As soon as the introductions were done, our Maori hosts invited us into their home for lunch. Louise served us a delicious banquet including battered fish, roast chicken with cranberry sauce, potato bake, a green salad and fried bread. It was largely a Western-style meal, but the Maori influence was clear, particularly in the fried bread. These matchbox-sized pieces were still greasy with the oil theyâ€™d been cooked in and were tasty cold, though I imagined they would have been much better fresh out of the pan. Later, when Bob was showing us around his yard, he pointed out the wire frames used to hold hot stones for a hangi — a communal roast cooked for large groups. First they make a fire stacked five logs high and pile on the stones to warm up. Then they dig a trench, choosing the length depending on the number of diners. When the stones are ready, theyâ€™re packed into the wire baskets and lowered into the trench. Food is then placed on top with meat closest to the stones and vegetables above that. These days, they use a canvas cover to keep the heat in, but it was probably made from flax in the past. The sheet is held down by dirt around the edges and balloons up with the heat. When the sheet collapses after about three hours, the meal is ready. Itâ€™s a lot of work and they donâ€™t bother for less than twenty people (unfortunately for us), but Bob says that itâ€™s not much more effort to cook for three hundred. Bob picked some feijoa fruit from trees next to the house and some banana passionfruit during our tour, both of which were delicious.
The first song of greeting that Bob and Louise, our Maori hosts, chose to sing mentioned a god. I asked whether that was the Christian God or a / the Maori god. It turned out to be the Christian God, which, they told me, didnâ€™t interfere with their Maori culture. Maori lore included creationism and there was no reason to believe that the Christian God couldnâ€™t be their creator. That begged the question of whether everyone in their tribes was Christian, and they started listing off the religions other family members subscribed to -- Mormon, Seventh Day Adventists, Muslim. Everyone was different and that was acceptable. After all, it was all the same God. That made a lot more sense to me than the idea that unless you follow a particular flavour of Christianity, youâ€™ll go to an eternal hell. Louise told us that each person chose a religion based on whatever gave them most comfort in their particular time of need. For many of them, I guess that is when they lose a loved one, and although they look to different religions, the tribe still celebrates death in the traditional way. Family and friends gather around the body in the marae and tell each other stories of their memories. To hear Bob and Louise describe it, there is a lot of laughter and people can get quite cheeky, especially since itâ€™s the last opportunity to get back the chain saw they lent the deceased (to which a son might respond that they thought it was the chain saw he himself had lent last year). Once the stories are all told, which may be days later, the body is rowed across the inlet and carried
Bob and Louise, our Maori hosts, lived in one of three houses across from the beach at Rawhiti (pronounced Rarfity). They came from separate tribes that shared the Rawhiti peninsular at the east end of the Bay of Islands. Three houses seemed a little small for two whole tribes, but I soon found that more people lived in the area than I had imagined. Out of site in either direction, driveways peeled off from the coastal road, each leading to four or five family houses. Bob and Louise themselves had eight children, and while they joked that they had 'only three' still living at home, it seemed that large families were the norm. Bob himself came from a family of eight children and another relative had eleven children. While Maori's have a history of inter-tribal violence, the two tribes here have long had peaceful relations (Louise claims that her tribe is known for peace-making and mediation). They are even close enough to share a marae, the town-hall-like hut that forms the centre of the Maori community. These days, children often move to the city or overseas as soon as they finish school, but they always end up coming home between jobs and the tribe is still strong. A small amount of the land on the peninsula has been lost to non-Maoris, but that seems to have worked out well. Bob works in the orchard of one and another owns ExploreNZ, a tour company taking people out to swim with the dolphins. The tour we're on is his brain-child and seems to be a winner all round. Locals get paid and their culture lives on, the owner gets a profit, and I get to have the
Bob and Louise stopped us as we walked up the beach, waited for our barge to depart, then sang us a Maori welcome. They explained that theyâ€™d adapted the rituals used in the tribal gatherings to give structure to the day. On some days they had over thirty visitors, shared amongst the local families, so the structure was necessary. Today, it was just Fiona and me, which made for a more intimate experience. It certainly felt that way when we shook hands and pressed our noses together in the traditional greeting. After a brief introduction, they sang another song to humble themselves and asked us to do the same. Unable to think of anything else, Fiona and I sang the Kookaburra song. By each humbling ourselves, we were offering apology for any offense we had accidentally caused or might cause throughout the day. We sang again in the community Marae - this time we chose â€˜The Piano Manâ€™ - after an imaginary speech at a make-believe community meeting. They tell us that even the most heated argument would stop when a new person arrives so they could speak a greeting and sing for humility. We sang â€˜You are my Sunshineâ€™ as we said goodbye at the end of the day. Bob and Louise helped reduce our embarrassment at our poor singing by joining in with their beautiful voices. Itâ€™s clear that Maori enjoy singing and all the practice pays off.
The following experience may not be typical for clubs in New Zealand, but it's different enough to be worth noting. Fiona and I came to NZ for a wedding and are now enjoying travel for its own sake. Tonight we decided to eat in a local club, hoping to see locals in their native habitat. Being an ex-servicemen's club, the clientÃ¨le were elderly, and we were lucky to see them enjoying a game of bowls. I should explain that unlike the rambling clubs I'm used to in Australia, the club at Paihia is one large hall, split out into an area for pool tables, an open floor and a mezzanine eatery. Today, the floor was host to a long mat rolled out to create a bowls green that seemed to satisfy the local men. The last difference we noticed was that patrons chose a glass of their preferred size from the fridge, then asked the barman to pour their preferred drink. We assume that the cost varies depending on which glass is chosen. Tomorrow we embark on an all-day cultural tour of the Bay of Islands, including visiting a Maori village. I'm not expecting the true experience, but we don't have time for anthropology this trip.
I was dismayed to see that the French rugby team were fined for their response to the Haka at the World Cup Grand Final. Apparently there is a 10 meter exclusion zone for the 'cultural ritual.' This isn't the first time that a team opposing the Kiwis has been challenged for responding inappropriately. I can understand that the Haka has become a significant identifier for both the All Blacks and Rugby Union as a whole, but it should be seen as it really is. The Haka is a war dance, performed before a battle to intimidate the enemy. Sport plays a role in replacing war in modern societies by providing an outlet for aggression and national pride. Reenacting the war dance is then appropriate before a major sporting event, but it must give the All Blacks a major psychological advantage. I know I'd be intimidated by a group of large men screaming at me with muscles bulging aggressively. Interestingly, the All Blacks web site describes the Haka as a dance of welcome. If that's true, the welcome is one given as a warning that the host is not to be trifled with. Why must the opposing teams quietly allow themselves to be intimidated? In a real war, the opposition would be performing their own war dance. The French don't have a war dance so they tried to show that they weren't intimidated by forming a wall and walking towards the All Blacks. Rather than recognising the response, the International Rugby Board fined the French team. In 1996, the Wallabies decided to show they were not cowed by turning their backs on the Haka and warming up. The English also turned their backs on the Haka
I'd already decided this would be my last week of snowboarding before the accident. I probably didn't enjoy it as much as I had in the past because of the lack of snow cover and the flat light that removed all definition from the snow and blended it perfectly with the mist. There was also the fact that in Queenstown the lodges were at least half an hour drive away so you couldn't just go back to your room for a break. The mist rose on the afternoon of my fourth day on the slopes (a new place today) and I found myself at the top of a black run with good fresh snow, but just one hill before the lift. I made the most of it, swooshing down it and off piste a bit to where it was less compacted. I was almost at the bottom when a rock appeared. I tried to dodge it, which was a mistake. There was another rock below it, so rather than just scratching my board, I landed on my back on the top rock, then bounced down the ones below. Crunch. Breath... gone... pain... instead. The effort of forcing my breath out through the pain brought an accompanying agonised moan. And again. It was a good half minute before I could draw air in. By the time Dave joined me, I was breathing, but couldn't talk. He followed me down the hill and up the lift, by which time I'd caught my breath. Another run and a hot drink later, I decided that I should go to medical centre and at least try to get a heat pack. Secretly, I wanted confirmation that I'd broken a rib.
I didn't get much of an impression of Queenstown until I took a day off from snowboarding. The town is full of tourist shops (lots of jetboating, bungy, trekking and snow stores as well as restaurants etc) and even more full of tourists, so I set off along the hill above town and saw that it butted right up against Lake Wakatipu in a way reminiscent of Geneva, though I recall more breathing room between the buildings and the water in Switzerland. The surrounding mountains also matched that part of Europe, though the mottled hillsides closer in were more like those of Scotland. When I started taking more notice of the houses, I was struck by the chalet-style of most. Even walking away from town for 20 minutes, the buildings were predominantly cute, closed-in, A-frames with small balconies, but a closer look revealed that they were also mostly hotels. Where do the locals live? Perhaps closer to the airport at Frankton.