While we were sitting on the side of the road, I'd heard about a Cultural Fair on the radio, and set off to see if I could catch the tail end of it. It was basically winding down, but I saw some Thai dancing
, and tasted some local mussel fritters.
As I wandered aimlessly around and watched as people started to dismantle their stalls, I heard, "How bout some lemonade brother...Organic lemons but unfortunately non-organic sugar." this then followed by a big welcoming laugh. And that was how I met Bonnie Savage...longtime community and Maori activist, newly minted Environmental Studies grad, one of 11 brothers and sisters, and just a fantastically nice and joyous person.
As I helped break down the booth and throw hay bales into the back of the van
, we talked about her work with sustainability in the community, and conservation, and my with the Murie Center and there was just a wonderful overlap. We exchanged e-mails with the usual pledge to stay in contact and that was that.
The next day I had a lovely hike around the heads above Whakatane and saw some of the historic Maori fortification sites (or Pa)
that overlooked the town and the river
, and on Monday, got on the horn with the garage about the Decisive. They finally had the belt fixed around 2:30, and by 3:30 I was back at the garage with a blown hose. When the belt broke originally and the engine overheated, it must have weakened the hose. Easy enough...I brought it back, and by 4:30, all was well.
Fortunately for me, I checked my e-mail during this little "bonus" delay and Bonnie had written to invite me to "Tea" (or as we know it, supper) With the day of travel basically shot at this point, I gladly accepted
For the next day and a half, Bonnie, as she puts it, basically adopted me. He family have lived in this area for generations, and being one of 11, she had a lot to show me. There were some hot springs
on some family land nearby
, we dropped in on her sister Toni, and stopped into the family Marae
. A Marae is basically a mix between the Kennedy compound and a Sons of Italy Hall. Essentially its a family or clan homestead, where the greater family community gather for, meetings, celebrations, etc. Its a very ceremonial and sacred place, and during more formal gatherings, there are some very defined protocols for guests to enter the Marae and to be welcomed like members of the family(Ironically, it was not 200 yds from where the Decisive broke down!) There wasn't any such formality with my visit, but I felt privileged to be there
It seemed everywhere we went, we were running into Bonnie's family, sisters, nephews, nieces, Aunts. And every time, she'd introduce me with a big laugh, "This is Jamie from America...we've adopted him."
We visited the campus of the Maori college where she'd received her degree - Awanuiarangi. She'd picked up some source books and we dropped them off to the various departments around campus, in appreciation for our efforts, some folks at the school of education gave us a whole king fish caught fresh that day. We cooked it up fresh with Bonnie's classmate Tania and her family.
There's so much more to say about Maori culture, but I'm only beginning to grasp some of the important concepts. Whakapapa or family lineage is obviously a central part, as is a to the land and nature.
Again, I've been made to feel very fortunate on my travels...THANKS BONNIE!