Monday, January 25, 2010

Group Stop Blog Entry- Rob Gardiner

Rob Gardiner
I am choosing to write about our stay at the Marae because of how I feel it set the tone for the rest of the trip thus far. It was only the second night we were in New Zealand so everyone was still getting to know one another but we all had to act as one group in order to enter on to the Marae. We needed to select a chief as well as come up with a group song.
After we ate dinner as a group we were taken out to see the expansive mangrove flat behind the Marae.

Biologically speaking, the mangroves are an important wetland habitat. They are also very unique in that their roots, called pencil roots, poke up from underground about 5 inches in order to get oxygen during low tide. The river that runs into the mangrove flat brings with it fish which the Maori catch and use for meals. Geologically, the mangrove is situated in an estuary with a fairly large tidal range. The sediment is a very fine mud/clay and can be easily transported in the event of storms or floods. Also, the mangroves act as a buffer for the mainland during storms and dissipate the energy of storm surges and floods. Without mangroves, the Maori would continuously lose their land as it eroded away. Culturally the mangrove flat plays a very important part in the Maori way of life. When the tide is low, the men come out and run through rugby drills. They also entertain themselves by having "stone wars" which have been occurring for generations. In these stone wars the Maori men set up on either side of the river, cover stones with a layer of the mud and then try to hit members of the other team. The river also offers another chance for the Maori men to show their toughness. The men have swimming contests with incoming and outgoing tides seeing who can swim furthest up river and then marking the location with a stick. When the next tide comes in another man tries to beat that previous record.
After the tour of the mangroves we learned about some of the traditions the Maori still practice to this day. The guys learned the Haka, a tribal war chant, and the girls learned a song sung by the Maori women. After about an hour of practice each group performed what they had learned in front of the rest of the study abroad group as well as the Maori who were hosting us. I believe the entire evening brought the group closer which has enabled us to greater appreciate everything we have seen and learned so far.

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