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From Ireland to total immersion

Picking up a book on Maori culture years ago and half a world away has led to the trip of a lifetime for an Irish woman. Aoife Finn was completing her PhD on te reo Maori when her posts about the language were seen on social media by Te Wananga o Aotearoa, who flew her to New Zealand late last month to help promote Matariki.

Miss Finn was at Te Wananga o Aotearoa’s Whirikoka Campus in Gisborne last week with the Te Iwa o Matariki roadshow — an interactive experience to teach participants about Matariki’s nine stars.

“It is just a dream come true to be here. It is absolutely fantastic that the wananga has given me the trip of a lifetime. It is just fantastic to be immersed in the language and culture, sitting chatting away in te reo. For me that is invaluable.”

'Cool language to study . . . very unique constructions'Miss Finn specialises in syntax, so it was the “amazing grammatical features” that first drew her to the language.

“I was looking for a cool language to study and just happened to pick up a book on Maori. It sounds beautiful. It has a lot of very interesting and unique constructions. From then on I was just hooked.”

Six years later she has finally visited New Zealand and met Maori people.

“When I arrived we had a powhiri and that was gorgeous. It was very moving and quite emotional for me, such a warm welcome. I have never experienced any hospitality like the kindness that has been shown to me here and I do not think I will ever forget it.”

'Incredible' to be speaking te reo every dayAfter all this time and some odd looks from her family and friends, she says it is incredible to be speaking te reo every day.

“I think my friends and family were intrigued at first. Some people had not heard of te reo but then I would point out the haka, as Irish love their rugby. Now I think they are used to it.”

After Gisborne, Miss Finn and the roadshow headed off to Wellington.

“Gisborne is beautiful. This is a dream being realised, from a bookworm then finally to be able to come here and see the culture and the language.”

HERE AT LAST: Aoife Finn pictured at Te Wananga o Aotearoa Whirikoka Campus during her visit to the Gisborne region as part of helping promote the Te Iwa o Matariki roadshow. Miss Finn has studied Maori culture and language for the past six years, despite never meeting a Maori person or visiting New Zealand before now. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell