Learning more Te Reo

You might recall that back in May, I learned the Maori (Te Reo) word for – manu – and I wrote about it here. I’ve recently learned a few new words in Te Reo that I didn’t know previously, purely by listening to the news, or to Dr Bloomfield, giving a daily COVID briefing. Regularly, he talks about needing rules in place or vaccination “across the motu” or islands. Today, he was being more specific about a particular area, and so I learned rohe, which means region. And in the last week or two, the news reported that a new appointment had significant experience working with rangatahi – the younger generation or youth aged around 15-24 – and Dr Bloomfield has since referred to reaching out to the rangatahi to ensure they are vaccinated. Since then I’ve heard it in a number of contexts, and realise it has clearly entered our lexicon.

Most of the time I can figure out the meaning of these words by context, but I usually Google just to check. This helps lock in the word too, so I can use it in the future myself. It is a subtle but effective way for the population – like myself – who don’t speak Te Reo fluently, to gradually find it a place in our spoken language. And I very much appreciate learning it this way.

There seems to have been an explosion in the use of Maori in the community and media in the last year or two. Journalists and broadcasters lead the way in this, introducing themselves in Maori, making greetings in Maori, and peppering their language with Maori words. In the last year it has become common to hear them thanking others for their mahi, which means work or effort. A year or two ago, I never heard it. The introduction of new words is happening regularly. Even the weather reports on Radio NZ or on two main media channels now refer to our major urban centres, most of which have official names of English or Scottish origin (such as Auckland, Wellington), by their Maori names, and by sheer repetition, I know that Wellington is Te Whanganui-a-Tara, along with all the other names. The Maori names are much more fun to say – compare Kirikiriroa with Hamilton, for example. Which reminds me of the old practice of New Zealanders travelling overseas claiming that they speak fluent Maori, listing off a lot of place names, yet claiming that they mean something else entirely!

A right-wing politician has complained that there is a stealthy plan to gradually replace the name of our country – New Zealand – with the Maori name, Aotearoa. And there are many who agree with her. But Aotearoa is such a beautiful word, and it is connected to this beautiful land where we all live. New Zealand was the name given by a Dutch explorer who didn’t even land on our islands, for goodness sake! So I’d be perfectly happy to change our country name (just as I was supportive of changing our flag, although the general populace was not).

I am extremely happy to continue to learn Maori by stealth in this way. I’d like to learn it more formally. I have plans. But I want to learn so many other languages to assist with travel, if I can ever travel again, so for the moment the plans are on hold. But in the meantime, I’m happy learning a few new words of Maori a week. Maori was called a “dead” language back in the 1960s and 70s. It is far from that now.

At the same time, New Zealand has a large Pacific Island population, and we are all familiar with Samoan names, the stop between vowels etc (eg in the name of the Samoan PM Mata’afa), as well as Tongan, Niuean, Cook Island Maori, etc. For a country that has been disturbingly monolingual, rarely learning second languages even at school or university, we are becoming so much better at recognising these other languages, pronouncing them, and – in the case of Maori at least – incorporating them into our everyday conversation. I will say though, that I was particularly impressed to hear a newsreader perfectly pronouncing and quickly enunciating the former Samoan Prime Minister’s name – Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. I’m still working on this one. Try it – you’ll see why!

Aroha nui!

(with deep affection)

Five Favourite Meals

(Unashamedly copying the idea from Mel’s post here, with a slight tweak in title.)

Note before I start: There are many extremely memorable meals I have eaten, but often these are less about the food, and more about the people I was with, or the location, or maybe even the format (eg my first ever wine-matched degustation menu). Whereas these are probably my favourite things to eat. Not always the most memorable, or the fanciest, or even necessarily the most delicious. But they stay with me, and I could eat them over and over again.

  1. Thai Massaman curry at Cabbages and Condoms in Bangkok. I’ve written about this curry before, in my Food Biography series here. I’m still searching for the perfect recipe, the right mix of curry paste and other ingredients. I make it regularly, and it is enjoyable but never the same. I’d be in heaven if I could recreate C and C’s massaman curry, and would eat it ALL THE TIME.
  2. La Dolce Vita’s La Dolce Vita pizza. It’s a simple variation on a margherita – with tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and a drizzle of pesto. The crust was to die for, and it was my favourite pizza in our entire three months in Italy. Now that I’m into making my own pizza dough, I might start trying to recreate their crust. It was perfect. Though, as they’ve said recently on Billions, “it’s all about the ovens.” So I’m doomed to fail, but determined to try.
  3. Homemade tomato sandwiches. Again, my love of tomatoes is probably nothing new to my regular readers. But there’s nothing quite like the joy brought by a very humble tomato sandwich –fresh fresh fresh bread (slices or a baguette), with maybe (but not compulsory) a smear of a vinegary kiwi-style salad dressing, and lots of salt and pepper. I’ve been eating seasonally over winter, and so haven’t bought fresh tomatoes for months. But it’s spring, and I’m starting to hanker after them again.
  4. The pumpkin gnocchi at the Trattoria alla Cerva in northern Italy. Yes, the location was spectacular, sitting outside in a medieval square. But the taste was what made it so memorable. I could eat this again and again. And in fact, I do. Just last week I recreated it (or close enough) for lunch. I now make pumpkin gnocchi once or twice every year, and freeze meal-size batches for quick and easy first courses or lunches.
  5. Ice-cream and gelato in a cone. No, this isn’t one specific meal, or even a meal in itself, despite the fact that my mother used to tease us by suggesting the ice-cream we just ate was, in fact, our dinner. It’s a life-time of eating and enjoying ice-cream. It’s knowing that I can’t have it in my freezer on a regular basis, because it will not last for long. It’s the pleasure of an ice-cream as a special treat, winter or summer. Hokey-pokey (a local flavour – vanilla with honeycomb chunks) ice-cream is almost every Kiwi’s first ice-cream love, and was also mine, but I find it hard to go past boysenberry too. Then in Thailand I discovered caramel flavours, and in my 30s, I went to Rome, and fell for gelato. It’s not a meal. But it could be. It should be.

There are so many delicious meals I would love to eat again, but I suspect much of my joy in these dishes was where, when and with whom they were enjoyed. And so many of my favourite meals have been overseas, because food is, of course, one of the best parts of international travel! I think, for example, of the food we loved in our time in Italy, unbelievably eight years ago, and I’m taken back to the delicious seafood ravioli in a restaurant at the top of a cable car overlooking Lake Maggiore, the pucce (sandwiches) in a square in Puglia, and the seafood pasta at a Sardinian restaurant in Rome! I think further back to a pizza in San Francisco in the 1990s with shrimp and pesto, or chicken fricassee in a square in Avignon, a chilli crab eaten with family in Singapore, a tagine in a riad in Marrakech, and patatas bravas in Cordoba, Spain, beer-battered fish and chips in Queensland, or one of my first (non-Thai) international food experiences, eating lobster in Vanuatu beside a lagoon with my feet in the sand.

There’s so much I’ve missed out, though I covered a lot in my Food Biography series. I haven’t touched on childhood food favourites (except for tomato sandwiches) because they are mixed up with family and love and outings and long summers or cosy winters, or my regular dishes. In fact, maybe I should never have attempted this topic because a) how could I ever narrow it down to five meals? and b) it has made me really really hungry, and it is only 5 pm! Bon appétit!

La Dolce Vita’s pizza

Things I don’t like

  • Rereading a post I wrote in 2011 and finding a major typo/predictive text mistake – “the life I leave” instead of “the life I lead.” And knowing that there are almost certainly dozens more typos in my already published posts. Argh!
  • Knowing that the above is probably an understatement.
  • I have a sore arm. I don’t know why. It might be the result of too much knitting. Or using an exercise band in a home workout the other day (though the other arm isn’t sore, which puzzles me). Or some mysterious malady.
  • So I’m refraining from knitting for a few days to see if the arm improves.
  • Then I wonder if it is just age?
  • Did I mention it is my right arm? I am soooo right-handed, sigh.
  • Spring. Spring on a nice day is fabulous. The tulips at the botanical gardens are probably all in bloom. Or did I miss them? The kowhai trees are also all out at the moment. The bright yellow bursts of colour are joyful. But it has been raining (good when there’s been drought in many places) a lot. And it has been very windy, which is also a feature of spring here in Wellington. So I haven’t been able to get out with my camera, or even my phone camera, to share them with you.
  • Shifting the kilo or so I put on during our indulgent road-trip in May has not been so easy.
  • People who make declarations and post articles without a) reading the articles, b) applying logic to the situation, c) don’t see that they are doing exactly what they claim the “sheep” are doing, and d) lose all sense of perspective in their arguments, because they are so determined to stick to them, and have so much invested in their point of view that they’ll never be able to back down.
  • Ranting. Sometimes I feel better after a rant. But today, I just feel more annoyed! Maybe I need to read the point above again. Lol
  • Lacking inspiration for a blog post, and having to resort to a list like this. Apologies!