By Mana Williams. 8-10 Minutes
Please Note: This one’s a dense one. I tried my best to condense each section but there is much to be said here.
In my earlier blog about living in Blenheim, I began to discuss the wider aspects such as what the people are like, what the schools have to offer and what business opportunities exist. However, those wider generalizations don’t bring full grasp to the sun struck vineyard village.
What we need to talk about is what is wrong with Blenheim.
As I discussed before, with smaller towns and smaller populations there tends to be more manual labour and less time in a day to do the things that you want. From this attitude grows a need to lust more than what you already possess. Kids are kept wondering how they might stack up against others but have no way of gauging their interests due to lack of social groups/gatherings for the alternative stuff like martial arts and interesting hobbies. In this way, it is evident that there is little mischief teenagers can get into to find who they are and where they stand at an individual’s social development level.
So what really is it like to live in Blenheim?
When I was five years old I started a martial art. My brother was my instructor, my mother and my sister were both black belts and had pretty high expectations of their little brown counterpart, me. I was really fortunate to have this martial arts family exist right from the get go. Without this hobby, I couldn’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be to self-motivated and challenge yourself while remaining positive in such a claustrophobic environment.
Blenheim doesn’t offer a lot of things because it is so small. There isn’t a population to drive numbers for interest, subsequently, it becomes too expensive for people to hire out halls and gain access to equipment. Luckily for my family and I, there was already a community created for our chosen Martial Art. This ran in tandem with my families vested interests and camaraderie between myself and my peers.
For those who don’t fit into the cookie-cutter lifestyles of playing for the first XV rugby team, the farming/pig hunting lifestyle, the grape growing industry or the Rav 4 with a job in town, life in Blenheim can be equally as manual.
If you want to be or do something, you’ve got to go out and get it then fight for it. The cliche attitude applies in small towns like Blenheim. As aforementioned in Blenheim blog one, the likes of the tall poppy syndrome may persist when you achieve something and someone else doesn’t agree with it. The envious environment can drive spears into the hearts and minds of youth growing up in this community. The likes of hobbyists or the LGBT community struggle in these sorts of places. Lack of numbers, I could imagine, would make difficult the ability to meet someone in a place like Blenheim. Not to mention the judgment from the ‘everybody knows everybody’ gossip circles.
With strengthened hardness ensuing in matters of stereotyping and discrimination, generational indifferences compel many younger kids to react similarly when someone opposes their families beliefs. In turn, Blenheim is not really a place all about diversification. You can see this behavior spill onto the middle generations as well, usually justified by the oldest generations in a way that in itself describes Blenheim’s “just get on with it” social suffocating attitude.
So what for the cultural diversity?
Blenheim is home to nine Maori Iwi. All of which are actively operating at all times to retain their cultural heritage or the ‘kaupapa’ of their history. There is a huge support for the Maori community within the Marlborough region, with some Maori entities branding their own wine, their own foods, and exports from the region. The cultural diversity exists.
However, even within these communities, having lived in Blenheim and being a Maori boy, it is apparent that a percentage of Maori also share these same symptoms of the tall poppy syndrome. There is just as much politics, and the gossip circles are just as close as any other culture. There is a much deeper story that could explain the situation better but I will keep this for another time.
Is it money that makes small communities like Blenheim suffer from lower socio-economics?
Blenheim in comparison to Wellington, Christchurch and even worse, Auckland, is quite affordable. Depending on which lens you’re using. Housing is defined solely on location terms. But I am not qualified to comment on this marketplace. In terms of wages and costs of living there is, however, a considerable difference. Particularly if one is working in the Vineyards. This is because of contract work which is a way for the farm owners to force their workers, often from overseas from places like Vanuatu, to work harder for nearly no pay increase. This hard work combined with ever rising costs of food and other essentials creates an atmosphere where the socio-economy of Blenheim can suffer, yes.
After all that, Blenheim still is actually a really nice place to visit. The food is good, the sun is nearly always shining. They do make nice wine and the location in regards to other features of New Zealand is really good. Despite its habit of forcing people to merge into cookie cutting lifestyles, just get on with it attitudes, tall poppy syndrome mixed with cultural politics, Blenheim is actually still a really nice place… to visit…
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