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The small town girl spread's her wings “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

A Christmas with strangers only to be welcomed as family

NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 8 February 2010 | Views [1371] | Comments [1]

Merry Christmas!!

Ok I know, I’m sorry I’m a little late on the travel blog posting but better late than never. Here is how I spent my first green Christmas.

For everyone who doesn’t know the beginning of this story here it is.  Ella, the girl I had been traveling with for a week now, asked me if I wanted to take pictures of her when she did her skydive.  I was happy to go with her; it wasn’t the nicest day to skydive so I decided to wait myself since I still had a few months in New Zealand. As she was up in the air ready to jump off a perfectly good airplane I was safely on the ground talking to this very lovely Maori couple; Barbara and Ox.  They came over to visit Barb’s son Ricky who worked at the skydiving company. We started to talk about my travels and they were very impressed by the fact that I was traveling alone and so close to the holidays.  They asked what my plan’s where for Christmas and when I told them I didn’t really have any plans, I was probably going to meet up with a friend and we would spend Christmas at a hostel somewhere, they were not fond of the idea.  They insisted that my friend and I spent Christmas with them and their family. So here I am after a 15 minute conversation I get to experience what I had heard so much of; Kiwi’s are very friendly.  We exchanged contacts and Barb made me promise I would contact them.

This all happen about 2 weeks before Christmas so I had time to think about the offer.  But really what was there to think about, spending Christmas with a family (when I’m so far away from mine), experiencing a Maori Christmas (which is a chance of a lifetime), getting to know the locals (instead of standing by tree in a hostel with foreigners) and making new friends (in this case extending my family).  So my decision was an easy one and when I talked to my friend Tom he was more than happy about the invitation.  So after an e-mail to Barb, plans were made to spend Christmas with them and the family.  We arrived in Rotorua on the 23rd of December and Barb came to pick us up the next day.  To my surprise she did not live in Rotorua but 40 mins away in a small town called Putaruru.  That means on top of inviting us to spend Christmas with her she also drove 40 mins to come pick us up and another 40 mins to bring us to her home. Needless to say very generous lady!

We arrived on the 24th to a house full; Barb’s youngest Jayden, 15 year old Makala, Tarsh the oldest and her 2 kids and Ox.  The first thing Barb did when we got to her place was make us part of the family or as she says it in Maori she has whangai (adopted) us to be part of her whanau (family). After making us feel at home and setting us up with beds for our stay, Barb sat us down for a feed.  Wow what a feed it was; ham, chicken, smoked fish, potatoes, salads and desserts. That was our first taste of Moari cuisine and it was amazing.  After lunch, Barb took us to Arapuni a small town on the Waikato River. The towns’ attraction is the Arapuni Suspension Bridge over top the hydroelectric dam which was really something to see. She then took us to The Blue Springs which supplies 60% of New Zealand’s bottle water.  I have never seen such clear blue-green water and oh so cold, the Blue Spring is 11 degrees celsius.  That night we sat outside had a few drinks exchanged a few stories and got to know each other.

Christmas day we woke up early to open presents; it was nice to be around a family exchanging presents, made it feel like it really was the holidays.  After opening presents, we helped the kids assemble their toys and started to get ready for a late lunch.  Barb’s son Ricky and his girlfriend Amy joined us for lunch. One thing most Kiwis’ eat during Christmas is a BBQ or how they would say it a Barbe.  Lunch consisted of steak, ham, chicken, fish, potatoes, salads and desserts. Having been on the road for almost a month now and eating like most backpackers do (noodles, tomato sauce, cheese if you’re lucky and almost never any meat), I was in heaven with all this food. I think I gain 5 pounds in a week with all the eating we did hehe.  Christmas night we all headed out to the Marae which is a sacred place to the Maori that serves both religious and social purposes.  They were having a big party for Christmas and also to celebrate the life of Barb’s nephew who had passed away a few months before. It was amazing getting to experience firsthand this new culture. The party was awesome we had such a good time; good company, good food, karaoke, good music and dancing, can’t ask for more.

The rest of our stay consisted of eating, drinking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company; pretty much the same as our holidays back home. Our original plan was to only stay a few days but we ended up staying a week! They didn’t want us to leave and frankly we didn’t want to leave either but we needed to catch a plane to Christchurch for New Years so we had to go eventually.  Our stay with Barb and Ox has opened my eyes to a new culture. I learned a few things about Maori people; for one they are very proud of their history and culture and love to tell us all about it.  I learned how and where they celebrate Christmas, Birthdays and Deaths even a little about the politics involved in preserving their history and land.  I’ve also personally experience just how friendly Kiwi’s can be. Out of all the countries I’ve visited; Europe, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic; in my opinion New Zealand is the friendliest country. So my worrying about being so far away from home for the holidays was replaced by this wonderful experience I will never forget! Like I always say...Everything happens for a reason :)

Thanks Barb, Ox and the family for making the holidays so special!


My New Zealand family :)

My New Zealand family :)




Amen to that! Kiwis are so friendly it feels like I'm on another planet. I have a whole book, chock full of stories of Kiwi hospitality. I have to agree that Cuba is quite up there with the Kiwis, although in New Zealand you don't have people diving down your throat trying to get you to a casa particular.

Happy Travels!

  kiwiaoraki Feb 8, 2010 7:41 PM

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