At this rate I’ll forget where we took the pictures

Right outside the Hastings library. A whole garden full of contemporary Maori interpretations of Maori prototypes.

Right outside the Hastings library. A whole garden full of contemporary Maori interpretations of Maori archetypes. This one “got back.”

I thought September would be a slowish month, a good month to write a travel journal. Wrong! And October doesn’t look any too leisurely, either. At this moment, I’d rather fold those clothes in the dryer than focus on a blog post. This is me engaged in an exercise called “Showing Up.” Don’t expect to be riveted.

Flaxmere Library was my fifth stop on this tour. Flaxmere is a poor town. It’s pretty depressing. Not squalid. Just drab. Cheap and beige. The library is housed in a community center with great recreational facilities, and on the day I visited there, all the facilities were being utilized — the pool, the library, the rock climbing wall. I don’t know if it works like the YMCA, where you buy a membership, or if it’s free.

Grownups stayed with their kids for the library program. About half and half Maori / Pakeha. I begin most of my origami programs with a little spiel about where Origami originates. People are usually pretty evenly divided between crediting China or Japan. I weigh in and say that since China had invented paper hundreds of years before anybody else, I personally think origami started there. But…the Japanese named it. “And when you name something,” I say, “it’s yours; you own it in a special way.” To a person, every Maori mom looked straight at me and nodded. “And when you give it a story, it’s really yours.” Again, every one of them nodded. And then I tell the legend of the 1000 cranes, we go into storytelling and silliness and paperfolding…and again the Maori mothers, without exception, joined their children on the floor and learned what the kids were learning.

More Maori prototypes.

More Maori archetypes.

 

Flaxmere was the first of three programs this day. The second was Hastings, where the library and museum share a lawn, and there on the lawn was this intense, in your face sculpture exhibit of Maori carvings. I don’t know if it was a permanent installation or if it was just for the season of Matariki. Matariki is the name of the constellation the Japanese named my car (Subaru) after, the constellation I grew up calling the Seven Little Sisters, even though I could only ever see six of them, a.k.a. Pleiades. The museum walls were decorated with origami stars that visitors had been folding for the past few days.

This iconography slapped me upside the head in many, many places. As toys. As kitchen canisters. As fabric design meant for children.

And some stereotypes. This iconography slapped me upside the head in several towns. As toys. As kitchen canisters. As fabric design intended for children blankets and curtains.

From Hastings we traveled 25 minutes to Havelock North, full of galleries and boutiques. While I was doing my programs, Jack was out walking up and down main streets of all these towns. He’s talking about writing a little travel guide — 60-minute Walking Tours of Country Towns.

After Havelock North, we headed south to Otane, where our friends Peter and Mary live … with their children, children-in-law, grandchildren (“the grandies,”) several dozen sheep, a couple dozen cows, a score of chickens, Nick the Pony and one or two of his buddies, and … I’m forgetting something. Oh yeah. The dogs.

 

 

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Gisborne, Wairoa, Napier

Keep it indoors, mates. Most towns have this ordinance about public consumption of alcohol, but only Napier had this particularly classy design.

Keep it indoors, mates. Most towns have this ordinance about public consumption of alcohol, but only Napier had this particularly classy design.

After the Gisborne library we drove to Wairoa for an afternoon program there. Teensy little library. And the narrow little mezzanine was packed with 35-40 kids and grownups. The turnout they get for library programs! Granted, Wairoa is a small town and there’s not much else on for a kid to do on a sunny winter school holiday. Still…they were out of the house.

I was part of the Eastern and Central District Council-sponsored reading program called Winter Warmers — a lot like the Summer Reading Programs we run in U. S. public libraries. I was amazed at the one-on-one interaction between library staffers and blossoming readers. After a kid finishes reading a book, s/he sits down with one of the children’s staff and they discuss it for a few minutes. Eyeball to eyeball. Not like a book report. More like a book discussion.

The town of Wairoa sits at the edge of the Wairoa River, the banks of which are furnished with playground equipment and picnic tables. We ate our leftover Turkish takeout dinners from the night before (Note to self: When eating leftover lamb, be sure you can nuke it. Cold lamb is nasty.) and wended our way toward Napier.

The picture on the right shows what Napier looked like (nearby Hastings, too) in 1931 after it was hit by a 7.8 earthquake — much stronger than the earthquakes that rattled the living daylights out of Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. The city fathers decided the rebuilding of Napier would factor in earthquake safety, and since they were pretty much building from scratch they had a unique opportunity to establish some sort of visual cohesion to the new city. Even though the insurance companies did what insurance companies do best in times of natural disaster — denied as many claims

Is this not a precious little  office building / shop? The whole city is lousy with them.

Is this not a precious little office building / shop? The whole city is lousy with them.

as possible — an outpouring of charitable donations poured in. There was a Depression going on. Laborers and skilled craftsmen delighted to have a job to do. And within two years — by the beginning of 1933 — Napier was officially pronounced “reborn.”

We stayed in a backpackers hostel that had once been a hotel over a pub — The Criterion. And there, we met a young man from Oklahoma City (my hometown). That was the day before Germany killed Brazil in the World Cup. All the kids in the hostel were up EARLY to watch the game. Some of them were German. None of them was Brazilian. It was a party.

The largest of these pebbles was maybe two inches (5cm) across.

The largest of these pebbles was maybe two inches (5cm) across.

Napier’s beach is made up of black pebbles. The waves coming in made a different music than waves coming in on sand.

After a morning gig at the Napier library, we headed into the suburbs for a rousing afternoon in Taradale. Librarian Anne Davis took this great photo of everyone flaunting the sailboats they had just learned to fold.

The Taradale Library sits at the edge of a park with ponds and ducks and actual children actually playing!

The Taradale Library sits at the edge of a park with ponds and ducks and actual children actually playing!

Two nights in Napier, lots of walking and gawking. And then, after a triple header in Hastings, Flaxmere, and Havelock North … we were off to Te Rangi, a farm that sits just outside Otane, to visit our friends Mary and Peter on their home turf.

 

 

 

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