We experienced a traditional Māori powhiri (formal greeting for visitors) when we arrived, which was really neat. At the conclusion of the formal part of the ceremony we got to hongi (the pressing of noses, a greeting in Māori culture which symbolises the exchange of the breath of life) with the Māori who welcomed us to their marae and enjoy a small snack...just a small teaser of what was to come!
That night we got to enjoy a Māori hangi, a feast! "Hangi" is the Māori way of cooking large amounts of food via heated rocks in the ground. We didn’t actually get to see any food being cooked in the ground, but we did get to feast on the results! The Māori fare actually reminded me a bit of traditional Thanksgiving food. Some of the deliciousness included kumara (NZ sweet potato), shredded cabbage, stuffing, fried bread, chicken, pork, NZ mussels in a creamy mint sauce (SO GOOD), and other fresh fish cooked and served cold. Dessert included a “fruit salad” and pavlova.
We all slept under one roof that night in the central room of the Māori meetinghouse. We pulled out beds and lined them against the walls, and since there were about 30 IFSA Butler students and 4-5 IFSA staff members we took up all the wall space. Sleeping communally in the same room with 35+ other people was definitely something different, but it was a good experience.