Every time I work with our Kapa Haka group and their whanau I am blown away!
We've just completed our annual hangi fundraiser. As a vegetarian, gluten free British lass the concept of hangi hasn't really featured an awful lot in my life. I had the chance to get involved with 1 event a few years ago and somehow got willingly swept into the Kapa Haka group.
I know most of my family and friends from overseas probably haven't experienced a hangi and with many of them having 1 or more of my above redeeming features they probably won't get to. I want to say to you, that if you get the opportunity to see it and be part of it, take up the gift. Yes, you will work hard. Yes, you will be tired and sore when it's over. But... you will also be blessed with new whanau, a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes.
I watched as the men and boys, women and girls separated into their groups. They knew their roles and they worked their socks off all weekend without 1 complaint from anyone. No one slacked. Everyone was tired. Whanau arrived en masse to help and be a part of the process, expecting nothing in return. They actually bring money or food with them to share, they work for free and then many leave without accepting a koha meal for their efforts. They expect nothing in return. It's all about community. I have never seen another culture behave like this anywhere I have been.
One of my students saw me watching them perform just as we began the process of making hangi on Friday. I was so proud of "my" kids (and as teachers we do ask parents to share them with us, because we are invested and we do love them too). Miss R came up to me afterwards and playfully teased me, acknowledging that she saw me well up and she asked why. It's so lovely to work in an environment where you can honestly tell the kids you are proud of them and that you love them and what they do.
I feel honoured to be included in all things Maori and Pasifika. I love our Matua. In theory we both speak English! But, it is definitely a theory :-) We run 2 different conversations and walk away with few answers... LOL. More importantly, when we leave each other, there is a smile and the unsaid respect that we share with our eyes.
New Zealand is such a rich country. We count our blessings when we look at the sky, the sea, the mountains, the green fields, but most of all when we embrace our diversity of culture. Growing up in South Africa and England, I have seen and experienced different ways of living, caring and sharing. Who knew New Zealand was going to grow me even more? My favourite part of belonging to the group is when all 5'2" of me is bowled over with bear hugs and kisses on my cheeks with loud proclamations of "I love you". I love them too. I wonder if they have any idea of what they do to my heart on those occasions?
You know the most ridiculous part of this? Despite almost 14 years of trying to correctly pronounce "Maori", I still sound daft. Do they care? Nup. They just smile and help me whilst also teasing! Do they get wound up if I pronounce their names incorrectly? Nope. I ask them to help me over and over with the pronunciations. They tell me they don't mind because I am trying.
LOVE. That's what my weekend has been about. BLESSINGS. GOODNESS. HONESTY. RESPECT. FRIENDS FOR LIFE. WHANAU. And a tonne of AROHA.