This was hot-pokered onto an oval piece of wood and hung in a very eighties piece of macrame-work (Google it) and hung on the wall in my house growing up. My papa made it when he endured one his extended stays in Tauranga hospital when we were little. As a quirk of being in a major accident in Tauranga, he returned for further treatment to Tauranga Moana where I lived; instead of Auckland, where he did. I recall sitting at the foot of his hospital bed under a tree and watching his fingers weave the knots of the macrame while sucking on one of the barley sugars he kept hidden around his bed. This is also the serenity prayer used at Alcoholics Anonymous. Without having hm here to confirm or refute this, I am going to make a connection between the choice of this prayer and his own alcoholism. At the outset of this post it is necessary for me to acknowledge the difficulty of the relationship I had with my papa, which will help me make sense of my current journey to learn te reo Māori.
Today marks the 8th day of an 11 week study award - the chance to study te reo Māori through a programme run by Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu called Ka Poupou te Reo o Tahu. The course allows a small group of teachers to learn reo, about Kai Tahu and how we will integrate this in to our teaching and learning.
This is an amazing privilege. To be able to study properly, still hang-on to my job and pay the mortgage is simply amazing.
It also makes me cack my pants. I am not fantastic at language learning... and my perceived success at this flies in the face of my past three attempts to learn te reo Māori. When I was thinking about whether or not to apply to this course I had to consider why this opportunity makes me so uncomfortable. I have applied to, failed and succeeded with many different opportunities over the years, but this is different. Why? There are few other opportunities that push so close to who I am as an individual and a collective; few opportunities that expose vulnerabilities whose complexity pulls at the cultural, political and familial threads of my life.
Sitting on the paepae of Nga Huia back home in Ngau Tupoto, is always an overwhelming experience. To see and hear my whānau and hapū in action has been at once a deeply connecting and difficult emotional experience. There is the surety of the sense of belonging - they are my whakapapa, my whānau, my hapū - it is my tūrangawaewae. It is this sense of inalienable connection, that is one of the things that I love to share with those who know me or visit this country. How can something so deep and beautiful be difficult? That is where this becomes incredibly personal and vulnerable. Growing up away from my father, meant growing up away from this place, this culture , this language. It is not something I ever second guess - as that is how life goes and, mine has been amazing; but it is a reality of my situation. My identity as Māori is given to me through my papa, but can also be reflected in my relationship with him as well. My loss of him, has been a loss of who I am too.
So here I am; Grieving. Grieving my loss of language links to grief for my culture and most personally, grief for my father. Rationally, I think 'get over it' and 'do something about it'. Emotionally, this is the baggage that comes round the carousel whether I like it not.
Karuna, our kaiako on the course, mentioned that for Māori who have not had reo as their first language learn it differently - that there is a trauma associated with language acquisition. Looking at this I found a korero that Scotty Morrison offered. "Mr Morrison said non-Māori often have an easier time learning te reo, as they come in fresh, while Māori often suffer from "language trauma" where there is a strong emotional attachment to their learning."
What I have realised is, yes, there is an emotional attachment to this learning. This is not like picking up some phrases to use when I visit China later this year - this is part of a wider journey in my life. One which is full of emotion and insecurity. One which I have to fight to be comfortable, to learn and to stand firm. Yet this is not a a cry of victimhood or a chance to get back up on my high-horse - just a way to acknowledge this for what it is; not to diminish nor conflate - just to accept. I accept this, as I accept that I should and need to do something about this.
This course is an opportunity to give this baggage a big kick and finally open and unpack it. I have already learnt so much and been so challenged in our first 8 days. To hear and speak te reo consistently has been amazing. I understand so little of what we say and do, yet every day, more sticks. Those of you who know me can laugh in the knowledge that I am still mister unco-jelly arms in our kapahaka sessions and I still manage to get in a few class-clown jokes (it is great being a learner again!) I am looking forward to reflecting and sharing more of what I learn. Again, it is a privilege.
So, again to the Serenity prayer - because I find so much of life is linked and cyclical. This opportunity has given me serenity to accept the history and journey here which I cannot change. The courage to make the most of this this chance to grow, be vulnerable and be a learner. This blog post gives me the chance to begin to share, reflect and know the difference - the wisdom.
Mo tōku papa.