Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ruatoki Revisited

The Ureweras

In 1963 the Stowells- Bob, Anne, Laurel and I- moved to Ruatoki for a year. Dad had a job teaching English at the high school, run by a straight-backed former Major of the Maori Battalion.
We'd been in New Zealand for about a year: at Beeville commune in the Bay of Plenty, a few months in New Plymouth, a taste of Northland. We'd left the US- the farm in the woods of Vermont- looking for a better life, away from the madness and hysteria of cold-war, prosperity-conscious America.
I was just three: a white-haired kid floating a jandle down the Ruatoki River with his mum.

I can't remember much, and there's a level of family myth about the stories that remain which veils the reality. As if myths are not real...

In 1993 Penny and I were at a family wedding in Whakatane, and we drove up to Ruatoki. I wanted to find the house on the rise above the school we lived in for that year. Ruatoki has hit the headlines; balaclava-clad commando figures that do not look like police; road-blocks and rumours; a secret army training in the hills; moko and myth.
I needed to take another look at the house and the place. Here are some stills culled from casual roadside vhs video taken in 1993.

This is the house we lived in in 1963.

The blue house was next-door. I remember the two as twins, sitting on the hill- but now there are more houses, and these two are not so alike.

The Ruatoki River.

Once upon a time, this house was a vibrant new pink.

There were several marae in the area. This is not the main Ruatoki wharenui.

Horses grazed the roadside freely.

A church at another marae.

We didn't see many people, and I was shy with the camera. I'm glad I recorded at least one person.