After reading the Horwitz chapter on Captain Cook and New Zealand, it was the tensions between the Maori and the Pakeha culture that interested me most. This reading highlighted the cultural clashes and misunderstandings of the early days of Cook, and reflected the cultural tensions that have been carried into the modern culture. Before reading this chapter, I thought that the Maori and the European cultures had gotten along amicably and that there was a strong Maori presence in New Zealand, since I had often heard of the native culture of the country. I am glad that I learned more about the situation of the Maori before going into the country with my previous misconceptions influencing my interpretations for what I experience in New Zealand.
While reading the chapter, the descriptions of the cultural misunderstandings and the misinterpreted events were amusing. The idea that the Pakeha were omnivorous and that they everything they owned was edible was falsely interpreted by the Maori, and therefore they were eating the candle sticks and drinking the oil for the lamps. I find the cultural misunderstandings comical, but it was also enlightening to hear the theory that the Maori culture ate the lipid rich oils (and that they were cannibalistic) to make up for the fact that their diets lacked fats commonly obtained through eating large land mammals. I think it is fascinating how cultures, customs, and foods develop in conjunction with the geographic area and the biological needs of the people.
For me, my personal exploration objectives are to try to experience and learn as much as I can about New Zealand while I am there as I can. I feel that I am sometimes intimidated by the prospect of talking to the locals and learning firsthand about the county. After traveling before, I know that it is the personal conversations and experiences that I have remembered and that have affected my opinions and interpretations of the country. Therefore, I will tackle the unknown and try to take the initiative to go out, explore, and learn as much as I can while immersed in the country. With these sorts of experiences, the trip will hold a greater value for me than just a month "winter session." I would like to break out of my personal comfort zone with "strangers" and get to better know the country, its history, and the psyche of the people.
As far as academic exploration and discovery, I would like to come out of this study abroad with a better knowledge of how to look and explore an area and then be able to formulate an accurate analysis of and interpretation of the area with a certain degree of certainty and confidence. In addition, I hope to be able to apply concepts I have previously learned in my other college courses to what I am seeing and what I am learning about while abroad. I think that this study abroad will offer a wide variety of experiences, both academic and more personal, and that this will be a great month of learning!