I decided to go the tourist’s route and see a Maori Twilight Cultural Tour in Rotorua. This involved boarding a bus with about 50 other travelers before getting dropped off in a “village” to watch poi dances (where women twirl balls of woven flax) and haka (war dances where the men paint their faces, wave spears and belt out fierce battle calls). This guy told me I needed a photo of real-life Maori and offered to pose with me (he wasn’t in the performance, obviously).
After the show, we dug into a Maori feast, called a hangi. The meat- and potato-heavy meal was cooked for four hours in an earth oven. I was having a grand old time—until our guide announced that it was tradition for tourists to share songs from our home countries. I’d rather be stuck with a spear than forced to sing in public, so I tried to inconspicuously slump down in my seat and hide behind my hair. As luck would have it, our guide zeroed right in on me and thrust the microphone in my face. “Let’s hear it for Holly from New York!” he yelled as everyone applauded. How had he remembered my name?! The first song that came to my head was, of course, “New York, New York.” As the group fell silent in anticipation, I had no choice but to utter my best off-key rendition. I can guarantee that nobody wants to hear me sing. Poor, poor people.