Monday, August 15, 2011

An Evening with the Maori

Wednesday night, May 18
North Island

After racing back to Rotorua from Whakatane, we missed our pick up by less than 5min! Luckily, the lady at the hotel called and the bus driver was willing to make another swing by the hotel. We were soon on our way to the Tamaki Maori Village, a reconstructed, historically accurate village of this indigenous tribe. Our driver was awesome; she was kind and funny, and extremely personable, making us feel welcome and excited about the whole evening.

Our night would include a traditional Maori welcome, where tribe members put on a display for the visitors of strength and power, then lay down a peace offering. Our visiting tribe chief (he was an American who won the vote on the bus) and the one from the other group of visitors accepted the offering and then we were allowed to follow them into the grounds of the village.

Within the village were areas explaining important aspects of tribe life, including games, facial tattooing, food preparation, and story-telling.

As it was freezing, we hurried through and listened to each tribe member explain about their heritage.

After our time in the village, we were invited into the meeting house where the members of the Tamaki tribe put on a fantastic show of singing, dancing, and synchronized performances. They told us stories from their history and explained the purpose for the terrible faces the men sometimes made, eyes wide, tongue out. This was meant to intimidate one's opponent by making himself as ugly and scary as possible. 

After the show, we walked into the food preparation tent where our feast was dug out from the hole in which it'd been cooking all day. Maori tradition called for digging a hole in the ground for cooking. They stacked the food, then covered it all back up with vegetation, burlap, and dirt. We watched as the visiting tribes' chiefs got to help unearth the food.

After that, we were led into the dining hall where we were treated to a buffet style Maori feast, complete with chicken, lamb, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and even mussels. The bar was also open and we were able to have some not so traditional drinks :) The evening had been fun, and we ended it sitting with some very nice people. Two sitting right next to us, Chief Alexander and his wife (from the other visiting tribe) turned out to be from Edinburgh, a place we visited last summer and absolutely loved. We had plenty to talk about and even swapped email addresses, as Chris and I would be visiting Edinburgh in August for the Fringe Festival.

On the ride back to our respective hotels, our driver and guide had someone from each country represented on our bus belt out some sort of common song from their homeland - it was hilarious and extremely diverse! We had people from Germany, USA, France, Holland, Japan, Singapore, Australia...I'm sure I'm forgetting someone. After everyone had their turn (Chris and I sunk into our seats and let the other Americans do the singing), the driver said she wanted to lead us all in an old American favorite we were all sure to know. As she neared a nice round-about, she let us know we'd be singing every verse all the way through, and we wouldn't stop until we had. And so we drove around that traffic circle over and over...and over and over as we all sang, "She'll Be Coming 'round the Mountain." No one got sick, and everyone had a good laugh over it.

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