Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shani Te Aho

I met Shani through a lucky break. I had met her friend, Karrine, at a nightclub in Hastings (the only nightclub!). After more than a month, I finally got in touch with her and met Shani in the process. I'm grateful for the encounter. Though we've only known each other for about 2 weeks, we connected right away and she was incredibly open and willing to impart her knowledge of her heritage, legends and cultural traditions. It made spending so much time in Hastings, completely worthwhile.


We talked about everything, melding two or more of our own cultures into everyday topics and discovering how differently we grew up and how differently we see the world. And yet, there was a strange understanding and acceptance in each of our different ways of viewing the world. No conflict, just continuous learning. I wish I could have recorded so many of our conversations about Maori history and culture because I learned so much, and I know that there is no way I will remember everything she's told me. I will cherish the conversations we had, though, and the generosity pouring out of her and her family.
On Christmas day, she came over with a huge plate of food her father had cooked, typical Maori kai(food), much like the hangi I had at the Maori village. It was delicious. In New Zealand, among the Maori, it is the men that traditionally do the cooking. About a week later, after returning from fishing, Shani's father gave me a fish for cooking. Here I was, once again, adopted by families who thought I needed to be fed. And I haven't even met them! I'm blessed and her presence in my life for the past few weeks has been a blessing.
Along with the food, Shani made me a puti puti, a flower made from flax. It symbolizes growth. It's amazing how quickly you can connect with someone in such a short period of time. She understands completely that this is my mission here in New Zealand and the puti puti is proof of that.
Puti Puti
Puti Puti close up

Other things she taught me... how to open a beer bottle with a lighter. That's the thing here. In Haiti, we used hard edges of surfaces, here, it's all a question of angles. Here's a video of her doing it.

I have so many stories to tell you, but I will do it all in time. Next time I'll explain the story of how New Zealand came about, again, a story told by Shani.

Last night we were having drinks in Napier and she told me that if I needed anything, I could call her. We're whanau now, we're family.

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