Connections help Elham feel at home

By Mark Story

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ENGAGING: Elham Salari (left) with Linda Chanwai-Earle. PHOTO SUPPLIED
ENGAGING: Elham Salari (left) with Linda Chanwai-Earle. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Hastings is quite a small place, so being one of just a dozen or so people from Iran living here certainly generates interest.

Art gallery audience engagement officer Elham Salari moved to Hawke's Bay four years ago and says that in Hastings she has found her New Zealand home.

But she is still very much an Iranian and is keen to share the story of her "real Iran", saying there are a lot of misconceptions.

Elham and husband Ben moved to New Zealand five years ago, firstly to Wellington.

They did not feel particularly settled and decided to investigate further afield.

"Hawke's Bay was very attractive to me, the people are very friendly and welcoming, and the greenery [poplar trees] are very similar to the trees in my home area. There is also a lot of grapes here. In Iran every home has grape vines. I felt more connection to Hastings," she said.

Now she works at Hastings District Council's Hastings City Art Gallery as an audience engagement officer, and credits being out in the community meeting lots of people for helping her settle in so well.

"Being at the gallery has been wonderful for meeting people, it's like my second home."

She believes living in a place with a smaller population also makes it easier to link up with new people.

"I do think finding your place in a community is easier in a smaller place. We felt very welcome in Hastings and people were excited to meet someone from another country.

"Now it is nice to be on the street and see people I've come to know.

"Hastings is very different in a lot of ways from Iran.

"Teheran, where I come from, is a city of 12 million and it is very busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Compared to that Hastings is very small."

Hawke's Bay climate also appealed.

"The climate, with really hot summers, is also much more similar to home than Wellington is."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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