Am tired, so won't blog all details about meeting Matiu's family in Ottawa... but we're home, safe and happy, after two very busy and exciting days travelling to visit the aunty and uncle of Matiu's father. Being Maori, we know the cost of losing touch with language and community (all Maori are affected by these specific results of the past 200 years, whether or not they themselves have the language or good connections with their own relatives/ genealogies) and on that basis we deeply value the connection Matiu has with his Eritrean side.
We were greeted off the train by Matiu's great-aunt and great-uncle (sister and brother of his grandmother) as well as the great-uncle's son who was a genial and warm feature of the weekend. We were looked after so well: gifts, visitors, food, drink... we have come home laden, full and a bit sleepy. Matiu was an absolute champion, rising to the occasion by being his sweet, sociable and happy self and allowing his relatives to connect with him even though it must have been quite overwhelming for his little 6 year old self.
This weekend in many ways was an investment: in Matiu's future, in his understanding of himself, in his relationship with his own father. Although the weekend was about connecting Matiu with his relatives, it was also a deeply moving experience for me... I was shown generosity, hospitality and warmth even though I'm really just the random girl whose sister had a baby with one of their nephews. And, as happens when you're on any roadtrip or journey with people - even people you know very well - I learned more about my sister and nephew this weekend as well.
I know that there will be stories I'll tell Matiu about this weekend, reminding him of the people we spent time with and things we did, but there are other moments I'll remember which have left a deep impression too: his resilience, politeness, enthusiasm, warmth and ability to recognise the need to place the needs of the collective over his own personal mood or desires. These qualities, I can now see, are valued and deliberately nurtured in the families on both sides of his inheritance.
At one point today, I spoke with his aunty about how many people love this child: "he brings two families together" we agreed. And he does.