Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to realise what you've got. This summer we have been playing New Zealand tour guides, showing our aunty and uncle from England the glories of our little country. This amazing, beautiful unique country that I can so easily take for granted...
The clean water and stunning scenery. The green grass and warm sunshine. The easy-going friendly Kiwis who just love to welcome newcomers and show them why NZ really is Godzone (i.e. God's Own Country).
Our lack of pretension and the way we all dress so casually EVERYWHERE, and how this is normal. And no one looks at you funny for slopping about in shorts and "jangles" (hehe, Aunty Irene, it's "Jandals" i.e. "Japanese Sandals").
The way we can all swim. Everyone. Ever heard of a Kiwi who can't swim? Me neither. Another thing we take for granted.
Our deliciously warm-but-not-too-hot summers. (And this one's been particularly good after a rather shaky start. But we won't mention December).
We have been wanting family from England to come and see our little slice of paradise for years, but it's such a long way, only Grandma was willing to make the journey... until now.
Hubby's Aunty and Uncle planned what they thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip this summer, and we knew we had to pull out all the stops, make them fall in love with the place so they'll go home raving about it and MORE rellies will come visit.
Our plan is working - they are besotted. And even talking about maybe coming back and seeing the South Island next time...
They've been to Waiheke Island, Taupo, Rotorua, Mt Maunganui, Pauanui/Coromandel, Back to Auckland, spent a day on a boat moored off Motutapu and now have headed up to the Bay of Islands/Paihia.
And oh what fun we've had trying to teach our aunty how to say the Maori words!
Mt Maunganui = Mt Monnagooey/Mt moowagonny. Pauanui = Pannanooey/Poowarney. Waihi = Wee-eye. The lists goes on. Hehe. So cute, these tourists.
As I've driven around the place, telling stories, explaining the meaning of names, talking about the history, it's made me realise (a) how much I know about my country and how many Maori words I've absorbed in my lifetime and (b) how much MORE I want to know and understand. I've even (just quietly) considered finding a wee course in Te Reo.
I've begun to realise just how much our laid-back, friendly Kiwi culture owes it's thanks to our tangata whenua - our Maori people. Maori have a graciousness, a warmth, a generosity of spirit; they traditionally value people more than things and family above all. When you meet a Maori person, the first question is "Who are your people/where are you from?" not "what job do you do?" like us Pakeha.
Sure things have gotten messed up and Maori feature too heavily in all the wrong statistics, but it's my impression that this happens when they lose their sense of where they belong, their land, and their people.
Sometimes we Pakeha can feel awkward and vaguely guilty around Waitangi Day. It's meant to be our national day, but usually any celebrations are overshadowed by protests and shouts of "honour the Treaty!"
This year after playing tour guide all summer, I've found myself yearning to understand my country and my history better. The more I've talked about New Zealand to our beloved tourists, the more I've wanted to really know.
I recorded Mike King's series "Lost in Translation" (on Maori TV, Waitangi Day) and spent the last day or so watching every episode back-to-back. It was a beautiful thing.
Did you know that there wasn't just one Treaty signing? There were nine sheets sent out all around New Zealand. I didn't know that.
There was a lot I didn't know, but watching Mike King's (most excellent) programme I learned a lot. It gave me a sense that as country we have a truly unique and special history, which I want to learn more about.
Yes mistakes have been made, but as the programme showed, the spirit of the Treaty was well intended. I can be proud of our country's foundations. And I want to understand and honour the people who were here in this beautiful place first.
My ancestors came here fleeing poverty and repression in Ireland way way back in the 1840's. I am grateful they found a place here.
One of my ancestors on my dad's side was a nurse called Charlotte Speedy, and I'm told she nursed a Maori chief back to health from his death-bed and was made an honorary member of the tribe. I'm now on a mission to find out which chief, and which tribe. I would love to think that my little family could have ties to the "people of the land" ... honorary or not.
It's a stunning country. And in my humble opinion? The best little country in the world. (And I think our tourists would agree with me).
BEST KIWI SONG EVER: "WELCOME HOME"
Dave Dobbyn's song sums it all up perfectly...
Kiwis: What do YOU love most about Enzed?
You other poor buggers: When are you coming over?