The land that claims us

I’ve been gallivanting; travelling across the Plains, from north to south and back again. I went to Timaru, a port city about 162km from Christchurch. I haven’t been that way in more than 3 years. It’s not very far, in terms of time or distance, but the earthquakes and their aftermath had somehow imprisoned me within the confines of my own city.

Last Thursday I broke free, and, in my trusty little Toyota Echo, I traced the old, familiar route across the wide open spaces; the fields to left and right, the snow topped mountains ever westward, the endless blue of sky above; the rivers big and little and, all along the wayside, the litany of names, the signs of our settlement, our marks upon the land….Templeton, Rolleston, Burnham, Northwood, Bankside, Rakaia, Chertsey, Ashburton, Tinwald, Hinds, Rangitata, Orari, Temuka and so many more…until I met the rolling hills that end the Plains, and the city that sits upon their folds; my destination,  Timaru.

View from Timaru

View from Timaru

Timaru is one of my homes away from home,

Home away from Home

Home away from Home; a place of shelter

mainly because my uncle and his family have lived there for  many years and are always ready to offer generous hospitality to me and my loved ones. Recently I  discovered another reason to feel bonded to Timaru. It was the initial place of residence for the Scottish side of my family when they came to New Zealand in the mid 1870s. It was also the site of our first birthing in New Zealand; from the paternal side  of the family tree, that is. A momentous occasion, perhaps, that first birthing, or, more realistically, just another fact of life for a busy settler-wife to contend with.  Whatever the case, young James arrived in the land of his parents’ choice, on 26 June 1877, followed, not long after, by his twin brother, Joseph.

Years later, a cemetery entry, which is probably that of my great-uncle, records James as a native of Scotland, despite being born and having spent most of his  life in New Zealand.

And, therein, lies the rub; which land claims us? The one we are born to, the one we live in, the one we die in, the one we feel is home, that we feel in our heart, the one we left behind, the one we long for, the one we choose, or don’t choose, the one that loves and protects us, or the one that legally bind us? Or the one that refuses to let us go?

My son, through circumstances entirely outside his control, was born in the US. His birthplace was happenstance; his first landfall, like that of his great great uncle, was an accident of birth. For the greater part of his life he has lived in New Zealand; considers himself a New Zealander and holds, and chooses to hold, New Zealand citizenship. Yet, like a dog unwilling to relinquish its bone, America, the land of his birth, holds on to him, and millions of others like him, whose only wish is to live freely, quietly and privately in the country of their own choice. America  does this via the appalling effrontery of  FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act which compels governments worldwide to hand over, to the IRS, the personal financial information of anyone (or institution) with  Born in America  next to their name. Supposedly this measure is aimed at  preventing losses to the US economy  through tax evasion.  Perhaps it will,  but does catching the tax cheats really require the Government of America to force minion foreign Governments  to trawl the electronic trail of the US diaspora for wicked tax evaders and, in the  dragnet-process,  mangle  the innocents abroad and the accidental Americans?

My ancestors  traversed thousands of miles of unruly ocean to reach New Zealand. They wanted to escape the restrictions of old societies and economies. They came looking for newer, better ways to live. Most people who settled in the US travelled long, arduous routes to get there, too.  They wanted to be free of old ways, old tyrannies, old politics.  When I look at power-mongering acts like FATCA, I wonder if any of us have travelled very far at all.

Which land claims you?

Which land claims you?

© silkannthreades

 

 

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83 thoughts on “The land that claims us

  1. Karin Van den Bergh

    I was just browsing through some of the interesting tags and stumbled upon ‘gallivanting’. Seemed interesting .. and indeed 😉
    I have never been to New Zealand but it’s definitely on my list!! Timaru must be a very beautiful place as is the entire country I believe.
    I’ve traveled a lot in my life – both for professional reasons (tourism) and now as ex-pats relocating from place to place. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to be able to visit so many places and meeting new faces. I strongly believe it’s an enrichment for life. Then again, there comes a time when one wants to settle down and inevitably this question comes to mind.. And where is my true home now? And what defines it? Thought provoking indeed for a cosmopolitan. Earth? Maybe to me “Home is where the ‘h’e’Art’h is? 😉

    Reply
  2. Boomdeeadda

    It hardly makes sense does it. Most countries will spend endless resources chasing their tails when in fact a targeted penalty would make more sense. It’s a ‘make work project’ most likely. I have many friends in America and I’m sure they all feel the same as you do. An enjoyable read for a less enjoyable subject.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thanks Boomdeeadda of the happy song. I usually try to steer clear of political subjects that raise my blood pressure but, sometimes, one simply has to speak! Or sing the Boomdeeadda song, which is probably a more useful use of one’s time. 🙂

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Indeed we do, Clanmother, and I worry that we are failing the tests. Although I expect my worry has been around since people discovered they were capable of worry.

      Reply
  3. shoreacres

    Another little-known aspect of FATCA is the number of Americans it has led to renounce citizenship in this country. In absolute number it isn’t so great, yet in terms of the percentage (rising) and the net effect, it may be more significant than is realized.

    To penalize productive members of society while opening our borders to massive numbers of poor, uneducated and entirely illegal immigrants is well beyond wrong-headed. The discussion here for the past couple of years often has reduced itself to: “Is this stupid, or intentional?” Increasingly, it appears to be intentional. As amazing as it sounds, you may be witnessing the destruction from within of the United States. None of us wants to believe such a thing of our leaders, but it seems increasingly plausible.

    As to home, land, and places that claim us, I’ve been pondering a decision that’s weirdly related: where to be buried? In Iowa, in the family plot? In Texas, where I have a plot out in the country? When I was younger, I was firmly in the “scatter my ashes to the four winds” camp. I’m still choosing cremation, but being in a “place” feels more important. I need to make the decision, even if I change it later. But thinking about it certainly does help to focus on which land is “ours” in a new way.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      The Forbes article is interesting. I don’t know what the figures are like for other countries, ( if they keep such statistics), but, renouncing citizenship, is not something that is done lightly, by anyone.
      Sadly, FATCA isn’t simply penalising productive members of society. I was horrified to learn that implementation of FATCA compliance measures is costing our Government $NZ12million over the next 5 years and then $NZ2million for every year thereafter. Additionally, there are costs to the banks and financial institutions. I keep thinking how our health care system could benefit from that money; or our schools. That may seem a small amount to the US economy but it is a huge ‘loss’ to a small economy like ours. Right now, because of the earthquake induced housing shortage, there are people in our city sleeping in cars and in garages, and the Govt says it can’t afford to help with housing. $12 million could build a lot of houses. Is our Govt stupid!!!!!
      Anyway….the decision you are pondering is very much related to the land that claims us. Where to be buried is often a difficult question to answer. I have not found an answer yet. Sometimes I think I would like to be buried next to my great grandmother but there is only room there for ashes, and, I am not sure I want to be cremated. However, it’s good to be thinking about this issue. 🙂

      Reply
  4. sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.

    Gallivanta – Your posts are such a joy to read. I know I’ll always come away with lots of food for thought. You have such a lyrical way of placing your words and none are hostile. Instead your words scamper about while I think about the many different places I’ve lived and how so many of those locations have claimed parts of my heart.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Mmmm…you have made me wonder if I should stop wanting my whole heart to be claimed by a certain land. Perhaps it’s enough to know that my heart has responded to so many different claims over the years. I have a patchwork quilt of claims all over my heart. 🙂

      Reply
      1. sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.

        Gallivanta – Above my desk is a framed heart-shaped piece of quilt (hand-made of course) and crossed stitched below it the words, “Those who sleep under a quilt, sleep under a blanket of love.” And, I sleep better under a quilt than any other way.
        I believe the love of learning new things and taking an avid interest in how others live and participating in that life makes our lives richer. During the 20 years I traveled for my work, there were so many places I felt at home, yet I always knew there would be something just as wonderful and even more so around the next corner. Your blog tells me you have a need to keep learning and experiencing at all times. Therefore, why should you have a solid colored blanket when you can have the harmony of a quilt?

        Reply
  5. diannegray

    What a fabulous road trip. Timaru looks beautiful! I’ve never been to NZ but I have friends there I know should visit as soon as I get the opportunity.

    I’ve never heard of FATCA, but it sounds like an absolute pain in the neck for your son. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with it in the future if enough file complaints about it.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Well, New Zealand would love to greet you but do come when it is a little warmer. My parents, who live in Cairns, used to come ‘home’ from November till about March and then go ‘home’ to Cairns for your cooler months. It worked well but, of course, they are not physically strong enough to travel these days. As for FATCA, I hope it falls upon its own sword, (so to speak) but I doubt it will. Even Russia is now caving in to FATCA, although Russia’s second largest banking group is ditching 2000 US clients because it can’t be bothered with the FATCA compliance headache.

      Reply
  6. Britt Skrabanek

    Which land claims us? What a thought-provoking question! Europe has a special hold on me, certainly. Every time I go there I feel very comfortable, and definitely not like a tourist. I don’t know if it’s my ancestry or the European history I’ve studied for so long, but it’s familiar in some way.

    For the longest time though, I didn’t think I was connected to a certain land until a couple of years ago when I visited Southern California for the first time in many years and felt the Pacific calling me back. Then I realized my land was there on the West Coast, which in a nutshell is how we ended up here in Portland.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Some lands do call just like the Pacific coast did for you. Why? Who knows but one certainly knows when it happens. On another blog today I read about the need to be ‘grounded’ before we can grow creatively. I expect you would agree with that. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Miss Lou

    Timaru looks beautiful! (I wouldn’t mind have that as a second home)

    I’m often inspired by your rich knowledge of your family history, and it motivates me to ask questions of my own family. My mother passed away in 1995. I was 16, and as she was not in close contact with her family, I missed out on many of those connections.

    Much of my family lives in Tasmania, right at the bottom of Australia, and I have been there to visit and just love it. I often think of moving my family there.

    FATCA sounds like a ridiculous policy. – Not to mention a significant waste of money for US taxpayers. Surely they can come up with something more effective.

    Lovely pictures

    Thanks for sharing!

    ML
    x

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Now, before we go any further…..have you done your 3km yet and started on mine? 🙂
      FATCA ,for you and me, has meant law changes in our countries so we can comply with US legislation. What the heck??? I thought we lived in independent nations, not the United World of America!! 😀 😀 Oh well!
      I am glad you have enjoyed family time in Tasmania. One day, when you have finished building Rome, you can investigate your family tree; or climb it. 🙂

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I have seen it referred to as the worst law Americans don’t know about! Whether it is or not, I can’t really say, but, for sure, there will be costs to US citizens associated with the implementation of FATCA. The question is, will the money recouped outweigh the costs of implementation? The compliance costs for us, the foreign countries, are huge. I really fear that you and I, ordinary American and ordinary non-American, will end up paying the price for serious big time tax evaders who won’t get caught at all. But I will hope that doesn’t happen. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Tiny

    I completely understand. FATCA is my everyday reality as well although I was not born here and don’t carry the passport. It works similarly for anyone with “interests” in another country, like the land of my family where I was born. As you say, it was meant to catch tax evaders, but unfortunately it catches us small people in much bigger numbers…I agree with you that little inspiration would do wonders 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Arrrgh…its pervasive as well as invasive! And almost a disincentive for people to create wealth. I very much hope that the US Government will publish information on the amount of money actually recovered in this way as well as the costs involved in recouping it. Banking and Govt systems outside the US must be shouldering hefty compliance costs associated with FATCA, which, of course, means that bank customers in NZ, or wherever, can look forward to their banks trying to recoup costs via increased fees.

      Reply
  9. lagottocattleya

    Never heard about this law. But, very symptomatic with the land of the free not being that anymore. Makes me think of G. Orwells’ novels…Of course it’s not that bad, but it’s the same conclusion – people want to change things for the better…but in the end it turns out the same or even worse.
    Great trip and lovely photo!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, the intention usually is to make things better but often the idea, or the solution to a problem, is not well-thought through. It would be interesting to know what ideas young people, like your students, would bring forward to solve tax evasion issues. We might see some very creative solutions.

      Reply
  10. Heather in Arles

    Well said! I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is…And I too have been thinking about “Home” lately. You and I both seem to be often pondering the same things…

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      We both have unresolved ‘homing’ issues. Perhaps I need to study pigeons more. 😉 Are you back in Arles yet? The puppers, not to mention Remi, will be so happy to see you again.

      Reply
  11. Steve Schwartzman

    Having been born on the Fourth of July, I’ve always been drawn to the period of the founding of the United States and the self-checking government that some people versed in the lessons of history established to run it. In increasingly many ways this is not the country I grew up in, and I’m very much troubled by some of the changes. You’ve probably heard of all the secret spying and record collecting that the government of the United States has recently been caught doing, and keeps getting caught doing. In addition to that, we have a president who acts like Louis XIV, as if “L’état, c’est moi,” “I am the state.” I hadn’t heard of FATCA, but it makes me think of “fat cats,” a term that seems to apply more to the people in the government than to any tax evaders they claim to be trying to catch. I didn’t expect to be involved in a discussion like this over here, but since you brought the subject up, I’m not hesitant to engage.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Belated Happy Birthday! What a party you get every year. Fireworks too.
      Yes, FATCA, does suggest ‘fat cats’ and, unfortunately ,they live in every country, living off the cream of the land.( And we have a lot of cream in NZ being a dairy country and all.) I don’t usually like to ‘interfere in the internal affairs’ of another country but there are times when my blood boils, over actions taken by another Govt. The invasive nature of FATCA annoys me almost as greatly as the French nuclear testing in the Pacific used to. Speaking about that, it is almost the anniversary of the bombing/sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand. That invasion and intrusion of New Zealand’s independence caused outrage in NZ. These days, when our financial shores/our privacy are invaded, we simply roll over like dogs and take what meagre bones we are given. http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/nuclear-free-new-zealand/rainbow-warrior By the way, I have nothing against dogs. 😉 It’s a bit mean of me to include them like this.

      Reply
  12. Joanne Jamis Cain

    Interesting points you raise, along with a beautiful countryside. I didn’t know about this FATCA law. Can your son relinquish all his citizenship rights to the USA if he so chooses? Or does birth mean forever?

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      As far as he and I are concerned he has relinquished his rights but that hasn’t stopped his details being collected! So it’s beginning to look like birth does mean forever. 😦 We will see. It’s all new territory for everyone involved.

      Reply
  13. LaVagabonde

    As an expat American, I also live under the shadow of FATCA. But even before it came into existence, Americans were required to pay tax no matter where they live and even if they already pay tax to their country of residence. This double taxation is the reason I stopped working when I moved overseas. It has been a huge sacrifice to my independence. I’ve got my writing, but being out of the work force for so long is depressing. And I still live with the fear of an audit, because if I ever fall under suspicion, I’m guilty until proven innocent. So much for being “free”, eh?

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Unfortunately, FATCA, just adds another layer of complexity to expat American lives! And it’s horrible that your freedom to be who you want to be is compromised by these uniquely American regulations. As for my son, I am appalled that, despite his NZ citizenship, his own Govt (for which he votes) is willing to disclose his private information to a foreign Govt, to be marked guilty as an American citizen until proven innocent. One thing, though, which doesn’t seem such a bad idea, is that Americans abroad seem to be eligible to vote in US elections no matter how long they have been absent from the US. Is that so? I suppose that for the privilege of being taxed you earn the privilege of voting.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          New Zealanders have to fulfill certain residence requirements in New Zealand if they want to be eligible to vote from outside the country.

  14. utesmile

    Travelling is always wonderful to see new land and combined with history and roots you have somewhere else it is more meaningful. It looks beautiful there. You should go and travel out in your car more often and show us around….. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Mary. It’s interesting to wonder what binds us to the land, or what it is in the land that binds to us. For everyone, the links will be slightly different.

      Reply
  15. womanseyeview

    Here in Canada U.S. influence over our lives is just a ‘facta’ life (sorry couldn’t resist!!)…I’m intrigued by your point about how far we really do have to travel and how many of our families travel to escape oppression only to find it again in other forms…thanks for the trip.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Facta Life! Of course that was irresistible!!! Sadly, it looks like FACTA is going to be just that for the rest of the world too. Perhaps, you Canadians can offer us some advice on how to deal with it. 😉 There are definitely degrees of oppression, and FACTA would be at the lower end of the scale, but my hackles rise when sweeping, almost totalitarian, measures start to intrude in to our harmless, small lives.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          We think Facebook and Google etc know too much about us but really they don’t worry me as much as my own Govt when it comes to data collection.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Cindy, I love to be on the road, but I don’t do it often enough. Somehow, I find it hard to escape from the tyranny of routines. 😦

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, I did the driving! Everyone passed me on the highway, of course, because, for some reason, a little lady in a little car, politely obeying the speed limit, must always be overtaken. 😀

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Jo, I am not sure how this new law will work out. Mostly, I suspect, it will simply mean a lot of annoying paperwork for a lot of annoyed people. The water garden was a lovely spot.

      Reply
  16. Just Add Attitude

    Beautiful photographs. I loved this post with its description of your journey to your home away from home and for the stories about your ancestors. I had no idea about the existence of FACTA, it seems very arbitrary of the USA to require other nations to supply such information to them.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It’s a journey I love to take. I don’t know about arbitrary but the US legislation does seem like bully tactics, or using a sledgehammer to solve a problem which would benefit from more finesse. And, sadly, the big tax evaders have had ample time to do what they do well, which is hide their money from yet another Government attempt to get at it.

      Reply
  17. KerryCan

    This whole question has never occurred to me. My “people” have been here for so long that any other roots–Dutch, Irish, British–are long lost. I had no idea the US imposed such control as you describe–do they actually tax him or do they follow his financial movement just in case they can find a way to tax him?

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It’s lovely that you feel firm and strong in your present land. I think that feeling of belonging takes a long time, but just how long must depend on the individual. FATCA is a new ‘being’; none of us is quite sure how it will work out. At the moment, it seems to be more a type of surveillance, an information gathering.But there is clear intent to gather taxes if the US thinks it can. I don’t object to rightful tax collection but I do object to unnecessary interference to our privacy as NZ citizens. Double taxation agreements are proper means of dealing with tax issues between countries and nothing else should be necessary. Foreign governments and the US are all complicit in this FATCA issue.

      Reply
  18. mmmarzipan

    Wow! I never knew about FATCA! My brother has just moved to the US with his wife temporarily and they are yet to have children, but I should “warn” them of this.
    I love your descriptions of New Zealand and, having only been there once, I would love to return and explore more. I found the people warm, engaging and very open, the food was beyond amazing (I ate my way around the North Island and seriously put on about 10kg!) and the landscape is breathtaking.
    For years I considered myself to be English. I didn’t want to be naturalised as an Aussie, even years after my London accent had left me and my skin had tanned. I became an Australian at the request of my nanna, Dorothy Rose, who was a proud and patriotic Aussie. I had to swear allegiance to the Queen on England during the ceremony, which 18 year-old me found utterly ludicrous. I always *knew* that when I made it back to London I’d feel at home. When I returned after 23 years, I felt a certain comfortability there, but it certainly wasn’t a homecoming. I loved London. But I wasn’t English anymore. Now, after 10 years of living in Scandinavia, I have never been/felt more Aussie in my life.
    Yep, I am definitely Australian 🙂 xx

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      You ate your way around the North Island! That made me smile. You must come back and eat your way round the South Island. Our feelings about ‘home’ are strange things. I used to think that Fiji, my birth place, was the only home for me. Then, after the coups, I completely lost that special sense of belonging and, in many ways, I have been searching for it ever since. Sometimes, there are places or scenes in NZ that grab my heart in that special ‘this is my land and I love you to bits’ way. I am glad your choice of Australia has found a home in your heart. Your Nanna was wise to insist! And, yes, please tell your brother about FATCA. If I had known that my child would be marked forever by his birth country, I probably would have tried to find another birth place. It would have been cheaper! I think it cost about $7000 to have him in the US. 😀

      Reply
  19. thecontentedcrafter

    Your description of the Canterbury Plains warmed my heart and made me smile as I read that long list of small towns. I agree with you about the US governments acts too unfortunately…….

    When I was much younger I lived next door to an elderly woman who despite being born in New Zealand called England ‘home’. As a first generation child she had been raised to think of everything from the UK as better and more familiar than the land she was born to and lived on all her life. At that time I understood her longing, as I too believed everything was ‘better’ in England. Eventually I went there to work and live and after three years suffered the most appalling case of homesickness ever recorded 🙂 It wasn’t so much people I longed for, or our personal freedoms – though I found the class system there indelibly alive and well. I missed the light, the land, the bush, the ocean, the ground beneath our feet. It was then I realised how very attached we become to the land of our birth in a way that is mysterious and deep and unfathomable. I grew a new respect for immigrants which has never left me.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I like to take different routes whenever I travel across the Canterbury Plains, but, whichever way I go, I love to note all the towns and settlements as we move along. One day( which day?, one day?) I would like to stop at each and everyone and have a good look around. I think it took the older generations a long time to really think of New Zealand as home, or as a good home. Though having said that, I don’t recall my grandparents calling England or Scotland home. And as for those in the family who fought in WW1, I am sure they couldn’t get back to their NZ homes fast enough.

      Reply
  20. lensandpensbysally

    I’m delighted that you were able to take an excursion to nurture your adventurous side as well as see places that are “free” of your last few years’ history. Enjoyed your stories about your ancestors.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Sally. During the worst of the earthquake period, we found refuge in Timaru. It was a great relief at the time. My ancestors didn’t stay there very long, as far as I know, but it’s good to have that old family connection with Timaru. And to still have family there. 🙂

      Reply
  21. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    yow… i totally understand, agree and am baffled at how the ‘land of the free’ is no longer as carefree as it was when i was young. my life here in ecuador reminds me of that life on the farm long long ago in the mississippi delta (except that it never gets cold here, we have howler monkeys, gingers, heliconias, bananas, etc etc!)

    it never seems fair when the little guys barely have enough to surivive and have few resources to help fight the bullies — yet the true evil cheaters hide behind the facades of skyscrapers and high-dollar legal firms.

    if only the rules were written to reward those who spread goodwill and reached in and helped his/her fellow man…. if the kind and gentle people were favored over the greedy ones, the world might not have so much war and jealousy and sadness…

    thanks for this post. z

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oh indeed, indeed. How much nicer it would be if rules provided rewards. Imagine if, instead of penalties for late returns or payments, the tax authorities said, for every tax return made on time and correctly, you will earn a 20% tax credit. Or for every 5 years of on time tax payments you can earn a one year tax holiday! Rule makers are so lacking in inspiration. They all need a ride on your magic carpet to see what a fine place the world can be, given the right directions. 😉

      Reply

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