Emma McGeorge’s is a face that has been around the hood a lot more of late, and it’s not just because of the new Morningside Precinct.

Emma has a long, though distant, connection to Crave. Her family have been coming to the cafe since way back. They brought her to Morningside once when she was back here on holiday from Papua New Guinea, where she was working with the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

‘My family knew a little of the backstory and the vibe that it has, and the mission or the focus behind it,’ Emma says. ‘I thought it was a really good, cool initiative.

‘I recognised three or four people too. It was really interesting how you could see a culture or a demographic here. It’s a name that just comes up a lot, this cafe.’

Emma made another connection with the place when she attended an annual conference with Christian Today (an Australian faith-based news magazine) in Sydney. She ran into Tim and Grace Shallard (of Crave and MorningCider) who told her to come and visit. So she did.

Emma’s now back from PNG and is beginning to establish herself as a local writer. Her years working for MAF have left some bruises that are taking time to heal, despite her affection for the country and MAF’s mission.

‘The two Kiwi founders of MAF flew planes in the war and they were using them to destroy things, basically. They one day said, What if we turn this completely around and use planes as a weapon of hope. Where you can’t get by road, where there’s no way to get there, a little aircraft can.

‘They were carrying school supplies, even teachers and doctors, missionaries, and suddenly this village where you once had to hike for seven days to get there, bang, there’s a plane there in half an hour.

‘That incredible vision behind seeing something that’s possible — they went and did it. It’s really awesome.’

Nevertheless, despite her passion for MAF, Emma was faced with a whole lot of unexpected challenges. She battled a male-dominated aviation industry operating in a culture oppressive of women. That, and her age, meant her voice didn’t count as much as it might. At the same time, her status as a single, white woman drew constant attention from locals, which was innocent enough for a while.

‘The attention is extreme. It’s like Prince William walking through London. The stares and the shouts and excitement and crowds throwing things — that’s what it was like for me to step outside. People following me round the grocery store. They wanted to touch my arm or shake my hand. It was really intense. Especially for a massive introvert. I was shrivelling.’

Things became a little more scary during the build-up, and in the aftermath, of the 2017 elections. Bitterness towards European exploitation of PNG’s natural resources and frustration with the elections climaxed in violent protests and Emma felt the brunt of it.

‘Suddenly the attention was a little more angsty, and I had guys throw rocks at my car when I was driving or trying to poke a stick at the wheels. Even some women started shouting aggressively when I walked by. It wasn’t so bad when I first went, but in the end you could really sense the change.

‘My house was in the corner of a compound and they attacked the fences from both sides, with machetes and stones, kicking and banging. A hundred men yelling, right outside my window. That was quite terrifying.’

Terrifying, but not completely unknown to the McGeorge family, who first emigrated from Zimbabwe to South Africa during a period of unrest, then from South Africa to New Zealand when that nation entered a period of prolonged disquiet. Work opportunities had also opened up in NZ.

It seems that for her whole life Emma has been moving around, from nation to nation, city to city.

‘My whole growing up is a complete scattering of different neighbourhoods and houses and cultures,’ she says.

It’s something that fuels her writing and sharpens her eye, but also makes her long for a sense of settledness, if not in her living space, then in her chosen career — some of which will take shape in Crave, as she works on her next projects and makes her voice heard.

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