Modern day Bangkok traditions

 

Bangkok, city of contrasts. Super sleek shiny highrises tower around age old shrines where locals dressed in business suits and traditional dress kneel side by side and pray for good fortune.

Malls full of top fashion brands and the latests electronic gadgets are surrounded by hawkers selling their traditionally cut fruit and woodfired grilled meat skewers.

IMG_20160131_172434

The Thai-Chinese wedding surprised me. Just like Bangkok still does when you find another little tucked away temple surrounded by shiny glass windows.

The day on one hand is full of age old traditions as the chinese tea ceremony, which feels like an intimate, generations old custom.  And ka-nom-ee, where bride and groom have to eat a whole egg from a spoon but have to leave 4 perfect pieces for good health, fortune and happiness.

On the other hand there was the modern glamour of dresses, red velvet wedding cake, wine, cocktails, amazing seafood and macaroons. And photographers for formal shots and loads of selfies.

I shouldnt have been surprised. It was just like Bangkok, a perfect modern day tradition.

Incredible imported almost natives

incredible Feijoas

incredible Feijoas

It wouldn’t surprise me that a lot of  New Zealanders see the feijoa as almost as Kiwi as the kiwifruit. Most gardens have a feijoa tree or hedge and in this time of year you see feijoas for sale everywhere.

The feijoa is not a native fruit, but then neither is the kiwifruit really. They have been introduced at some point by early settlers and thrive in New Zealand’s mild climate. I had not seen them or heard of them until I got to New Zealand. I remember coming into the office in April/May and seeing a bag of fairly bright green egg like fruits on the kitchen bench.They had to teach me that to eat them you cut them in half and then scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon. They have a very distinctive taste, soft sweet, sometimes slightly tangy. It doesn’t compare to anything else. I have grown very fond of them over the years, and it’s one of the things to look forward to in autumn. I eat them raw, or use them in salads, roast them with some chicken, or as i did this weekend, make a supercharged smoothie with banana, coconut milk, an orange and some linseed.

I (2)

Maori, the official NZ language of a few

M

The Maori language is the official language of the Maori people who have lived in New Zealand for at least 700 years. Since the 17th century NZ has been under the influence of the introduced European cultures and English became the main language. Only in 1987 became Maori an official language again and there is a bit of revival of the beautiful language at the moment. This was needed as it was on the ‘severely endangered’ languages list for a long time and only recently moved a status up to ‘endangered’.

The great thing is that as soon as you enter NZ, you will notice there is another language used here. Besides “welcome” you will see and hear “Nau mai, haere mai” and New Zealand is often called by its Maori name “Aotearoa” which actually means ” land of the long white cloud”. Also lots of the street names, town and cities are using their Maori naming which can give you hours of entertainment trying to pronounce it correctly. For example when you have just arrived in NZ and are driving from Auckland Airport to the city you’ll see names like Onehunga, Pukekohe and Papatoetoe. Do not pronounce them the English way, but pronounce the letters separately so Oh-ne-hun-ga, Poo-keh-koh-he and Pa-pa-to-eh-to-eh. Pretty cool I think!

What I don’t understand though is that even though it is an official language, the amount of time spent by kids in the education system learning the language is minimal. My now 14 year old stepdaughter has probably had a total amount of 1 year of maybe a few hours a week at primary school, and did one semester in high school. She now never has to study it again. By the time she goes to university she will hardly know how to count, how to greet people, or even how to say the letters of the alphabet in the second official language of the country she is born in. It’s very sad. In the Netherlands eventhough Dutch is the only official language, English is basically mandatory, and you will be taught another language for at least 3 years in high school, as well as having to pass Dutch of course. Knowing a language helps with understanding the culture. Without really knowing the meaning of the words , how is there ever going to be a fully integrated bi-lingual culture?

If they are serious about really rescuing the Maori language, they will have to become more serious about it on the educational level. It all starts with it becoming natural to children. Maori otherwise will continue to be the language of a few.