When I first heard we were going to a Marae, I had no idea what to expect, mostly because I really didn't understand what this place was. When we arrived, I still knew very little, but once we were witness to the tradition and the ceremony (even without traditional garb) it all started to sink in. This was a small piece of seclusion for this particular group of Maori and they had been gracious enough to share their culture with us. From the tasty meals (fry-bread with local honey for tea and roast pork butt with cabbage as a side for dinner!) to their tours of the mangroves, their enthusiasm was clearly evident.
When I think back on that day, from the welcome and our song (Hakunah Matata!) to dinner and running through the mangroves and "attempting" the haka, I cannot help but be pleased. It was one of our first days in New Zealand and it was exactly what I needed. Talking with the warriors, Junior and his friend (whose name escapes me), and learning not only of their daily lives outside the Marae but also the traditions that they participate in enthralled me. How they used the land around them for both food (the mud snails and oysters they found for me that I almost ate) and for spiritual reasons (the sacred burial ground guarded by the spirits of their chiefs) was something few people still do; something I envy. Of course, getting to play around in the mangrove fields, which are used not only for recreation but also for their healing properties, was an experience I will never forget. Plus, having the bishop wash our clothes and then give us fresh baked bread and cherry preserves was something completely unexpected, but not out of character for the people of this kind country.
This was an experience that I wish could have lasted longer, although we did do some pretty spectacular things afterwards. If I ever get a chance to come back to New Zealand, I intend to return to the Mututi Marae and learn all that they are willing to teach.