There is a rare bond that one can create, a bond that can tie one to a specific being, object, and moment in time or in my case… a specific place. Japan was that place, being in Japan was a totally unreal experience in itself and just participating in UNESCO’s productive LBD forum p2 added to the unreality of it. I use to think that when traveling to different places you tend to gain a part of that place inside of you, and in exchange, leave behind a part of yourself. That theory of mine still exists, and this time, I feel it showed, significantly.
As the night fell darker on Sunday evening, it hit me, 5 days’ worth of unforgettable moments and cultural indulgence, were finally drawing to a close. The tide was coming in, and it was time to set sail. Words could never explain what it felt like to experience such a peaceful yet vibrant and colorful culture. Japan had much to show, and its culture had much to offer, but unfortunately I had little time to give. Just walking through the streets, I was exposed to a lifestyle so different to my own, and what made it the beautiful and peaceful culture it is today was its people. From what I witnessed, the people of Japan showed dedication and determination through everything they would do, for example, from the tour guides who had transported their customers to scenic parts of their city with nothing but their own two feet and memory, and to the shopkeepers who yelled bargains at by passers waiting for that one customer.
They showed respect and grace through their hospitality and service to others. Their love was also shown through everything, like when a grandchild carried a tired elder on his shoulders, or when a mother, lit a candle of good fortune for her child, to place within a glass frame of blessings.
What I saw truly amazed me, in fact to many it would have been seen as a pretty average day, but for someone such as myself who has been deprived of the sight, of such passion and culture for quite some time, it really was something.
It is not every day you come across an opportunity like this, in fact for many, it is seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity. And to share this experience with a crew of lively and talented NZ youth, the trip couldn’t have been any better. As predictable as I could ever be, I’d have to admit; you don’t know what you got, until it’s gone. Through these experiences, you learn to cherish things more often, and be grateful for what you have.
Delegates from all corners of the world spoke of the hardship their people would face on a day to day basis, and despite all the negatives that came with those countries carrying their titles of development, there is something that has been showcased more broadly then what us developed countries have forgotten, and that is culture and tradition…
I learnt to recognize the differences between my own cultural lifestyle and theirs, and realized that so far, mine is not looking so good. The Japanese so far have learnt to adapt to the idea of global urbanization while at the same time, have still managed to keep their cultural and traditional practices alive. Maori on the other hand, have struggled through the fight of not only keeping alive that flame, that Mana and that Tikanga burning but also balancing it with the path of the future. Unfortunately this struggle has ended up with younger generations being caught up in a situation of confusion, where they have lost sight of what it was like to be apart of their land, and have lost sight of what it was like to claim their right as Tangata Whenua.
Although it is a turn for the worst, there is a way out. Maori people have the chance to preserve what is left of their land, their culture, their traditions and customs, while at the same time, learn to move beyond what is holding us back from developing into a resilient culture, community and nation.
In order for barriers to be broken, eyes must be opened, and with opportunities such as these events, youth, being the future leaders of tomorrow can do this. It is only a matter of time.