I am currently sitting in the LA airport anxiously waiting for our final flight to Minneapolis. i have only been in the United States for a few hours and I somehow already miss New Zealand....A LOT! I am of course excited to see family and friends and tell them all about the adventures I just experienced, but I know the excitement of being home will decrease quite quickly. And that is when the real feeling sets in. The moment I wake up tomorrow and realize I am not longer in New Zealand and have no idea if or when I will go back. Out of any country I have ever traveled to, I have never wanted to travel back to that same country as much as I do right now. I am so incredibly grateful that I have the opportunity to do this. I would like to thank Mark and the other students I traveled with. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to travel "down under" with! And most importantly I would like the thank the Maori community that hosted us. The Ngati Kahungunu Iwi and all of the maraes went above and beyond hosting us and were constanty so generous and welcoming. I feel so lucky to have met so many amazing people and gain life long friendships! And as much as I don't want it to be, this is unfortunately my final farewell. I will cherish teh memories from the past three weeks for the rest of my life and cannot wait for the day when I return to Aotaeroa!
I feel like someone has sped up the clock because these last couple of days have flown by far too quickly! Wellington is a nice city with lots to see and do so I'm sad we didn't spend more time here.
The thing that keeps striking me about this trip is the hospitality of the iwi that hosted us. Chi miigwech to them for ensuring that we had a lot of community involvement and good experiences all around. Hope to get back here again in the not-too-distant future!
Two weekends ago I traveled to Rotorua with three other students. Rotorua is technically on a volcanic plateau and has one of the world's most lively fields of geothermal activity. Once I arrived in Rotorua, that fact became quite obvious after smelling the awful rotten egg smell from the sulfur all throughout the city. However, once I somehow got used to the smell I also quickly realized how amazing Rotorua really is! Our first night was spent at the Polynesian Spa where we soaked in natural hot pools and mineral pools for at least a few hours. It was so relaxing and definitely necessary after spending the day traveling! We spent our first full day in Rotorua at Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland which has some of the largest mud and hot pools in the world, along with the famous lady knox geyser! Walking through the park was so fun and by far the complete opposite type of scenery compared to Minnesota! Later in the afternoon we went luging down the mountain at sky line. Joelle and I became so obsessed with luging and had so much fun, I don't think I stopped laughing for two hours straight! If anyone ever goes to Rotorua, that an activity I would highly suggest.
Even though those first two days in Rotorua were wonderful, Sunday ended up turning into one of the best day, especially because it was so unexpected! At the beginning of the day I was slightly bummed because I had planned on going sky diving (which I still have yet to do) but it was raining so that obviously did not happen. Instead, the four of us went out for breakfast and by the time we were done eating the weather had cleared up enough for us to walk around. We ended up walking in a big loop around the city, first walking to a public park where there were steaming mud pools directly next to play grounds! Probably not the safest thing but it was pretty cool. Next we walked down to Lake Rotorua, which is absolutely beautiful! While walking we discovered a marae and Maori church that was built over one hundred years ago! We walked around that area for quite a while and then after aimlessly roaming around some more we discovered a small market going on! After looking at the different items the vendors were selling, I stumbled upon a table with beautifully carved wooden bowls and plates. As i stood there trying to decide which bowl to buy and becoming more and more fascinated by them, the old man selling them began to start a conversation with me. His name is Robert Collins and we ended up talking for almost an hour! He told me all about his life and how he goes into the bush himself to get the wood and hard carves each and every bowl using a specific technique. I am no expert in wood or carving but these bowls and plates are incredible! He uses all native wood from New Zealand like rimu, which is generally hundreds of years old! I ended up buying 4 items from him, which will mostly be gifts for family members but I have decided I must keep one.
I now realize after this trip in New Zealand that it is the moments like meeting Robert Collins that are the most memorable. I have learned the most about New Zealand and what it all has to offer from meeting locals like him and find myself talking to them for hours on end.
As we finished the day roaming around by the lake, I realized that if it had not been for the bad weather in the morning and the change in plans, I never would have discovered the wonderful, hidden aspects of Rotorua and meet locals like Robert Collins.
Although it may not seem like a great day for some, it was by far one of my favorite days here in New Zealand.
I would just like to take a little bit of time to reflect upon my experience here in New Zealand, and more importantly, this program. Since tomorrow will be our last actual day of the program, I figured this would be a good time to reflect upon it all. I have enjoyed myself immensely. I wasn't particularly interested in this program as I was about travelling to New Zealand, but after going through with it all I am very glad I did choose to do take it. I am not going to lie and say that I am now extremely fascinated with Maori culture, because I am not, but I have learned a lot of valuable information that will be applicable not only to my future career, but also my understanding of people. I am still a little disappointed in how I didn't take a very active role in interacting with our hosts, but I still cannot break out of my shell. I guess that is something I will just need to continue to struggle with, anxiety will do that though. And I don't mean to say that this trip hasn't helped, because it certainly has, but just not as much as I would have liked. But so far I have had a great time.
Wellington... Land of the wind and the rain. That may very well be an appropriate name for this city based on the weather from the past two days, but regardless, I love this city. It has a much different feel from most places I have been. It has the bustle of a big city, yet the tranquil feel of a small rural town. It has the intrigue of a port city, but the history of a capital. But so far, I am enjoying my time here immensely.
And I don't mean to put Napier and the Hawke's Bay Region down, that area is amazing as well, but I am liking it here in Wellington a lot more. However, the hostel we are staying at is much worse. It is a lot more busy too.
I am not looking forward to my experience up in the Bay of Plenty region at Tauranga next week. By time I visit there I am going to feel like I have experienced a little bit of everything here on the North Island.
Today I visited Te Papa and spent 3 hours on just the Blood, Earth, Fire exhibit which touches on the beginnings and development of New Zealand. What stick out in my mind the most is the very first part of the exhibit. You walk into a darkened room, in the center is a lighted case with the Maori story on how the first woman was created, a carved whakapapa (fuc-a-papa) staff which is a tool to prompt great orators in the reciting of their genealogy which Maori trace back all the way to the stars, and a stone with red earth/clay in it. There are 4 small lighted displays in the four directions North, East, South and West. Each display has a poem and a specific type of rock the represents each region of New Zealand, you are encouraged to touch each stone, which is a twin half to the other sides that still reside in the area they come from. There was something that was truly powerful about that display.
Man what a change, going from Napier to Wellington. Napier was such a nice quite town with just the right amount of things to do, but still quiet enough to just go walk out and watch the sunset and the ocean. We made so many friends there and the backpackers truly felt like a cozy home. I truly miss interacting with people of the Ngati Kahungunu Iwi and our friends Tojo, Chris and Morgan back at the backpackers. Wellington has a lot to offer to though. It is a much busy place and larger town, which takes a little adjusting for me...as the whole group knows I like to take it easy and do things on my own time ;)....but there are lots of new places to explore here. My favorite so far is Te Papa. Te Papa is a wonderful museum full of New Zealands history and culture both Maori and all the other cultures found here. I've been there two different days and plan to visit again tomorrow. I can't wait to meet up with Adele and some of the faculty and staff at Victoria University tomorrow :)
Today I want to talk about my experience visiting an immersion school. Last Friday I went up to a school in/near Wairoa with the director and research analyst of language and culture for the iwi. It was a great opportunity to talk to two people who are passionate about making sure their language, te reo Maori, thrives. They took me up to the school where the kids did a haka powhiri, or friendly welcome, to invite me onto their school. The director spoke for our little group, telling them where I come from and what I was doing in New Zealand then he and the research analyst sang a song for the class. I didn't get a chance to speak with the kids because it was recess time right after we arrived but they sang a couple of really nice waiata, or songs.
I visited a couple of classrooms and even got to give a small lesson of Ojibwe to a few 7-year-olds. They were a great class and it was amazing to hear all of the students, teachers and parents that were there speaking their native language!
After the school, we went to the home of someone who has taught hundreds of people te reo Maori, including the research analyst that was showing me around. Her and her husband were very welcoming and he and I chatted for a long time about the area they live and he told me a bit about their life together. Meanwhile, the other three were talking in Maori and I occasionally caught an English word or phrase but by the time my brain registered English, they had switched right back into Maori!
Our final stop was Te Mahia mai Tawhiti, which is where Ngāti Kahungunu's eponymous ancestors settled after their waka landed nearby. Forgive me if this is not right, I'm still working on sorting out how genealogy works! One thing that amazes me about the Maori is that many of them have a clear sense of their family tree-they can name each of their major ancestors stretching back for generations. It was an honor to visit such an important site and to hear the stories of the ancestors from that region. Maori genealogy just blows my mind!
That's it for now I suppose. I just feel very lucky to be here making connections and I am hoping that many of these bonds remain strong even after I head back to the States.
This is my first post that I've done while here in Aotearoa. This has been a really moving, insightful trip and I hardly know where to begin!
First, let me say that the people I've met here have been very welcoming and great hosts! Hospitality is important to the Maori and it has shown through all of the marae visits and other events we've participated in these last couple weeks. It has been really cool to meet so many folks who are all actively doing what they can to support Mother Earth and reclaim their language.
One of the days that has impacted me the most was the first Saturday we were here. We attended a wananga, a community learning session, that focused on natural resource management, treaty rights, and how those tie in with Maori values. It was a great overview of the principles that shape a Maori perspective and it renewed my sense of optimism regarding environmental issues. Each of the presenters was taking a different approach to solving Aotearoa's various ecological problems yet they were all able to come together in the space and listen to what each other had to say. I'm not going to assume that everything was kumbaya but it was a very cool thing to see! I haven't attended any meetings like that in Minnesota but I do hope to find them when I return. I'm sure they're out there...
I will talk about my visit to an immersion school in my next post!
Even though I am leaving New Zealand in three short days (and slightly forgot to add blog posts), I feel as thought it is only appropriate to begin my compilation of blog posts by describing the beginning of my adventures here in the land of the long white cloud. If I had to think of one way to describe my first impressions of New Zealand, it would be that I was welcomed by bright colors. After traveling for what felt like an endless amount of hours, I was obviously feeling quite tired and out of sorts. However, as I walked outside to get onto our plane in Auckland to fly to our final destination of Napier, my first glimpse of New Zealand immediately lifted my spirits as I was literally welcomed by bright colors. I stood in front of the small plane I was about to get on and realized there was a vibrant rainbow falling across the sky ahead of me. The rainbow was so vivid and surrounded by giant mountains covered in pine trees and rolling hills with sheep grazing. The scenery took my breath away.
This was not the only occasion where I was welcomed by bright colors. Although the scenery here in New Zealand is beautiful no matter where you are, it is the people who truly made a difference in my first impressions. The Maori people are by far the most welcoming people I have ever met. Their personalities are so colorful and the pride they have for their culture is inspiring. The warm welcomes I received from each and every person I have met immediately made me feel comfortable. Within the Maori culture, the whanau, or family, is extremely important. Once someone has gone through the welcome ceremony at a marae, they are now viewed and treated as family. I don't think I have ever had an experience before coming to New Zealand where after only knowing a group of people for an hour, I am joking around and laughing hysterically, feeling as though I have known them for years. After being here in Aotearoa for almost three weeks, I now realized that I have not only learned an incredible amount of information about the Maori culture, but I have gained life long friends and relationships with Maoris that I will cherish forever.