April 22, 2013, is a date Abbas Bagheri will never forget. That day, he, wife Sediqa Fasihi and son Mohammed touched down in a country he was enchanted with even before landing.
Hamilton is now home for the former Afghan interpreter and his family, and he is amazed by things Kiwis take for granted - the sky, the sea, the Waikato River, and glow worms in the Waitomo Caves.
"Just you see dust in Afghanistan", he recalls thinking in response to Kiwi soldiers' wonder at what they found in his homeland.
The Bagheri family's resettlement in New Zealand was achieved with the support of former colleague and close friend, police officer Andrew Berry.
Because Mr Bagheri's interpreting was mainly for the New Zealand police and not the Defence Force, he was among those who missed out on the Government's original resettlement offer.
Moving to a peaceful country was a relief after living under the threat of the Taliban, he said.
"Sometimes they made checkpoints and . . . if they found anything that they get suspicious of, the end of the line was death.
"We [the interpreters] were a high target for them. We were as a bridge between the coalition forces and also between Afghan army and Afghan government."
He had heard plenty of stories about New Zealand from Kiwis in Afghanistan, but seeing it himself was another thing entirely.
"Exactly the moment that I came to New Zealand, I will not forget it . . . when I saw the shape of the houses, all of the places were green and that was nice and beautiful. The sky was cloudy. That was amazing for me."
There was plenty to adapt to, including that women could work as bus drivers, doctors, or even be prime minister.
"Here, it's about giving opportunity to everybody. It doesn't matter if you are male or if you are female. Just you are looking for the ability."
And that's what he wanted for his family's future. "Everything you want is available [here]," he says. "If one day my son asks me ‘what did you do for me in my life?' I can say, ‘I took you to New Zealand. I made for you a good opportunity, and now you can take it'."
Just weeks after arriving in Hamilton the Red Cross helped him secure a job at the Work and Income Hamilton contact centre. "It's the kind of job that you help people, and for this reason I like it," he said.
His wife is doing an English course at Wintec, while his son is coming home from kindy using English words he's learnt there.
Ms Fasihi wants to learn more English and further her studies and her husband's long-term goal is to join the police. Fairfax NZ
- The Dominion Post
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