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Maori have a wonderful, ritual way of introducing themselves, called pepeha. Aside from always noting their iwi (or tribe), they will say where they were born, and what was their mountain, and their river and/or coastline. If they know it, they will also mention their waka (waka means canoe, and it is said that nine major waka made the journey to New Zealand from Polynesia).

I was born in Waimate, South Canterbury, of Irish, Scottish and Welsh (to pick a few) descent. My mountain is Aoraki Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in NZ and visible from the other side of the island where I lived. My river is the tiny Hook River that ran past our farm, or perhaps the cold, fast, and much larger Waitaki, where my father and his brothers (and I think my mother’s brother too) went fishing all their lives. I don’t know my waka, but somewhere there are records detailing the ships that brought my ancestors.

How would you introduce yourself in this manner?

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I am ashamed to say that of our country’s three official languages, I only speak English (or New Zild, as we jokingly call our version of it); I don’t speak sign language, and I don’t speak Maori. However, it’s pretty impossible to live in New Zealand and not understand certain Maori words, and every year, I had a few more, particularly around Maori Language Week, which finished recently.

Many Maori words have been used in New Zealand English for decades, but increasingly we use more and more Maori words for concepts, place names and flora and fauna.

Older New Zealanders, or those Kiwis who have spent years out of the country, find themselves sounding as if they still live in the 1970s, with incorrect (almost disrespectful) pronunciation, and are unable to understand concepts and terms that are firmly established in our vernacular. As a really simple example, they can’t understand our now correct pronunciation of many place names, or our national anthem which is now routinely sung in both languages.  (To keep up with the times, I learnt the Maori words some years ago during another Maori Language Week).

My favourite word out of this year’s Maori Language week was hōhā (to annoy or frustrate), after I heard someone on the radio casually mention that he had been “hoha-ing” his boss.

As I was writing this, I heard a radio announcer speak in Fijian, noting that it was Fijian Language Week – help, I can’t keep up!

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We’re in the last phase of winter, or is it the first phase of spring? Over the weekend, the only deciduous tree on our property sprang into life. On Sunday morning, I saw the first leaves emerge, and by the afternoon there were a few more. Its branches are bursting with buds ready to burst. Spring is, if not sprung, then about to spring.

The neighbours, after huge renovations last year, planted a tree that has blossomed most gorgeously right beside our driveway, so I was thrilled to pop out there and play around with my camera. It was nice to snap away, after the winter when I was tortured by photos of beautiful flowers from my photography course classmates from the northern hemisphere.

I’m reminded too by Fbk that previously I have checked out the tulips in the gardens around this time of year. Maybe next week you’ll get some tulip photos.

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After an invitation had been impulsively given and accepted on Friday, Saturday saw us venture over the hill for the first time in months. We spent the morning at home, while I baked a cake for dinner; though if I’m honest it wasn’t the baking that took several hours, it was having to make multiple trips to the supermarket twice to get ingredients I kept forgetting!

We usually drive over “the hill” (the Remutaka Range) in the morning or early afternoon, and it was a treat to drive over in the late afternoon, enjoying the different light on the distant Wairarapa plains as we wound our way down from the summit. We tracked cloud formations being caught by the setting sun in a halo effect but, of course, just as we drove through the little town (which uncannily reminded me of my hometown on a wintry Saturday night in the 1970s) and out the other side, and turned into their driveway lined with promising daffodils, that gorgeous light disappeared.

Daffodils

An early sign of spring

The man of the house was busy cooking up a curry storm in the kitchen, so pre-dinner champagne and olive oil from the trees outside (accompanied by a stunning sunset) flowed into a delicious dinner (curries, and very successful orange almond cake), lively conversation, and even the rugby result was easier to take when we commiserated together.

P1090193

The next morning, after a late but yummy breakfast at the little wine town’s stylish hotel, we said goodbye and, with an hour or two to fill before a busy afternoon scheduled back in Wellington, drove down to the coast, through vibrant green farmland under sunny skies, reminiscent of the land where I grew up, though newborn lambs were the only thing missing from the winter scene, still a few weeks too early for them to arrive. We drove to the end of the road, and – along with others basking in the sunny morning – mucked around on the beach, enjoying just being out in nature, and I, of course, played around with my camera and tripod.

It was tempting to stay, but duty called, so we packed up, drove back along the country roads through the flat green fields, slowing to pass dairy cows and calves wandering along the road (such a New Zealand scene) and their Filipino farm workers, before we headed back over the hill that seems to separate everyday life from freedom, friendship, and leisure.

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My iPad and phone are both full of library loans, but I have no time to read them all. My phone has audiobooks – The Looming Tower, and the Year of No Clutter – so I can listen when I am walking. My iPad has a range of books I’ve downloaded based on recommendations from fellow bloggers and x365 bloggers, books I’ve heard reviewed or discussed on the radio, etc, but they’re all on a three-week loan, and need to be either requested again, or returned. I am just not keeping up with my reading this year, perhaps due to blogging, ironically on books this month on my x365 blog.

I recently mentioned going flatting, and – as I must admit I had expected – someone commented about the use of “flat” as a verb. It’s common in New Zealand, as we talk about flats and flatmates, with whom we go flatting; in contrast, a “room-mate” implies a more intimate arrangement.

There was an earthquake yesterday that rattled the house and cupboards for a little longer than usual, just reminding us – in case we were getting complacent – that we live in very shaky isles.

Right now, there are at least FIVE kaka in the macrocarpa tree out my window, all squawking away, flying at each other, and entertaining me. Unfortunately, the light isn’t good enough to get some photos or video of them, but here’s a photo of a kaka visiting us on the other side of the house some time ago.

P1060365 kaka cr

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Yesterday we got up early (for a Saturday), filled the car with essentials, and headed off, out of the city and up the valley where the Hutt River skirts the highway, its willows rapidly losing all their leaves, into the countryside. It was a gloomy, dark morning, and the rain that was forecast later in the day seemed to have arrived early – it was light, almost misty, and we hoped it would be different at our destination.

We passed the tempting $10 Breakfast sign at the café at the bottom of the hill, tempted to stop for bacon and eggs and a decent coffee, thinking about texting our friends to say we might just be half an hour late. But we didn’t, and we drove up into the winding Rimutakas, up into the cloud, and then dropped back into the Wairarapa beyond, a bit perturbed to find that the weather was no better, and maybe even worse.

We arrived at Alders, site of previous adventures in better weather, where we were due to help our friends harvest their olives. The sight of Peony and her bedraggled sister, both soaked through, supported my decision to bring my bought-for-Iceland-and-previously-only-ever-worn-there rain pants, grateful for my bought-for-Iceland-but-perfect-in many-places fleece and rain jacket, and pleased that my husband had thought to bring our gumboots (and later even more pleased he unwittingly gave me the pair without the hole in the sole).

Our hosts/overseers had thoughtfully provided gloves and plenty of purpose-bought rakes that easily strip the olives from the branches, and we stuck into the work, getting wet not so much from the rain which eased off and just turned to mist, but from the very wet olive trees, and only slightly hampered by steamed-up glasses. With a very efficient crew of workers this year, and even though the trees are so much bigger than when we first went about seven or eight years ago, it was only a few quick hours later that we were told they had enough olives (8-900 kgs or a ton), and sodden, we retreated back to the house to dry off, grateful for the wine, hearty lunch of Indian dahls and curries, and cheerful conversation after a job well done.

Previous olive harvest posts here and here.

 

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On a rare morning when

a) we didn’t have anything planned/necessary to do together,
b) we didn’t have to attend to the in-laws, and
c) my husband wasn’t playing golf exercising,

I declared that the car was mine, and grabbed my camera, finally getting some time to do some photography homework. I drove to a local park that has a high concentration of native plants, and took the last carpark, worrying that it would be busy inside. I could hear children’s voices in the distance, but almost instantly, as I walked through the entrance gate, a calm descended.

Surrounded by ferns, and tall trees, I was cocooned by the green canopy. I used my senses, listening to the tui clicking and clacking and chirping, and the two kereru swooping past me, beating their wings unmistakeably. I looked at the light and shadows, playing around with my camera, working comfortably on manual thanks to my photography course, moving around to try different angles and focal lengths. I revelled in the freedom to do what I wanted, and take as long as I wanted over a particular shot, or around a particular plant, without worrying about anyone waiting for me. But most importantly, I breathed.

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