Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mokau: A Place Between Worlds

On Thursday night, on the way to WOMAD, we spent a night at the small seaside village of Mokau.

  It is one of my most beloved places, but I have only just realised why.
When I first went to high school it was to my local country school, but it was small and only catered for students in Forms 3 to 5 (Years 9 - 11), so I had to spend my final two years at boarding school.
Recently I have read several mentions of people who have had a 'gap year' between school and university - what a wonderful example of white privilege, but that's another issue. I have always felt uncomfortable about the idea of taking a year 'out' to have fun between school / childhood and 'settling down'. However, I realised the other day that, for me, my two years at boarding school were, in a way, gap years for me.
I was away from home and family for two years, albeit with long bus trips home for holidays and mid-term breaks. I went from a small country school of 150 co-ed students to a huge (for those times) school of 1100 girls, and a boarding hostel as big as my whole previous school. It was a huge transition time. As well as the challenges inherent in that situation, I was also challenged to read and think far more widely - by circumstances, teachers, and other students. I went through the trauma of losing faith in the religion I had grown up not really questioning more than than details, and became suicidally depressed for the first time. I learned that I wasn't the only person my age to think about philosophical issues, and miracle of miracles, there were even males who thought - well, one at least.
I met my first Jewish friend. I learned of the existence of homosexuality. I learned about living with and adapting to strangers. I learned that there was a wider world than the one I had grown up in.
Every school holiday and mid-term break I traveled home from boarding school and back again. Each journey was broken at Mokau. The buses from both Girls' High and Boys' High would stop for 15 minutes. A gap, a transition, a time to make the adjustments needed to live in the other world.
Those two years, though hard in some ways, were a transition time for me - from childhood on the farm and the small country village nearby, to adulthood.
Decades later we started the annual journey to WOMAD, and every journey includes a break at Mokau. The last three times we have stayed there over night. Once again Mokau has become a transition time: a transition from 'real' life to festival life. WOMAD has become only place other than home that, over the years, I have learned to feel at home - and Mokau is the place where I get that overwhelming sense of heading home - whichever direction I'm traveling.

One day I hope to reach a point where I simply feel at home wherever I am.

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