Taking New Zealand Literature this quarter, I was very hesitant in whether I would like the class or not. Having actually lived in New Zealand for half a year, I didn't see how I could learn or see more about the country I love the most. My study abroad experience was truly amazing and I loved everything about it. Being in a class room learning about New Zealand didn't seem like something I would like since I got to experience what that beautiful country had to offer. In the beginning I wasn't taking the class seriously because I felt I already knew everything since I had taken a class at VUW on The Treaty of Waitangi. I learned so much about New Zealand history, Maori and Pakeha relations, and violations to the Treaty. By the end of this class, I had this new passion for Maori Pakeha relations and writing about violations to the Treaty in regards to confiscating Maori land. But one thing that this class, that I did not like, has done for me is it reminded me of this passion of mine that I stopped thinking about when I returned to California.
I realized this last night after reading "The Halcyon Summer" by Witi Ihimera for the classes weekly quiz. I didn't want to read this story because I had an essay due and felt this would have taken away time from that. But I knew I had to do it. Once I started reading, I realized this would help my essay and along the way I was enthralled by the story.
The short story tells of Tama, a Maori boy who grows up Pakeha and spends the summer with his grandmother at the pa. When Tama and his siblings first heard the news, they were upset as they weren't use to being surrounded by Maori and had stereotypical views of them. But once Tama spent more time there, his views on Maori and himself changed. He began to identify with the culture he chose to ignore by connecting to the land. He felt he was tangata whenua (people of the land) and that it provided his turangawaewae (sense of belonging). At the end of the story, the grandmother received news that the Pakehas were confiscating her land, but most importantly the area they identity themselves with most.
After reading the story I started crying. I don't really cry over written words, but this story really got to me. Although it's a work of fiction, it reminded me of real situations in which the Treaty was violated and Maori had their land confiscated. Although I am not Maori, I find it very sad how Pakehas are still trying to confiscate land that Article Two of the Treaty guarantees to Maori. New Zealand's founding document was created in order for both races to live and work together. However, through literature and real events, this document is ignored and constantly violated. It is not helping both races, but is benefitting Pakeha by not guaranteeing Maori the rights that were promised to them.
Ihimera's work not only reminded me of something I was so passionate about in New Zealand, but I saw a lot of myself in Tama. Being a Mexican American from Southern California, I've identified myself with the American culture I grew up with. Like Tama, I had this stereotypical image of what Mexico is like and how the people behave without actually experiencing it for myself. For a long time I did not want to go there. To me, I was an American and this was where I belonged and who I was. But since coming back from New Zealand, I've been questioning where exactly I belong. I've realized that I don't know much about my parent's and don't know where they grew up. Although I'm from California, I don't know if I would say that it is my turangawaewae. Although I am American because I was born here, I am ethnically Mexican because of my blood. Since I want to travel to other countries and see the world, I've decided this summer that I should go to Mexico and see my grandparents. I need to see where my family comes and be able to connect with myself, which I haven't done since being abroad. I want to be able to embrace the culture that I have ignored my whole life because of the American one I chose. This will by my halcyon summer.
If you ever have the chance, read "The Halcyon Summer". It is a wonderful short story that not only describes this new generation of Maori, but is a universal story that many people can identify with, like I did.