter (South African), Mr Digvijay Singh Goel (Indian), Mr Steven Priest-Jacobs (South African), Mr Klaus Rickertsen (German), Mrs Maike Rickertsen (German), Mr Alvaro Patricio Silva Ortiz (Chilean), Miss Laura Anne Smith (British), Mr Brian Grenville Smith (British), Mr Angus David Swartz (South African).