Kohanga Road Trip

by barbznz

Manuhopukia had met some people from Waiwhetu in Lower Hutt and decided it would be nice if we went to visit them.  Not only were all the children from the Kohanga going but the young men for the carving centre were also invited. 

Since the carving centre and the kohanga were both supported by the Maori Woman’s Welfare League, we already knew each other. When we fund raised for the kohanga, they would often sell goods as well. During the first joint stall I saw a large carving  of a Manaia, a forest being. It had been carved by Tepora’s grandson and even though we didn’t have a lot of money, I had to have it and brought it home. I still have it hanging on the wall in the hallway.   A permanent reminder of our time at Kohanga.

To prepare for the trip we had to learn of number of new songs and a patere, a Maori chant about the travels of an ancestor down the North Island to the Bay of Plenty.  It was long and complicated but I was determined to learn it off by heart. It took hours of practise both as a group and on my own at home. But eventually I learnt it all, in fact even now I can still remember bits of it. 

Apart from the young men from the carving centre we also took some Kaumatua. We went in five mini vans. These were the days before cellphones and we were suppose to travel in a group with in sight of each other. Some how we got separated. One group decided to stop at Turangi to see family, they told the other vans but ours didn’t get the message. We ended up going straight through to Taihape and then waiting for the other vans to arrive. 

The other four vans thought we may have broken down so one went back to Taupo to check. We waited for ages in Taihape hoping there hadn’t been an accident. Once they arrived again we stayed in formation.  We hit Levin on dusk. Some people thought we were nearly there but knew it was going to take another two hours. We were all really tired by the time we arrived in Waiwhetu it was pitch black.  We were in for another surprise. There was a tangi on. Normally, you can’t go on to a marae when there is a tangi on but since we had so many small children we were allowed. 

The Kaumatua was really impressed that I knew the patere. Most of the others hadn’t really learnt it properly and here was this pakeha showing them how it was done. The next day we went to Parliament and were shown around. My friends gave me a hard time. When I did my introduction I always said that my marae was paremata, parliament and my whare kai was Bellamy’s, the restaurant at parliament. Well they said finally got to go to your marae and they didn’t even give us a feed.

That night I was really tired,  I fell asleep with Simon. During the night, our young men got in to a bit of trouble. I am not sure what happened but there were a couple of black eyes and some every angry kaumatua.  While I was down I rang Mrs Granger. We have written to each other over the years but I hadn’t had a letter for a while. She was so pleased to hear from me. She was alone now, Mr Granger had died and she sounded so sad. I was really sorry I couldn’t get to see her but I had no way to getting up to her place. I promised to write soon but too my shame, I just never got there. I really wish I had. 

The trip back was pretty uneventful. The kids had all been really good and we enjoyed our trip. 

© Barbara Hart 2014

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