Turangawaewae* is a Maori word, a beautiful word which describes both a concept and a sense of well-being.
Defined in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand literally, tūranga (standing place) and waewae (feet) is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where New Zealanders, Maori and Pakeha, feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home. In the concept of tūrangawaewae, the external world is a reflection of an inner sense of security and foundation. The mountains, rivers and waterways to which one can claim a relationship, also express this internal sense of foundation.
The Antipodean Mariner returned to New Zealand last week for a shipmates reunion, the Apprenticed Cadets of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. The USSCo. is no more, but was as great a force of national economic development as QANTAS is to Australia or Maersk Line is to Denmark. It was with some irony that of the seven Cadets who signed indentures in December 1977, the AM is the only one not currently sailing (though two of the AM's shipmates have recently revalidated and gone back to sea in the Offshore Industry). One of the seven was Captain Kevin J., Master of the 'Go Canopus' during the Rena salvage operation. Like the old saying goes "the older we get, the better we were".
The trip back to New Zealand provided an opportunity to reconnect on two levels. On the first level, it was renewing the deep friendships formed by a common experience. At the second level, it was a re-connection with the beauty of the country where the AM was born, worked and raised a family - my turangawaewae.
To some extent I had written off New Zealand as too small, too slow and too far away from the reality of my life now in Melbourne. But six days and 1,400 km around Napier, Gisborne, the Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel Peninsular on a borrowed BMW has changed that perception and I feel reconnected with (and maybe even a little homesick for) the place where people talk like me.
Australia is where I live but New Zealand is my turangawaewae.
The Antipodean Mariner
*Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal. 'Papatūānuku – the land - Tūrangawaewae – a place to stand', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Mar-09. http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/papatuanuku-the-land/5
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