How I fell out of love with NZ during the pandemic and how I gained it all back when I left

Florencia Hoyuelos says she now has a  blended heart with two flags: Argentina and Aotearoa.

Florencia Hoyuelos

Florencia Hoyuelos says she now has a blended heart with two flags: Argentina and Aotearoa.

Florencia Hoyuelos works for the Ministry of Education as an Assistant Project Manager for Ngā Iti Kahurangi. She is an amateur Salsa dancer, a Yogi and a Gym nerd.

OPINION: Having grown up in a metropolis like Buenos Aires has always made Wellington look microscopic, but when you are travelling, you get distracted making new friends and finding who you really are in that place.

Everything was going well until Covid hit the world, and on the 19th of March 2020 when the borders closed, I was involuntarily left separated from my family in Argentina.

For the next two years, thanks to lockdown, my life took place on the 20 blocks of Wellington CBD, and that’s when things started to get annoying very fast. I started hating my job, I started hating the weather, I hated Kiwi food, I hated every 1pm announcement, I hated the red-light settings, I hated how boring and uninspiring NZ felt. I kept thinking that I was living in The Truman Show and we were all living like choreographed puppets waiting and waiting … and waiting.

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If I left, I couldn’t come back and that was a risk I was not willing to take, so I chose to stay, and stay angry at the way NZ was protecting us.

Fast forward to 2022, I think I was one of the first people to buy an international flight when I started seeing some hope in the way NZ changed its response to managing Covid like the rest of the world.

I was over the moon getting ready to go back to the place and the people that I missed so much … and to my surprise, being away for only five weeks made me remember why I left Argentina in the first place. I felt extremely grateful to be part of NZ almost immediately after I took a step out of it.

As immigrants, we struggle with the concept of ‘home’. Is home where my family is, or is home where I reside?

I had a few weeks to reflect on how during these years I have idealised only one part of Argentina, the part that I missed the most – the emotional – but I was forgetting that inflation, polarised politics, housing, education, investment, social policies, health care and inequality will always be a problem in any country you choose to live in (more so in a South American one). I realised that I wasn’t giving NZ the credit it deserves for having so many other things that were allowing my growth as a person.

Hoyuelos has moved back to Wellington.

Florencia Hoyuelos

Hoyuelos has moved back to Wellington.

Sure, the emotional cost I pay for being away from my loved ones is huge, but the security, the career and financial opportunities, the stability, the communities I am part of and overall, the pace NZ moves at, is something I have taken for granted during some rough years. After all, the grass is not always greener on the other side; it’s greener where you water it.

While navigating Covid as an immigrant was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do (and am still doing), this country has given me the opportunity to build a better life and has been embracing me for the last four years. All I had to do was leave to see it.

When I landed back in Wellington, I felt truly happy to be here, and that’s why I can say with certainty that I now have a blended heart with two flags: Argentina and Aotearoa.


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