The first place we stayed during our amazing study abroad program was a small, connected, and beautiful surfer town called Raglan. I have been looking […]
The first place we stayed during our amazing study abroad program was a small, connected, and beautiful surfer town called Raglan. I have been looking for a town like this for twelve years. First off, it is the greenest place I have ever seen. It has the most inclusive and loving culture that everybody partakes in. People wave hi and start a conversation with any random person (exactly like how my grandma (Yaya) does… 24/7). They love and include everybody no matter their background or their presentation, and are incredibly sustainable in all that they do-nobody rushes in anything. The first comment we were told when we arrived in New Zealand was the fact that “nobody runs in New Zealand. If you run, everybody will know you’re American,” from one of the airport helper guides. That is still a “running” joke (pun intended) in this group, especially when we decide to go workout in the mornings. Amongst all of the amazing qualities Raglan has to offer, one of the most important ones is the fact that they are one of the leading towns that focus on sustainability. Raglan is not only environmentally sustainable but also creates sustainable relationships and a creative economic system.
Environmentally, they have seen and worked hard to reduce and recycle garbage, eliminate the sewage that runs off into the water that eradicates ecosystems, and regenerate this beautiful planet. In order to do this, Raglan has many programs and practices that have taken off the past few years. The programs include: Plastic Bag Free Raglan, XTREME ZERO WASTE, KASM, Bag It, Whaingaroa Environmental Center and the practices include: a plethora of permaculture farms and Conservation programs.
Plastic Bag Free Raglan deals with the fact that plastic is a man-made creation that is incredibly toxic and has caused numerous problems with the earth. Did you know that plastic takes approximately 1,000 years to “go away.” Plastic is the number one single-use consumer product in the world. 40% of plastic bags don’t make it to landfills. Plastic already has a huge health threat to everybody and everything in this world, but the fact that garbage is disposed into landfills and then ends up getting into the earth where we get our water and grow our food out of has exponentially increased the threat because it is affecting us right now. There are so many tons of plastic in the ocean that scientists have found micro-plastics in the digestive system of phytoplankton all the way up to the Blue Whale. Every time a sea creature devours another, this multiplies the amount of plastic that is in each creature all the way up to when we consume them. Imagine how much plastic is in our bodies. The principles of Plastic Bag Free Raglan deal with the combination of convincing every store to sell sustainable bags of cloth, jute, or any other reusable material that will not be trashed after reaching one’s home. XTREME ZERO WASTE focuses on composting, reselling clothes and furniture that have been tossed out, and recycling plastic. KASM stands for: Kiwis Against Seabed Mining. This organization fights against Seabed Mining as it destroys and displaces the habitats of the seabed creatures and creates noise pollution, among many other problems. Bag It creates bags for people to use instead of plastic bags with tossed aside fabric made from clothes, blankets, curtains, etc. The Whaingaroa Environmental Center backs up all of the sustainable and conservation organizations. Permaculture regenerates the land while the conservation programs protects native wildlife by trapping for non-indigenous predators.
Raglan was the most hospitable, welcoming, and loving community that I have ever experienced. Anybody will say hello and start a conversation with everybody. The community completely supports local events, businesses, and teams. They also don’t care about surface level aspects of life. They treat each other so well and always increase their strong connections with others.
Another sustainable practice that they incorporate into their lives is this addition to the economic system where they have multiple banks that do not include cash. They created a Time Bank, which calculates the time that someone spends volunteering and helping an organization and then they can use that built up time to spend it somewhere else. For example, if someone spent an hour making bags for Bag It to give out to people, they can use that allotted time to get a massage by the local masseuse. People get something in return for doing something good for the community which is a win-win situation for everybody. They have multiple “banks and pools” that help out the community but the Time Bank caught my attention the most.
Overall, Raglan has been the most memorable town on this trip. Everything that this town focuses on helps the environment and builds connection with every person. Raglan is just simply sustainable.
Food is the ingredient that binds us all together. We know this from family meals, holidays, ceremonies, spending time with friends, etc. We all lead busy lives, and sitting down for a meal is usually a nice way to slow down a bit and enjoy ourselves. For the members of the UP Wayfinders group, our days are packed with different leadership activities, outdoor work, and travel. And most of the time we will get split up into different groups to complete our daily tasks. But as this busy and exciting program continues to roll on, there is one part of the day where we can always count on being together – and that is our evening meals!
Feeding eighteen people is no easy task. It was definitely a struggle to grocery shop with a healthy mindset, while also maintaining a budget and making sure we come out with the correct portions for everyone. Sometimes we had way too much, while other days left a few people with growling stomachs. We make sure to accommodate for the vegetarians and people with food allergies in the group as well. The first couple of days were a bit turbulent with buying and preparing the food for everyone, but now we definitely have a strong grasp on it. Breakfast usually consists of cereal, toast, and eggs, with a side of drowsiness. And our lunches vary from day to day, but generally end up being homemade sandwiches. Dinner time is something everyone in the group looks forward to, as it is an opportunity for us to get creative and have some fun.
We did have a cheat day on the drive from Raglan to Lake Taupo, where Subway and McDonald’s managed to make its way into our bellies. Some New Zealand treats called Tim Tam’s and Earnest Adam’s cookies have become a staple in our diet as well through our snacking weaknesses.
This week we are staying at the Hart Family Farm, and we have been eating like royalty. Rachel Hart has been helping us prepare some incredible meals, and almost all of the produce comes fresh from the farm. From pasta casserole, vegetable curry, soup and scones, and homemade pizza. And don’t forget about the handmade bread that we baked daily. The Hart’s have a beautiful kitchen, and Rachel is a very good teacher in helping us navigate through new recipes and different appliances.
While on kitchen duty, a lot of great conversations, dancing, and bonding occurs. We rotate in groups of four-five to prepare meals for that day, and each cooking group is responsible for coming up with a question that everyone has to answer before we sit down to eat. If you could be any animal, what would you be? If you could live in any time period in history, when would it be? What has been your favorite part of the trip thus far? Etc. This is just a fun way to kick off our evening dining experience, and gives us a good excuse to be reflective about our day, or just be silly and have some fun.
Something fun for us Wayfinders is when other people join in on our dinners. This includes Eck — the friendly Scottsman. Some French Woofers, who are living and working on the farm, and the entire Hart Family. During our time in Raglan, Maddi and Elijah, Tiaki and Tawhai, and even the Maori aunties joined us. It is a big Thanksgiving feast for all of us and our new friends. It is also a time where our Kiwi friends can get a look at what our American culture consists of. We like to talk about our families back home and our different experiences at the University of Portland. I think our New Zealand hosts get a kick out of hearing about our different and unique lives back in the states, rather than just seeing news from their televisions and computers.
A big part of what we are learning during our time in Aotearoa (New Zealand) is environmental awareness and sustainable living. And eating a healthy diet directly correlates to environmental stewardship and protecting the planet. Meat production on farms across the globe normally is a major cause for carbon emissions into the atmosphere, along with inhumane treatment of animals. So eating a more plant based diet is not only healthier for you, but also healthier for the environment. Our host, Greg, made sure to remind us to not cut out meat completely from our plates though. In fact, we should be eating a little meat because the grazing and waste that comes from cows, pigs, sheep, and other animals is necessary for farms and Earth’s soil to stay rich and regenerate crops. We currently consume WAY too much meat though, so we need to cut down and make sure we buy from farms that treat their animals well!
Since we have been eating healthier and having a consistent three meals a day, I think a lot of us have noticed a boost in our energy levels while we are out and about. And when it is time to come together for our evening meal, it is great to see everyone’s smiling faces around the dinner table. We talk about everything under the moon, and get to know each other, and our hosts, on a more genuine level. Each day we are becoming more full. Not just from the good food we are putting into our bodies, but also from the discussion, laughter, and love we continue to pour into each other every time we come together for a meal.
Learning how New Zealand values nature and its protection is both inspiring and disheartening. It is impossible to not compare the Kiwi’s view on the environment to our own. In today’s political climate in the United States, the health of the environment is not a top priority. The EPA is defunded, our National Parks are at risk, and our president does not understand global warming. As an environmental science major, I have learned a lot of theory around the status of our global environment. It is really exciting to be traveling through New Zealand and see some of those theories implemented. Action like going plastic free, protecting native species, and permaculture are all being applied in here in New Zealand. Most people know the dangers of plastics and micro-plastics in the oceans and initiatives like Plastic Free Raglan are ways we can combat that threat. We are currently staying at the Hart Family Farm outside of Napier, in Central Hawkes Bay where they value living sustainably and bringing back native plants and species. This week we have planted and pruned several native trees on the farm. Revitalizing the native trees and increasing the biodiversity of an ecosystem is essential for sustainable growth. We overlook a beautiful lake at the farm, where we can see dozens of birds flying around in the morning. This is especially impactful because when Captain Hook first sailed to New Zealand he described the call of the native birds in the morning to be deafening. Hearing the return of so many native birds means that the revitalization of the land is working.
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Arden, values the protection of the environment. She helped to protect New Zealand against deep sea mining, which is the extraction of precious metals and minerals from the ocean floor. This new process extracts several thousand hectares of sea floor, disrupting the entire local ecosystem. Then, it discharges the soil, which can cloud over tens of thousands of hectares and disrupts all the life that lives there. It is important to recognize that while this process is gaining popularity around the world, New Zealand has rejected all proposals for deep sea mining off their shores. We learned about deep sea mining while we were in Reglan from Phil McKay. He ran KASM and Kiwi’s Against Sea Mining for several years and is now an advocate for positive global change. Places around New Zealand blend a love for the environment with a healthy respect. A few days ago we visited the Waikato river outside lake Taupo, which is home to the beautiful Huka waterfall and incredible hot springs. The river produces 65% of the North Island’s total energy amount of electricity via eight hydroelectric plants, two geothermal plants, and a thermal plant.
We have also learned a lot about permaculture, which is all about producing permanent agriculture. Much of the United States relies on monoculture, or single use agriculture. We learned from Rick, a man who has turned his land into a sustainable paradise, how he uses alternative methods to predict frosts and flooding. With a changing and unreliable climate, he uses the Tui bird to determine when to plant the next crops after the frost. Permaculture is a way to apply a sustainable mindset to the way in which we produce our food. Planting perennial crops, crops that can be harvested multiple times, is a way of providing long term solutions. Introducing perennial crops is a way of going beyond sustainability and focusing on regeneration. An important aspect of permaculture is creating a biodiverse ecosystem, in which flora and fauna can both flourish. Adding an array of native plants and animals can help ensure a healthy and prosperous ecosystem.
As a group, we have all mentioned to some extent how we plan to share and implement this new found knowledge. Many have mentioned starting their own garden in their back yard, and even more have discussed composting. Ideas of using on campus resources like College Ecology Club and the SLUG garden have been tossed around as well. Personally, seeing so many of my peers outside of the Environmental Science major passionate about making changes to leave a positive impact on our environment is inspiring. It is so easy to fall into the same routines we make every day, and intentionally making small changes to those routines can mean big differences in the environment. When I get home I would like to work on planting a herb garden, getting my house to compost, and utilizing the beautiful SLUG garden at UP. It only takes a little education to plant a seed in someone’s mind, and with the right cultivation that seed can become a forest.
Also, a shout out to my lovely ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest- even across the world in a beautiful country of New Zealand, I find myself thinking about the lovely pine trees I call home. Also a big thank you to Mom and Dad and all the other special people in my life, I love you all so much!
I cannot believe we have been in New Zealand for over two weeks now, the time has flown by and we’ve learned so much! I am very excited to be staying at the Hart Family Farm for the next five days. It is absolutely gorgeous, the rolling hills are endless and the feeling of bliss hasn’t left my body since we arrived.
One of my favorite things about the daily life here in New Zealand is the interaction between humans and nature. Personally, I value relationship building from a person to person stand point but I have never thought about building that relationship with nature. I have noticed that all of the housing accommodations we have had thus far have been extremely open to the outside. For example, there is always an outside seating option for dining, a deck of some sort with tables and chairs and more obviously the architecture is more inviting to the outdoors than say my house back home. It was made very clear throughout our stay at the Kokari (the Maori community center we had the opportunity to stay at) that the Maori people walk alongside nature and value it to the point of having a significant relationship with the mountains or bodies of water from which they call home. Being surrounded by a culture that embraces nature so much encourages us wayfinders to do the same. Without question the shoes and sunglasses came off to feel and see what nature really is. I am now beginning to understand that my breath and the breath of nature are indeed synchronized.
I have never felt any type of connection with nature until now, especially now that we’ve come the Hart’s farm. I started off early on the Hart Family Farm. Since the minute we got here I’ve tried to have my hand in everything, from watching sheep get scanned, herding cattle, feeding ducks, chickens, and pigs, pruning trees, digging out thistles, to just simply enjoying my walk along their 1,500 acre farm. I’ve never been more willing to roll up my sleeves and get dirty.
I am loving the physical activity that comes with staying on this farm. At home I too easily get distracted with school, social media and of course TV, to take time and be active. Back in my prime (High school of course), intensive physical activity was a part of my daily life but now I am lucky if I make it to the gym once a week. However, I really enjoy the purposeful physical labor we have been doing this week. How cool is it that we are taking part in the overall health of all of the farm that is feeding us for the week? I think it’s pretty dang cool!
New Zealand has also opened my eyes to a more sustainable lifestyle. Everywhere we have gone has a compost bin, much of the water is collected by rain water, heating and cooling systems are limited and there are many local organizations promoting things like Plastic Bag Free Raglan and permaculture living habits. The Hart farm also promotes this type of interaction with nature. One of the things that interests me most is practicing permaculture. The Hart’s grow and produce most of their own food: fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, eggs, milk, meat, (you name it) and the best part is, they don’t fake it. I’ve watched many documentaries surrounding the subject of mass food production, Food Inc, What the Health, etc. and it’s insane to see the living conditions of some of the animals we are putting into our bodies. It is very uplifting to see farmers like the Harts dedicating a big part of their lives to managing hundreds of healthy animals for themselves and others to enjoy. After a couple of days on the farm I’ve really enjoyed watching the cattle and chickens roam around as they please in the heaps of space they’re given compared to the jam packed corporate-run buildings where the animals are dying from being so tightly packed. In addition to this I have been able to see what is going into the meat that is potentially going into us. The idea of eating meat comes and goes in my life but I find the idea of eating meat much more attractive knowing that the meat I would be putting in my body is natural and healthy. I am a firm believer of the saying “you are what you eat,” and I can imagine the physical and emotional benefits of eating locally grow food. Eat good, feel good, do good, whoo-hoo!
I remember my senior year of high school in my Leadership class we got together at the beginning of the year for some tradition team bonding activities. To get to know each other we all sat in a circle and our teacher, Mr. Self, asked us a series of questions. I remember one of the questions was “what makes you feel alive?” and at the time I didn’t really know what to say. New Zealand has given me so many experiences in which I have never felt more alive. One of those being, being one with nature and all that composes it. Before I sign off I want to give a quick shout out to my fam, mom, dad, Craig, Heather, Simon, Taylor and Nate, love you guys so much, miss you all like crazy and can’t wait to see you guys! I’ll be sending love and positive vibes as you read this, unless of course you don’t!!!
It is currently day 13 here in New Zealand. I am still having to pinch myself. I wake up every morning thinking I am at home again and I have to actively remind myself that I am on this insane adventure toward growth. Shortly after waking up I can hear the footsteps and the whispering-voices of the people who are on this journey with me. This blog post would not be complete without giving these wonderful humans a shout-out. At the beginning of the year these peers were complete strangers and now I have found some lifelong friends. It’s not every day that living with 18 people can feel normal, but it does.
I am reading a book right now called “Love Does” by Bob Goff. Not to spoil this outstanding book (would highly recommend- a great read), but chapter 14 ties directly into how I am feeling about this experience. This chapter is called “A new kind of diet” and is about Bob trying to lose weight with some of his friends. One morning, he went to spread some low-fat cream cheese on his bagel and when he took a bite, he thought it was absolutely disgusting! So, like any brilliant innovator would do, he put morecream cheese on. He thought if he piled on more of the fake cream cheese, it might taste a little more like the real thing. He finished his bagel with heaps of the fake cream cheese. The following morning, Bob asked his wife if they could try getting the real cream cheese again because of how horriblethe fake cream cheese was. His wife proceeded to open the fridge door and started laughing at him. She turned to him and explained that he had just eaten almost an entire bar of Crisco lard! He talks about this being an example of -what his family calls- being head-faked. Head-faked being when you think things are one way but they are actually completely different.
Leaving the Maori community was immensely saddening. They have so much to remind us. The language (Te Reo Maori) is absolutely beautiful. I find there is a stigma around indigenous languages being “tribal” or “animalistic” but, especially, after learning and speaking one, I could not disagree more. The depth of symbolism is mind-bendingly perfect. Ako is a word in Te Reo Maori that means bothteaching and learning. There is a reciprocity here that is lost in the Western culture. While we teach someone, we also learn. When we lead, we also follow. There is an ebbing and flowing of mutuality and heart in every action and Te Reo Maori acknowledges this. While learning the language, we went to a Maori Language Nest which is a full-immersion (no English) space. This was challenging to have an adult mind but only be able to express thoughts in basic child-like vocabulary. It is easy to fully believe that we know it all. Though we are intellectual beings who do know a lot, there are multitudes out there for us to learn. This is a head-faking that needs to be experienced to really realize. I am so glad I am here and was able to realize it.
The Maori culture also has emphasis on the sacredness of women and the power of the womb. This was an uplifting shift for me as a woman, because I feel like the main talk that I hear of around the female body is of pregnancy prevention, shame, and burden. There is a certain power that indigenous culture gives back to Westernized women. The power of self. There is no shame in menstruation but rather celebration for a healthy body. There is no shame in pregnancy or birth-giving because without it (and women) the human race would cease to exist. There is no shame in things as little as leg hair, but rather the embracing of a body that grows, changes, and protects. I would argue that the Western Culture has spread on a heaping layer of the fake-stuff, especially in regard to women. There is constant emphasis on all the wrong things whether that be: being “sexy” or “attractive” at all times, having a life centered around finding a husband, or even needing to be okay with putting up with blatant disrespect. In chapter 14 Bob Goff says “The perplexing thing is, instead of putting the fake stuff down, our reaction is usually to put more fake stuff on or decide the fake stuff, while not that good, is good enough”. I no longer feel like the fake stuff is good enough. I felt myself being head-faked when I first got here because the “normal” daily maintenances that I would do at home, were not expected of me here. The norm had shifted. And it felt amazing! The strength of the women here is palpable, and I can feel it multiply the soul-filling confidence within myself.
The Maori people were extremely welcoming when they had all reason not to be. These people -along with almost all indigenous people- have been caused so much hurt through colonization. Years of oppression and basic human rights being obliterated. The kind of hurt that is long-lasting and takes generations to repair. But even in all this heaviness, there was no divisiveness. Each song we sang, each introduction we gave, each moment was filled with unity. This was a place that had no heritage connecting to me, but I was made to feel like my roots grew as deep into the ground as the indigenous people leading me. There was only inclusion. Each song was relayed as a way for us to connect to our indigenous roots. Each introduction was a way for us to honor the world around us and ourancestors before us- even when we were speaking Te Reo Maori. There was no “us” and “them”. I never felt like the “other”. I felt like Whanau always. Like family always. This head-faked me for a couple of reasons, the first being that these people could have absolutely trash-talked many of our ancestors for the horrific things that were done, and they would have been completely valid! But they didn’t. They approached the situation from a place of informing rather than blaming- which causes less guilt/shame and more talk of action and advocating. Secondly, they welcomed people with a plethora of backgrounds- ancestors that were scattered all over the world. Living in the Marae was a time to learn about the Maori culture, but they intentionally brought it home and centered everything we learned around how we can take it home to make change. It wasn’t eight days of learning about them, it was eight days of learning about us.
After moving to Portland, a community that is more vocal about recycling than my hometown, I felt that I was really contributing to helping the planet. And though it is true that recycling is better than doing nothing, there is no excuse to not do more. I thought I was doing enough, but there was a whole world of awareness that I was planted into. Head-faked. The city of Raglan is the epitome of sustainable and environmentally-friendly action. Whether it be the Whaingaroa Environment Center, Plastic Free Raglan, Bag it Raglan, Xtreme Zero Waste, KASM, or the Maori culture; there is an emphasis on doing everything we can to live in a restorative manner with the planet always in mind. The Maori people live in a headspace of recognizing that the earth has been here for ages, it is in a sense, our greatest ancestor. We, as immortal humans, are the dispensable. I am realizing the little changes I can make in my life are huge in the long run. We talked to a man who planted enough trees so his two kids had enough lumber to create their houses later in life. There is power in planning ahead and being intentional when using (AND CREATING) resources. After this trip, my eyes have really opened to the important role that humans play in the protection of the earth. We have the intellectual power to create sustainable ways of living that workand the ability to break any bad habits that we have created. We have a duty to stop the bad that is happening, and also a responsibility to build the good! The priorities around the planet and our role, as stewards, have gone all wonky. No other conflict will matter (let alone exist) if there isn’t a planet to have those problems on! Needless to say, I have had a new place created (or reawakened) in my heart for the earth. I am especially happy that I have snapped out of this head-fake because I have a chance to change my ways to benefit not only my extremely small time on this earth, but also the snippets of time that the generations after me will spend on this land. This healthy earth has been here long before we were and should be here long after.
Speaking of the land, we spent our first full day today on the Mangarara Farm (The Hart Family Farm). I was on the first morning shift!! Today we moved some cows, got the eggs, fed the chickens and pigs, put up some electric fences, and put a pig named Lucky back in his home that he escaped from. Then this afternoon, we pruned some oak trees and weeded out some thistles. The type of activities that we are doing and the landscape/mountains around the farm are really reminding me of home. I felt a little homesick today when I was standing on a hilltop looking around. But after acknowledging those feelings, I thought about how lucky I am to have memories of the ‘real-stuff’, family and a home that cause such strong positive feelings. I am excited for all this week will bring in terms of learning about permaculture, and more of the ‘real stuff’. I am beyond excited for more moments to arise where I will realize I have been head-faked. I have never been thisready to be wrong. My headspace and perception feel completely different than when I began the trip. I have never felt more groundedand excited for what life has to offer. Being head-faked can suck initially, only because of pride, but the gifts and opportunity that come after are worthwhile.
“The only way they can keep from being head-faked anymore is for somebody to give them a taste of the real thing. And what’s great is that we each have a shot at being that person.” -Bob Goff
WhenI first saw the poster for this trip I was excited because I thought this trip would be a cool place to study abroad. I knew I was going to learn about New Zealand but I had no clue that the things I learned would apply so much to my life back home. Throughout this trip I have thought a lot about who I am. We have spent this first part of the trip learning a lot about the Maori people of New Zealand and their way of life. A big part of Maori culture is giving thanks to the nature around them and acknowledging the people and things that came before them. This really struck a chord with me, as I am part of the Cowlitz Nation and a lot of things that the Maori people value are what my tribe also values. For those who might not know, the Cowlitz Nation is a federally recognized tribe in Washington and I noticed many parallels with Maori and Cowlitz cultural values.
The past couple years I haven’t been that involved in my tribe. I used to do traditional dancing but after changing schools and getting more involved in sports, I stopped dancing. Since I was a kid I’ve tried to figure out where I belong because I am mostly white. I’ve had plenty of people question my Cowlitz heritage. It doesn’t even matter if I show them my tribal ID to them there is no way I could be native. In their minds a Native American is someone who lives in a tepee, wears a deer skin dress, and has a feather behind their head. I’ve never had another Native American question my heritage. Sometimes I feel hesitant to talk about my heritage because while I am native I don’t face the same problems that other Native Americans experience.
Our first night at the kokiri, Tiaki told us something that really touched me. He was talking about our heritage and he said that it wasn’t what was on the outside but what was in our hearts that counted. This meant a lot to me because Tiaki is white but he is still Maori. He knows so much about his culture and he is so involved it made me realize that I wanted to be the same way. The week at the kokiri made me think a lot about my childhood, especially time I spent with my family on my tribe’s land and the time I use to do traditional dancing. I started realize how much I missed it.
The values of the Maori were familiar to me in many ways. Respect for their elders, respect for the land, and the struggle against colonialism. The past week made me realize how much I didn’t know about my culture and how much I wanted to know. A fire has been built within me and I can’t wait to learn and discover more about my culture and my heritage. This past week has also shown me that I can use the privilege and opportunities I have to help my tribe and all native people. While I have to acknowledge my privilege and realize that part of my ancestry is responsible for hurting indigenous people, I can help my fellow Native Americans. I can educate. I can be an advocate. I can make a difference.
Today, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet with many local leaders of the wonderful community of Raglan. Representatives from Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Bag It, Karioi Maunga ki te Moana, and KASM (Kiwi’s Against Sea Mining) selflessly shared their experiences and their hearts in order to inspire and educate us. These were people who had taken issues with the way that certain things were done within the town and stood up as the voices of change. They have made incredible change, and today we had the privilege of learning from them. There were three things that really stood out to me that were echoed in all four of the presentations; find your team, stay connected, and stand in your love.
June was the first woman to present to us about Plastic Bag Free Raglan. She and a few others had seen the problem of plastic bags in the community and the sea and began to do research; they found many astonishing things, including the fact that the toxins from plastic eventually made its way back into the food that we eat every day. She wanted to do something to secure the future for her children, and she has taken so many steps towards this goal. Since the beginning of the project, she and her teammates have reduced the plastic bag usage in Raglan by 95% and 84% of local business now do not use plastic bags. She broke down how she made this happen in detail, and all of it was very interesting and informative, but the most influential thing she told us one of her major takeaways; find your team. She shared how sometimes the problem and resistance that they were and still are facing sometimes get her down. However, her team was there to lift her up and re-inspire her. This mentality is so important, especially to me as I get to a place in which I am starting to build my life. Finding a team that will fight my fight with me just as I stand beside them is both empowering and uplifting. I truly do not believe that one can stand alone and reach their full potential. As leaders, we need to be intentional about finding our team so that we can all support and grow together.
As the next two groups presented (Bag It Raglan and Karioi Maunga ki te Moana), they each referenced each other. Although there were very different goals of each project, they seemed to be part of the same group – and in a way, they were. They were all fighting for a better future and for the health of their home. Perhaps this closeness is easier to achieve in a place of around 4,000 citizens. However, I choose to believe that these leaders were supporting each other intentionally because they knew that not one of them could make it alone. Personally, this hit me very hard. I know that I sometimes I start thinking of all the challenges that we face in our world today, and I get so caught up in all of it that I feel paralyzed. It’s overwhelming. However, the leaders that we met today were intent on making small changes for a big difference. No one was trying to do more than one or two things. They all lifted each other up, and in that way, they were able to influence change from many perspectives, without overburdening themselves. This lesson in sharing the work is something I will surely take with me.
The last presentation that we were a part of today was from the man who led the battle against sea mining off the coast of Raglan and ultimately, all of NZ. Sea mining is an incredibly destructive process in which the sea bed is dug up and sucked out through a pipe. Then, precious minerals are extracted and the rest discarded in a fog of muck that takes up to 35 years to settle and disrupts marine life. After recognizing this danger to the community, a peaceful protest was organized and the children of the community made a video rejecting the proposal to mine off their coast. When asked how he stayed motivated and strong in his efforts with so many roadblocks in the way, Piripi responded that he was told by a friend to “stand in his love.” To stand in love is sometimes so hard – anger is far easier to access. However, love is sustainable, healthy, and powerful.
I still struggle to find the cause that calls to me amidst the many things that I find upsetting, but I know that the lessons I have learned today will influence me then as much as it does today. Leadership is not a stagnant concept; it is fluid and flexible. However, finding your team, staying connected, and standing in love are three concepts that are will ensure that your fight will be supported and sustainable. I encourage you all to take some time to check out the links below to learn more about the community initiatives mentioned above.
Today was easily one of the most transformational experiences each of us has ever had. We had the privilege to take part in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony at Manu Wairua Retreat, which was an incredible experience. We anticipated going into the sweat lodge as a whole group, which was stressful seeing as there were 21 of us and the lodge seemed…small to say the least. However, because of some “moon cycles” from the women, which is when women have a large amount of power, we were separated into a male group and a female group. The men went in before us, and emerged red-faced, out of breath, and completely drenched, so the anxiety going in for us women was definitely high. Adding to that emotion, the lodge was completely dark; the only light that could be seen was the dim glow from the “grandmothers and grandfathers,” which were fire-heated lava rocks from the river, lying in the center of our circle. It took a lot of control to not panic, but I think we all knew this was something we needed to do, so we all took some deep breaths and embraced the darkness and the heat. The result of this embrace was astonishing. I can honestly say that the outpouring of honest emotion and meaningful prayer was unexpected, but was extraordinarily meaningful to all of us. We laughed, cried, and sweat the toxins and anxieties of life away, and we all emerged changed. Afterwards, we all went back to our shared living arrangements and the men were making us QUESADILLAS!!! They took our orders and handed us water, which was so nice of them, and had written the women a speech in Maori expressing their appreciation for us and for all women. It was by far one of the most lovely and beautiful moments in my life, a feeling which I think is echoed by all of the amazing women on this trip. Best Friday ever, am I right?
Coming into this program, I genuinely never expected it to affect my mindset in the ways that it has, which I think is a common impression among our group. I assumed I would be able to gain a more cultured view of the world around me, and learn how to better lead as an individual, but I did not anticipate the complete alteration of my perceptions, specifically in regard to traditional gender roles and environmental leadership. I’ve been ridiculously fortunate to be surrounded by strong women throughout my life, which I’m sure is a relatable statement. From my teachers, to my friends and family, these women have shaped me into who I am today. Throughout this experience, I’ve been absolutely blown away by how women are perceived in the Maori/ Native American culture. The women we’ve met here have been incredible; the way they are respected and protected by their people is fascinating to observe. They honor motherhood because without the woman and her womb, the lineage will perish, which is extremely valued in this culture. I have never heard the word “womb” spoken so many times, in the most positive sense, and this discussion has really has made an impact on how I think about gender roles. It has been pretty interesting to sort out these new perceptions, because there are definitely very defined gender roles in terms of things being more “feminine” or “masculine,” but at the same time they are very fluid labels. For example, Tiaki talked to us about how the weaving and usage of the flax plant to make clothing and such was seen as a feminine practice, but that did not mean that all women participated or that men didn’t participate. Back home, meaning the United States, the power of the female has been hidden in traditional norms. Stereotypes of gender lead people to mock the embrace of either when it is not normalized in society. Offhanded comments that degrade the feminine, like the classic “you throw like a girl,” should be taken as compliments, because girls are badass! Sorry for my language, but I am PASSIONATE! I am very excited to see how we will continue to grow after this experience, and how these new outlooks can be implemented in our own lives.
This retreat center that we have been fortunate enough to reside at is encompassed by incredible natural beauty. It is tucked away between hillsides, and is such an idealistic spot to ponder the environmental aspects that we have been learning about. I haven’t felt this excited and hopeful about environmental education in a long time, which has been so wonderful. The incredible people we have met have definitely inspired me to make personal changes in my life to help improve our planet. Visiting Xtreme Waste yesterday was so fun, and they’re doing incredible things. Just simply not using plastic bags or not taking a straw can make such a difference! The biggest takeaway is that small changes lead to big impacts, and I think that is so important to remember.
The fact that this experience has already been life-changing for us and it’s only been 10 days is insane. I am so grateful that this opportunity presented itself in my life, and I cannot wait to see how much more we can grow this month!
Actively choosing to learn from another culture on your own volition is a lot like summiting a mauka (mountain) on a starry night. You can read about the environment and what possibilities the magnificent landscape might have to offer, but you can never prepare well enough for the dark and unknown. I came to Aoteroa (New Zealand) to learn as much as I possibly could from the Maori whanau (family). I, along with my new friends, have done our research as best as we could for our trek up this cultural mountain. We were most excited at the beginning, but we quickly faced multiple challenges starting up the base of the metaphorical mountain. We have participated in many ceremonies and rituals due to the kindness of our hosts. They were fun challenges, but difficult due to the cultural separation. The best part of hiking is that everyone is challenged as different parts of the journey.
The biggest challenge I have faced on this trip came in the form of an opportunity. I fell in love with the language from the moment I heard Tiaki speak to us as part of our introductory ceremony. The language rang in my ears like how the ocean waves crashes into a beautiful melody. Tiaki asked the UP Wayfinders for an individual to speak – on behalf of the University of Portland whanau – to the Marae (a Maori community center) in their native tongue. I was shocked to see my hand raise before I could process what I had done. There was no logic behind my action; I am utterly terrified of public speaking. So why would I choose to publicly speak on behalf of my friends in a language other than my own and attempt to memorize the speech in one night! I was in complete shock and my dumb, worry-some face expressed that when everyone busted out laughing. I spent the majority of the night attempting to learn this speech and impress the elders the following day. The following morning Tiaki asked me about the speech; I expressed my fears of failure and feelings of aloneness. He stared at me and said “you are so terribly wrong. You carry the weight of your mountain, your body of water, your home, your friends, your family and ancestors, your experiences, your honor, and most importantly you. That weight could crush anyone, yet humans stand tall every day. So stand up for those things because those define you as a person and give you a great mana that will never be taken away from you. Speak your words not for yourself, but for those you love.” Talk about no pressure, but oddly enough I stood taller and felt more confident in the words I said. I sat in the front with Tiaki and before I was about to stand he leaned in and whispered “breathe and look behind you.” I took a quick glance saw the shining faces of all of my friends who have my back. I stood up; my knees were weak and my arms were heavy. I opened my mouth:
Ka taki te Titi
Ka taki te Kaka
Ka taki hoki ahau
Tihei Mauri Ora!
E te Wairua tapu
Tenei te mihi, Tenei te mihi, Tenei te mihi
Raki e Tu nei
Papa e takoto nei. Tena korua.
E ka mate Haere, Haere, Haere
Moe mai ra
Ratou ki a ratou, Tatou ki a tatou
Tihei Mauri Ora!
Karioi mauka, tena koutou
Whaingaroa moana, tena koutou
Tainui awhiro, tena koutou katoa
Tenei Matou te Wananga o Portland
E mihi nei
No reira tena koutou, tena koutou
tena koutou kato
The Tiki calls
The Kaka calls
I also call
There is life!
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
To our sky father
and mother that lay before us. Thank you.
To the dead, Go, Go, Go
Rest in peace
Them to them, us to us
There is life!
Karioi mountain, thank you people
Whaingaroa ocean, thank you people
Tainui awhiro, thank you all
This is the family of the U. of Portland
In conclusion thank you, thank you,
Thank you everyone
Just like that it was over. My friends sang a song for approval and I placed a gift before our hosts. After the experience was over I had time to reflect on what had happened. A lot of emotions came swimming through my mind before I was bathing in the reflective waters. I stumbled through the speech and failed to pronounce words correctly. I would classify it was a failure, but a humbling failure that forced me to grow as an individual. The last night in Solscape, we were each given a red threaded wristband to signify our connecting as a group of friends in this common journey; that red band was the major reason I was comfortable enough to speak in a different language.
Just like climbing a mountain in the dark, we all stumble and fall. I fell hard that day, but the best part of this metaphorical trek was to look up and see everyone in the group reach out a hand to help me up. I will be honest and say I am nowhere near the top of this mountain. I know it will be a long trek, but I have all my friend (past, present, and future) to help me along this climb. This hike is dark and hard to see, but with each experience of culture a star appears in the sky. I know that this study abroad experience will cause and explosion of stars to light my way for future endeavors. Below is a photo I took of the night sky our first night.
It will take some time, but along my trek I hope that my sky will be as bright as this photo. Lastly, I would like to thank all of those who helped me in the discerning process of experience. Thank you to my parents Tina and David, my brothers Nolan and Daniel, my best friends Sam and Andrew, and the love of my life Jacey. I will be sad to leave this beautiful place that I am fortunate to call home for a month, but I look forward to seeing all of you back in the States for more adventures. Tihei Mauri Ora!
The group has been plunged into an intense program since ending orientation. As Andrew discussed in a previous post, we have been starting to get the initial building blocks for Te Reo Maori. This has been very challenging for everyone involved but also extremely rewarding in the learning experience since language is one of the most illuminating insights into the thought processes of another culture. After two nights of basic language learning, our guide Tiaki revealed to us that we would be spending a few hours in an immersive Te Reo Maori language nest that was hosted at the marae. This place was not only the sacred space where the iwi (tribe) remembers their ancestors and their past, but it represents the future and revival of Te Reo Maori. This made me consider the deeper meaning behind the spaces that we had been encountering and the tapu (codes of conduct) associated with them. Maori culture is intensely focused on the connection to the whenua (pronounced fen-oo-ah), or the land, so it’s vital to understand the sacredness associated with the ground we live upon.
Much like the first day at the kokiri, we were welcomed onto the marae (mar-aye, a sacred gathering place) in a traditional fashion with the calling song and the return song of gratitude and peace. The purpose of this ceremony is to welcome the waiwaitapu– sacred legs that have never tread this land– and make the foreign become something familiar. As we crossed the marae a te a– a space designated for conflict and challenge– we silently took in the intensely spiritual energy of the ceremony, preparing ourselves to be integrated into this fully immersive language scenario. We were lead into the marae a rongo– the realm of peace– where we completed the powhiri (po-firi) and had the privilege of watching our own Connell take on the challenge of reciting a speech in Te Reo Maori (that was written and learned within 12 hours) with great poise and courage.
The time at the marae was spent making introductions which is uniquely tied to the spaces important to our identities. When introducing oneself, you state your mountain, your body of water, your location, and finally your name. For example, mine is as such: Ko Pikes Peak te maunga, ko Pelican te roto, no Colorado a ho, ko John a ho. Taking a wider view of the places integral to oneself is a wonderful thing because you truly elevate your existence and importance to something greater than yourself, incorporating not only your ancestors into your sense of self, but also the environment that raised you up from birth. Part of that Maori perspective is also being a good caretaker for that land. This was characterized by the work we did on the marae to upkeep and maintain that space. It was a beautiful and powerful experience in reclaiming a place for the indigenous culture to continue to thrive in the home of their ancestors in a mostly silent atmosphere, paying constant respect to both the whenua and the tangata (the people).
Tiaki described to us the symbolism within the Maori culture surrounding the marae as a space of contrasting feminine and masculine ideals, creating constant reminders that our roots, our power, our strength, our entire being as people– our mana– is tied to the environment and world we come from and the love that our ancestors had for their descendants and the land they bestowed upon them. We as people are so inexorably tied to the land and our modern world has become so detached from our literal and metaphorical roots that we forget to care for the whenua that has provided so much for us. The purpose of the marae for us was to humble ourselves in front of so much power and ancestry and you could tell the palpable effect the time there had upon the group.
The notion of good stewardship and environmental attunement continued in the afternoon with some time spent on the legs of Karioi, the sacred mountain of Whaingaroa (people from our hosting iwi identify as Karioi te maunga). Though the summit and trails on Karioi are currently closed due to being under threat of myrtle rust that kills some of the iconic native trees, we sat in a field overlooking the ocean to discuss more in depth the concept of mana and how that is deeply connected with the whenua. Being on Karioi was a powerful feeling for this discussion because the mountain, in local Maori folklore (which varies from iwi to iwi), is a strong feminine being, laying on the coast and staring at the stars, and she symbolizes the strength of the feminine power within everyone.
Tiaki challenged each of us to consider what it is that we think of as our essential identity and the building blocks of who we are as people. During this time, each person had five minutes to speak stream of consciousness and simply be heard for what they are. In many of these conversations, connections to family members, experiences within nature, faith based spirituality, values, and emotional stories crucial to the creation of personal mana were shared. An experience in true mindfulness and self-discovery, I felt completely overwhelmed with a sense of peacefulness and, as Tiaki put it, of “feeling simply okay” with our place in the world.
I think, at its core, that is what this trip has been about for all of us Wayfinders: finding our own mana–– the power within ourselves bestowed upon us by our ancestors, friends, personal mountains, communities, life-giving waters–– and utilizing it in our own ways to make the world a better place for everyone.