Around 115 people attended the Umu, which helped us to raise around $800.00 for the school. Those who attended were treated to an awesome feed or rock and flamed grilled pork, lamb, potato, kumara and pumpkin. Murray told me he was able to produce pork with crackle in the umu, and true to his word he didn’t let us down. Of course according to Suzanna the success of Murray’s cooking was always ‘touch and go’, watching and offering advice every now and again from the kitchen as she prepared the beautiful seafood in coconut cream we all raved about.
The kids enjoyed being part of the experience too. We read about it, but seeing an umu was so much different than seeing last year’s hangi. There are similarities of course but doing everything above ground makes it seem a little easier. We all had to muck in too, peeling kumara and spuds, stacking firewood, and returning again and again to check on it’s progress while in class we created tapa styled art works to decorate Te Kauri and add to the Pacific atmosphere on the night.
I think all of us were moved by Murray and Suzanna’s efforts, energy and sincerity. Suzanna led us in a beautiful karakia and I tried to follow Murray’s instructions to not say too much and let it drag on as, “it’s best to eat the food while it’s hot!” It was warm enough that evening to enjoy a meal outside with friends and family, children played on in the school grounds in between second helpings and many, many ice creams! We didn’t really have much room or energy after all that for a game of Samoan kilikiti.
The evening ended beautifully with a Samoan dance performed by Suzanna and April, and looking around the room, I don’t think there was anyone who wasn’t either smiling or choking back the tears. Evenings like this are only possible, when people come together in harmony and with a shared sense of purpose. Certainly for me and for my family who were with me, it again reaffirmed our feeling that Waikino is a great place to be, and that this little school of ours-which is growing I might add-is like a precious gem in the heart of a caring and warm community. Many thanks again to everyone for making it such a memorable night.