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