Having a Hangi – Rotorua, New Zealand

Kia Ora! A group of us got picked up by Hone Tewarihi Mirinit (aka. Wally) in Waka 94(aka. canoe aka. coach bus number 94). We were on our way to the traditional Maori Village for a night of culture, dancing, singing and food.

On the way out of Rotorua, we elected a chief from our waka and were briefed on the customs of the Maoris. We learned heaps of new words (ka pai = good, paki paki = applause, ai = yes ). We arrived to watch silently and solemnly as the Powhiri (formal welcome) took place. I have to admit it was a bit scary with the warriors with painted faces and tribal garb yelled, grunted, hissed and stomped their way around in front of us. Perhaps the most intimidating was the Taiaha (spear) that they were waving around until the Teka (peace offering) was placed before them by our elected chief.

From here we entered the Marae (village) to watch poi (hey, I can do that!) and weaponry displays as well as listen to chants being recited. In the Wharenui (meeting house), we listened to welcome speeches first in Maori then in English. Next we enjoyed the story of the Maori race told through song and dance. It was a very spiritual experience sending shivers up and down my spine with the sacred history I could sense here. Big smiles and laughter were balanced with deep and meaningful customs.

Shortly after, made our way to the Wharekai (food house) to feast on a traditional Hangi meal. The food was delicious and filling served in a buffet type setting, the plump and juicy mussels being my personal favorite. I was surprised that they even had some North American type fare complete with cranberry sauce. Yum.

Content and full-tummied, we made our way back onto the waka. But not before posing for a nose rubbing greeting in front of the bus…er..waka. Each country was represented by singing a song from their country or in their language which made us remember that we are really all just one big happy family.

I sat in my seat going through the lyrics of “Oh Canada” in my head but then one of the other Canadians surprised us with a Canadian rendition of “This land is your land, this land is my land, From Bonavista to Vancouver Island, From the Arctic Islands to the Great Lakes waters; This land was made for you and me.”

This took me back to my days of youth when my mum and I would sing songs together making an audio tape to send to my sick grandpa who lived across the country in Ontario. Oh way back when tape recorders were huge clunky things with big red recording buttons. He died before we could send the tape but I let my little nephews listen to it just before I left and they could not believe their ears! They wouldn`t believe that was auntie and their mommy with our chipmunk voices.

We circled a round-about thrice singing “She`ll be Coming Round the Mountain” before ending our field trip singing “Row, Row, Row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily merrily, Life is But a Dream”…Life is but a dream.

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