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New Zealand Institute of Architects









Living in a bus

The runner-up in our Rangatahi category this year was Waiata Carter, who wrote a thought-provoking piece about her experience of living in a bus with her family.

How has a house shaped who you are? 

Living in a bus taught me heaps. Did you know homes can have wheels? When I lived in a bus I leant you don’t need lots of stuff to be happy.

For my whole life we lived in a pretty normal house. We had a bedroom each and a yard with a trampoline. One day that all changed. My dad took my brother and I for a drive, we arrived at a big farm with lots of broken down machinery. Dad took us to see an old bus, a green Bedford bus with a wonky chimney sticking out. The inside was dusty and dirty and it had a lot of junk in it. My dad announced that this was going to be our new home. Yeah, I know, weird right?

Something you should know is that my dad is good at fixing and repairing stuff and my mum doesn’t like lots of stuff in our house. She always makes us get rid of things we aren’t using and likes making our house look cosy and organised. Dad parked our buses in a big paddock with Mt Ruapehu in the distance, the locals call him Koro because he is old and he looks after us. 

Thinking about our buses with Koro in the distance makes me happy.

I don’t want you to think my parents are really crazy because they actually bought two buses to make into one home. This was a lot of work for my dad so we all helped out with painting and cleaning and getting rid of lots of things we didn’t need. My brother and I both had our own rooms in an old school bus. My mum and dad’s room was in the Bedford which had a shower, kitchen and a fireplace. And the kids bus had a tv room and a toilet too. My room was built at the front of the school bus where the driver used to sit. My bed was high up over the front two wheels. Whenever my brother walked around, the bus would move side to side. I liked it because I knew someone was close by.

When I told my friends we were moving into a bus they were a bit wary and looked at me confused. Once they came over they all loved our bus house and we had sleepovers almost every weekend. There were always kids at our house after school and mum would feed anyone who was there. Kids loved that we had a huge front yard and that there was a big TV we could watch movies on at night. When their parents picked them up they would always chat to my dad and want a tour.

I love crafts, any kind of crafts, painting, jewellery making, baking and decorating. Being creative is easy when you live in a bus. You have to think of different ways to do things. One of my favourite things to do was decorating my room with pictures from magazines, flowers, butterflies and fan art I drew of Harry Potter characters. I made a cat jungle gym which made it hard to get to my clothes but...priorities. I would take Polaroids of my friends and put them on my wall. There was always space for my cat, dog, stuffed animals and the people I love.

Something I will always remember was when my dad surprised me with a balcony. Beside my bed was the window the bus driver would have put his arm out of when he was driving kids to school. I would climb out this window onto the deck my dad made from old pallets. At night I would sneak out of my bedroom window onto my private balcony and lie there watching the stars move across the sky and listening to the wind rustling through the trees and sometimes to
the neighbours partying. When I was too tired to get up I would stick my head out the window and look up at the stars.

Living in a bus shaped me by teaching me how to be creative while organising spaces.

Now we live in an apartment, which doesn’t have wheels but is still kind of small. I do have to say that I miss the buses and that it was home. Even though it was small there was always enough room for everyone.

Waiata Carter

Photo: Rangatahi category runner-up Waiata Carter helping fix up the family home, a bus.