On the whole it’s been a good week. I ran a hangi for the first time – for the school – using a multi kai cooker. A hangi is quite an event. The farmers were particularly generous with food donations; then a group of very efficient women plus the senior students did the food prep in the Working Men’s Club. I loaded the baskets and took them to the school, stacked them into the cooker and tended it for the seven hours required – the appalling thought in the back of my mind of it not cooking properly and facing 150 disappointed people. Late in the afternoon we placed a plaque for Vicky’s tree in a simple service, before returning and nervously lifting the hangi. Luckily it was cooked through – delicious in fact. Beforehand, adults and children had played ball or sat around chatting. A community had formed around the event. The occasion was Matariki, another cultural gift from the tangatawhenua that Pakeha are beginning to appreciate.

Then onto reroofing the house. Mike, his dad, Dave, Eden the apprentice, Darryn the plasterer but adept at all trades, arrived – as well as myself. It was a bit like a Medieval guild at work, a mix of expertise and labourers, chains of command organically forming as the 100 year old roof was levered off and a much thinner, new one installed in its place. The old iron was thick and coated with coal tar, but obviously wood was in short supply when the house was built, for the purloins were an assortment of scraps. No building paper, but it had lasted 100 years and seen out a major earthquake.

As the process unfolded, I realised again how immensely skilled these blokes are. Mike solves with ease the insoluble problems often posed by these jerry built cottages. It reminded me of Sartre’s description of the working class: their freedom is based on their ability to change the physical world; their oppression lies in the fact that they don’t own the physical world. Not so in this case, which was a beautiful mix of skill and comradeship.

In the midst of this, the local reporter rang. She’d discovered a Coast Job Vacancy posted by the Ministry of Social Development. The position involved running the front of house (including the cleaning), for a motel. The applicant was required to have a degree in hospitality, at least two years experience and the ability to speak English, Cantonese and Mandarin. Wage? $16.20 an hour. We were both gob-smacked. And tourism is supposedly the answer for the Coast economy?

Finally there was a band at the Hilton on Saturday night. I took down a Cuban cigar, a gift from the ambassador and we passed it around like a joint, sharing puffs of solidarity.

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