Monthly Archives: May 2012

Maori Culture at Mitai Maori Village

I finally caved in and decided to check out one of the Maori culture shows in town – Mitai Maori Village. I’d been fighting the idea of supporting the commercialization of a culture for monetary gain for a while. (If you’re wondering, I’m also against those beachside luaus put on at hotels in Hawaii as well.) But I suppose there’s really no way around this and it’s happening to native cultures all around the world.

On the one hand, to increase awareness and promote appreciation for native cultures, the culture must be presented to the widest audience. It must appeal to the broadest segment of society. The result of this watered-down version of culture is what we have here in Rotorua and Hawaii. People pay a lot of money for an entertaining show with a sprinkling of native culture and delicious food.

On the other hand, to keep native customs, each generation must retain the purity of its beliefs and rituals. You shouldn’t have to pander to the lowest common denominator when you’re practicing your beliefs. If people are truly interested in it, they’ll find ways to better understand it without you having to spoon-feed them.

But anyway, I’m getting off track now. Alex, one of our new housekeepers, wanted to go see a show so I decided to join her. The Mitai Maori Village shuttle bus picked us up and took us to the site. As we disembarked, they led us toward the underground oven where they cooked all our food. The hangi, as it’s called in Maori, didn’t look big enough to feed all of us. I suspect that there’s an industrial-sized kitchen nearby cooking the rest, but that’s just me.

Next we headed over to the small river that runs along the property. Maori warriors greeted us in chant as they paddled their waka (canoe) upstream. They had their faces painted and looked quite intimidating, until one of them lost his balance a bit and looked like he was going to fall in.

After the greeting, we entered a covered, outdoor theater where the Maori entertainers took the stage. They sang, danced and demonstrated the use of traditional weapons, games and poi balls. It seemed a bit scripted with a smattering of lame jokes here and there. Of course, they couldn’t leave without a stirring display of the haka, something that has become synonymous with New Zealand and their rugby team – the All Blacks. However, all in all, it was a good show.

Once the show ended, they herded us into the dining hall where we pounced on a buffet that consisted of different types of salad, garlic bread, dinner rolls, kumara (sweet potato), potatoes, stuffing and gravy, lamb, chicken and dessert. The lamb was really delicious and I went back for more stuffing and gravy as I normally do, even at home. I could survive on this alone.

To say that this was the best meal I’d had in months would be a tremendous understatement. I wish I could’ve eaten more, but as it was I was full to bursting. I even skipped lunch because I knew about the dinner buffet. To top everything off, I also had some chocolate log (tastes better than it sounds) and trifle for dessert. Yummy!

While I’m glad I went with Alex and had an enjoyable night, I’m still not sure where I stand on the issue of putting your culture on display for profit. It just doesn’t seem right to me, but I suppose people have to make a living and this is one way they can do it.

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Filed under Attraction, Culture, Food, New Zealand, Travel

Life Lessons Learned Through Waitressing

After having worked at Nuvolari for a decent amount of time now, I have collected some interesting life lessons that I’ve learned about myself and others. I thought I might share a few with you.

  • Apparently, people will stop at nothing to score a free meal. They will even claim physical disabilities like blindness and deafness to avoid paying. Shame on them!
  • Americans are the most demanding customers and the worst when it comes to treating wait staff with respect. And yes, despite being an American myself, I can honestly say I hated it when Americans were in my section. Give me a group of non-English speaking people any day.
  • Speaking of groups, when dealing with more than eight people who would like to pay separately, it’s important to confirm their orders more than once and assign a name to each dish. It’s inevitable that some idiot will forget what he/she ordered and take someone else’s food, leading to a huge mess up and pissing off the kitchen.
  • The longer I work in hospitality, the more I realize that I am definitely not cut out for it. Of course, I’d known this before – that I’m not exactly a people person – but having to smile and be polite hours at a time just solidified that fact.
  • In America, customers are always right and can customize their orders no matter what. (This is most likely the cause of #2.) In New Zealand, there are only a limited number of changes that can be done, and even then, the kitchen hates to deviate from the menu. So who’s right? As a customer, I’d prefer the former; as a waitress, I definitely appreciate the latter.
  • Waitressing is probably the best work-out plan I’ve done. It involves cardio (walking up and down stairs all night), weight training (carrying racks of glasses into and out of the dishwasher) and core training (balancing plates of food in one hand while serving more food with the other).
  • Whether you’re working in a corporate environment with hundreds of people or a small restaurant with less than 20, there is still a power struggle and a social hierarchy that reigns supreme. That’s just the way it is.

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Filed under Employment, New Zealand, Personal, Travel

Rugby and Shots at Seismic Gastrobar

After work one night, a couple of my restaurant buddies and I went to Seismic Gastrobar in Rotorua to watch some rugby and have a drink. When we arrived, the atmosphere was high-energy with non-stop cheers and jeers. I gotta say that these Kiwis really get into their rugby. Having never been to a live match, I can only imagine what kind of shenanigans go on.

As the match progressed, one drink turned into a few shots of God knows what at this point. I do remember my shout was the tequila, but as for the other ones I can’t remember. For those of you who don’t speak Kiwi, a “shout” is when you buy your friends a round of whatever.

By the end of the match, I can honestly say I was feeling very giddy. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard for a long time. I guess I might’ve been on my way to being drunk. Fortunately, I have a pretty high tolerance even though I don’t drink often. (It must be in the genes.) To the surprise of many, especially considering my age in life, I’ve never actually been wasted before. For starters, I don’t like the taste of alcohol and it’s insanely expensive in New Zealand (and Australia for that matter). But, who am I kidding? The real reason behind it is psychological. I hate not being in control, and as we all know, you don’t know squat once you get a bit tipsy.

Even after all those shots, I’m happy to say that I haven’t broken my streak of not being “all buss,” to use a local slang from back home. I was able to walk away on my own and perfectly straight too as I recall. All in all, this was a great night out with friends and an interesting way to see the locals in action.

 

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Filed under Food, New Zealand, Nightlife, Travel