He looked at me. I looked at him. We simultaneously raised eyebrows.

He walked over and reached out his hand with the same grip as you might assume for an old-fashioned arm wrestle.

There was a loud clap as our hands met. He pulled me in a bit closer and patted me on the back, before we both stood back to start the small talk.

"Alright bro, how you been," he said.


We used to play rugby together. He was bloody good, I remember. He was built like a tank and used to run with his knees high in the air. He brought an extra physicality to the team.

That was 20 years ago now (really? Time flies, bro). But you find you can do that with someone you used to play Senior B club rugby with. Even 20 years later. Especially if you were both loose forwards.

Around us, hundreds of children were darting here and there. The noise was a gaggle of high-pitched laughing and screaming. Anyone who has lived next to a primary school will tell you what that sounds like, before the bell rings and it goes deathly silent again.

There was the alluring smell of sausages on the barbeque. Someone walked past with what looked like a pork bun. You couldn't help but go back for seconds.

Kids threw themselves into the sandpit for the Big Dig next to perfect strangers, and ran over to the water fountain when they got thirsty, supping and slurping noisily.

The toilet facilities, once touted the cleanest in New Zealand, were open and easily kept up with demand.

People gathered tightly in huddles, talking and laughing. Elders were propped up in rows of white plastic seats, taking refuge from the sun, and were talking to each other under the shelter of gazebos that faced the stage.

Following an opening prayer from a local church Minister, the performances started, and they carried on well into the evening.


The variety of performances - some from small family groups - were truly amazing and reinforced how unique small town New Zealand was becoming, and just how lucky were are to fuse culture, food, music and dance together in one afternoon. In one spot.

That was two weeks ago now, when the annual Pasifika Day celebrations were held at the Levin Adventure Park.

It was an incredible afternoon that showcased of the diverse range of Pacific cultures that now help make up Levin, and was a credit to its organisers.

It was sharing of history, of expression (both of self and of community), and a sharing of consciousness that you only get from being part of a mass-gathering of people.

But a lot has happened since that day - just two weeks ago. A lot has changed in a very short amount of time, not just in Levin, but the whole world.

Where we might have embraced an old friend, we now respectively keep our distance. Were we lined up for a sausage in bread cooked in their hundreds by a complete stranger, we are now thinking about how to safely get a loaf of bread.

If I was to see me ol' number eight mate again, maybe lining up at the supermarket tomorrow, I would still be giving him the quick chin-up, eye-brow raised, hello. But there would no clap of hands from the handshake.

I would ask him how he is, and how his family is, from a distance. We would probably make light about what is going on, neither one complaining, and finish with maybe sharing what the first thing each of us will do when all this is over.

A game of rugby? A family barbecue? A sausage and bread? A handshake from an old mate?

It might be the small things we come to appreciate.