Tātou tātou e

Feeling far from home.

I left work early on Friday afternoon vaguely aware that something had happened, but not yet able to engage. I was overwhelmed anyway – so much work to do, unexpected difficulties, the things I want in my future taking far too long.

When I finally found somewhere quiet to sit alone and read the news… well. We have so much work to do, I thought. This is taking far too long.

Would it be easier to be surrounded by others who are mourning? I walked into class on Tuesday, Year 8s stood awkwardly while Tūtira mai ngā iwi played through a UE Boom. I half expected them to sing along, sway or move in gentle wiri, but this is all completely foreign to them and Tuesday morning roll call is no time for my tears.

Distance, so I didn’t realise the connection between the song and those currently standing strong. I was transported instead to my childhood primary school in Auckland when all teachers could strum a guitar in that particular way, show us line by line how to sing waiata, never quite explaining what it meant.

‘80s kids belting out Aue! at the end of each line, kids whose names I could pronounce with ease (it was ‘Christopher’ I had trouble with, I mean just look at all those consonants!)

We have so much work to do, but young people haka in the street, write condolences, visit mosques with their families.

Young people stand awkwardly listening to a completely foreign song, watching me listen because whenever New Zealand is mentioned they think of their teacher, turn to catch a glimpse of me in a crowded assembly hall, because they know I’m usually smiling

when I’m reminded of home.