Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tai Tokerau - or?

It's the Tai Tokerau by-election this weekend so the name comes up quite a bit. In a few minutes of TV this morning I heard the Maori name of the region where I live seriously mis-pronounced on every occasion it was spoken by five different people.
I guess I don't want to join a protest march over it, and I realise we don't pronounce Paris the way the French do. And Tai Tokerau isn't in the list of 100 Maori words every Kiwi should know.
But we live in the land of Te Reo. Is it too much trouble for broadcasters and Parliamentarians to get to grips with the very simple rules of pronunciation of an important Maori noun in the context of a Maori election?
Language is part of what makes a people what they are. Language can be a way of respecting what other people are. That didn't happen this morning...

Friday, June 17, 2011

A day in the rain forest

A few days ago we rode the Rainforest Express through part of the Waitakere Ranges. Fenton was our guide, shoulder-length dreadlocks and all, and he and the driver gave us an amazing experience.

This 24 inch guage track was a remnant of 19th Century logging tramways and was re-established about 1923 to build the Upper Nihotupu dam for Auckland’s water supply. In 1998 it was rebuilt a second time to provide a small tourist trip into the ranges. There are ten tunnels, nine bridges and the very impressive Quinn’s viaduct. We saw cave wetas at arm’s length and a great display of glow-worms. At the 7km terminus we had a picnic under the shelter and climbed 160 steps up the face of the dam, returning back down the much easier footpath.

The Rainforest Express is a greatly under-rated half-day excursion, probably bested in this country only by the unique Driving Creek railway near Coromandel. We support the Bay of Islands Vintage rail because that, too, is a great visitor trip, imbued with history.

In these days when the great steam trains are no longer common, these tiny trains give us the opportunity of experiencing a different kind of mobility, different views of the environment, and more intimate relationships with our fellow travelers.

In a way they’re a kind of metaphor for the small church. It runs on a different scale, it has a different style, and its people develop close relationships in their common journey.