Flashback to a couple of decades.
I sat perched on my chair in front of my class about to begin the next lesson, in our government textbook. It was about the Maoris and how a European had gone visiting there for a couple of days. Bathing, washing and even cooking was done in the hot springs behind the house where he was put up. The next morning, he saw another new pool that was not there the previous day. I was only too eager to teach the class about how these people lived in New Zealand. Was it the Law of Attraction, that now I was actually there to see the place with my own eyes? The lesson had ended with the visitor reluctant to go back to the land of bathrooms and kitchens. He had to leave New Zealand where the hot springs sufficed for the same.
We took our seats in the bus and the driver was a Maori gentleman to guide us. He gave us an introduction to the place of our visit, and the whole program would be for about 3 to 3.5 hours, he said. About 30 to 40 minutes of journey into the woods away from the city, and we were there. “Tekeora” was how to accost someone and touch your nose with his, like we have our Namaste or shaking of hands. The Maori families were involved in showing us the place, including the women and young girls and boys. They entertained us with several performances and games which was fun. I too took part in one such game along with a Chinese girl and a couple of local boys.
After that there was a show of dance and drama in a hall by the Maori family which everyone enjoyed and they also took several pics of the same. Then, then it was time for dinner. But the cooking for this dinner was not the ordinary type, as this was a HANGI DINNER!
Into another room we went, where on a stage was the huge iron square container and the food that was cooked in it was also displayed beside it. In the corner three strapping men, who had done the cooking watched us enter and take our seats. The Maori gentleman came and made us repeat the word H-A-N-G-I. The tattoo marks on the men’s faces were indicative of the position and power they held, that we had heard about. The cooking was done under the earth in a pit where the iron container was lowered over stones that were heated till they were white. The meat went in first and then the vegetables followed in that container, and on top the pudding. Then some native leaves and soil were put on top so that the heat could not escape. About six hours of cooking, steaming in fact, and dinner would be done, the Maori gentleman explained.
We then went into a small hall where the Maori families sang and danced for us, and then finally to the dining hall. Were we hungry by now! Tables were laid along with chairs whilst the food was in the middle of the hall. In groups, we went on to have the buffet feast of Maori food. Varieties of drinks and various sauces accompanied the steamed stuff, which we gladly ate to our full.
The buses were ready to take us back to the office and as we returned our driver asked each person to sing a native song from their country of origin. When our turn came “India!” he announced, and I started singing, “Old Mac Donald had a farm…”. It was greatly appreciated by all and as we alighted at the office, an American girl personally thanked us for the song. Before that, at the crossing, the driver took us round and round till Ria suspected that he was high on alcohol.
Shiv drove us back to our hotel Jet Park, and we tucked into the white soft sheets for the night. What a memorable day it was!
Breakfast was free in the hotel next morning, and we ate at leisure, all the English food and drinks. We enjoyed a lot and then started off our journey back home to Auckland. Before reaching home there was a Kali Puja meeting of Bhavana Bengali Club which we went to attend, in spite of being so tired. There we had our dinner early and finally went back home. As we slept, I dreamt of all the unique experiences we had of New Zealand’s Gondola ride, Geo-thermal Station and the Tamaki Village covered in two days and one night.