New Zealand under 23 volleyball team performing a wero
Throughout the past four years she has competed in Singapore, Thailand, China, Vietnam and the Philippines and says pride for her culture grows significantly every time she visits Asia.
Discovering common ground with many places beyond New Zealand’s corner of the world came as a surprise to Hana, who grew up in the small town of Ruatahuna.
“Exposure to everything that Asia has to offer is eye-opening, especially when you come from a small town, within a small country. I’m sure most Kiwi kids understand.
“I saw a resemblance of Māori culture in the way they operated in Vietnam. They are helpful, generous and hardworking people, similar to us.
“Around every corner in the streets of Hanoi, I found that locals were always doing something. Cooking something, building something, selling something, fixing something. They are continuously active in their community and they are very lively people. Just like Māori.
“I was also happy to see similar cooking methods to those of a hāngi being used. Banana leaves would wrap their kai (food) which cooked above steaming stones.”
As much as acceptance of cultural practices was obvious for Hana, it was also obvious when that acceptance was lacking, and it allowed for a deeper affinity to form where they were able to “see past adversity through the same lense.”
“When we played the Philippines, they told us that it wasn’t rare for them to be judged by others for carrying out traditions, such as a prayer before a game. I guess that was one of the reasons why we were able to connect with them on a deeper level. Because we understand the importance of tikanga.”
“At our formal dinner, the Japanese team performed their traditional dance, known as Onna Bugeisha, followed by my team who returned with a haka.
At first they seemed nothing alike as ours was very staunch and intimidating and theirs was swift and peaceful. But they both stood to deliver the same message and carried the same honour for heritage, and I really loved that.”
This ability to empathise and identify with Asian culture significantly enhances the experience and connection to Asia for Hana.
“Sport may enable you to travel to distant lands, but it’s the human connections that truly make you present.”