After breakfast, the Biology students spent the morning exploring the amazing wildlife at Rainbow Springs nature park in Rotorua where we had the opportunity to learn about New Zealand’s native bird, the Kiwi. Kiwi numbers have plummeted drastically. 200 years ago, there were millions and today there are only 70,000. They are killed mostly by stoats, opossums, ferrets, pigs, and domestic pets. A mere 5% make it to adulthood. The Rainbow Springs nature park is helping the kiwi population by incubating, hatching, and raising the kiwi until it is ready to be on its own. This helped reduce the population decline from 4% to 2%. We got to see a Kiwi chick and adult Kiwis in their nocturnal habitat. We have now seen Kiwis in three forms: people, fruit, and birds, completing the Kiwi trifecta! We also got to see other birds such as the kea and the kaka, as well as lizards, giant trout, and eels. Some of us also got soaked on the Big Splash. We then went on to find a stream to help Joe, Mary, and Tristan with their project. We collected and identified insects, which helped us indicate the health of the environment as well as the water quality.
The Nursing students spent the morning focusing on Maori health at the Rotorua hospital. Our time with the Lakes District Health Board exceeded any and all expectations (I say that with the utmost confidence on behalf of the nursing students). Once again greeted with the traditional Maori song and prayer, we sat down with the board members willing ourselves to be sponges to absorb all the knowledge that was about to be shared. When a Maori man or woman introduces themselves in the initial greeting, they always speak of their history, of their ancestors, their past that has brought them to where they are today. During our time with members such as Phyllis, Eru, Lauren and Aroha that is the way in which they presented their hospital to us. They shared with us the stories of their people, explaining a time before Europeans landed, the effects of colonization, the Treaty of Waitangi and how the Maori’s past (as a collective whole) has influenced and brought about the hospital and all that it stands for. We were given such a beautiful gift today, the gift of time and knowledge. Phyllis, a great storyteller, moved us with every word she spoke that we now have the privilege of carrying with us back to the states. The Maori think it to be unhealthy to think individually, rather to put yourself first, which is quite different from our culture. Instead, they tend to focus on the well-being of the whanau or family, which has caused me to care even more deeply for my family.
We met up as a group in the evening and our next adventure was an evening visit to the Wai-o-Tapu hot springs, where we had a chance to get in the water, fed by geothermal hot springs, and relax.
In the evening, our whole team was taught the Haka or the traditional war cry and chanting. Uncle Tiki, the instructor, spoke of how this moment could be however deep we allow it to be. With the door open to allow the spirits to join us in meaningful haka we were taught the story of the fearsome chief, Te Rauparaha. As words were taught and meanings explained, we were shown the movements as well and soon enough we had a decent performance roughly mastered. We soon dressed in the traditional clothing and face paint. I think the most beautiful part of the haka is a little ceremony so to speak that we did before our final performance. Uncle Tiki asked us to breathe in our families, then our ancestors, and then our future, all of our hopes and dreams. We breathed these in to carry within us, to give us power behind our words and actions. All that we’ve learned so far can be tied into a proverb that was told to me that talks about what the most important thing in life is and that is the tangata, tangata, tangata (the people, the people, the people). I know that many of the students, myself included, will forever be changed by this proverb whether in the health care setting or in our day-to-day lives. And I think that everyone, the nursing and biology students, the families and friends reading this at home, even strangers who may have stumbled across this blog can all learn from the Maori people. It was an amazing experience!
-Jessica & Micky