December 31, 2014
This will be my last post before welcoming in the year of 2015, which will fall here about a day before it arrives to those of you in the U.S. Yesterday our stop (the last before we return to Sydney) was the Bay of Islands (specifically Waitangi), considered by guidebooks to be the second most beautiful spot in New Zealand. (Milford Sound and Fjordland National Park on the South Island where we started our voyage is considered THE most beautiful).
Here we walked into the little tourist town of Paihia and took a forest walk before returning back to Waitangi to visit the historic Treaty Grounds, where representatives of the British Crown (Queen Victoria) signed a treaty with over 500 Maori chiefs in 1840. The treaty is considered the founding document of the modern state of New Zealand.
Sadly, the English version of the treaty differed in some significant ways from the Maori version which the chiefs had signed. Therefore, some of the Maori’s sovereign and economic rights and privileges were, in fact, NOT protected. Not until the 1970’s after massive Maori protests did the Queen of England officially apologize to the Maori people for this breach. The Waitangi Tribunal was established in 1975 to address ongoing Maori concerns.
Wood carvings in the Marae (meetinghouse) feature the Maori ancestors. Those with their tongues out (as the carving and Chaim demonstrate in this photo) indicate a warrior position, meaning “I am going to eat you!” The haka, a ceremonial war cry and dance, features this facial expression. The haka has become internationally known because the New Zealand rugby team (the “All-Blacks”) perform it before their games. (You may recall that the movie “Invictus” features an important game between the All-Blacks and S. Africa’s Springbok team.)
When we returned to the ship, we went to a showing of the film of “Whale Rider,” a beautiful film about a young Maori girl who has spiritual gifts to become chief. I had seen and loved this film a number of years ago, but appreciated it so much more now that I understand more of Maori culture and language. I was sobbing at the end.
This afternoon Chaim and I will walk in Holland America’s “On Deck for the Cure” walk-a-thon which they do on every cruise to raise money for cancer treatment and research. Tonight our own Jewish “tribe” onboard will meet for a secular New Year’s “l’chaim” (“to life!”) to ring in 2015 together.
Happy new year!