There is something very special that happens when we come over the Kaimai Ranges and back down into the oasis of Tauranga Moana.
I'm sure we all feel it when we come home and our beautiful maunga Mauao can be seen standing like a bastion of hope, or as some call it, our very own Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty to tell us we are home.
No matter what direction from which you arrive, there it is. The majestic maunga flanked by the equally picturesque harbour of Tauranga Moana.
A picture tells a thousand words and when it comes to the Māori language a word can tell us so much more about a place we hold dear to our hearts. So, this week, Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, it is a good time to refresh or remind ourselves what these names that mean so much physically, spiritually and aesthetically, actually mean literally.
Tauranga - a safe anchorage.
Mauao – Caught by the morning light.
Ōtūmoetai – The long sleeping tide.
Arataki – To pave the way forward.
Katikati – To nibble slowly.
Matapihi – The window of opportunity.
Maketū – Beside the ebbing tide.
Ōmanu – The gathering of the birds.
Ōmokoroa – The long flat lizard.
Pahoia – The soldier's fort.
Pāpāmoa – Raised gardens.
Pukehina – The belly of the net.
Rangiuru – The western sky.
And a favourite for me is Whakamarama – to enlighten, and I guess that is the kaupapa or purpose of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori/Māori language week.
We have come a long way since the dark days when our parents were punished for speaking te reo in the classroom of schools that were, in our case, sitting on land donated by the very people who were being punished.
Now, in my whare, my wife and my daughter are completely comfortable engaging in conversations in Māori, and I trundle along but understanding most of what they are saying and staying silent when it comes to trying to have a crack at new words for the first time - unless it's on my own.
So where to from here with our Māori language? For me, it is all about tautoko or edifying those who have a crack without becoming the language police as more and more of our own have become. Sometimes, without even knowing, some put down those who have a crack but don't quite get it right.
Growing up with a Māori mum and Pākehā pop, it was all the naughty words I learned first when mum would try to have a private conversation with my aunties - all of whom worked on the telephone exchange in town and everyone could, and did, listen in on the party line.
Hapū (pregnant) was one of the first coded words I picked up, as was hoha (annoying) - said when someone was being a proverbial pain in the nono (backside).
Lately, I've been applying hoha to the group of 'Ngāti Hoha' who have been leading everyone down the rabbit hole with their Covid-19 conspiracy theories.
Funny how all these koretake (useless) people have gained overnight degrees in epidemiology and are whakahīhī (arrogant) when it comes to luring the vulnerable into their pūngāwere (spider) web of kino (corrupt) thinking.
The pono or truth is, no one could have predicted the planetary lockdown and reset needed to come out of it. What got us through was kindness and clever thinking by those who had spent a lifetime of learning about what happens when a virus goes global.
These mātauranga (gifted scholars) are what Sir Apirana Ngata prophesised would pick up the taiaha of knowledge and win the biggest battles we would face in the future.
But the best word of all for these testing times of 6 feet apart or 6 feet under when we need to stay in our bubble and stay out of trouble, is the word awhi - to console, to cuddle, to be kind, to offer a shoulder to lean on when there are trouble waters below.
Let's all awhi up and be one feather of five million in the korowai (cloak) of kindness.
Awhi up Tauranga Moana.