Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Group Stop Blog Entry- Kristen Beebe


New Zealand study abroad has been a trip I will cherish for its memories and
experiences the rest of my life. Not only was I able to enjoy the most beautiful
country in the world, but learn about the marine life and geology/biology of the
coasts along with experiencing the culture of the island. One event in particular
that has been most influential to me is the excursion to the Marae.

The trip to the Marae focused a lot on the cultural side of the trip: learning
about the ancient maori and their traditional heritage. Beginning with the use of
a chief to enter the grounds and the singing to prove our entrance as peaceful, I
will never forget the culture of the maori. I enjoyed the way we worked together
in the Marae in preparing and cleaning up meals, learning the haka, and
sleeping in a communal space. Being able to work together in learning this
dance for both males and females opened my eyes to the expressive nature of
the natives and how they have persevered in preserving their culture amidst the
heavy European influence.

As well, I think it was a nice change to sleep with
everyone in the group: it was a bonding experience and a happy peaceful
night's sleep. I learned that the shape of the Marae is not haphazard, with the
carving of the ancestor at the front of the Marae resembling the head of the
ancestor and the single long beam in the center of the structure being the back
with the wood radiating from the center as the ribs. Everything is symbolic in a
Marae, with much respect for those that have passed.

The walk to the church was very enlightening too, as I had not known of the
great Catholic presence and how much the maori respect their missionary so
much as to fight for his relocation from Europe to this chapel in the hills of New
Zealand. I thought it was amazing how the chief/priest allowed us to raise the
casket of this man (it is only raised three times a year for public viewing).
Although there was a little mishap with a cross that was jammed, father
resumed the raising and we were able to view the hand carved casket (father's
brother was responsible for this). I felt honored.

Not only was there a cultural revelation from the Marae stay, but a scholarly
one as well. A few of the maori men took us on a group walk along the cat walk
which passed through a mangrove thicket. The muddy substrata and the
beautiful water channel that meandered its way through the trees made for a
lovely sight. However, upon closer examination small crabs were noticeable
hidings inside burrows in the mud and small snails were seen along the ground.
Baby mangrove shoots were pronounced everywhere and the influence of the
tide was clear with shells (oysters, etc) and other shell debris. Of course, this
muddy terrain was not left untouched, as a mud race ensued with a few of the
group members. All in all, the mangroves were a beautiful natural wonder with
diverse fauna.

The morning we left was just as genuine as the day we entered: breakfast
was homemade and we all worked as a group in cleaning the dishes.
Furthermore, our chief was set to speak again and we sang once more. We
ended with touching noses and saying our goodbyes (Kia ora); I was left with an
enlightened heart.

***In the pictures above, you will find an image of the mangroves, the group
that ran in the mud, an image of the chapel, and an image of the entrance to
the Marae***

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