I've been in New Zealand for 2 months.
Spending the majority of my stay in,
Wellington, the capital.
Before I came to New Zealand, I researched online the safety precautions
solo female travels should take, read a few blogs and reviews
about food, travel, and things to do in New Zealand.
One story that came up in my research was about the British backpacker
that was murdered on her Tinder date.
I also read, that New Zealand has the highest rate of domestic violence
in the world (people I've met said, it's just the highest reported rate).
So, planning my stay in this far off land, I was hesitant.
But, I was happy to be
staying with a family friend and connect with the local Jewish community.
The first couple of weeks was absolute bliss!
Locals told me that this was the best summer in a long time,
people smiled at me as I walked around, people asked how I'm enjoying
my time in New Zealand, and was happy that I came here before
going to Australia (apparently there is a rivalry between the two
countries), and the local Jewish community is so friendly and welcoming!
My first few weeks, I walked around, organized my day around writing
and ate lunch at the harbor.
A Few Incidents Where I Felt Unsafe
No country is perfect.
Let alone free of inequality, homelessness, or violence.
Walking around during the day, I always kept alert,
and aware of my surroundings.
Yet, there were three incidents where I did feel unsafe.
The first two times, in high afternoon, walking downtown
I could feel an older man
How do I know these men were following me,
after all, it was a crowded street, that went straight for a long time,
perhaps they were just going in the same direction as me.
I could feel how closely they were behind me,
and when I stopped, I turned around, in both incidents
the men also stopped, I continued walking, and they kept following me.
Intuition, is real, and I just kept on walking, just a bit faster,
and when I turned around again, the men weren't there.
I guess they gave up :/
There is a problem with homelessness
The next time I felt unsafe, was also in a very
public area, a park, in high afternoon.
This time, by a man who appeared to be a drug addict/homeless,
just walked right behind me
as I was making my way across the park,
and tried to grab me.
I yelled at him not to touch me,
which scared him away.
I looked around, to see if anyone just saw what happened,
and people just kept walking by, like nothing happened.
So I kept on walking, trying to enjoy the rest of my day.
A bit spooked, but I wasn't going to have my day ruined.
After those incidences, which I told my friend about (and wasn't surprised,
she explained, perhaps since I'm a Black woman, I'm an easy
target for these men)
I realized no matter what time of the day, as a solo
female traveler, who is visibly different, I have to be
on guard at all times.
Terrorist Attack in Christchurch
When I learned about the HORRIFIC terrorist attack
in Christchurch, I was walking out the door
on my way for shabbat services at the local synagogue.
I got 3 messages from members who told me services were cancelled
because there was an attack at 2 mosques
First, I was shocked, because I was
on Facebook earlier in the afternoon, I didn't see any news of
an attack (I don't follow any New Zealand news, and the
story didn't get international attention until later that evening).
Next, I asked how is it that assault weapons in the
country were allowed...I thought that was only in America...
Apparently, there is a big illegal gun market in New Zealand
and in the south island, in Christchurch, there are many
skin heads and neo-Nazis.
So, people in my community spent shabbat at home.
I was shocked to learn about the incident as more
details were being reported.
On Fridays and Saturdays, during shabbat, my phone is
is usually off.
Given this tragedy
I turned it on and saw a missed call and messages
from my family and friends asking if I was okay.
Not many people know that Christchurch is in the south island
of New Zealand, I'm in Wellington, which is
located on the northern island.
So, I went on social media and emailed people close to me
and shared that I'm okay and safe.
I read the news to learn more about the attack.
A Country Coming Together
It's through the most difficult times you can
determine how strong you are.
And personally seeing Kiwi's come together
to fight Islamaphobia, racism, bigotry
and changing laws so this horrific tragedy never happens again
I believe New Zealand is a prime example of how
to combat hatred.
I waited to write about this incident so I could
get a complete picture of this tragedy.
I've talked with people in my community, friends, and
read online how such a horrific event could happen
and what's being done next so it won't happen again.
New Zealand, is like any other country in the world,
though it's small, diverse, and far away from everything,
it's a great place to travel to, just keep your guards up
and don't be afraid to call people out if they
exude hatred or bigotry.
Thank you for reading!