Kia ora kotou,
Ko Sinia tooku maunga
Ko Jordan tooku awa
Ko Hurei tooku iwi
Ko Meliors tooku ingoa,
Tena kotou, tena kotou, tena kotou kotoa*
I have been powhiri-ed (welcomed) into new jobs, and participated in numerous powhiri for others, I have had regular free te reo (Maori language) lessons on work time, I have learned and practiced many waiata (songs) as part of my work, I have been part of meetings beginning with a karakia (prayer). I feel lucky to be part of a generation that is figuring out a new, inclusive way of organising public life that honours the spiritual, creative and communal aspects of human interation not just our bureaucratic roles. I appreciate how generous Maori are to share their traditions so flexibly.
I want to describe my experience today because I know that not everyone gets to participate in biculturalism in their work life and if you are a NZer who hasn't yet, it might seem a scarey prospect in its unfamiliarity.
Today was the first time that I was interviewed in a bicultural way- a wonderful first impression of the organisation. But boy am I glad that I have had so much prior exposure because I was given about a minute's notice that we would begin with mihi (greeting), karakia and waiata... and I was really kicking myself that I hadn't rehearsed my mihimihi (see above- I use it so infrequently it needs practice every time). But the panelist who warned me also reminded me that the point of these rituals was for the tangata whenua (hosts) to warmly welcome me and put me at my ease, and there was no expectation that I perform the corresponding rituals for manuhiri (visitors).
When I walked into the interview room the four panelists stood and I shook hands and kissed or hongi'd (pressed noses) with each in turn. Then the one man on the panel said a karakia, during which I took the opportunity to centre and connect with my own sense of the Divine. Then we all stood and sang a hymn and fortunately it was familiar enough for me to mostly sing along (and I love to sing as part of a group so this was fun). Then he said a mihi in te reo. I was pleased to be able to recognise a few words though not enough to understand the meaning but that was ok becuase he followed with a loose translation in English. The bits I remember are: they warmly welcomed me there, that I was brave to come along by myself (presumably without whanau (family)) and that what they all wanted from this interview was for me to be successful. What a good reminder that job interviewers really are more interested in finding out if you are the right person than proving you are the wrong one! Then we all stood and sang another, vaguely familiar, waiata. Then he said final short karakia and handed over to the senior woman to lead the interview.
From then on it followed the familiar pattern of public service interview questions asked by each of the panelists. My feeling about job interviews is that here is a captive audience who actually want to hear me talk about myself in a positive way. I generally enjoy interviews and this was no exception, though perhaps more laughter than usual (they were laughing with me, not at me, really!).
* My mihmihii: Greetings to you all, Sinai is my mountain, Jordan is my river, Jews are my tribe, Meliors is my name, greetings, greetings, greetings to you all. (Kia ora (thanks to) Caro for giving me this korero)
**NZer's bear with my translations, I know I have readers in the US (etc?) who may not be so familiar with Maori words that have become part of everyday language here.