Hongi Spring ’20 Signing Off

Written By Rachael & Nathan

Kia Ora friends and families! Nathan and Rachael here writing from Seattle and Northern California.

We said goodbye to the group yesterday in LAX where we met 6 weeks ago. We exchanged warm and fuzzy notes and gave air hugs. Tears were shed.

This has been a trying last week with plans changing daily and the group having to readjust plans constantly to keep up with the chaos unfolding in the world around us.

We felt very safe and sheltered in rural New Zealand with Whenua Iti. It was a strange experience for us to leave on a backpacking trip with the knowledge that the Fiji portion of our program was cancelled and return realizing how serious and extensive the global situation had become and that we would be returning home. We had been gleefully and nervously adventuring through majestic dark caves just hours before largely disconnected from news of the larger world.

The group rolled with the punches bravely in the face of a lot of uncertainty. We went mountain biking and sea kayaking. We still played games, cooked together, and talked into the night. It was a challenging week on emotional, physical, and spiritual levels.

We want to express so much gratitude for this group of people we were lucky enough to share this experience with! They all bring varied skills to the table, they treat each other kindly, they are honest and bold when they need to be, they play and laugh a lot, and they rise up to every occasion. Hey parents of this crew, your kids are so awesome!!!

Amidst the chaos we felt thoroughly supported and cared for by our contacts in New Zealand, the staff in Portland, and the families at home. Thank you all for holding us during this time!

We landed in Auckland on Valentine’s day after a 13 hour flight and made our way to Raglan. Ragland became our home for the next two weeks. We got to know each other, bonded with Tiaki and other wonderful local contacts, and learned about Maori culture very experientially! The boys performed an amazing Haka and the girls learned a song and dance. We were all pushed out of our comfort zones and into our truths with a sweat lodge and vision quest. We made our own sunscreen and learned about the efforts to maintain Maori land rights and culture.

We spent a couple days exploring Rotarua and Lake Taupo then made our way to the Hart farm where we spent a gorgeous week sleeping in a lakeside lodge, cooking delicious food, and working on the farm. We herded cows with dogs and four wheelers, collected eggs, fed hungry pigs, baked sourdough bread, and played volleyball and mafia in the evening.

From the Hart Farm we drove to Wellington where we explored city life, drank bubble tea and cappuccinos, stayed in a huge international hostel, and walked through the Te Papa museum before crossing from the North Island to the South Island on a ferry where we were picked up by Joe from Whenua Iti. We spent a day on the high ropes course, pushing and supporting each other as Joe and Gilbey taught us to belay and educated us about the brain chemistry around panic and decision making under stress. We packed up to leave on our backpacking trip in the morning. This was our last normal day before things began changing rapidly. We faced the week head on and continued with our wilderness adventures as we lived with the uncertainty about the future of our trip, our jobs, our schooling, and really our world.

Everyone is home safe by now and sharing in the collective uncertainty in the world. I believe so much in the capacity of this group to care for their communities and I hope we can all find ways to come together and support each other during this time. It is a time to be creative and find ways to live open heartedly in the face of fear and isolation. I want to extend a loving kindness meditation to our students, their families, the Carpe Diem family, ourselves, and the whole world. I like to close my eyes and say this directed to whoever needs it when I feel worried and powerless and when I feel hopeful.

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be safe. May you be well.

To the students we just wanted to say how wonderful of an experience it has been with you. It has been an honor to watch you all at some point step out of your comfort zones and to also watch you support each other. We hope these lessons stick with you forever and help to shape your lives in the future.

To Amelia: Thank you for confidence and skill in the outdoors, for being supportive and a leader. David would be proud.

To Claire: Thank you for the smiles and for picking up on Nathan’s jokes faster than most. Don’t forget to be weird and to burst through that bubble.

To Conner: Thank you for the tenacity and the acceptance. You are so strong and your heart is so open and caring. Thanks for being a momma hen to the guys.

To Hanna: Thank you for your music and crunchiness. You really brought it to a new level when you got to play piano. Nathan truly appreciated writing with you.

To Liz: Thank you for being so strong and really bringing the energy. From the moment we met you, you brought us together and really helped break the ice. Your presence was appreciated just as you are.

To Lucas: Thank you for your laughter and your pop culture knowledge. Every song, movie, and tv show we talked about! All the impressions were fantastic, “like scoobys, let’s get out of here”

To Maggie: Thank you for Bananagrams, and all the unique talents. You are truly a one of a kind person with so many hidden and awesome talents.

To Mia: Thank you for being so down to earth and keeping us healthy. You are such a strong and steady person that really helps keep the group grounded. You seemed to always be thriving.

To Rollie: Thank you for being so eloquent and strong. Your confidence and can do attitude really helped the group push themselves to new levels. We are still in awe of watching you do about a billion push ups.

To Ryker: Thank you for being so trusting and being exactly who you were meant to be. You were pushed into your comfort zone so fast because we are such a large group. It has been a truly magical experience watching you grow and open up to the group about who you are and your experiences. You absolutely belonged with us and you always will.

To Shane: Thank you for your friendliness and perspective. Watching you over and over say you can’t do something then turn around and do it was phenomenal. Your growth was tremendous and we have no doubts that you can achieve just about anything (even if you doubt it).

To Xan: Thank you for your connections and your honesty. You have a gift of connecting with people and forming meaningful relationships. This is something that should be cherished and utilized. It is rare and you can use it to brighten this world.

To all of you: Thank you! You have been such a powerful group to be with and we are sorry to see it end so early. If ever you need a friend you can always call on us.

Sending warm virtual hugs to our communities around the world! Thank you for an amazing trip!

Tihei Maori Ora
Mā ta Wā