Kia ora koutou, my name is Robin McKee. I am originally from South Africa and I work as a youth advisor at the Community College in Timaru.

Recently, I was among those fortunate enough to have been hosted overnight at the marae for two days of professional development related to working with and engaging with young people.

I must admit, I was nervous prior, especially about the pōwhiri after Suzy and Anna told us about what we had to do. However, a little think about where I felt my roots to be, allowed me to own my mihimihi; and then really embrace the idea of recognising where I belong and fit in the scheme of things.

I had not thought of belonging to the mountains and rivers, but have always carried the earth close to my heart, being an incurable conservationist, so it did not take long for their perspective to make profound sense to me.

As such, I decided to add a small part of Africa to the koha, which Suzy said she would put in the cabinet at the back. It is a small ostrich made of glass beads and wire, and is an adaptation of an old African craft using modern materials.

I really enjoyed all the traditional Māori crafts and games that we learnt, and I felt that the rhythmic beat of the poi (which I will have to practice much more) is a marvellous way for people who have so many other issues, to calm down and de-stress. It really reinforced what we learned from Nathan Mikaere Wallis and Hana O’Regan on the second day too, about needing to be mentally calm for learning to occur.

Te Wera’s pakiwaitara in the evening drew so many threads together for me and I really began to see the patterns in the stories, along with so many other myths and legends from around the world (I have a long standing fascination with myths and legends from around the world.)

I found that many of the spiritual traditions that I learned about, as well as the grounding of so much of the structure of society, resonated with me. I felt far more connected to what I learned at the marae than what I have felt so far in New Zealand, and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share with you. The respect and reverence for God and the world was particularly close to my heart, and I loved the many karakia, which I feel are always right and fitting.

I want to thank you all for the most amazing visit to the marae. It was a spiritual experience for me, and I found myself identifying with so much of Māori culture that is fundamental to me too, which I found surprising and uplifting.

Thank you to the organisers. Please convey to all concerned my sincere thanks for the most profound experience and the best hospitality I have experienced in New Zealand.

It has only been on the marae that I have truly experienced the friendship and hospitality on which New Zealand prides itself. And in the light of Nathan and Hana’s talk, isn’t that ironic?

As a result of this amazing experience I used a karakia from our information pack to start a course I ran on Friday. It helped me centre myself and the participants, and it set a good tone for the whole event. 
Thank you, baie dankie (Afrikaans) njagibonga gakulu (Zulu) and hlala kahle (go well). Nā Robin McKee.