Pōwhiri

Lee was formally welcomed to her new job yesterday with a pōwhiri, which is a Māori welcoming ceremony. I also got to participate. 

We did a somewhat abbreviated and lower-key version of the ceremony, at least as compared to the kind of thing a tourist group might see as a “show” or might happen for groundbreaking at a big new building. Nobody dressed up in traditional clothes or brandished spears. Nonetheless, it was solemn, and very moving to be introduced to her coworkers, to be welcomed into the whānau (family/community) they work to maintain in the difficult environment of a psychiatric hospital. 

There were long speeches and prayers in Māori, songs that we did our best to follow along, and the ritual greeting of hongi, where you clasp hands and touch noses. Then we got to relax and eat sandwiches, which while more “normal” to me, is also part of the ritual… a gentle return from the spiritual plane to the physical. 

I imagine there is the same range of native/colonist tension here as anywhere, but at least so far it seems to me that  the bell curve of sentiment is shifted toward mutual empathy, inclusion and respect. As double outsiders, navigating those cultural waters will be an exciting part of this adventure. 

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