Travels: Mitai Maori Village and on from Rotorua

March 14, 2019

All in one day – whitewater rafting, thermal pools, Hobbiton, and then an interesting evening at the Mitai Maori Village. It was only possible because our amazing hosts played shuttle and helped arrange a few bookings. Mary Ann and Kevin, you are our heroes! That was an amazing day.

The spring and river surrounded by bush were beautiful, the Waka was cool, any time people move and chant or sing in unison I love it. (I’m a marching band geek at heart and love anything like dance, or community celebrations or rituals where everyone does something out loud together!)

One of the things I loved about this event is that the Maori family has a sense of humor. They are making what I hope is a really good profit by educating tourists about their culture, but there is no way it isn’t sort of commercialized. I expected that. This young woman would tell us about the native dress and the meaning of the tattoos – then laugh and tell us it’s all synthetics and that their tattoos took five minutes with eyeliner. It didn’t feel like they were making fun of the culture, they were poking fun at the commercialization.

This guy was the best. I wish I could remember his name. He was the M.C. for the evening and when the 500 or so tourists were seated waiting for things to start he welcomed everyone. He’d ask for a “tribe” to raise their hands then say two or three sentences in their language, always ending with “do you like chocolate cake.?” It was impressive as he went through many european languages… then also Cantonese, Japanese, Dutch, GAELIC!!!, Tagalog (philippines), and several others. It must have been 20 languages in all. You could tell by the gasps and giggles from each group that he actually was making sense in their languages.  And he was SOOO funny! Our group got lucky to have him as our group guide after the Hangi (feast.) The food was fine too. In case you were wondering.

The evening included a welcoming ceremony and performance. The other two tour groups had chosen a “chief” to represent the group. Their guide stood at their shoulder and told them everything to do as the Maori chief intimidated and danced at them and how to proceed with the ceremony. Our guy said we needed a singer. Nobody would volunteer and since I have no shame, I finally volunteered. I assumed I’d be singing – repeating something back during the ceremony. But no. My guide, right before I went up, said, “you will be singing a song to introduce your tribe, choose anything you want.” I was fine until he said “choose” then I immediately couldn’t think of a single song, a single appropriate song, or a song I could remember more than the first line to. Sheesh. 

I ended up singing the first bits of “Consider Yourself at Home” trying to flip some of the words because I knew it was all backwards. It was their home, not ours. They were welcoming us, not the other way around. Good grief. So colonialist. It was either that or “It’s a Small World After All.” Seriously. Just shoot me.

All in all, the evening was nice. There was a beautiful bush walk after dark where we saw glow worms underneath tree roots and along stream banks. We saw a really beautiful spring, crystal clear, bubbling up from the ground and heading off down the river. It was underlit and there is just something amazing about the water in New Zealand. So beautiful. And Ethan made a name for himself by actually knowing the answers to our guides questions, even the ones he said nobody had gotten in ten years. Ethan would only speak up after everyone else had guessed wrong. Our guide asked him how he knew. Ethan said, “I went to a museum.” I think he spent a lot of time at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch one day while I was teaching. And – he’s got a brain! Yay for museums!

Next morning it was up early and on another bus, sad to leave lovely people and a fascinating and beautiful place behind us once again. Seriously. I now simply have a VERY long list of things I need to come back to New Zealand for.
It was still raining. We were very tired. So I wasn’t plastered to the window as I had been for much of this trip. Fortunately I WAS awake as we passed through a little town where every single shop had signs made of corrugated tin. Or, the entire shop was clad in it. I thought America had a corner on delightfully kitschy buildings, but I was mistaken.

So – if you read this whole thing through I need a huge favor.
Leave a comment telling me:
What would be the perfect song?
It needs to represent your world tribe after it had just been welcomed into the home of a Maori tribe. 

1 Comment

  • Reply
    March 15, 2019 at 3:17 am

    I don’t know how “perfect” it would be, but the first thing that came to mind was “Here Come the Jets” from West Side Story. Quite tribal, but not very friendly!

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