Turangawaewae: my story of home

If I may beg another little soupçon of indulgence from you, please? 🙂

At work at the moment we have a project under way to learn a little bit more about each other.

Knowing each other is important and knowing where you come from helps understand and connect with each other better.

Our special word for this month is Turangawaewae.

Literally tūranga means ‘standing place’, and waewae ‘the feet’, thus it is most commonly translated as ‘a place to stand’; however, it is a translation, like most translations across languages, that fails to capture its full meaning.  Not only is tūrangawaewae an acknowledgement of the place one is connected to through whakapapa – our foundation, place in the world, or home; it also signifies a place where one feels empowered or connected.

As part of the project we have each been invited to contribute to a display with a photo and/or story of our Turangawaewae:  here’s mine.

Go, Pa, Go!

          It was always the same after a good rainstorm.  As we’d round the last bend before the driveway up the hill, Father would slow down and change gear, and my stomach would begin to churn.  My sister Jane and I would look across at each other across the back seat.  Between us sat my aunt, who would grab my hand on one side and Jane’s on the other.  With our remaining free hand, Jane and I would each grip the armrest on our door.  In the front, Mother would hold on to the ceiling strap with her left hand, while her right was used to brace herself firmly against the dashboard.  It wasn’t that Father was a bad driver – just that we knew what was to come in the next sixty seconds or so …

          Father would straighten himself in the seat and lean forward over the steering wheel, hands gripping it firmly while his eyes quickly scanned the road ahead to make sure it was clear of other traffic.  A last minute adjustment to our speed – we daren’t let it drop too low – a quick flick of the wheel to the right as we turned off the road and onto the driveway, and then his foot would be flat to the floor and we’d be racing up the hill. 

                At least, that was the intention.  The red clay soil, sticky yet slippery after the rain, would throw us hither and thither as we bucked and crabbed our way up the steep slope.  The rear of the car would sometimes grip suddenly on one side and we’d lurch into the undergrowth while Father struggled to get us back on course.  Nobody would speak for the first few seconds – well, nothing intelligible anyway – while we judged how far we were going to get that day.  Then, if things looked promising, Mother would spur Father on:  “Come on, George, you can do it!”, while Jane and I would shout, “Go, Pa, go!”  My aunt would merely close her eyes, grip our hands even more tightly and mutter prayers under her breath.

                I think the entire driveway up to the house was only about 100 metres long, but I’m sure our see-saw progress meant we sometimes travelled twice that distance.  Not to mention the times we ended up sideways across the road, or sunk in a pothole, wheels spinning uselessly, in so deep that further upward progress was impossible.  Father wasn’t one to give up easily, though, because he knew if he didn’t get the car up the hill, then everything we had on board would have to be carried up by hand, and he didn’t fancy the role of pack-horse.  Jane and I didn’t mind that at all, because it meant we got to take off our shoes and squish through the sticky red mud in our bare feet, revelling in the rude squelching noises and seeing who could find the deepest pothole to splash through; meanwhile, Mother and my aunt would don gumboots and pick their way up the driveway as best they could without slipping or losing their footing.

                Finally, either in the car or on foot, we’d arrive at the top of the drive, and the first adventure of the day would be over.  The return journey at the end of the day was more often than not a downhill slalom in similar fashion, unless the driveway had really dried out during the day, in which case we would bounce from crest to crest of the troughs gouged out during our upward progress in the morning.

                Over the years it took us to build our house on the hill in Zimbabwe we must have made that journey up and down thousands of times.  In later years, when we finally laid two concrete strips up the driveway, our progress became a far more sedate affair, and much less exciting:  boring, even.  Somehow it all seemed rather tame to us children, conquering the concrete highway instead of slogging it up the slope:  boring, even.  I don’t think the adults saw it that way, though …

Traveller's Joy

Our house on the hill

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