Upon arriving in New Zealand, I've definitely noticed the presence of the Māori, the indigenous Polynesian people who arrived in New Zealand by 1300 A.D. As reflected in the current day names of most cities and streets, the Māori language is also the national language of New Zealand.
While our Winter Term trip focuses more on the country's geological history than its political history, we embraced our Liberal Arts roots and spent Tuesday night learning about the Māori culture at Te Pō, an indigenous evening experience at the Te Puia Māori Cultural Center, in Rotorua, New Zealand. The experience included a traditional pōwhiri (Māori welcoming ceremony), a kapa haka (Māori concert), a Māori feast as well as a trip to the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. During the kapa haka, several students volunteered to learn some of the traditional dance moves, as shown in the video below.
Have you ever participated in a ceremony of a different culture before? If so, what did you take away from the international experience?
While we initially planned on visiting White Island on Tuesday morning, dicey weather conditions forced us to reschedule our tour for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. After driving about 70 miles from Rotorua (where our hostel was located) to Whakatane (where the White Island boat tours launch from), we were ecstatic to find pristine conditions -- blue skies, no wind, and unlimited visibility.
After a two hour boat ride in the Pacific Ocean, we arrived at White Island, New Zealand's only live marine volcano. With the help of our tour guide, we hiked around the island, stopping every now and then for explanations of what we were seeing.
During our walk, we were able to see the crater and its spike dome, which is the cooled magma. Jim likened the spike dome to a cork on a champagne bottle, holding the magma back until the pressure is too much and it explodes. As geology students, our tour was particularly important because it provided us with a chance to stand inside an active volcano, which are generally not accessible to the public.
On our boat ride back, we ran across a pod of over 50 dolphins. Immediately, everyone moved to the sides of the boats, cameras in hand. Instead of swimming away from us, the dolphins dove, jumped, and did tricks around our boat for a solid 15 minutes. I don't know who was enjoying it more -- the dolphins or us. Shortly after the dolphin encounter, our tour guide spotted a blue penguin, the smallest penguin in the world, floating nearby.