Saturday 28 June 2014

Māori Taonga

Kia ora :-)

Recently, I learned how to make two special Māori crafts. They're considered taonga, or treasure, because they are both really important to the culture. For both projects, we opened with a karakia (prayer) to bring everyone's mindsets together for what we were about to do, closed with another karakia when we were finished, and ate some kai (food) together when everything was completely done.

My friends and Jenny's friends came over one Sunday afternoon and Helen taught us how to make poi. I think I described it in a previous post, but poi were traditionally used by men to soften their wrists after working with big weapons, like the taiaha. Over time, it became something that the women would use in song and dance, and now usually only women work with poi, especially in kapa haka.

The finished products!

I learned about harakeke (flax) weaving -- raranga -- at the Massey library. We went out by the pond, said our karakia, and harvested the flax right there. The flax grows in fans and we were careful to find the "baby" flax in the middle and a "parent" on each side, and only harvest the "grandparents" that were on the very outsides, keeping the plant balanced. We needed to cut with a downward slant, so when it rains the flax doesn't rot. Then we prepped the flax by folding it and cutting off the bottoms, and brought them inside.They taught us how to weave a really simple putiputi (flower). 

Flax was used extensively in the past and is still used very frequently today. Many people weave baskets, flowers, cloaks, jewelry, belts, and fishing nets. Traditionally, it was also used for medicinal purposes such as treating burns, ringworm, cavities, and as a blood purifier. 

Here's what I did:

ngā putiputi harakeke -- flax flowers

Hei konei rā

Friday 27 June 2014

Hitchhiking and All Blacks

Kia ora koutou

Man, it's hard to keep up a blog when your amazing experience in New Zealand is ending soon and everything is happening and you have exams and you're trying to spend as much time as possible with everyone you love before you have to say goodbye to them for a long time. It's a little late, but here's a recap of my last "big adventure" in NZ.

When classes ended we were given a week-long "study break", so naturally, my friends and I took the opportunity to explore a bit more of the North Island. We did all of our traveling by hitchhiking and we were very lucky with all of our rides. We made the six hour drive up to the Coromandel Peninsula in just three rides! We didn't quite have our sleeping situation planned for that night, so our last ride generously offered for us to camp on her dairy farm in Tairua. That was so nice because otherwise we'd be on foot with huge backpacks, looking around for some place to camp in the dark. Feeling very lucky, the three of us pitched our two-person tent next to the cows.

We woke up a bit soggy because it had rained all night, but we had to hit the road early to make the most of the day. Our Couchsurfing host, Shep, picked us up on the side of the road and drove us around all day as he checked road conditions throughout the peninsula for his job as a consultant for the regional council. It was fun listening to his stories and getting to see the area. He even took us up to Cathedral Cove where parts of Narnia was filmed! We also got to see orca whales swimming out in the bay. Mīharo! (Amazing!)

Cathedral Cove

Shep's house was so awesome. He hosts couchsurfers and WWOOFers from all over the world. He has friends in so many countries and the interior of his house really shows it. Most of his furniture and dishes are handmade by himself and the people who visit. His walls are filled with artwork done by friends and he has a woodstove and a piano. What more could you ever want in life? We had a feast for dinner of extremely delicious pumpkin soup (my new favorite food), chicken, French bread, pizza, and muscles. P.S. dinner is definitely not in the job description of a couchsurfing host. We also had surprise visitors: two of the neighbors cows and one of Shep's new baby goats were loose in his yard so we all had to make a human wall and guide them to their rightful homes. I always have to laugh at the crazy situations we get ourselves in. 

Shep's house

Us and Shep !

We stayed with Shep only one night, then we had to hitch to Auckland for the weekend because Lisa and I had tickets to see the All Blacks vs. England rugby game. But before the game, we had fun exploring the city with our lovely hostel-mate, Ahmed.


not a real significant reason to pose here...

hangin' around the park

Lisa's fav tree

 The rugby game was the first of three games in the Steinlager series. It was incredible! The players were HUGE up close! The strongest men I've ever seen. And when they did the haka... so intimidating. We were told the All Blacks would win by a long shot, but the game ended up being really close. But yes, the All Blacks won and New Zealand exploded with pride and joy.




The game is very physical and played without padding or helmets. The All Blacks are coming to Chicago on November 7th to play The Eagles. (I didn't even know we had a rugby team!) I really hope I can make it to that game!!!

The next day we hitched all the way back to Palmy - an 8 hour drive. It took us all day, but we made it safely and caught our last ride before dark. I'm gonna miss how easy it is to get around in NZ...

I have some more things to update on before I leave in FOUR DAYS. Wow, hard to believe. I've already said goodbye to all of my American friends and that was so sad. Jenny and I are going to Napier tomorrow so that will be really fun :-)

Seeya soon, USA
Ka kite ākuanei, Amerika

Sunday 25 May 2014

Mount Taranaki & Tongaporutu

Tēnā koutou katoa! (Hello everyone)

The other weekend my friends and I took a quick trip to the Cape Egmont region of New Zealand - the little piece of land that juts out on the west coast into the Tasman Sea.

It was the four of us from the South Island (Maria, Lisa, Bridget, and myself) and we started late on Saturday (May 10th). We drove out to Egmont National Park with just enough time to find a place to camp and make our classic soup dinner. We took a little while getting set up because as we were unpacking the tent, we found out we were missing a pole!!! It must have fallen out in the garage after we last packed it up, but yes, it was missing. We debated sleeping out in the open, but it's fall here and the temperature drops pretty low at night (about 45° F). We could have also slept underneath the roof of the Visitor's Center nearby, but we didn't want to get in trouble in the morning and the concrete didn't look too inviting anyways. Finally, we rigged it up with the pole for the awning, which is a few feet shorter. It was slightly crumpled, but it served its purpose.

We started the day on Sunday with a short hike towards Mount Taranaki. Taranaki is an active stratovolcano that measures 2,518 meters. Its most recent volcanic activity was the production of a lava dome in the crater that collapsed around 1860. We were so lucky to have this view before the hike because Mt. Taranaki is known for its consistent cloud cover. We had only hiked about 45 minutes and the view was already obscured by clouds.


Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu in the distance

Back in mythological times when mountains lived and loved, many mountains dwelt in the centre of the North Island -- Mt. Taranaki ("gliding peak") among them. 
While Tongariro was away, Taranaki wooed and won Tongariro's wife, the graceful Pihanga. Tongariro returned at sunrise to find the guilty pair and in the struggle that followed, Taranaki was banished. The depression under Fanthams Peak was caused by a kick from Tongariro, and the coup de grace caused the cleft in Taranaki's summit.
Taranaki retreated ignominiously to the west coast of the North Island, carving the course of the Wanganui River as he went and filling it with his tears, and then moved North to his present position.  While resting near Stratford, his weight caused the depression which became known as Te Ngaere Swamp. When he paused to rest again near the coast, the Pouakai Range threw out a spur and when Taranaki awoke he was forever a prisoner.
To this day Taranaki gazes silently at his lover and his rival. Pihanga still loves Taranaki and sighs occasionally when she thinks of him, while Taranaki, when covered in mist, is said to be weeping for his lost love. Meanwhile, Tongariro, the enraged and jealous husband, still smoulders with fury.

Our hike at Taranaki was short because we really wanted to make it over to Tongaporutu for low tide. This is site of the "Three Sisters" and is right on the Tasman Sea. We explored the sea caves, took lots of pictures, and wenting swimming in the sea! It was my first time actually swimming in the ocean!! It was not as warm as I imagined and verrry salty. I was scared I was going to get stung by a jellyfish, but I didn't see any :)

A cool face carved into the rock! It looked like Yoda

Elephant Rock with a little Taranaki in the background

Sea Cave

My Friends ♥

Playing around by the sea

He tino pai rawa atu te mutunga wiki!
It was a great weekend!

-- Katie

Rangitāne Tangata Rau Kapa Haka Festival

Tēnā koutou katoa,

Today I went to the Rangitāne Tangata Rau Kapa Haka Festival in Palmerston North, which is a competition of Māori Performing Arts. The festival celebrates the Māori culture by expressing traditional Māori pastimes:

  • Waiata tira - warm up choral piece introducing the group
I got these pictures from the Festival Facebook page, check it out!

  • Whakaeke - choral piece about a particular issue, individual, or another element of the culture
  • Haka - best described as a challenge. This is a really powerful chant done with men in the front and women in the back. It's very loud and aggressive. The men stomp and make grimacing facial expressions and body positions. They are meant to look as intimidating as possible, as this was a traditional war dance. It's also very rhythmic. The men chant, stomp their feet, and smack their bodies in 3/4 time. I literally got goosebumps.

  • Waiata-ā-ringa - "song of hands or arms" or action songs that are performed with women in front and men in the back. This features a wiri or shaking of the hands to represent the trembles of life in our hearts. I've also read that it represents the heat waves from the sun or the ripples in the water, because Māori have such a deep connection with nature. 
The winning group, Kairanga

There's my host mom, Helen! The second one on the left.
She performed in a group called Matua Ora

  • Poi - women's dance using a small, white ball on a cord that is swung around and hit against the body in unison. Poi were originally used by men for improving the agility of their wrists for battle, but are now used by women to display beauty and gracefulness. The sound of the poi is just as important as its movements.

  • Mōteatea - a choral piece performed in unison that tells a story about the past
  • Whakawātea - a closing choral piece used to say goodbye to the audience
Māori baby :-)

  • Te Reo - the use of the language and pronunciation

Men would dance with traditional weapons, such as patu, taiaha, and tewhatewha.

          Tewhatewha                                                        Patu

Women wore skirts called piu piu that are made with flax. Also, the tattoos that are on people's faces (some are real, some are not) are called a moko. Traditionally these were worn by people with a high-ranking status or when coming into adulthood.

Everyone wore pounamu or taonga, which means treasure. Everyone also did the grimacing facial expressions with their tongue sticking out, called pūkana, which represents defiance to one's enemies.

Here are videos from the top two groups: Kairanga - 1st place and Te Tū Mataora - 2nd place

After the festival, I went with Helen to an after-party for Te Tū Mataora. I should mention that the top two teams are entered into the National Kapa Haka that will be in Christchurch in 2015. Helen said that many people join groups just for fun so they can send the two best groups to nationals. The dinner was really fun and everyone was so nice. It was held at Rawiri's kura (school) so that was nice to see. I'll post more about it another day because I'll be taking a more detailed tour of it later. At dinner, I got to meet one of the elders and he greeted me with a hongi. It's done by pressing noses with someone and is the exchange of the breath of life and sharing of both people's souls.

Thanks, Google Images

Helen said this is the greatest respect that someone can show you. It links you together to remember that you are both part of the oneness of everything that exists. It is meant to make a visitor feel like one with the people.

I have so much admiration and respect for the Māori people and culture. Their performances today were so powerful and their emotions so tangible. It was a really amazing experience. It's such a community too. Before the festival started, I watched everyone greet everyone else with hugs and kisses and at the dinner it was the same thing. Even when meeting me, a rando American, they were so friendly and making great conversation. Everyone there knew each other because everyone takes care of all of the children and shares the burden for any problems that come up. Everyone is family.

Whāia te mātauraga hei oranga mō koutou -- Seek after learning for the sake of your wellbeing. 

Ngā mihi nui, tēnā tātou

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Pic's REALLY GOOD Peanut Butter

Kia ora tātau!

I know I have a lot of blogging to catch up on but I just have to quickly tell you that I discovered the most delicious peanut butter today and I'm really excited about it.

Pic's Peanut Butter  is made with simply peanuts and salt. Kingaroy nuts are sent over from Australia over to Nelson in the South Island where they are roasted and squashed into this divine peanut butter that I'm going to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner tomorrow. It's really that good!

Okay, that's all :)


Monday 19 May 2014

There and Back Again: Hobbiton!

Kia ora!

I'm so sorry for my lack of blogging lately, it suddenly got really busy and then I had so many things to write about that I kept thinking ah, I'll do it tomorrow... Well here we are, weeks later..! So this happened on May 3rd. Ten of us took a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata! It was magical :-)

The set lies on a 1,250 acre sheep farm. It was cool to learn about all the tricks they used for filming. They used different sized hobbit holes to make people appear bigger or smaller than they actually were. Really big doors were used for scenes when the hobbits were featured and they used really small doors with children dressed as hobbits to make Gandalf appear really big.

We spent the day running around The Shire and taking pictures. Everything looked just like it does in the movie!! We ended up in the Green Dragon and enjoyed a cider by the fireplace with the lucky cat who lives there. Here are my pictures !

Mount Ruapehu on the way to Hobbiton

Mount Ngauruhoe

A tiny hobbit hole

It's cool because they grow real vegetables in the garden 
that are used for making treats in the Green Dragon

Little hobbit hole with little hobbit laundry

A big hobbit hole... Such excitement :)

Bilbo's house!!

The apples are real too!

The Party Tree

The Green Dragon


The lucky kitty that lives here

The Shire :)

Haere rā,