We had friends over for dinner last night who are contemplating a trip to New Zealand. That got me thinking about some of the things we did when we visited the country.
“Don’t be a wine snob!” When Dave and I visited New Zealand we took a wine tour in Hawkes Bay with a zany and enthusiastic guide named Robert. He emphasized throughout our tour that everyone has individual tastes and personal preferences when it comes to wine. What one person thinks is a great wine another person might not like at all. Only wine snobs think they can definitively choose the best wines.
At one winery we visited on our tour the vintner asked us to describe the taste of their best selling wine. Interestingly different people on our tour said they tasted very different things. A woman from England said it tasted like rose petals. A man from Australia compared the wine to Turkish Delight candy. My husband thought it tasted like tomatoes. A woman from Finland said it reminded her of asparagus. The vintner said we all have certain taste memories stored in our brains. Different wines trigger different memories for us. That’s why different people drinking the same wine each taste something unique.
Robert our guide said there is nothing worse than a wine snob someone who thinks they have some kind of special advantage or knowledge that makes them an expert on what kind of wine is a good wine. He said we all have our own personal tastes and preferences, and our own ideas about what good wine is and that’s just fine. He urged us not to be wine snobs but expand our palette by trying all kinds of wines and continually adding to our list of personal favourites.
I think Robert’s advice can apply to many other things like art and film and literature and food and theatre and music. Don’t be a snob.
The Maori people of New Zealand sometimes talk of a taonga or a treasure.
Maori taonga are those things that have been precious to the Maori people in the past and continue to be important to them today. Taonga provide a link to their ancestry.
A taonga can be a piece of art that an ancestor has carved out of wood. It can be a woven basket, although the art of weaving can also be a taonga. A taonga can be photographs, skills, knowledge and spiritual insights that are considered important enough to pass on to the next generation.
What treasures are part of the history of your family? I know my family gave me some valuable taonga. I definitely learned the importance of hard work from my parents and grandparents. My parents and grandparents also taught me by example that it is natural and right to help those who are less fortunate. Other taonga I received was a love for music, a passion for learning and education, an appreciation of the church community and the value of family loyalty and closeness.
I want to continue to recognize and appreciate the taonga I have received from my family and pass on those treasures to the next generation.
I’ll never forget Colleen. When we visited New Zealand in 2008 we stayed in the lovely bed and breakfast Colleen and her husband Bob ran in the city of Taupo. This past week I was preparing for a talk I will give to a women’s group in Carmen on Wednesday. In a section of my talk about a fulfilling retirement, I will describe Colleen. I had written about her at length in my journal when we were in New Zealand.
Colleen and her husband Bob were both in their seventies and already great grandparents. They were the consummate hosts. They had been sheep farmers. After selling their farm they used some of the proceeds to finance travel adventures on every continent. They were wine connoisseurs. They showed us pictures of their granddaughter’s recent wedding. Bob and Colleen chuckled about the fact they had attended barefoot because the wedding was on a beach by the ocean.
Colleen was active in her church, was in the midst of taking a writing course, belonged to a bridge club, and one afternoon during our stay she canned thirty jars of apricot marmalade and then whipped off a letter to the editor of the local paper concerning an issue she felt passionate about. She was the president of the local Women’s Institute and was in the midst of preparing for a New Years Eve party they were hosting. She wrote the invitations to the party in the form of a narrative poem that she shared with me.
Colleen bounced around her home whistling hymns and Beatles’ songs. One night she cooked us a lobster dinner that also included glazed ham, potatoes, beets and salad, was highlighted by two bottles of fine New Zealand wine and capped off with a homemade bread pudding served with cream and apricots.
Colleen gave me a valuable piece of retirement advice over a cup of tea one evening, “ I love my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren desperately” she said to me, “but I’ve realized its not healthy for me to be involved in every single detail of their lives.”
Colleen was vivacious and opinionated and I wanted to be just like her on my own retirement journey.
I did an internet search yesterday to find out if Colleen and Bob were still running their bed and breakfast in Taupo and was saddened to discover an obituary for Bob who died in September of 2017. I did learn from a Women’s Institute newsletter that Colleen was still hosting events for their organization in 2017 and I found the photo below of Colleen with other women from the Women’s Institute. In a May 2019 newspaper article I read that she and her friends at the Women’s Institute were hosting a national meeting of women from all over New Zealand. It seems Colleen is as active as ever.
I visited a Maori meeting house in New Zealand and learned a traditional Maori form of greeting. Two people shake their right hands and at the same time place their left hand on the other person’s shoulder. The head is bent, eyes closed and their foreheads touch as their noses are pressed together twice. The two people are said to share the breath of life with one another.
Although we may not greet people in the traditional Maori style, perhaps the way we speak or act towards others when we meet them can breathe life into their existence. Research shows one effective way for high school teachers to make a difference in the lives of their students is to simply greet them by name whenever they meet them in the school hallways or classrooms. It lets students know someone recognizes them and appreciates their presence in the school community. Could this be exactly the ‘breath of life’ some teenagers need?
I used to take daily early morning walks with my mother. I noticed how she made a point of saying a friendly hello or ‘good morning’ to each person we met. I sometimes wondered if perhaps my mother’s cheerful greeting was the one warm kind word some lonely people received that day.
The Maori exchange the breath of life when they greet others. We too have the opportunity to ‘breathe life’ into someone’s day when we greet them in a warm and friendly way.
“Just look at his arc and distance!” Dave and I were on a wine tour in New Zealand when I first discovered yet another one of his many talents. He’s a championship spitter. At the Hatton winery they poured us huge glasses of wine. First we had to swish the wine around in the glass to let in the oxygen and then we had to stick our nose right into the glass and take a sniff. Next they directed us to take a big gulp of wine and swirl it all around being sure it got into every nook and crevice of our mouth. Then we had to spit it out into huge spitting buckets they provided. Professional wine tasters do this rather than swallowing every glass so their judgement doesn’t get clouded as they taste subsequent wines. Our hostess said it is possible to fully taste a wine just by swishing it around in your mouth for ten seconds.
Several people, including our guide Robert, pictured here with Dave, commented on Dave’s spitting abilities- the arc and distance of the wine he spit out. Dave told them his expertise came from all the years of spitting out hundreds of sunflower seeds during a ball game when he was a fastball catcher.
I have been married to Dave for over forty years but I’m still always learning more about his many talents .
We saw Ngatoroirangi’ s face from a sail boat on Lake Taupo during our visit to New Zealand a number of years ago. The idea was for the boat to moor near the carving and for the passengers to jump into the water for a refreshing swim.
Unfortunately it was a cold, rainy day so instead of swimming we huddled in our rain gear until finally everyone got so cold we went down into the hold to wait out the end of the voyage. You can see the rain in the water in front of the lizard sculptures. These lizards guard both the carving and Lake Taupo. The neat thing about having to go down in the hold of the sailboat was finding a binder there with photos and stories documenting the history of the boat which was called the Barbary.
I discovered Errol Flynn the Hollywood actor is said to have won the Barbary in a card game in 1938. Flynn was an Australian-born actor famous for his roles in swashbuckler films like The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Prince and the Pauper and Robin Hood. He was a direct descendant on his mother’s side of Midshipman Young from the HMS Bounty which might explain his life-long interest in boats.
During World War II the Barbary was used to transport arms and Green Peace sailed her in a protest against nuclear testing in France in 1973. The Barbary sank in the Auckland Harbor in 1976 during a storm and was salvaged and restored.
Last week we took a cruise on a boat here in Arizona on a chilly day that ended up turning rainy and it reminded me our of our chilly, rainy New Zealand cruise aboard Errol Flynn’s old ship.
Other posts about lake cruises….
“Don’t be a wine snob!” That was the first piece of advice we received from our zany guide Robert Bevan who we met on a trip to New Zealand. He led a wine tour we joined in Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of the north island. Robert, a former PGA golf caddie, grew up in British Columbia, Canada. He decided to live in New Zealand after holidaying there and falling in love with the country’s golf courses and wines. Robert was funny, enthusiastic and incredibly knowledgeable about wine.
Robert said wine is like art, poetry or music. Everyone has individual tastes and personal preferences. What one person thinks is a great wine another person might not like at all. Only ‘wine snobs’ think they can choose the ‘best’ wines. Despite his warning about wine snobbery, Robert unabashedly praised New Zealand wines. He claimed they ranked third in the world after wines from California’s Napa Valley and the Bordeaux region of France.
It was French missionaries who introduced wine to New Zealand. The Pope sent a group of priests there in 1842 to covert the Maori people to Christianity. The holy fathers knew they’d need communion wine so they brought along their own vintner. He carried cuttings from the best French vineyards and within a decade produced the first New Zealand wine.
We visited four New Zealand wineries on our tour and tasted 30 different wines. Three wineries encouraged us to sip and enjoy their various vintages and varieties. However at the Hatton Estate Winery they taught us a true wine taster spits rather than sips. They poured us generous glasses of wine. After swirling the wine around to release the aroma we were instructed to stick our noses fully into our goblet and sniff heartily to inhale the scent. Next we were to gulp all the wine in our glass and swish it around in our mouth for up to a minute, being sure it reached every corner and crevice and taste bud. Then we were to spit the wine out into the huge buckets provided.
Dan Baker owned the Maona Park Winery. He had studied oenology (the art of winemaking) in Canada. Dan asked us to describe the taste of one of the wines he poured for us. Interestingly, we all tasted different things. A woman from England said it tasted like rose petals. A man from Auckland compared the wine to Turkish Delight candy. My husband thought it tasted like tomatoes. A woman from Finland said it reminded her of asparagus. Dan said we all have certain taste memories stored in our brain. Different wines trigger different memories for us. That’s why four people drinking the same wine each taste something different.
At the Salvatore Winery, our ever -resourceful guide, Robert, brought out a basket filled with nuts and raisins, chunks of dark German rye bread, different New Zealand cheeses, cranberry sauce, artistically sliced kiwis and apples, paper -thin slices of spicy salami, and containers of different flavored olive oils. We sat at wooden tables next to the vineyard, basking in the warm New Zealand sun, enjoying a delightful picnic along with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. At that moment I couldn’t have agreed more with Ernest Hemingway who once said, “Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”
Other posts about wine…….
Other posts about New Zealand…..
I took this photo of Jesus dressed as a Maori chief in the Faith Anglican Church in Rotorua, New Zealand. The way the artist has placed Jesus in the window it looks like he is walking off Lake Rotorua and right into the church. The etching is on a window in the Galilee Chapel and might easily be connected to the story in Matthew 14 where Jesus walks across the water to his disciples on the Sea of Galilee.
If you look closely you can see Jesus has Maori facial tattoos which during the time of pre-European contact in New Zealand were reserved for people of social status. Jesus is wearing the kiwi-feather cloak of a Maori chief. According to the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, these cloaks were called kahu huruhuru and were made from the feathers of the most beautiful birds.
The picture of Jesus in the Faith Anglican Church is an Easter Sunday Jesus. One who is alive and comes to each one of us wherever we are in life. One who has value and is respected and revered.
In stark contrast, the Jesus described in the poem The Maori Jesus by internationally known New Zealand poet James Baxter reflects the darkness of a Good Friday. The poem describes a very different Jesus than the one in the glass window. In Baxter’s poem, the Maori Jesus is killed because he is different and has the courage to state his ideas. Baxter warns that when we ostracize people who are different or eliminate them we destroy our own humanity.
The Maori Jesus
I saw the Maori Jesus
Walking on Wellington Harbour.
He wore blue dungarees.
His beard and hair were long.
His breath smelt of mussels and paraoa.
When he smiled it looked like the dawn…………….
During Lent, it is perhaps wise to consider what we can learn from both the Good Friday and Easter Sunday images of the Maori Jesus.
When George Bernard Shaw visited the Wai -O- Tapu Thermal Fields in New Zealand in 1934 he said they reminded him of hell. In 2008 we spent Christmas day hiking at the Thermal Fields which had been highly recommended by our friends Hans and Chris Neufeld. Hans had even sent us a lengthy excerpt from the journal he kept during their visit to New Zealand and his thought-provoking comments and detailed descriptions guided us from one trail site to another.
The first thing we did was watch the explosion of the Lady Knox Geyser. Every day at 10:15 a Wai- O – Tapu staff member puts a little soap powder in the geyser and it erupts. Apparently this first happened nearly a hundred years ago when some inmates from a nearby prison were sent to the pool around the geyser to do the prison laundry. The soap they added to the water caused the geyser to erupt and sent all the prisoners fleeing in terror
As we hiked through the 18 sq. km park colourful signs explained the natural phenomena we were seeing. New Zealand is located right where two of the earth’s tectonic plates meet and they are constantly colliding with one another. This causes all kinds of other-worldly-like scenes- steaming lakes, shooting geysers, bubbling mud pools, colourful waterfalls, sulphuric craters.
Dave was our hike navigator. He kept checking out the map to be sure we were still heading in the right direction. There were many lakes in the park of various colours. The colors of the lakes and pools depended on the kinds of mineral elements they contained. Dave looks out over Oyster Bay coloured green by various ferrous salts and colloidal sulphur.
It was a hot sunny day and after several hours of hiking, we decided it was time to leave for Napier. I took a picture of these natural grasses before we left the park. I had seen them growing all over and thought they were lovely. After our visit to hell, we drove to Grandvue Country Stay a bed and breakfast near Napier operated by Dianne and Keith Taylor.
Dianne and Keith had run a vegetable and fruit farm for many years but retired to this lovely country property. We arrived on Christmas Day in the afternoon and were warmly welcomed and included in the Christmas family gathering. We were introduced to Dianne and Keith’s children and grandchildren and got to sample all the wonderful Christmas baking people had brought. They even had a gift for us under the tree!
On Christmas Day in the evening, Dave and I went for a drive to see the area and came upon the Hawkes Bay Golf Course. We got out of the car to take a look and there was a sign that said golfers were welcome to use the course even if no one was working in the pro shop. They had something they called an Honesty Box. The green fee prices were posted and they requested you put your money in an envelope, write your name on the envelope and stick it into the Honesty Box and then go off and enjoy your round of golf. We decided to golf nine holes. It was a beautiful evening and we had a nice round.
Other posts about New Zealand………….