Friday morning, May 21st we woke in one giant circle inside the Marae. After three nights of sleeping in a giant room we were ready to pack our “tramping packs” load the “boot” of the van and go up the road to our next destination. Before we left the Marae though, we returned to the meeting room to participate in the “poroporoaki,” or the customary way to end one’s stay at the Marae. The Maori man leading the poroporoaki deeply blessed us with his words. Especially poignant were his words regarding the untimely death of a fellow student’s grandfather the day before. Although he was speaking Maori his words were deep, strong, and spoken with deep conviction and truth. His words stretched far beyond the barriers of culture, language, distance, or even death itself. Friday morning’s experience was best described with words I did not understand. It seemed fitting that the ceremony was in a different language because any words I know are too trivial to describe what I was experiencing. The ancestral and family lineage is extremely vital to the Maori people and to have the people of that Marae invite us to share in the sacredness of their ancestors while honouring the student who lost their grandfather proved very meaningful. I really enjoy the times we get to hear Maori and really enjoy the fact that I do not understand the words but somehow I believe them.
After leaving the Marae we drove up to a picturesque backpacker’s hostel resting atop a gorgeous coastline. The grounds were speckled with old cabooses, the cabooses were covered in surf stickers and the horizon was speckled with surfers. We all enjoyed the “no worries” vibe we received at Solscape Backpacker’s. We also enjoyed the giggle when Jim told a student to go “clean their caboose.” After a rainy afternoon spent with the director of a Christian Conservation association, A Rocha, we returned to our quaint little caboose village on top of the hill. Around 4 o’clock the rain turned off and the clouds broke just in time for the sunset. As the sun set over a black sand beach, endless wave trains, and mountains stretching into the lingering fog- I could not be anything but speechless. The day began and ended with experiences of beauty and truth far beyond any words I know. For me- so far- New Zealand has been intensely beautiful and pleasantly hospitable and far beyond any words I know. In keeping with local lingo, New Zealand is truly “sweet as.” Needless to say that phrase in a Kiwi accent is NOT a comment on one’s caboose region. Cheers!
– Julia Johnson
May 15, 2010
Today was a cleanup day around the Kodesh Community. We were assigned and or volunteered to do random tasks around Kodesh that included washing windows, checking possum traps, raking leaves, sweeping sidewalks, etc. Sam and I volunteered to chop wood that had been sitting around awhile. It was really fun, and we both enjoyed it, although the wood was wet and hard, so chopping it did not go very smoothly. It took us quite awhile to figure out a system that worked, but when we did it went quickly. After the work was finished we had several hours of free time until we went to the rugby game in the evening. I spent some time hanging out with my family at their house in the afternoon; reading and journaling a bit to catch up.
Later in the afternoon Kacie and I went across Oakley Creek with Ben, a man from Vanuatu who is living with my home stay family, and we played soccer for an hour or so. Ben is really good, he put Kacie and I to shame! After playing a bit we went back to my house for supper, and my host mom, Monika, cooked a delicious meal of rice, chicken, and fish. After supper was finished and cleaned up we started getting prepared for the rugby game. We made sure to dress warmly, because it is starting to get chillier as the days go by. We walked the short distance from Kodesh to the train station, and got onto the train that would take us to Eden Park and the stadium. Because we had rugby game tickets, we got to ride the train for free, a small benefit for us poor college students! When we arrived at our stop, we were swarmed with drunk fans for both teams dressed up in their supporting colors and with their faces painted; a much different environment than most American sporting events. Once the game got underway it was easy to see that no one from our group had a clue as to what was going on in the game. We had gotten a brief rugby lesson from Andrew one day on the beach, but we still were attempting to figure out basic situations and occurrences in the game. Needless to say, rugby players put our American football players to shame; they play the same type of rough, hard tackling game, but with no pads on their bodies whatsoever. No helmets, shoulder pads, etc. The experience of the game and the atmosphere of the stadium were amazing though, and an experience I’m sure that no one from the group will forget anytime soon. After the game and the train ride back to our stop, we walked to our home stays and climbed in bed, after a long but very entertaining day.