Arohanui – it is Maori for much love / deep affection, but goes deeper than just those words. It’s right inside your soul. I can’t think of a better way to describe the start of my plastic kaupapa (principles calling me to action) trip around New Zealand.
Having lived here for 4 years, I am well versed with the kindness of kiwis, but cycling around talking to children has brought me kindness, generosity and arohanui in overwhelming abundance at an all together new level. I know I am exactly where I am meant to be, doing exactly what I am meant to be doing.
It’s kind of a funny way to travel around. I am not a cycle tourist – they are far more impressive in the distances they cover and how tough they are. I am not a teacher, I rely on kind schools allowing me in when they can squeeze me in. I am a jumble of trying to cycle from A to B without scaring passersby by looking like a heart attack victim, trying to talk to as many schools as possible along the way, trying to get some press coverage to make it easier to get into schools and get friendly with local community groups, trying to plan ahead, trying to enjoy the moment, trying to get to some beaches to do beach cleans, trying to get some quiet time in nature. It’s a lot to fit into the little 24 hours we get each day. So I am fudging my way through for the moment. Hopefully I will refine everything and it won’t be so hectic feeling for the whole 5 months I am here in New Zealand. It’s a bit like learning how to juggle – what comes first? It feels like it all has to come first. And so, I have found myself on numerous days, running about like a headless chicken, realising at 3pm that I haven’t had lunch. I am getting better at that part, at least! (don’t worry Mum, I am eating plenty!)
I have been blessed with plenty of thinking time on my bike (when not checking and rechecking Google Maps!). I am trying to absorb the enormity of the arohanui that New Zealand is showing me. I have long been a believer in the Universe providing in abundance when you need something, and this trip has taken that to another stratosphere.
One of the less wonderful aspects of bringing a bamboo bike to the other side of the world with you on a plane, is the most miniscule weight allowance left for personal belongings (yes, I flew here, with a huge carbon footprint, to talk to people about lessening their impact on the planet. I’ll probably come back as a toilet brush in my next life). So, I had to leave most of my things behind in the UK and rebuy them out here. Which is heartbreaking when you’ve only just scraped a few savings together for the trip. So, I thought I’d fire out an email and see if anyone wanted to help me out – producers of natural fibre clothing, protein powder (to keep a vegetarian going up the hills!), sunscreen maybe… the things that I really need!
Icebreaker, who make the most wonderful merino clothes, came to my rescue exactly when I really needed their help, just as if the Universe was listening. When I lived in New Zealand previously I had 1 Icebreaker jumper which was amazingly cosy in winter. It turns out that they, being particularly good eggs, love my mission. They have treated me to more clothes than I can really carry on my bike and I have been thanking them every day since. They have kept me warm when I need to be warm and cool when I need to be cool. For that, enormous gratitude.
I was sitting at Matapouri Beach one day last week, after giving a presentation at Ngunguru School, wondering which campsite I would get to that night. Suddenly, I heard “that’s the bike that was at my school!” I turned around to see one of the Year 2 pupils and his family out for a ride on their beautiful cruiser tandem bikes. After a brief chat they told me there was no way I was staying in a campsite, I must come and stay with them. Just wonderful. The next day, whilst at the Kamo Christmas Parade with them (best Moana float ever!) I tried to take a photo with my phone, and made the 100th exasperated exclamation as my old phone turned off when I asked it to take a photo. Andy, my host, muttered something about a phonecall and wandered off. When he came back, he told me he knows the man who owns the Kerikeri Vodafone store and I should stop in and see them when I was in town. Great, I thought, they might be able to help me reset my phone and not lose all my data – see if that fixes it. I walked into the shop with my bike, and was waiting, staring at all the fancy phones. Blow me down if the manager didn’t come out, introduce himself with a big smile, say that they love what I’m doing and announce that they would like to give me a new phone to help me on my way and keep me able to write to you here now. Like, for real and everything. They just gave me a phone. I was gobsmacked.
I have also been given 2 very generous write ups in a local and national paper here this week, and already my trip is changing beyond my wildest dreams.
At the start, I was phoning up schools and begging to get my foot in the door, explaining that I will talk to any aged class, any size group and stay all day if they’d like. Now, thanks to the New Zealand Herald article that came out yesterday, I am now starting to receive offers by email. Schools wanting me to visit them, people offering me a place to stay, communities wanting to meet up for beach cleans, safety lights to cycle with, examples of sustainable packaging to talk about in schools. To those people, I will get back to you and so very much appreciate your time and positive energy. I just have to cycle to the next place so I’m all set and in place for tomorrow’s school visit! Right now the juggling must switch to getting from A to B.
So, I think back to when I was sitting back in the UK wondering how I would make it all work. It has just all happened in a wonderfully chaotic, dashing about, excited frenzy sort of a way. And that’s ok for now.