All posts by Adrienne Kohler

Writer, editor, curious human being

Why did we become fearful of immigrants?

Earth as seen the edge of the solar system taken by Voyager 1 Image credit: Nasa

I’ve undergone a lot of soul-searching since arriving in the USA four months ago. I left behind a great job, an easy lifestyle, universal healthcare and a beautiful country to move to California. I’m also middle-aged and trying to build a career in a city which values the young. The shootings over the past weeks in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton certainly have made me question why I came.

But I decided the risk was worth it – it was an opportunity to see and experience a country that influences so much of the world, to learn and grow as a person, and to challenge myself. Perhaps it’s because I’m a descendant of immigrants – as is every non-indigenous person in New Zealand – a child of generations of people who sought better lives, searched for love, prosperity or just sheer adventure.

So why has this intolerance grown for a trait that has defined humanity for eons? What is wrong with being an immigrant and where did this fear come from?

In his book Pale Blue Dot, the astronomer Carl Sagan spoke of this urge we have to “wander”.

“We invest far-off places with a certain romance. The appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival. Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game – none of this lasts forever. Your own life, your own band’s or even your species might be owed to a restless few, drawn be a craving they could hardly articulate or understand to undiscovered lands and new worlds.”

For good or ill, the world has been shaped by the restless ones and immigration will always be part of human culture. It is embedded in our genes. I cannot comprehend why so many people fear this, unless it is at the base level a conflict between this who can embrace change and those who cannot.

Of course, many have no choice, and are driven from their homes, but they show a bravery and tenacity to simply survive that surely must be admired?

I’ve lived in four other countries – New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England and now the USA. Each experience has gifted me with a wider worldview and an understanding that we are all different but all the same. I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way and count myself lucky to have had these experiences and interacted with so many cultures.

There is no doubt Los Angeles is a tough city and looking for work and navigating the often bewildering bureaucracy has been a lesson in endurance and resilience, but I’m gaining so much in return. Americans have a boldness and open-heartedness that is drawing me out of my subdued Kiwi nature and making me bolder and stronger. I love the mix of cultures and sheer energy of California, and hope to see more if America.

It would be naive not to acknowledge that there aren’t profound social issues as well as gun control – homelessness, healthcare costs, income disparity – but these are global issues, every country has these problems in one form or another. We have to work together to solve them.

We all benefit from immigration – from movement between countries, it gave us our languages, numbers, amazing food, and also different ways of thinking. Immigration has never been the problem – it is always the fear of the other – the fear of the different. How do we solve it? I don’t know, but we have to as there are far greater problems facing us. Pulling together as humanity – as one – is the only way to prevent the tragedy of climate change unfolding on future generations. We have to save our pale blue dot. To quote Sagan again, who says it so much better than I could:

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.”

The Upside down moon

See -it’s different!

I’m on the fourth month of my Los Angeles adventure and I have to admit it has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Change is hard, no matter who you are. Our brains simply don’t like it and they tend to freak out as soon as we leave the safe and secure zone of “but I’ve always done it this way!”

The process so far has been: “ooh, ahh this is amazing” followed by “oh my God, this place is insane, what am I doing here? then on to “I guess it’s not so bad, and the Mexican food is great.”

This Mexican food stall down the road from me is the best – I’m addicted to quesadillas

It’s always disconcerting when you change hemispheres (for me South to North) because the moon is upside down and the sun is in the south instead of the north. If you haven’t experienced this, it totally screws with your sense of direction, so I spend a lot of time going the wrong way. It’s even worse when Uber commands you to meet your driver on the NW corner of a nearby street. To an omnipotent observer I must look like a deranged pigeon, pacing back and forth as I try various directions until it seems to match the small blue dot on the app map.

I mentioned my upside-down moon problem recently to a dinner companion, who stared at me for some time before asking me what the hell I was talking about. He didn’t believe me, even after what I thought was a clear explanation involving the salt and pepper shakers, our plates and a great deal of pantomime. And therein lies the problem – you don’t know what you don’t know – everyone thinks what they know is the way it has always been. To partially quote the wonderful and very lamented Douglas Adams (who was talking about a good cup of tea) many things in Los Angeles “are not quite but not entirely unlike” what I’m used to, but they are different enough that my brain is constantly discombobulated.

The left hand, right hand drive thing is the most obvious, and I have startled many an Uber driver by trying to jump into the driver’s seat with them, but it’s the little things that trip me up. Light switches work the opposite way to home – you push down to turn off, up to turn on, requiring me to flick them up and down at least five times until I get it right. My Kiwi accent is a constant source of amusement to Angelinos, and I’ve had to abandon several words completely (deck being the most obvious). No one know what queue means – just the word because from the moment you land, you hit the most horrendous lines! And no one knows how to make a really good cup of tea. I think cream is actually milk, but I’m not sure.

I spend a lot of time giving geography lessons – that I’m not British or Australian, but a New Zealander, which somehow became the Netherlands on one occasion with Jesus the Cuban Uber driver, and explaining that Australia and New Zealand are two different countries, separated by a large body of water, that you can’t drive around New Zealand in an afternoon, and yes, it is a lot like Lord of the Rings, but we have amazing beaches as well. I also made the horrendous discovery that they don’t have chicken flavoured chips in the US! Heathens!

But I think we all have a problem with the upside-down moon – we think everyone experiences the world in the same way as we do and fail to appreciate how difficult change can be. I’m slowly adapting to the madness of Los Angeles: the brightness of the light, the heat and dust, insane traffic, and the tremendous amount of loose change one acquires.

The Los Angeles River – dust included

The upside-down moon is gradually becoming right-side up, and maybe, just maybe, leaving behind who you were is a way to find out who you could be, so I’m learning to embrace the strangeness and appreciate it is all part of the journey and adventure.

I wish we could all change places, walk a mile in everyone else’s shoes, understand everyone’s story is different, everyone’s story is the same, and teach everyone how to make a really good cup of tea.

The time I won a green card and moved to Los Angeles

Los Angeles – city of dreams?

Los Angeles is a town where everyone is always pitching – their screenplay, tv show, movie, music – you name it, so here’s my pitch: a middle-aged New Zealand woman wins a green card and moves to Los Angeles to chase her dream of becoming a screenwriter.

Continue reading The time I won a green card and moved to Los Angeles

Koherent – Content Management Services

Getting your content to work for you

You know who you are, you have content to create, deadlines to meet and new projects on the horizon. Meantime, your website hasn’t been updated for a year, who knows when you’ll finish that blog post, and who has time for social media?

It’s a fast-paced world being a creative and often getting content out the door is your only focus, but you need to build your profile and keep it out there – and there are only so many hours in the day.

I get it and I’m here to help

Continue reading Koherent – Content Management Services