I have traveled to Ōtautahi (Chirstchurch) to study at Waitaha (Canterbury) in the native land of the Ngāi Tahu.
When we take these faraway journeys we must be strong, and from the moment my plane landed everything clicked. It was a foggy night, but a beautiful full moon. I live for moments where it feels that you are exactly where you should be, exactly when you needed to be there. This is home, at least for now, and I have not once felt it hasn’t been since landing.
The customs officers were friendly even when my hiking boots had to be cleaned.
Friendly. I think kiwis are the synonym to that word.
My first day here I was all alone, but just going to the grocery store was a treat. A neighbor to my apartment in a wheelchair offered to race me when he realized we were headed to the same store. I laughed and it made him very happy.
Here the landscapes bring you happiness, and the people try their hardest to spread that joy to others. You cannot walk into a store without the cashier asking how you are, how old you are, or how long you are visiting.
You cannot walk around in general without receiving smiles and hellos.
I love it to pieces and I have never felt so welcome.
Even the flowers, despite being the middle of winter, blossom for you.
My second day I awoke to two boys speaking German. These are two of my roommates, Justus and Marvin. Justus is as giggly as I am and incredibly fun for long conversations about how are cultures differ. Marvin is more quiet, but he is a laugher. I love that I can make them laugh and smile too.
That day we headed to the Christchurch. We just wanted to get our barrings and our metro cards.
And as much as we were getting ourselves together, so is the city.
The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 were as much devastating as they were inspiring for the community.
Buildings fell, 185 family members and friends were lost.
However it is not the dead that face the repercussions of such an event, but the loved ones and community they leave behind. They had to rebuild.
And in true Kiwi fashion, the community did something extraordinary. Buildings left structurally unsound were graffitied. Partially as a warning, but also as a new-found massive art form.
Now modern masterpieces are being built daily with the art from the rubble incorporated.
I’ve gotta say, I came here for the mountains, but what they are creating here is just as much my style.
I didn’t know there was a place I would ever find so fitting. I’m not sure I’ll ever want to leave.
My third day only solidified my mindset:
My traditional Canterbury University Welcome.
Yes, it was a meeting to go over the basics of my uni, but it was still certainly not like the states.
Before any of the major speakers began in English, they gave a traditional welcome in Māori: karakia. Sometimes they were quite long, but the effect was admiration of this foreign language.
Karakia are to welcome us and those who came before us, tying all of our ancestors to one place. They are prayers of intention and in a Māori class I am taking here we begin and end with a karakia.
So in this assembly the tedious PowerPoints, yes, but an introduction to the culture ever-present.
Even the police officer who came to speak on safety gave his mihimihi (personal introduction), cracked jokes, and perhaps was the sweetest police officer I have ever met.
The police here are not armed with anything!
I must say, adjusting to a nation so much safer than your own takes time. This is the second safest country in the world. Only about 60 people die by violence in a nation of 4 million PER YEAR. The last time an officer died in the line of duty was in 2009 as well!
How amazing is that? What the hell America?!?
After the officer came, some professors taught us part of a song sung at the All Blacks stadium.
They also taught us how to say pass the beer in Māori, but I have forgotten.
Luckily they let us know of Māori courses!
I get to take Māori for absolute beginners, Māori performing arts, Māori and the sciences, and NZ biodiversity!
Best set of courses ever! I’m STOKED.
Haha, I’ve learned a bit of slang here as well, stoked being one of them.
Kia Ora: Hello
Chur: Cheers (shaka sign often included)
Hei hei: Chicken (Moana comin through as woke)
Hipi: Sheep (lots here)
Aua: I have no idea (very important lol)
And then this one is unacceptable….
WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!?
I am most certainly not near Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
Ya know, they even celebrate Christmas in July. The fancy restaurants have Christmas courses, the center of the city has an ice rink with snow globes, and I myself am attending a Winter Wonderland party next week.
This equator side switch is something else. That’s for sure.
And because it is winter, my 4th, 5th, and half of 6th day have been cold with non-stop rain.
The 4th day we only went out once as a flat to play pool.
The 5th, we officially enrolled and got our IDs. Marvin and I got lost walking around the campus in the rain as well.
The 6th day, the endless rain slowed a halt. Thank goodness. I want to go exploring!!!!
We seized the sunshine, and went to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.
There were eels, slimy yet soft to the touch.
Oh yes, I did pet them, they are like the cows of the water ecosystem here.
For the most part there were birds.
Birds of most peculiar and/or prehistoric nature, including the beloved New Zealand kiwis and keas.
I cannot say it enough. I was most excited to meet them, and me oh my did they not disappoint.
Entering their area I must say they were a bit shy at first, but soon thereafter my backpack was a new toy, my head was a place to sit upon, and my shirt was something to taste-test.
They are wonderfully naughty.
Honestly, my favorite animal. I would certainly be one given the choice.
Now classes have started, I’ve begun to learn the song I Te Pō and words like tetaumatawhakatangihangakōauauotamateaturipūkākāpikimaungahoronukupōkaiwhenuakitanatahu.
As I will be singing on the 16th of October, I will be updating you all on my journey to the performance in a new page on this blog: My Māori Performance.
That’s all for now. I will leave you with a whakatauki (proverb):
Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro, nōna te ngahere.
Ko te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga, nōna te ao.
The bird that partakes of the miro berry, reigns in the forest.
The bird that partakes of the power of knowledge, has access to the world.
Ka kite anō!