New Zealand is the most lush and beautiful place we have ever seen. Rolling green hills dotted with specks of white we learned there are 10 sheep to every one person. It truly is pristine and the cities are clean and lovely.
Everywhere we went the locals were kind, considerate and happy to give a hello, smile or chat.
We met the kindest couple on the ship. I don't like to identify people as ethnicity because we are humans after all. I will gladly identify Mel and Maxine as being Maori because I know that is what they would want and they are proud Maori first and foremost and then New Zealanders.
We met, not by happenstance, early every morning before sunrise. Sometimes we would stand at the rail and just be part of the day waking up and other times we would talk, with mostly me asking questions about the Maori and them answering with heartfelt sincerity and sharing. I am sure what I learned in a few days is a drop of water compared to the ocean.
There are about 800,000 Maori of mixed blood. Mel told me that if someone has even one drop of Maori blood, they are Maori. About 30 years ago New Zealand started teaching everyone the Maori language. There are now television channels strictly with Maori content and they have voice over Disney movies in Maori. I also learned that in the Maori culture there is no racism. They teach their children how to live in both the old cultural world and the new cultural world. It is a balance that is part of being Maori.
I love the tradition of Maori New Year which is in June and is closely linked to the Pleiades and the Sun. They will climb their nearest mountain at night and share stories of ancestors while sitting under the Pleiades stars. Then they sing songs to the rising sun on the first day of the year.
They told me an ancient story of a canoe full of Maori that went through the narrow channel in Tauranga at the entrance to the harbor. The canoe got stuck on a sandbar in the middle of the channel. They thew items over to lighten the load but it was firmly stuck. An old woman jumped into the water sacrificing herself to save her people. The Maori still sing songs to honor her.
They invited us to their cabin for cheese, crackers, and wine and we talked for several hours. Mel is retired New Zealand Navy and would point out landmarks and give us history and names of bodies of water. It was like having our own private Captain! Maxine oversees the public libraries in New Zealand.
We thought this hill was fitting for her
They showed us their Maori Green Stone pendants and I was surprised when Mel took his off so I could hold it and have a closer look. I saw many examples of pendants carved from this beautiful green stone and was hoping one would speak to me but it was not meant to be.....this time!
This is a piece at the TePapa Museum in Wellington
Throughout our days, Maxine was free with her heart hugs for me and I felt a deep connection that does not come along very often in life. Both of them are special people indeed. The following thoughts came to me during the last two days of our time together.
Playing In The Garden
For a brief 14 days four souls came together to watch the sunrise over the ocean. With the changing light we knowingly smiled at each other. At times we spoke and others we stood in silence. After our first sunrise we all realized that this would be our moments of sharing and togetherness. We hugged good bye for the day and met again to watch the sunset. And so it became our ritual and we looked forward to seeing our kindred spirits. We stood close, watching the colors deepen and we were, for a moment, alone in our togetherness.
We spoke of ancient cultures, theirs being Maori, the little we know of Buddhism in Thailand, and of the plight of the Native American. We shared personal stories that made us laugh and a few that gave us introspection.
With open hearts we explored together, like butterflies in the garden that is New Zealand. Can you adore someone you only shared hours with? Coming and going like bees enjoying the sights, scents, tastes, colors, sounds and laughter of life, we linked our hearts with the Maori and we became better humans in the process.
Our last morning together we ran from under cover to snap a quick photo in the pouring rain.
Some of our sunrises and sunsets