Well school has begun in ernest here in Auckland. And to open the first day of classes, Laidlaw College held a Powhiri, a traditional Maori welcome ceremony. Two groups of chairs were set up facing each other in the room; on the one side sat the returning students and staff of the College, and on the other side sat new staff and students. First, an elder or some kind of chief of the Maori spoke words of welcome primarily in the Maori language. The principal (president) of the college then spoke a few words, followed by another Maori man who has affiliation with the college. All three of these speakers represented the whole group, and after each was finished speaking, there was a short Maori chorus sung. Following this, the floor was given to our side of the room to receive the welcome. Three Maori men spoke, thanking the men who spoke on the welcoming side, and accepting their welcome. One of the men was wearing a Canada hockey jersey in honor of the big win. We stood and sang a chorus in Maori after each speaker. This whole process took about 35 minutes, and then the Hongi (traditional Maori greeting where you press noses together) line began. So all of the new students and staff were greeted and welcomed to Laidlaw College in this traditional manner, by the leaders of the school.
I was at first a bit unsure about this greeting and ceremony… It seemed almost like it would be a breech of boundaries or something, but I sincerely felt welcomed and honored by the leaders of the school. I suppose by having intimate contact with someone you hardly know breaks down barriers while recognizing and affirming the humanity and similarities of each other. It was a very cool experience, which I will remember for a long time, and it really did give me a sense that I do belong here.
I have met a few classmates, and have been set up in the exclusive research room of the library, where I can read and write alongside my fellow Masters students. My first classes do not begin until March 15, so I have a couple weeks to prepare and continue reading and getting ready for my first assignments. I am taking two classes (they call them papers). One is the Mediatory Research Writing and Methods class, and the other is entitled ‘Spirit, Church and World’, which explores the relationship between the Spirit and Jesus. Interesting semester it will be, indeed.
Anyway I will keep you all posted on the progress of the semester as time goes by, but as for now, we are doing alright I think! Thanks for your support.