Murupara welcomed me today by putting on a mist worthy of Steven King. Tuhoe are called Children of the Mist. One of the reasons they were formidable warriors was their cloaks of mist. It hid them from enemies when any interlopers dared to enter Tuhoe land. I wondered why they were called ‘children’, and can only suppose it is because they felt the mist was a paternalistic-like protection. Or maybe I am over-thinking everything, and it is simply because this is in the foothills of Ika Whenua mountain range.
I went into Rotorua today. I expected it to smell like my father’s gym shoes, given that was the worst olfactory insult I could imagine-however, I didn’t find it stink at all. Funny eh, how a place/person/group of people get this exaggerated bad name for political reasons. The looks I got when I asked for directions to the smelliest section of town were worth the 3 hour delay at the airport yesterday.
I met 18 Maori people today. I will not be able to remember everyone’s name. The people I met were self-effacing, and so happy to chat to me. I met 2 young men in wheelchairs – one from football and the other an MVA. I was interested to see how the rest of the community treated these men. It seemed that they weren’t seen as anything ‘less’ than before their accidents. An older aunty said it was shame, given the first young man was an outstanding performer, however, any interaction I noted with these two men- both in their 20s- was no different from any other interactions. This seemed to be a reflection of inclusion in this community.
Another example of community inclusion was the little children. A 2 year old child was walking behind his mother and crying. My husband cooed to him, and gave him a biscuit, and the child settled and started to play with my husband, as though he was a trusted grandfather. His mother looked back and smiled. Some time later, one of the old ladies noticed a small child crying and beckoned her over. The child came over and snuggled into the woman, stopped crying and went back to her mother. I recognize that some people might criticize these mothers, however, to me it seemed a lot like how my mob parent. We also prefer our old people to be considered a source of comfort and security. These older people didn’t know the young families, but immediately went into granny mode, and comforted and fed the little children. However, the children wouldn’t come to me, obviously because of my fair skin and bottled blonde hair. This is the curse of the yella fella – I would have loved to pick up the children and cuddle them, but they stiffened if I went too close. It must be because there is no mirror in my face, whereas my companions looked like family.
I went to an aged care facility as well. I was very interested in the Maori cluster in this NH. It was impressive. I used to be the NSW TACS manager, and I have never seen a cluster that was done with a core value of caring for that demographic- it was my experience that NH’s clustered in order to increase their potential capture of customers. I watched the care director interact with the residents – she knew them, their interests and their families. It was touching. She gave me their ‘tool’ for working with Maori people, so I certainly intend to plagiarize that when I get home.
I am considering the issues of food security though. I know from my own life experience with my mob, it seems that Indigenous people who are resource poor have issues around food etc. I remember reading where Darkinjung people would meet when a whale had beached, and the mob would ‘gorge’ on whale. The author was suggesting Aboriginal people lived a life alternating between abundance and starvation. I am not sure I agree with this. I am sure people on the coast would eat a whale, and I have seen the magnificent whale carvings in this region. However, it would seem that is a post-colonial artifact, as I watched a Maori family yesterday. The mother (I assume) was carefully collecting the uneaten portions of food, and had little containers that she took from her bag. It was hard to watch, and I wanted to give her my lunch as well. I am now wondering if there are gender considerations I need to make in community exclusion, ie, are women more excluded as a function of their gender? Do they carry greater expectations of deprivation in order to maintain family health?
My arthritis is murdering me though. I have had to hobble around today, so tomorrow I will not travel anywhere, and let my joints settle down. Oh, I got some medicine today that would cost me $40 in Australia- it cost me $11 here – so happy!
It’s 0330. I thought it was 5.30, so I got up. I can’t see anyone else awake in the community. That is interesting, because in my home community, there is always someone awake. The house I am staying in is a typical ‘mission’ house, but I can see it has had a lot of people who ‘lived’ here. There are family photos everywhere – some almost 60 years old. There is a blurring of the lines here between public/private displays. Jewelry, for example, is used as decoration on the walls. I am not sure what this means-it could be an acknowledgement of the gift of a piece of jewelry, or the belief that some items need to be seen more often than personal adornment would allow. Perhaps it is an anthropomorphisation of the house? The older photos have leis hanging off them. This is also a difference between my mob and this one-we don’t usually have photos of deceased people, although, I have noticed this cultural more is also changing. I wish I had photos of my old people. I want to see other houses to check out this assumption, but I will have to wait and see! I would really like to talk to my supervisor here, but he emailed me yesterday and said he didn’t have time to see me until after Easter. I hope he meant 2011, but who really knows?????
Evening: we are back from Hamilton. We met with Prof Maxwell and his team. I didn’t realize Linda Tuhiwai Smith was his boss, but she wasn’t there. We were lucky to catch him, as he was going to Whakatane for their university campus’ graduation tomorrow. He was very gracious and helpful, and gave me a painted Maori journey stone. I hadn’t realized Maori had journey stones, but Papa says it is decorative, not cultural. Still, Prof Maxwell is happy with what I am doing, and will continue to supervise me on a monthly basis.
Let me tell you about getting petrol in NZ. Papa was filling up at a Mobile in Hamilton, but he asked me to finishing filling the car as he wanted to go to the jilowah. When I went in to pay, he was waiting in line, so I asked him why he hadn’t gone to the loo, and he said the attendant said it was engaged. I looked – it wasn’t. I told him to go. We were looking at the map on the counter when the attendant asked us where we wanted to go. We told him the uni and so he proceeded to look at me and give me the instructions. He didn’t acknowledge Papa, even though he had the car keys. It was like the shop keeper yesterday. Initially, I thought it was a sign of racism and exclusion, however, this morning while we were out walking, a Maori woman came over and spoke to us. She talked in Maori and only addressed Papa. So perhaps it is more a reflection of inter-cultural relationships. Perhaps it is more active in-group/out-group dynamics than I had realized. This is just a snapshot, and I will be watching for similar incidents over the next few months.