He was a good bloke, Tony Anastopoulos.
We got close over 20 years ago in Sydney. Our daughter was a good friend of his youngest daughter. And we were Tony’s neighbour until our whanau moved home in the late 80’s, when our girl was six. The kotiro were inseparable, playing and eating at each other’s house.
They were good times and we learnt some handy parenting tips from our neighbours. Even now when one of our whanau is feeling a bit crook, we make Rula’s soup. Chicken frames, boiled then stripped, with rice, garlic and lemon added to the stock. Rula is Tony’s wife. A wonderful, friendly Greek woman who we came to love.
Tony grew beautiful vegetables. Tomatoes. Cucumber. Zuchinis. And he made his own wine. So he and I got on like a house on fire. We shared family celebrations. They liked our Maori and Kiwi ways, and we liked theirs – and enjoyed living beside them.
On the other side of our house was a Polish Australian family who still make annual contact from Tasmania. And beside them was a big, fruit growing Cypriot woman who was married to a Pakistani man. It was the proverbial melting pot.
I reckon it makes sense to be on friendly terms with our neighbours. It’s not like we are always popping in for a cup of tea, but I think we deserve to live in a peaceful way, and it helps to have a warm relationship with those who live over the fence.
While it’s true to say that we felt like guests in Australia, back home here we are definitely hosts. Our neighbours know we are a Maori whanau, and we are surrounded by Chinese, Muslim, Fijian Indians and families from right across the Pacific. Two houses down, a Samoan choir practises regularly, and their rich harmonies send a wonderful, comforting sound across the suburb.
As our urban communities take on a much more multicultural face, we, as tangata whenua, play host to people from all over the world. They bring with them the colour and depth of their cultures, not to forget the alluring smells and tastes of their foods.
It was international neighbours’ day not so long ago. And then the news came through on Facebook that our friend Tony had died in Sydney. He was just shy of 80.
Rest easy our dear Greek friend. Good neighbours like you add much to the richness of our lives. Moe mai. Moe mai. Moe mai.
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