It is 12:00PM on 14 September 2021. It is the Māori Language Moment!
I will try some whīwhiwhi (tongue twisters) with my tamariki later, but I have decided to celebrate this occasion by writing a love letter to te ao Māori.
Now… writing a love letter is always awkward.
I don’t even know if anyone still writes love letters.
But I grew up in a generation where love letter writing was still the thing, so I will take this opportunity to write one.
Dear te ao Māori,
I literally had no idea how deeply in love I would be with you when I first met you at Te Ara Poutama (AUT) in 2007.
I was still fresh off the boat, and my wise Kiwi wife told me that the most important thing to really understand Aotearoa was to learn at least the basic of te reo Māori me ōna tīkanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
But, the moment the kaikaranga called the manuhiri at my very first pōwhiri, I fell in love with you.
I had not known anything about you, but the sound of karanga was charged with wairua that it brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of the Shintoist chant back home in Japan that is deeply rooted in Nature, and I finally felt at home in this foreign land.
Your respect for elders and ancestors resonated in my Japanese heart, and whakawhanaungatanga helped me feel less homesick.
Your manaakitanga really humbled me and made me want to reciprocate when you visit my whenua.
Thank you also for helping our indigenous people, Ainu, regain their mana.
And your hākari! You pour so much love into cooking hangi! It is just so divine!
Finally, your kaitiakitanga like the concept of rāhui. You have always known the solution for the global warming! I really believe that following your way is the only way for human survival.
All my kaiako have generously imparted me with their knowledge, wisdom, and passion for te reo, and I am eternally thankful to them.
I am also thankful to my classmates who have taught me so much about te ao Māori.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I feel immensely privileged to be allowed to take Māori classes, but at the same time I am fully aware that I am also taking away a chance for one Māori person to learn his/ her own language. I always keep this in mind and never take this opportunity for granted.
My journey has just begun, but someday I would like to give back to te ao Māori by promoting te reo Māori me ōna tīkanga among our migrant communities particularly among the Asian communities in Aotearoa.
My progress might be slow, but I am committed to you!
I was wondering if you are free this Thursday night?*