In March 2014 I spent my first weekend on a marae. It was awesome. The hospitality that my group and I received when we stayed on the Hongoeka marae near Plimmerton was completely overwhelming. So when I was offered the chance to stay on the Pukemokimoki marae during the MA14 conference in Napier I jumped at the chance. This was slightly more scary because I didn’t know anyone else staying there, but I needn’t have worried. When I arrived the group staying was mostly assembled, sharing a meal which they quickly made a space for me at. It was a lovely evening and a lovely way to kick off conference.
The rest of the week flew by and I loved coming back to the marae at the end of the day. The wonderful Rhonda Paku was our designated driver who made sure we were on time in the mornings and made it back safely in the evening. Being in an unknown city it was great to have someone who knew where we were going and being with other people made the whole experience more of an adventure than a trial. During the conference networking times I had a built-in bunch of friendly faces as I became acquainted with the others staying on the marae, and always had people to share a meal with, while at the venue and back at the marae.
Some of the best discussions I took part in happened in the van, in our sleeping bags or brushing teeth in the morning. The informal atmosphere and the fact that you’ve seen everyone in their pyjamas made it feel like I really got to know people, even though it was only for a few days. The warm and social atmosphere made conference more fun, and made going home in the evening feel like going home, rather than going back to a cold hotel room. One of my favourite moments during the week in Napier happened on the marae when someone got out their guitar and a huge number of waiata were sung to try and pick some for the ceremonies of the following day. Singing and listening along to a group of wonderful singers was a treat, I learnt new waiata, and it all added to the friendly cosy atmosphere of the stay.
Staying on the marae was heaps of fun, I learned a lot and it saved me some pennies. So for all of you looking for accommodation options for MA15 all you need is a sleeping bag and some ear plugs, and I’ll see you there!