Monthly Archives: May 2012

Favourite Māori Words

One of my favourite classes this term was Introduction to Conversational Māori. And yes, please note the use of the past tense — I’m done, but for exams. I’d wanted to take at least one class in New Zealand that I couldn’t take anywhere else, Māori seemed to fit the bill, and I’ve always loved languages, so I was a keener from the first lecture.

Māori is completely different from any other language I’ve studied (read: French and Old English). It’s from the Polynesian group of languages, which may or may not be derived from a distant branch of the Indo-European “family tree” that encompasses a huge number of languages. Grammatically, it’s both relatively simple and surprisingly complex. Whereas in English and French, verbs are conjugated to show tense, number, and mood (I run/he runs/we ran; je vais/je suis allée/vous iriez), Māori uses particles:

I am running: Kei te oma ahau.

I ran: I oma ahau.

I will run: Ka oma ahau.

Easy, right? Sure, except that Māori compresses an awful lot into each word. Consider the difference between “tēnei ngeru” (this cat here by me), “tēnā ngeru” (that cat over there by you), and “ērā ngeru” (those cats over there, away from both of us).

Or, “Ka hoki mai ahau ki te awa” (I will return (as in “come back here”) to the river) versus “Ka hoki atu ahau ki te awa” (I will return (“go back there”) to the river).  

So, obviously, I love it. But that’s enough of a grammar lesson: Māori has some great words, and I wanted to share some of my favourites.


More coolness. The taniwha: a water spirit, typically a guardian.

KāingaPlace where the home fires are kept burning

The āi diphthong makes kāinga a fun word to say, but I love the literal translation. In Māori, there’s a sharp distinction between where you are from, and where you currently live. Kāinga refers to the latter; I’m from Toronto, but right now at this moment, my kāinga is in Dunedin. That being said, it’s one of those words that can be interpreted metaphorically, so I could technically say that my kāinga is in Toronto, which would tell you a lot about my feelings, ties to home, and so forth.

WhakapapaFamily tree/genealogy

Whakapapa is another important concept. Where you come from and who you come from greatly influences who you are. It’s also the name of a town on the North Island. Fun fact about  Māori: wh- is pronounced like the English f. “Hang on,” you say. “Doesn’t that mean that whakapapa would be pronounced like…”

Yes. Yes, it is, which is why I was greatly amused when my flatmate, while booking her post-exam travels, exclaimed, “Sweet as! I’m taking the Naked Bus to Whakapapa!”

Tamariki Children

Many words in Māori sound like what they mean. Maybe it’s just me, but I think “tamariki” sounds like a perfect word for children. Same thing for puku (stomach) and waiata (to sing/song).


However, many words are loan words from English. Not sure if anyone’s noticed this, but New Zealand is kind of isolated. When the Europeans arrived, they brought a lot of things for which no words existed in the Māori language, so extensive borrowing of words occurred.   Māori also has about half the consonant sounds that English does, which leads to some really cool patterns in transliteration.

Beef is a perfect example. There’s no B in Māori; it tends to become P (as with Britain – Piritene, bread – parāoa, and bus – pahi). The long ī is the same sound as “ee.” Wh, as we’ve discussed, sounds the same as f. Thus, “pīwh,” but since you can’t have a word of one stressed syllable ending in a consonant, the unstressed i gets tacked on the end to create pīwhi.

Cool, eh?

KanikaniTo dance/a dance

Following those sound laws, we take the unstressed i’s out of kanikani, change the k back to a c, and get “cancan.” Considering the abundance of gold prospecting and settler towns that sprang up in New Zealand through the latter half of the nineteenth century, I can only imagine what the Māori were thinking.

TumuA safe place to dock one’s canoe

My favourite word in the whole language. The Māori/Pacific/Indigenous Studies Building is called “te Tumu.” Finding “safe places” seems to have been a predominant theme over the last year or so. Maybe that’s why the concept resonates with me so much. Certainly, it seems to be cropping up in my fiction more and more.

Keeping a Cool Head

I know I typically post towards the end of the week, but I did have a few things I wanted to discuss.

I now have all four of my essays back. Three of the four went as expected, and I was happy. Perhaps I got complacent. Actually, I did get complacent, because the last one absolutely blindsided me.

I passed, but it’s a great deal lower than the marks I usually get, and I’m not pleased. For those who know me well, this is (for once) not a case of my having ridiculously high standards. Trust me, you would not be pleased either.

So: shock, and if I’m being honest, some anger. And as long as I am being completely honest, my first instinct was to snap, to rave, and vent.

But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m taking a second, sober look, and I think that, in this case, the principle of “Pick Your Battles” applies.

This was not the most amazing piece of academic writing I have ever produced. The others weren’t my best either, but they were still better. However… I’m on exchange. Yes, it is called Study Abroad for a reason, but realistically, I’m here just as much for the learning outside the classroom. I can learn history anywhere. There are some things about myself, and about life, that I can only learn in New Zealand. Presumably for this reason, every class I take here is judged at home on a pass/fail basis. As long as I pass, I get the credit, but the mark will never, ever show up on my University of Toronto transcript, and does not factor into my GPA.

So really, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter. I’m not saying that in a nihilistic way, but rather in a “it is not particularly relevant to my ultimate goals” kind of way. When I’ve cooled off, I’ll see if there’s anything I can learn from the comments, but otherwise, getting upset over a paper that will not affect my GPA or my grad school prospects seems like a waste of energy.

Moreover, it reminds me that the time is coming when I’ll be looking at reviews, which is the other reason why I am choosing to let this go. When I get my first negative review, am I going to rant? No, of course not. I don’t want to be That Person. Again, this is training to Pick Your Battles.

The “good” thing about rejection, bad reviews, and bad essays is that you can usually learn something from them. But if not… then perhaps a bit of perspective helps. One bad review in a heap of good ones loses some of its bite. One bad essay in three years of university looks less like an indictment of my academic skills and more like a bump in the road. And when I think about all the things I’ve done and seen in New Zealand… I know that those experiences are far more valuable to me as a person than one more A would be.

As I mentioned earlier, I do set high standards for myself. I want to do well. I want to write well, and tell good stories, and perform good history. But when things don’t go as I’d hoped… well, then I simply ask for the ability to handle them with grace and dignity.

Oh, Dear. My Childhood.

Lately, one of my American flatmates and I have been bonding over our childhoods. This has mostly centred on Disney and Pokémon, but it turns out we have another thing in common.

We both watched Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders.

If you don’t know it, I’m not surprised. Honestly, it was a shock to discover that someone else had even heard of it, let alone watched it. It ran from 1995-1996, and embodied all that is wonderful and awful about early ‘90s kids’ shows. Think Power Rangers with unicorns.

Plot summary: in “New Camelot,” in the kingdom of Avalon (groan), three teenage girls are Jewel Riders. Instead of riding jewels, they use their special, shiny stones to ride on/talk to a particular animal. This animal is their “Special Friend” (snerk). I’m not entirely sure what Jewel Riders are normally supposed to do (a mounted police force?), but in this series, the Evil Person has locked Merlin in the Wild Magic. The girls must find all seven Crown Jewels to free him (insert jokes about Family Jewels here, here, and here) and stop the magic of Avalon from breaking down.

The scary thing is that there’s a nugget in there that could be promising. If the world is built on magic, how would people cope when magic disintegrates, and the structure of the universe itself crumbles?

Apparently, I just like destroying worlds.

But alas, the idea dies in its execution. Dialogue dripping with cheese, inconsistent rules, hilarious mistakes in animation, and an utter lack of internal logic or character motivation pushes it into realms of camp I’ve rarely seen.

Quick! A Jewel Circle! A Jewel Circle of Friendship!

And yet… I loved it as a kid. The show ended when I was five, yet fifteen years on, I could still hum the theme song. Clearly, it left quite an impression on my young, malleable mind. So much so, that I recall making up and acting out a story in which Simba from The Lion King (another favourite) helps the Jewel Riders.

I was creating Princess Gwenevere crossover fanfic before I knew what crossover fanfic was.

Oh, dear.

With the benefit of all my age and wisdom, I wonder what appealed to me so much. I never really had much time for princesses. The talking animals might have done it, or the classic quest to Find the Magical Artifacts. Or maybe it was the fact that Merlin was missing and the magic was dying. At five, I couldn’t have articulated it that way, but those are the aspects of the show that I remember most.

I suppose it’s really no surprise that Hapax is an apocalyptic fantasy….

K.T. Goes to the Beer Factory


After moving into the historic brewery at Black Creek Pioneer Village, I’m pleased to say that I’ve started developing a taste for beer. At least, I like OUR beer. 😀

There is a great irony in my life. I find beer absolutely fascinating. Honestly, my interest in it started by accident. I have my Smart Serve and an extra person was needed in Black Creek’s brewery, one of my roommates back home is a would-be brewmaster who has several books about beer… Regardless of how the interest started, I’ve been hooked ever since. The history behind beer, brewing methods, tasting notes, alcohol volumes, and International Bitterness Units (IBUs, of course)… it’s all so cool.

But I don’t like beer.

Not one bit. I have never been able to handle more than a few mouthfuls of any variety. Friends mock my grimace when I choke it down. I have grown fond of white wines, but almost every other type of alcohol just makes me gag.

So it was really interesting to go on a tour of the Speight’s Brewery with two friends of mine. The tour was as follows: you get to learn about the history of beer, walk through the brewery and learn how they make beer, and then finish in the brewery bar for twenty minutes of unlimited access to the taps. One friend was quite clear that he was only interested in those last twenty minutes. I was equally clear that I only cared about the first two parts of the tour. The third member of our little band was somewhere in the middle.

Oh my God, it was awesome!

The guide was a wizened, perky guy who spiced his history with asides on current Dunedinites’ drinking habits. We learned about how the Ancient Egyptians first started brewing beer, and then how Europeans made “ale,” but then added hops to make it real “beer,” and how when Captain Cook arrived in NZ, he brewed beer to ward off scurvy. We learned how the barley is malted, and how the room corners are rounded to prevent accumulation of dust, bugs, and contamination. We learned how unfiltered, uncarbonated beer (i.e. Black Creek’s historic beer) is called “green beer,” and how the University of Otago devised the method of condensing hop powder into convenient pellets.

Then the guide asked, “So who here likes beer?”

Every hand but mine went up.

Nonetheless, I did try everything. As expected, I ended up giving most of it to a grateful (and increasingly chatty) Friend No. 1, though there was a cider that was palatable. Still, it was good to be able to actually taste the porter’s “hints of coffee,” as opposed to just learning by rote that they’re there.

But the true measure of my interest?

The appearance of beer-appreciation podcasts on my iPod. 😀

I am such a geek.

Advice and the Irony of Suck

It’s a funny thing about advice. When you hear the same thing over and over, you tend to close your ears to it, and wave it off with, “Yes, yes, I know.”

I’d been struggling with The Next One. Oh, I was getting my words, and I knew my direction. The problem was that whenever I faced the keyboard, I was filled with dread that this would be the book that showed all my other writing up as a fluke. This would be the book that revealed that, while I was a very lucky monkey who had hit the right keys in the right order before, it didn’t guarantee another repeat performance. It sounds silly, but it showed. The more anxious I got, the more stilted my writing became. The more stilted my writing sounded, the more I fussed.

Naturally, the only way to break that cycle is by writing more.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m at the point where it feels weird and wrong if I miss a day, which reassures me.

But the other funny thing about advice? Sometimes all it takes is hearing it one more time to break through that wall of dismissal.

I was listening to I Should Be Writing a few days ago. As it’s one of the first podcasts I listened to, and the first I stuck with, I am well acquainted with Mur’s Second Law: “You are allowed to suck.”  

“Yes, yes, I know.”

Then, on this episode (I think was the May 9th feedback episode, but I’m not sure), she said it one more time, and it really, truly hit home.

I’m allowed to suck.

Really, it’s okay. I shouldn’t be submitting things that suck, but I would never submit an unedited first draft anyway. This is the first draft. Continuity problems, awkward sentences, and crutch words can all be fixed in the second… but they can’t be fixed if I don’t write them in the first place.

After giving myself permission to suck, I noticed something.

Writing felt better. With paranoia banished for the time being, the words flowed more easily, and a lot more naturally. Characters asserted themselves more, and spoke in voices that rang more true. In the great irony of suck, once I stopped fighting it, I started sucking less.

This thing is still going to need a LOT of rewriting before it’s seen by another human’s eyes. That’s okay. That’s what the editing period is for. For the first draft?

I’m allowing myself to suck.


Halfway Home

Today officially marks the halfway point of my time in the Southern Hemisphere. That seems like a momentous occasion, so because I’m spending a grand total of 6 months abroad, I thought I’d mark it by sharing a few lists of “six things.”

Six Things I’ve Learned While Abroad

  1. How to go from pyjamas to fully dressed without ever leaving the safety of my warm bed.
  2. If tired enough, one can sleep through almost anything. Even couches burning on the street, and the fire truck’s arrival and subsequent entanglement in hordes of drunken students.
  3. My USB key has become my most important possession.
  4. Despite what I had been led to believe, there are no rainbow factories in New Zealand, nor does it rain candy. There may, however, be unicorns.
  5. How to tackle a sheep, put it in a headlock, and drag it out to be shorn.
  6. Being away from home makes you realize exactly what home is to you.

Six Things I Haven’t Done Yet, but that are on my List

  1. Visit Hobbiton.
  2. Visit Shantytown.
  3. See Ayer’s Rock.
  4. Wander Wellington, finding all the places mentioned in “Weather Child” (the book that made me choose NZ over Australia).
  5. Winery tour. Also touring the Speights Brewery.
  6. Snorkel in the South Seas.

Six Things I Miss from Home

For all Torontonians like to complain about the TTC, we have no idea how good we have it.

  1. My friends.
  2. My family.
  3. My apartment.
  4. My pioneer dress (never thought I’d say it, but…)
  5. My choir.
  6. The TTC (again, never thought I’d say it…)

Six Things I’ll Miss from New Zealand

  1. My friends.
  2. Rob Roy ice cream
  3. The Botanic Gardens.
  4. The land’s sheer, aggressive greenness.
  5. Seeing the Southern Cross overhead.
  6. Café Sunday.

    It almost feels unfair, how beautiful it is….


Top Six Moments Thus Far

  1. Consuming delicious coffee, scones, and cream beside a toasty fire at Annie’s Victorian Tearoom.
  2. Walking the sea cliffs outside Oamaru.
  3. Shearing a sheep (well, only part of the sheep, but still).
  4. Finding the Peter Pan statue in the Botanic Gardens/Finding the Alice in Wonderland statue at Larnach Castle.
  5. Climbing up, and down (but mostly down) Signal Hill.
  6. My very first Tim Tam Slam, an experience for which I have only a single word: NOM.

You know it’s essay season when…

It is 8:00, and I have coffee.

That wouldn’t be a terribly surprising statement… except that it’s 8:00 pm. I’m one of those people who can’t handle caffeine after 4:30, not if I plan on sleeping that night.

I don’t really plan on sleeping tonight.

I have two essays, a debate, and a short(er) assignment all due within the next week, then a test and another assignment at the beginning of the week after. So naturally, I’m here writing a blog post about my work, instead of actually doing it, but… I digress.

I have coffee.

I was in the library, working on one of these essays(EVERYTHINGYOUKNOWABOUTDARWINANDTHEVICTORIANCHURCHGO!), when exhaustion hit me like a truck. I’m not sure if it was crashing blood sugar, or the consumption of a single glass of wine earlier in the evening, but I was a zombie. Reluctantly (but really too stupid in the head to do anything else), I packed up my computer and returned home, where I had some cereal.

And I made coffee.

Now I can feel it kicking in. I’m still really, really tired, the “I-wonder-if-vampires-attacked-me-in-the-night” kind of tired, but the cogs of my brain are turning again. With any luck, both essays can be finished over the weekend. Schoolwork has been Priority No. 1 for me for almost as long as I can remember… but that seems to possibly be shifting oh-so-slightly (agh! I feel squirmy inside just typing that). I feel bad laying my fiction-type writing aside, even if it’s only for a few days. Inertia can be a powerful and terrible thing, and I’m not letting this story stall and die on me.

Now my coffee is gone….