As we arrived in New Zealand I wrote that 'The tags that my uninformed mind attach to New Zealand - the lamb and butter I've known in England all my life, Hillary and Tenzing on 29 May 1953, the All Blacks. the Maori, earthquakes and Lord of the Rings...' So what have I learned I couldn't have got from books and the internet? It's not that those sources don't figure. It's more about what seems to matter. To where my attention's been directed.
I'm an introvert; a cognitive learner, who looks at the words on a sign below the confusing painting hoping they'll spell out the abstraction on the canvas.
But I'd known nothing of the seismic in New Zealand; nothing of volcanoes or earthquakes until Val, staying with us in Ano Korakiana, got a phone call from her son Lawrence in Dunedin on the morning of 4 September. "Oh yes" she said as she shared with us the news, slightly reassuring, calm, "Oh yes Australians call us 'the shaky islands'. Luckily it was in the early morning. No-one's been killed."
|Aoteroa's active fault data base|
So skylines here that seem at first glance like the hills of Scotland are, for us, odd shaped by the vigorous surge of a right-lateral strike-slip fault cutting across the entire length of South Island - a transform boundary between the Pacific Plate and the Indo-Australian Plate that created the Aotearoa's mighty southern mountains - glimpsed in delight as our Pacific Blue flight from Brisbane began its descent to chilly Dunedin two weeks ago, cousin Val waiting to meet and drive us to Halfway Bush via one of the steep roads that lead down to the centre of the city.
Te Pape in Wellington, once called the Museum of Colonial History. There in the space reserved for great tableau versions - in English and Maori - of the somewhat rumpled remains of the original Treaty of Waitangi, a paper preserved in the New Zealand National Archives, I encounter the intriguing conundrum of the concepts of sovereignty in English and rangatiritanga in Maori.