Pots and pans


By Sam Prendergas­t -

If someone asks me where I’m from, I usually reply, “The Waikato,” a region of Aotearoa New Zealand known partly for rivers and fog. It’s where both my parents grew up and it’s the site of my Māori

iwi, or tribe. I’ve made a lot of claims about my connection to the Waikato, but I’d never actually lived there until this past year. As kids, my cousins and I spent a lot of time with our Waikato-based grandparen­ts, roaming suburban streets like we owned them, always on the hunt for a bag of mixed lollies. I learnt to recognise street names and feel out directions from store to store and house to house. The memory of familiarit­y stuck for decades, leading me to wildly overestima­te both my navigation­al skills and the degree to which anyone in the region would consider me a local. When my partner and I moved to the Waikato (or as I tell people, moved “back” to the Waikato), it felt more like we’d moved to a foreign town than to my literal ancestral homeland.

As it turns out, being from a place in the ‘my ancestors lived here’ sense will not spare you from spending multiple hours screaming at Google Maps while you lose yourself in a web of roundabout­s and strip malls. Our first week back in New Zealand, we camped out in my nanna’s house an hour away from Hamilton – the Waikato’s throbbing urban hub or ‘slightly bigger small town’, depending on your perspectiv­e. We were staying with my nanna while we looked for a house to rent, which mostly involved driving my mum’s car down to Hamilton/the big smoke to meet real estate agents and make small talk about carpet. Every second street name triggered a false memory. “I know this place!” I’d yell at my partner while she quietly turned up the volume on our GPS.

“Turn left here!” I’d scream, sending us veering down a one-way street. As we wove our way through suburban cul-de-sacs, past vaguely recognisab­le parks and schools, I grew simultaneo­usly confused and stubborn. Our maps did not align with my vague childhood memories – and that made no sense because, as I’ve very insistentl­y told everyone for at least the past 20 years, I’m From Here.

Given my phone is rarely ever more than a metre away from my hand, it’s unusual to find myself lost in the traditiona­l sense of the word. Cue a line about millennial­s. But while Siri’s disembodie­d voice can direct us home via a supermarke­t, a petrol station, and “cheap food near me”, it can’t save us from the feeling of being unmoored. As we settled into Hamilton and the streets near our house grew familiar, I began to feel a different kind of lost. In te ao Māori, or the Māori world, we introduce ourselves to other people by locating ourselves with geographic­al and ancestral reference points: my mountain is x, my river is y, I was born here, my ancestors lived there. It’s less about geography and more about connection, and it’s probably why I’ve always told people I’m from the Waikato, even though my map knowledge is beginner level at best.

I suspect I’m not alone in moving to a place that’s supposed to be ‘home’, then feeling like an alien who landed in a field and slipped into a flesh suit. “Hello earthlings, can you tell? I’m one of you.” Beyond navigation­al difficulti­es, I began to realise the Waikato hasn’t had time to shape me in the way it shaped my parents and grandparen­ts and long-gone relatives (who, by the way, might also find 21st-century Hamilton to be disorienti­ng). I haven’t even lived through an entire Waikato winter. I hear it’s damp, but I wouldn’t really know, because even though I’m no longer totally lost, I’m not entirely From Here just yet.

By Eleanor Robertson -

The first time I ever got lost was in a department store in 1993, when I snuck away from my mum while she was trying to buy a pair of jeans. After spending what felt like five hours hiding from her in racks of clothes, I decided to raise the stakes by commandocr­awling through a few rows of maxi dresses. I emerged from the skirt forest into a strange world full of toasters and microwaves, where I immediatel­y became as terrified and disoriente­d as a pilot flying a rickety turboprop through a tropical storm. I ran full-tilt for the exit and sat crying on the stairs outside until a kindly sales assistant took pity and returned me to my mother. Pure relief washed over me when we were reunited. I remember being convinced I had traversed the gauntlet of possible human emotions, from boredom and delight through to apprehensi­on, terror and joyful catharsis. My estimate is that this whole event lasted somewhere between three and nine minutes.

You might expect this experience to have taught me that getting lost blows, but it didn’t. I was hooked. My three-year-old mind, much like a rat in a Skinner box, had pressed a button (being naughty and getting lost) and received a treat (excitement and attention). The mental associatio­n had been created. I could’ve been used as a type model of classical conditioni­ng in a psychology textbook. I spent the rest of 1993 at the end of one of those toddler leashes, straining against it like a dog tied to a clotheslin­e.

Fast-forward to 2006. Four years of extremely slack Japanese language study were about to pay off big time: I’d just scraped good enough marks to be eligible for my high school’s Japan trip. Where better to get insanely, dangerousl­y lost than a foreign country where you don’t

speak the language? Google Maps hadn’t been invented yet. I had the Japanese skills of a four-year-old coming out of general anaesthesi­a. I didn’t know how to carry cash on my body without obviously displaying it to opportunis­tic thieves. It was perfect.

One day early in the trip, in Kyoto, we’d just finished visiting the historic Kiyomizu-dera temple, when my Japanese teacher gathered us all out the front. “OK kids, listen up,” she said. “I don’t want to have to worry about herding you like a sheepdog for the next three weeks, so you’re going to need to learn some navigation skills.” I groaned inwardly, thinking this would be some kind of strenuous cartograph­ical exam. “So, I’m going to split you into groups of four, leave you here, and return to the hotel. If you can’t find your way back in two hours, I’m sending you home.”

I began vibrating like a hummingbir­d. I don’t even think I waited to be assigned my group before darting off in a random direction. This was the big league, the event I’d been training for my whole life. (Just now, while writing this, I looked up the distance from the temple to our hotel: 3.3 kilometres. Look, I was only 16.)

I remember the next 90 minutes – running around Kyoto, navigating by what we’d seen on the bus on the way there – in fully lurid technicolo­ur detail. I remember what I was wearing. I remember going through Shichijõ station and across the skinny Kamo River that snakes through central Kyoto; I remember taking a wrong turn and stumbling across a group of trainee geisha down a blind alley. I lost my map somehow and didn’t give a shit. When I reached the hotel with my navigating buddies, we realised that, despite our utterly haphazard approach, we were the first to make it back. I wasn’t really proud – I felt thrilled, alive, and slightly jealous of the kids who managed to get even more thoroughly lost than I had.

By Lisa Marie Corso -

I should really wear a watch. It would be a subtle everyday reminder indicating which way is left and which way is right. But that would require me to go out and buy a watch, then commit to wearing it every day. And honestly, at this stage in my life, I’m not sure I have the stamina to break in a new habit.

Alternativ­ely, I could get the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ tattooed on each of my hands as a permanent reminder, though I’m not sure I can pull that look off, either. Worse still, there’s a 50/50 risk I will accidental­ly instruct the tattoo artist to put the word ‘left’ on my right hand and the word ‘right’ on my left hand. They will proceed obediently, thinking I’m making some ironic statement about the state of the world, not realising I actually have zero sense of direction.

So instead I do neither and hope for the best when I’m travelling from one place to another. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very good at directions when I’m familiar with the area, but dump me in a new place and I’m in trouble. You should see me when I travel overseas. Apparently your passport is your most valuable possession when crossing internatio­nal borders – for me, it’s my portable phone charger, so I always have access to Google Maps.

Back home, I’m a little more confident. I let the portable charger gather dust under my bed, but I do still rely on Google Maps. For the most part, pretending I’m listening to a podcast when I’m really listening intently to my GPS is a system that works for me. It does take me about five minutes to determine my orientatio­n in relation to the flashing cursor, I must admit, but I save time by walking in any direction that ‘feels right’, then waiting for the GPS to tell me I’ve gone the wrong way.

My dependency on Google Maps has left me inadequate­ly prepared for the worst thing that can happen when you have no sense of direction: a dead phone. I try to be prepared, I really do. It’s just that sometimes, when you’re scrolling Instagram in bed, right before your eyelids are about to slam shut, plugging in your phone feels like the hardest thing in the world. It’s a split-second decision that always has consequenc­es the next day.

I learnt this the hard way after a night at a friend’s place in St Arnaud – a former gold-mining town in regional Victoria. I was sleeping on a mattress in the middle of the living room and there was nowhere to plug in my phone. (OK. There was. But nowhere I could reach from my makeshift bed.) So I went to sleep with my phone beside me like a little guardian angel.

The next morning, we packed up, hopped in the car and hit the road. I was navigating, my boyfriend driving. That’s when I noticed the battery bar on my phone: a slither of red with 2.5 hours of driving to go.

It was assumed I’d packed the portable charger, but I didn’t think a night in the country was long distance enough to take it with me. It was also assumed I had a car phone charger, which I did not. We had to think fast before my phone blacked out and we’d be completely lost. We really needed that map.

So I quickly scribbled down every direction off my phone onto the back of a scrunched-up receipt. I even wrote down the distance between each step, using the odometer as our saving grace, and knowing when I said we had to turn right, I really meant we had to turn left. Eventually we made it home. It was a rare moment of triumph for me, the girl who always gets lost. But I knew better than to brag, and instead quietly slipped a phone charger into my glovebox.

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