Pauly and I are still in New Zealand travelling around, visiting family and friends. This isn’t a post about running, it’s about finally getting to do something I’ve always wanted to do.
Since I was little I had the hope of one day going to New Zealand. My Nan, Dad’s Mum, was from the North Island, from a town called Palmerston North. After each visit back to her homeland she would bring me tikis, beautiful dolls dressed in traditional Maori dress and other interesting bits and pieces.
I was fascinated by Maori culture, dress, dancing. Everything really. It seemed exotic to have a grandmother from this mysterious place that I knew very little about.
This dream of visiting New Zealand as a child was submerged in adult responsibility and coping with life as a single mum for many years. Then I met my Kiwi-born husband and finally there came an opportunity to come and explore Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud.
Since meeting Paul I’ve visited many places in New Zealand; the places I’ve visited hold me constantly spellbound by the natural beauty that’s everywhere. It’s beauty that weary eyes soak in and are renewed by.
Finally this visit to New Zealand we stayed a night in Rotorua where I was able to go to a Maori Cultural Experience. This is an evening in a Maori Marae that’s been set up especially to showcase this family orientated culture. A Marae is like a small group of houses for one extended family.
I was expecting a really good evening with lots of singing and dancing but perhaps a touch touristy and done to entertain.
My expectations were wrong.
From start to finish I felt like I’d been especially invited to come along and meet the family and experience their hospitality and way of life. The evening started by being collected in a waka (the bus was transformed into a Maori canoe simply by the description of the bus driver). In our waka we were inducted into some of the ways of Maori culture. We learnt some Maori words that we would need for the evening. We also learnt about treating some of the sacred parts of the night with respect.
Along with me on this experience was Pauly and some long-time friends of his. All Kiwis. I’d expected them to deposit me on the waka (bus) and then go off and catch up on old times. No. They all came too. And guess what? They loved it!!!
Even though they had learnt all the history and culture of the Maori at school they found the whole experience completely wonderful. They all agreed that they wished they’d done it years ago and that it brought their knowledge of Maori culture to life. They loved how the history of the Maori with the inclusion of white settlement was told with such respect and with an open mind of understanding. An open mind that hoped for continued peace, growing in acceptance and walking in harmony into the future.
After all the learning and experiencing we shared in a Hangi (pronounced Hungi) – food cooked in the traditional way by hot rocks in the ground. It was delicious and plentiful. The service from all staff was more like we were part of the whanau (family). In fact the staff were all whanau! The business is family run which just added to the authenticity of the night.
This post doesn’t do the experience justice. It was a night that I won’t forget. It was fun and entertaining but respectful and thought provoking. (By the way every Maori sings like an angel!) I have renewed respect for this culture and how strong it remains despite all the changes that have come with white settlement.
If ever you are in Rotorua please take the opportunity to do this. Don’t think it’s going to be something just to extract cash from the tourists. It is an experience that opens the heart and mind to understanding and appreciating our fellow man no matter where they come from.
A dream finally come true for a little girl aged 50 from Tasmania Australia.
Happy running 🙂
PS We visited the Tamaki Maori Village and I highly recommend it. There are many to choose from. The photos on the web site are much better than mine!
PPS The Great PukeokaHu Man v Horse was yesterday. I’m shell shocked, stunned and in awe of the country we ran in AND that we actually did it! I shall write about it next post.