The recent CubaDupa festival – based in Wellington’s funky Cuba Street – included a wonderful show of “Reynard the Fox” with Orchestra Wellington performing in Hannah’s Courtyard.
Renardis the main character in a literary cycle of many allegorical European fables. Those stories – about Reynard an anthropomorphic red fox and trickster who deceives other anthropomorphic animals for his own advantage – or tries to avoid retaliations from them.
The core of these stories – written during the Middle Ages by multiple authors – are often seen as parodies of medieval literature such as courtly love stories and satires about political and religious institutions.
Life is funny sometimes – it arranges connections between things then ensures you follow the dots. I’ve had such an experience recently.
Mid-2016 my book group had set the topic American politics as our subject for reading around. Given that it was election-year I was actually sick of American politics as even in New Zealand our TVs were full of it.
So, while some chose history, others presidential (or hopefuls) biographies, I went looking for stories about the wives – and of course it was only wives given America has never had a female leader.
I found one about Betty Ford, called Betty a Glad Awakening – I chose this as, it wasn’t current times, I knew an A&D counselor who had attended the opening of the treatment Centre in LA that bears her name, and have known people who have attended a rehab centre – so thought this topic and book could be of interest. It was.
The next connection, or dot, along the way was a couple of months later hearing a presentation in which the speaker talked about an article in a Times Magazine and a list of ‘80 days that changed the world’.
Not having seen it, but interested, I looked it up and found, among these most diverse days of . . .
The First Talking Picture
The Overlooked Miracle
The Mouse That Roared
Wall Street’s Bad, Bad Fall
A Disobedient Saint’s March
Movies’ Moral Crackdown
Birth of the Superhero
Storming into Poland
Churchill Takes Charge
What I Saw at Pearl Harbor
D-Day: Saving a Continent
Flying Faster than Sound
The Dawn of Israel
New China is Born
. . . and at number 13 in the Time’s list, ‘AA Takes Its First Steps’ – a loose connection to the book.
Two days later I’m visiting the historical home (Stepping Stones) of one of AA’s co-founders Bill W and his wife Lois.
So, that’s why I say life is funny: that a thread ran through my life this year – from a topic in my book group in Wellington New Zealand, to visiting New York, USA, to hearing about a magazine article, and as a result, visited Stepping Stones which has been a national historic landmark since 2012.
All I can suggest is check out the list and see if any connect dots in your life, holiday, or interests.
Tomorrow I leave New Zealand with a delegation of Wellington, New Zealand citizens – and we’re heading to our sister city, Xiamen, South China.
Once known as Amoy, this island of 4 million has been an important port for centuries, and is a vibrant, modern, and affluent city – rather like Wellington, all except being an important port for centuries, and NZ as a country only has only about 4.5 million.
The Wellington Xiamen Association is a volunteer group of locals who, with the support of the Wellington City Council, form long-term relationships between the two cities by exploring each other’s culture through information, events and various projects in education, art and culture.
On this trip, in a gesture of goodwill, a large choice of quality, award-winning books from Te Papa Press will be presented to the Xiamen city’s chief librarian.
In essence, sister city organisations promote peace through people-to-people relationships, including programmes varying from basic cultural exchange programmes to shared research and development projects between linked cities.
Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International is non-partisan, non-profit organisation and around the world has tens of thousands of citizen-diplomats and volunteers in 570 member communities with over 2,300 partnerships in 150 countries on six continents.
This Wellington delegation includes, artists, translators, photographers and me, as a travel writer of course.
We have met twice, over Chinese food of course, and all told me they look forward to being good ambassadors from New Zealand’s capital city, as well as bringing information back about the culture of Xiamen to share with other Wellingtonians.
For more information: See www.wellingtonxiamen.com and, of course, watch this blog for stories and photos from our week there and what appears to be a full, and diverse, itinerary.
These tours leave daily from Te Raukura where the waka are housed within Te Wharewaka o Poneke: a place I know quite well as I not only attended the dawn opening of this building (2011) but also where my weekly social walking group meets, at Karaka (cafe), for breakfast or coffee before we head off on a city walk.
Tuparahuia, our guide for the morning walk introduced himself while standing beside the four waka – including the largest, a single hull carved waka taua, Te Rerenga Kotare, which is used for ceremonial events and which, in the past, would have been a war canoe. Another way to experience the rich culture and history of Te Whanganui-a-Tara and the Te Atiawa people is to join a waka tour of the harbour on one of these traditional boats. (Bookings essential)
Alongside the water of Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour) we hear the story of Maui and his brothers fishing up the North Island, otherwise known as Te Ika A Maui -the fish of Maui. Turning back towards the building we stand under the fabulous statue -made in the late 1930s by Christchurch sculptor William Trethewy – which depicts the legendary Polynesian explorer Kupe, his wife, and tohunga. Originally built in plaster, and for decades sitting in the Wellington railway station, in 1999 it was cast in bronze and placed on the waterfront to celebrate the millennium and as a tribute to all who have come to these shores. Under the gaze of these majestic, heroic looking, figures our walking tour continues and we hear the stories of Kupe and his discovery of Aotearoa New Zealand.
In front of the meeting house, on the atea (usually considered a sacred area of ground) is a stylised compass of the stars and constellations used by those early Pacific navigators: it was interesting to hear how those early waka had the 360° horizon marked around the canoe railings for easy navigation when they added their knowledge about the time of the year – something I’d not heard before.
Te Aro Pa (pa = community or village) was once one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington until the 1880s. It is often acknowledged that those early settlers would never have survived without the support of local Māori.
I recommend you take the tour yourself and hear all these stories, myths, and legends. We also examined the uncovered remains of two whare (buildings) which were uncovered during the demolition, then construction of an apartment block, in 2005. This tour, and others Te Atiawa provide, are a great way to understand the city’s history as you discover Wellington’s hidden Māori treasures.
Note: in Māori, as in many other languages, you do not add an ‘s’ to a word to describe more than on as there is no letter s in the language. Just as we say one sheep or 1000 sheep the same is for waka, kiwi, and Māori (etc) when being used as New Zealand English. In te reo Māori it would be te waka (the waka, ie one) or nga waka to show more that one. For more information about the language please see other blogs I’ve written, including this one I wrote for NileGuide Maori is one of three official languages in New Zealand – check it out here
Some photos for you . . .
Historical crane/boat welcomes its new neighbor
Food is part of all Maori events – breakfast is served
People gather in the dawn
Wonderful view of the great roof line
the bronze statue is impressive
Our guide talks about the effect of change in water levels