I can’t say the drive from Palmerston North to Tauranga was all that easy – it was a solid five hour haul – but our stop at Lake Taupo made the whole trip much more manageable. Truthfully, the time flew by. This brings us to Tauranga, a port city nestled along the Bay of Plenty on the northwest of the island.
We arrived in Tauranga on Tuesday (December 3rd) and before we even had a chance to get settled, something momentous happened: Hannah found a gluten-free store. An entire store. Gluten. Free. I knew better than to disobey her roar of “PULL OVER!” and we ended up walking out with gluten-free bread (which, I’ll admit, was pretty good) and a gluten-free ice cream sandwich, along with bags of cookies. The day was starting off well.
We checked into our guesthouse, which was a mix between a hostel and a B&B. Our first adventure commenced as soon as our bags were unpacked and we set out to find dinner… on foot. We wound up walking in the wrong direction for such a long time that we retraced our steps, making it back to the guesthouse and driving to The Strand, a neat commercial strip lining the Bay. We enjoyed a meal of dim sum in a restaurant that, when we asked for a receipt, simply gave us a sheet of blank paper with the cost of our meal and the word ‘food’ written on it.
The next day was a whirlwind and left us tired and incredibly touched by the folks with whom we met. We started in Whakamarama, just a few minutes out of the city. We met with Lana and her son, Dustin, who decided that I was a human trampoline. Using the coffee table as a launch pad, he spent the morning hurtling into my arms and testing to see if I could keep up when he would turn and leap in another direction. Before noon, though, he was tuckered out and fell asleep on my shoulder as Hannah and I interviewed his mother.
Lana is incredibly attentive and she’s definitely got her hands full with Dustin, who never hesitates to climb on anything taller than himself. She’s incredibly globally conscious: Hannah and I were struck by her motivation to look beyond her son’s treatment and inspect the condition and treatment of clubfoot internationally. Lana spends a lot of her efforts working online in the clubfoot community to help mothers connect via social media. There’s no question that she’s added a great deal to the clubfoot conversation and soothed parents as they take to the Internet to learn more about the condition their infant child might or does have. Talking to Lana was a nice moment as we explored clubfoot treatment on a deeper level and connected to someone who has taken her son’s experience and used it as a jumping off point for her own meaningful contribution to the world.
After a quick lunch break, we were off to Papamoa, another area along the Bay just a few minutes from central Tauranga. We met up with Rachel, mother of Xavier and Anastasia, aged 6 and 9, respectively. Because of their fascination with our camera gear and their general sense of giddiness and energy, we decided to interview the kids together. They were superbly funny and genuine, a combination that made for excellent footage. We were really pleased with how it played out, even the funny moments when the kids would whisper in each other’s ears, apparently unaware that they were still clipped in to our microphones.
As Hannah recorded some hilarious footage of the pair dancing, singing, and tumbling around on a bean bag, I spoke with Rachel about her clubfoot journey. Xavier was born with unilateral clubfoot and has a bone issue in his other foot. He was treated surgically, much like myself, and exhibits some of the same sensitivity to impact that I experience. It was tough seeing him so active, knowing that he may experience some pain later in his life due to the surgical nature of his treatment, but I am confident that Rachel will make sure he continues to receive quality care and that his rambunctious spirit will push him forward.
We ended our time in Papamoa only after a game of tag and a contest between the kids on who could knock me to the ground first. Since they teamed up against me, I guess it was a tie.