German Vighi

Argentina

German Vighi's portrait
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“It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.”

Hailing from Córdoba, an Argentinian province surrounded by rich green fields. He was raised in a loving family and with an outward view of the world; soon developing desire to explore it and learn from it. He developed a sense of intellectual and emotional adventure and curiosity that soon led him to leave his hometown to pursue studies in plant and animal science. During his studies he made a connection with someone who was running a dairy farm here in New Zealand and jumped at the opportunity to “have an experience abroad and learn about the rules of another society.”

What struck me from the very beginning of my encounter with German a few months ago is how out of place I felt he was, here in Ashburton. Sitting together and discussing his journey, I began to realise that German’s sense of place didn’t come from his interaction with the environment that surrounds him but rather from his interaction with himself. He is everything that he is and grown to become and he seems totally at peace with it all; embodying the place that he has built within himself irrespective of where he is and who he is with. He would be at ease in one of the world’s largest metropolis as he is now in Ashburton, living among cows; surrounded by pasture.

German has lived in Ashburton for the duration of his time here. One night, he was at a bar watching the renewal of people coming in and going out of the smoking area and stopped to talk with an older man and share a cigarette. The man he was talking to told him that at 56 years old, he was still searching for his place in the world and finding the purpose of his life. This resonated deeply with German, for he too, at 26 years old; had been asking himself the same questions and struggled with finding satisfying answers. This conversation led to them discussing the socio-political realities of Argentina and New Zealand and how these affected and influenced the construction of self and place for people from both countries. Both the kiwi and the Argentinian innately understood that their realities were very subjective and that their understanding of who they were as sentient beings were deeply influenced by who they were socially within the collective imaginations of their respective societies.

One of the big lessons German quickly learnt in New Zealand was that people around the world had a lot to learn from the way people lived here. “A lot of people say that you have to live your karma. People living in poverty and corruption are however not living their karma, they don’t deserve that…That is the fault of the government that doesn’t work and the consequence of a lack of education and opportunity”. Indeed, Argentina, like many peripheral and semi-peripheral countries has internalized corruption and institutionalized corrupted practices at all levels of its society. Citizens from these countries; like German, myself and Vanesa our film maker, are very well aware of the ethical and social damages that have been caused by the corruption that is entrenched in our societies. We have assimilated “petty” forms of corruption and usually cry outrage much later than our Western European neighbors would. Sadly, we have culturally adapted to this phenomenon and learnt to live with it and in spite of it. We could even justify it at certain times. These similarities in our worlds strikes me. Listening to German’s musings about the injustices that have plagued Argentinian social and political culture that he was born and raised into; I realise that his story is mine. We are so different; we come from diametrically opposed countries and have lived vastly different lives; yet we have so much in common.

Like so many I have interviewed before him for this project, German has come here seeking something that he couldn’t find back home. Yet, on the other hand, he is very much aware that his experience of migration has been made easier because he is not visually different from other New Zealanders. During our interview, German told me that discrimination and racism existed back home but that while he truly feels that New Zealanders have successfully cultivated an almost ideal life, he knows and has seen that they exist here too. He feels bad that he hasn’t experienced any racism or prejudice here when even some ethnic New Zealanders experience it on a day to day basis. In his quest for understanding the rules of another society however, he understands that growth is not only necessary but also inevitable, even though some people still struggle to understand this concept. New Zealand, unlike Argentina; is a very young country and while it has succeeded in imagining a very rich and beautiful reality, Germans tells me that he knows it needs to and can grow so much more to better include difference embrace diversity in its collective dream. For him, there is no “perfect thing”; no “perfect, bright, pure world”. Rather, there is a world; rich, diverse and ever-changing that each and every person can contribute to. Having come to the end of his journey in New Zealand; he hopes that he contributed to creating a “beautiful reality” here and looks forward to sailing the ship of his life to other intriguing ones.