Kiwi plays tour guide to visitors

By Mikaela Collins

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A hundred years ago the great-grandfather of Turkish man Ilker Avci and the father of Takahiwai man Grant Pirihi were at war with each other.

But now both Mr Avci and Mr Pirihi, who first met in Turkey for the 100th Gallipoli commemorations last year, have reunited in the spirit of friendship.

Mr Avci was a tour guide for a busload of New Zealanders who were in Turkey for the commemorations.

Amongst the Kiwis was Mr Pirihi and his wife. Mr Pirihi invited Mr Avci to his home in Takahiwai and the other New Zealanders did the same thing.

"Grant invited me and everyone does this, but he kept inviting me and sending emails and another guide says to me, 'This is serious, he is Maori, it would be an adventure,'" said Mr Avci.

Mr Pirihi said he decided to keep inviting Mr Avci as they got along well during the tour.

"We went to the Gallipoli Battlefield and to Anzac Cove, we went to Istanbul and Troy.

We got along with [Mr Avci] so well, I'm not sure how it first came up but I extended the invitation and so did the rest of the group."

Now Mr Avci, his wife Tuba and their two daughters are in the country and will be staying with the Kiwis who Mr Avci once showed around in Turkey.

But making the trip here was not an easy decision, said Mr Avci. "It wasn't on our bucket list. We planned to go to the United States and the flights [to New Zealand] are three times more expensive.

"With the price you pay, you can buy land in Turkey - you can buy an olive orchard, so it was a big decision. But I said it would be an adventure of a lifetime."

On Thursday night, Mr Avci and his family were welcomed on to Takahiwai Marae - his first experience of Maori culture.

- Northern Advocate

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