Noho Marae

"Tuia I runga
Tuia I raro
Tuia te here tangata
tena koutou katoa"

The Maori people are the original settlers of New Zealand. Although the traditional Maori culture is mainly endorsed today to attract tourism, it is still a largely respected aspect of Aotearoa (NZ). The country even recognizes the Maori language along with English as the two official languages of the country.

This past weekend I attended the Noho Marae hosted by the uni's International Student Support Services. About 130 international students from the school met on Friday to begin celebrating the weekend. On campus, we have a Marae which is a complex of buildings and open space to fully accommodate a community and its Manuhiri (visitors). On Friday evening, we took off our shoes (a traditional Maori custom) and piled into the Wharenhui (meeting house), the focal point of the Marae. There, we were formerly greeted by the Maori who taught us a few basic things about the culture and encouraged us to meet one another. After brief introductions in small groups, we headed to the Wharekai (dining hall) for dinner. Each student brought a traditional dish from their culture, so the whole place was filled with an abundance of great food. I basically tried one of everything. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to make anything to bring because I was with a travel agent all afternoon (I'll explain this later). After eating way too much food, we all met at Vesbar, the on-campus bar, for a few drinks and live music. Kenneth Holt, the international student advisor, play bass in a band that performed for us. They play a mix of classic rock and more modern songs and we all danced and sung along. I love how we come from all over the world and speak different languages, but we can still sing along to the same music.

Enjoying the food at dinner
My new Swedish friends will full plates
Lisa, Alma, Martina (Sweden) Mariann, Elina (Norway)
and me (USA!) at Vesbar

We arrived back at the Marae early on Saturday morning to learn more songs, meet new friends and of course eat more food. We learned a variety of different songs throughout the day because music is a large part of the culture. We were also taught "The Stick Game" which is a hand-eye coordination game to be played with a partner. Elin, from Sweden, was my partner and we struggled to stay on beat and kept missing instructions because we couldn't stop laughing.

The boys and girls were also split up so the boys could learn the Haka and the girls the Poi dance. We made a Poi, which is essentially a ball at the end of a piece of string, with yarn and dacron stuffing. We were taught a dance that involved hitting and twirling the Poi to the rhythm of a song while moving your hips to the beat. I was absolutely awful and kept accidently hitting the girls around me with my poi.

At the end of the night, we performed our songs, games, and dances to a group of AUT faculty and headed back to the Wharekai for a hangi. A hangi is a traditional maori feast of many different meats (the lamb was the best), potatoes (kumara, a type of sweet potato might be my new favorite food), pumpkin, stuffing, salad, stew and more.

The girls learning a song
(I stick out in the front row with my bright green socks)

Some of the group learning the stick game

Anna and me 

Elin and I probably messing it all up as usual

The girls dancing the Poi

Some of the boys getting ready to perform the Haka

My table at the hangi.
A mix from Sweden, Norway, Germany and the US

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