I'm sitting in the airport in Vancouver with my friend Anne, who's heading home to see her whanau in Auckland. We've got seats next to each other on the Van-Akld flight, which will be nice because usually I make these long trips by myself.
Last nite, as I did the last of the packing and sorting before calling someone in Mildura to say goodnite, I noticed the small whiteboard I'd had in my study all year propped up against some other boxes. My suitcases were packed and stacked on the other side of the room, and the whiteboard was with a few last things I was leaving for Anne & Michelle to use or pass along.
"Te tau okioki" it says on the whiteboard in sticker letters. My sabbatical. My year of rejuventation, repair, recuperation, preparation.
Thank you Canada. Nyawen and Chii Miigwech to the Indigenous people on whose lovely beautful land and waterways I've been since August. Thank you to the University of Toronto for hosting me, and MacMaster University for letting me be a part of things there too. Thank you to my dear friends who have been whanau to me. Thank you to my whanau who let me come away for a year, kept me in touch with home, came to visit, kept me accountable and sent their aroha across to Toronto in a million different ways.
"Te tau okioki" says the whiteboard leaning up against the boxes in Anne and Michelle's downstairs room where I've stayed for the past two weeks. Is this the end of it? Not quite - I'm officially on sabbatical until the 30 June, and I've got things lined up for the next 2 weeks while I wrap things up with my tau okioki. But, this journey today does mark the end of a chapter for me... and, as people have reminded me over the past few days, the beginning of a new one.
As the plan touched down in Vancouver about an hour ago, the couple next to me asked whether I was on the flight home tonite. Home? They spotted me as a fellow NZer, and meant the 8pm flight to Auckland... I found myself unable to reply for a sec as I processed their question. Home?
For the past year, I would have answered "oh actually I live in Toronto."
In two months, I would answer "well I'm from NZ but I actually live in Hawaii."
Today? Well, yes. I'm heading home.