Every once a while, I’d catch a whiff of a very familiar scent. A scent that forever defines a country. A country where hills are greener than green, skies bluer than blue and the people nicer than nice: New Zealand. The color of nature (or of anything) in New Zealand is more vivid due to the extreme lack of industrial fume. It is especially so in the North Island where the geographical location is perfectly aligned with earth so that the temperature remained in the vicinity of 10 degree year round. Flowers and trees can’t help but bloom to in their brightest color under the reign of such well regulated climate.I haven’t written much about New Zealand because the time I spent there still felt like a dream. It was a place that was marked as the crossroad of my life in my very early memories. The place where I experienced my first cultural shock that led me into a deep depression, but at the same time, it also exists in my memory as the most beautiful country that I have ever lived in. Not to mention the nice people who live there and the principles that they abide by.
The first and most significant shock that I received is their golden rule: “Full belief in whatever you say the first time.” The fact that they can trust a stranger completely until they found a lie was beyond my comprehension. Imagine the turmoil within from a boy who grew up in a culture where we are constantly reminded in the art of deception and deceit. This attitude was so refreshing and alien that I immediately begin formulating ways of ripping people off (I am glad I didn’t.) . Because this shock was so extreme that it manifested itself later in my dealings with people as the truth method.
If a word can be associated with this smell, it will be “Truth”. A bold and strong smell, yet devoid of any intricate intertwining or complexity. It embodies truth. And like truth, it is simple yet you never get tired of it and it never overwhelms your senses, instead it replenishes your energy.
The reason why this smell was so deeply etched in my memory is because back then, my nose was also going through a cultural shock. Unlike Taiwan, New Zealand is devoid of any strong smells in normal indoor or outdoor settings. As such, it took my nose a long time to readjust its sensitivity to be able to smell New Zealand. This fact alone isn’t enough to make me notice it though, it was the bold smell and the combination from the shock in seeing the first mall in my lifetime that forever engraved it in my memory. Yes, I caught the scent while shopping with my mom at the supermarket.
That was 17 years ago and I have tried following the scent whenever I happen to catch a whiff in the air. The closest I’ve come to isolating it is when I stepped into an artisan bread shop. The journey didn’t end there because I couldn’t figure out which bread or which ingredient specifically. There are too many type of bread for me to be able to single it out. The whole shop was permeated by that smell.
The smell of New Zealand brings me back to a fond memory. Even though it is filled with tears and grief, it is warm.