Lately, my Instagram has been inundated with scenic landscapes and random bird life, tracking my travels around New Zealand. For anyone who missed it, I am currently backpacking New Zealand.
I have seen so many incredible things. I have done so many incredible things. And as I write this now, I am only seven days in. The things I have experienced have been amazing. I abseiled down a waterfall 80m underground. I learned the famous war dance known as the Haka and performed it (terribly). I saw ancient Maori carvings in a secluded rain forest. These experiences have been second to none.
As the title suggests however, among these adventures, there came a change of perspective. It was a perspective I had often wondered about. It was a mindset that I thought, deep down, I possessed. As it turns out, I very much do.
We were invited into the home of a modern Maori family. It was phenomenal. We travelled up the long driveway, past the deer, past the cows and past the goat that eats your clothes (real thing). The bus came to a halt and we were greeted by Nadine Toe Toe with an energetic ‘Kia ora’, the response to which, was of course, a dynamic group ‘Kia ora’. Nadine welcomed us to their lodge and by extension, their whanau.
We had mere minutes to kill before we were launched into activities. First, we played stick games, designed to teach Maori children to learn without knowing it. Sneaky. Next came our feeble attempt at the Haka. Difficult to follow and blissfully hilarious. We even had the family laughing at our less that scary faces. Later we were taught to make bracelets out of flax and were fed hangi (a beautiful meal cooked underground of all places).
The following day, we were up at 7am. We got on the bus and went to school. More specifically, the Galatea Primary school in Murupara. We were directed to a small classroom, a fair distance from the front entrance. The children stood up from their seats and performed a traditional welcome song in our honour. Soon, we sat down around miniature tables and started drawing.
Once our time was up, we left the school (though not before high-fiving everyone in sight). Back on the bus, we were told about the cultural impact we have as tourists on the little town of Murupara. Murupara is/was regarded as a gang town. What was stressed, was the importance of these young children, meeting people from outside of their small town. What was stressed was the hope that can be generated from meeting someone from the other side of the world.
In the town of Murupara, everyone is family. But not just family, whanau. Whanau meaning ‘family that I choose’. This message really hit home for me. Some people have so little and yet they share everything they have.
I’d like the world to be a little more like this, a little more amazing. Murupara is a town I will never, for as long as I live, forget.