Do you remember the legend of the potato from the Bolivian stories we’ve heard in La Paz? Yes, this one:
The Sapallas were a peaceful and prosperous people who were invaded by the belligerent Karis, enslaved and reduced to misery. Choque, a young descendant from the last Sapalla cacique refused to acknowledge this state of things and cried out for help from the father of the gods, Pachacamac. He heard young Choque’s petition and showed him some seeds from a plant unknown to men of that time, telling him to plant it and eat its roots, but never touch the sprouts, flowers or leaves, as they were poisonous. The Sapallas did as they were told, but the Karis found the new plantations, confiscated them and ate everything the plants produced, except for the roots. As a consequence, they became ill and debilitated, prompting the former slaves to rebel against them and expel them from their land. The new plant was then considered as a divine gift, and called papa (potato).
Well, it seems like the maoris have one too, to explain the origin of one of their most basic ingredient: the kumara (a kind of sweet potato). This important ingredient is no ordinary food. It is said that the god Rongo-Maui went to heaven to see his brother Wahnui, guardian of the kumara. Rongo-Maui stole the divine food from his brother, hid it in his clothes and came back to earth to his wife, Pani. Very soon after, Pani got pregnant, and one day, she gave birth to Kumara. That’s how the sweet potato, so important for the Pacific people, was given to men on earth.
Hey, when you think of it, this story reminds us a lot of how Prometheus stole the fire, so important for mankind, from the gods, no?
First of all, I’d like to thank mrs. Stephanie Anish who let us come meet with the students of her school, and all the teachers who received us.
Monday, November 12th, we went to Richmond Road primary school, Posomby, Auckland. We were supposed to meet with two classes from the French section of the school, but thanks to Mrs. Vesna Nikolic-Ivanovic, the teacher I got in contact with, we were able to share our stories with young Maoris and Samoans too. Indeed, the school is made of 4 sections: Kiwi, Maori, Samoan and French (the last three are bilingual). It was truly a beautiful day, sharing beautiful tales among other things.
So, at 9:15am, first session with the seniors (aged 8 to 10) of the French section, to whom we told the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Almost all of them knew the story, and they reacted very well to it: they were asking a lot of questions about it, trying to understand its meaning. Then, they started eagerly to draw their own stories. In this classroom, we listened to Perseus’ adventures (Well, Percy Jackson’s … I think we’ll have to watch that movie one day, as they all tell it to us), the tale of the three little piglets … In the end, their stories reminded us of the ones we hear back in France. However, a group told us the local story of Maui, which explains how the north island was born.
The next session took place in Vesna’s class, with younger children (aged 6/7). They were somewhat shyer, and knew less about mythology, but they appreciated the story of how Midas got donkey ears. It is a funny myth, and it made them laugh! The children would have chosen Apollo over Marsyas, of course, and most of them told us they couldn’t have kept the king’s secret either! As we only had an hour with them, unfortunately, we couldn’t listen to every group. Nonetheless, we heard the tales of Snow-White and Cinderella, another about a golden fish, and the story of Jesus’ resurrection.
Thanks to Vesna, who managed to organize everything for us in 15 minutes, we met a few students from the Maori section after lunchtime, for 45 minutes. It was brief, but really interesting and heart-warming, mostly because of the way the children listened carefully to our story, and were really excited about telling their own. So, I took of my shoes (they all walk barefoot inside – and outside), told them Orpheus’ tragic tale, and as we didn’t have much time, decided not to make them draw. Instead, they asked if they could reenact their myth and story to make them come to life. And we can say they did it well! The first one made us laugh by playing again Orpheus going down to the underworld and coming back, to lose Eurydice at the last moment. Then we watched and listened to an horror story (apparently real), and two maori myths. After this, the children insisted on doing a haka for us. I was really touched, even though I’m sure they just wanted to scare us! And let’s say it, it kind of worked. It is impressive, even danced by 9-year-olds.
[Interlude : Janyce did all the storytelling in the Maori and Samoan classes, while I shot a little video, or grabbed the drawings. Well, it was really impressive to see her surrounded by ten or fifteen children, all ears, mouth open, fascinated by the story. I was, too. Janyce managed to modulate her voice according to the drama, or put her own little touch to the story, adding funny or moving details to give more strength to imagination. She’s been a really good storyteller, and improved a lot from the beginning of this adventure around the world. You live, you learn!]
We had to go quickly afterwards, to be able to meet with the little Samoans before the school day ended. We were welcomed by a traditional song, and here again, the children listened to us with attention. Well, whatever we say, kids really enjoy listening to stories, that’s for sure (and that makes me happy)! However, it was harder for them to find a tale they wanted to tell. They knew some stories, but not well enough to tell them (they were really young, starting to learn how to read). But they had read a few Samoan myths, and with the help of their teacher, each group found a story and started illustrating it. This we discovered the stories of Lomi ma Lami, or of Sina and Tinilau. After the session, we talked a bit with the teacher, who told us she found the experience useful. I was really glad to hear her say that this made her realize that telling the story helps memorizing it: she will not only make them read, but also recite the stories they study, to remember the characters, the plot, and basically, what happens.
I am really sorry it took us so long to make that report, but it is really hard to get access to a computer in NZ and Australia, and Internet access is expensive here. But here it is!
Soon, you’ll get news a bit more often, once we get to Asia!
Well, we have done a long road since the last post! Sorry for being so late, but, surprisingly, it was far more easy and cheaper to get access to fast Internet in Southamerica than in New-Zealand!
However, let’s resume where we left the story… The southern part of Chile was truly amazing : we spent several days jumping, walking in the rainforest of Huerquehue National Park, not very far from Pucon, a charming little bavarian-looking village nested between a lake and a volcano topped up with snow, or trying to overcome a stream on a wet naked trunk at Los Ojos del Caburgua, with charming blue pools and spherical orange mushrooms pending over the birch trees. Of course, in the meanwhile, I fed myself with glorious ice-creams, and Janyce fell in love with the two enormous New Foundland dogs that guarded our pretty cosy hostel. Then we left for Puerto Varas, even more German and charming, as you would see from the wooden houses and their names, where we ate the most gorgeous pecan kuchen ever, before heading toward the windswept, rainbeaten Chiloe, a coarse fishermen’s village full of legends.
Southamerica was just wonderful in its contrasted landscapes and man-kinds, sometimes harsh, sometimes pitiless, yet full of passion, of wild nights, big smiles, pool challenges, andine music, mate and , of course, dulce de leche (oh, I’m going to miss that so much!). It wasn’t always easy and dream-like, though, and you had to be always on your guard : we were wandering in Valparaiso, one city beloved by Neruda, took the wrong turn in Cerro Santo Domingo and were attacked by three young smugglers. They stole Janyce’s bag, but, fortunately, there wasn’t much in it, her diary, El Koalito, a banana and many other little things naturally enclosed in a woman’s bag. Still, that’s annoying. The policemen kindly helped us, and showed us around in their car, pointing out, at each new hill : ÿou see? Tourists! Here, no danger! But here, no, not here! danger, peligroso!
Soon, very soon, we were to leave Santiago, and fly towards the mysterious lands at the antipodes of our respective countries, ready to cry, as the first Polynesian woman did on her pirogue, after sailing for days and days in the Pacific : “Te Ao, Te Ao, Te Ao Te aora!”(A cloud, a Cloud, a Long White Cloud!)
Next episode : New Zealand! Clouds, legends, haka dance, volcanoes, mudpools, rainforest and much, much more!
We land in Auckland at the beginning of November, we take off in Christchurch at the end of the month.
Our goal: to see everything there is to see in these amazing islands so far away! Well, we’ll have to make some choices … But we’ll see where we go, and we hope to see a lot! We can’t wait. =)
Then, let’s get lost in Australia!