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New heights of happiness

Video
After honeymooning in New Zealand, Fendi and Rozanna Jalalludin knew they had to return.
New heights of happiness
2:54

Singapore-born Fendi Jalalludin and his family dreamed of living in the shadow of mountains – they’ve found that, and much more, since settling in Nelson.

When Fendi Jalalludin and wife Rozanna were thinking about moving from their native Singapore to New Zealand, they dreamed of the majestic mountains of the Volcanic Plateau and Queenstown. After living in three other parts of the country, the mountains around Nelson have become their daily backdrop – and they have no plans to move.

Unexpected dreams are also coming closer to fruition: for instance, when they buy a house, Fendi will be able to have a “man cave” (a room or shed dedicated to a guy’s hobbies). In Singapore, where the family lived before, Fendi says you must be a millionaire to have a house with a patio, garden or a man cave.

“But it is possible here in New Zealand. You can have your own garden, you can have your own garage to turn into a man cave. Here there are a lot of DIY (do-it-yourself) opportunities; most of us in Singapore just buy things and somebody will come and fix it for you, and that’s it,” he says.

“I’d like to build a treehouse for the kids, I’d like to build my own car. All my tools are there, just waiting.” 

Fendi, Rozanna, and nine-year-old twins Dewi and Dewa have been living in New Zealand since early 2010. Fendi works for Vehicle Inspection New Zealand (VINZ) in Nelson as a site service manager – a world away from when he first came here, posted to Waiouru Military Camp for a few months in 2002 while working for the Singaporean army. The views of Mount Ruapehu drew him back. 

“When I got married, I told my wife, ‘We shall go to New Zealand for a honeymoon.’ So we went to Queenstown and she just fell in love with it. She said, ‘Okay, when we have kids, probably we would come back here to live.” 

They did just that after Fendi’s military service ended. Fendi found work as a diesel mechanic in Whakatane and then Auckland. His next job was for VINZ, as a vehicle inspector in Dunedin, then the company transferred him to Nelson in June this year.

Shifting from tropical Singapore to the colder climates of New Zealand took some getting used to. “From 30 degrees, we went down to 20 degrees in Auckland, and then down to zero degrees in Dunedin. It was a bit of a shocker but the kids adapted much quicker than we do. We just have to do more exercise to get warm,” laughs Fendi. “Rozanna is still trying to cope with the chill. Nelson is too cold for her, she puts on layers and layers and layers.”

The internet was their best friend while researching their move to Nelson: the couple looked at houses to rent on Trade Me and Google Maps, and read ERO (Education Review Office) reports to decide on a school for the children. 

They’ve settled in Mapua, a seaside town 20 minutes’ drive west of Nelson, where Fendi works. The children walk to school, and since they grew up speaking English in Singapore, language isn’t a problem. In summer, the family plans to tackle the cycling tracks around Nelson and go fishing on the nearby wharf.

Don’t get Fendi talking about the tropical fruits that were so readily available in Singapore, though – one mention of Thai mangoes and durian and he begins pining for the sweet fruits. 

Problems with ISIS in the Middle East have affected how Muslims are treated in some countries, but Fendi hasn’t experienced that here. “I find it quite easy to be a Muslim here in New Zealand because most Kiwis accept us and so far I haven’t had any problems,” he says.

Finding halal meat and food is fairly easy. Nelson currently doesn’t have a mosque, but the Muslim community there rents a hall in which they gather to say their Friday prayers.

Fendi warns prospective migrants that moving here will probably bring them a pleasant surprise. “Just be prepared that you will have more time to spend with your family, and for yourself,” he says. “In Singapore, we won’t have time to just go for  a cycle on the weekend with the family.”

He’s glad the family took a chance and got on that plane in 2010. “For those who, like me, came here and then looked for a job, I would say in the end everything will be fine – because if it is not,  it is not the end. We just have to try our best.”

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