Although it was quite rainy, our last two days in Tauranga couldn’t have been better. But this part of our journey really started a couple of months ago when Zach and I received a message from Carey, a clubfoot mom living in Mt. Maunganui, in the Tauranga area. Between then and now, we’ve exchanged countless messages. She helped us get most of our interviews with mothers in New Zealand and even set up a time to interview her son’s doctor. But her help didn’t stop there. She graciously invited us into her home for our final days. Carey and her entire family epitomize Kiwi hospitality.
We drove up to Carey’s house in the rain, but even so, the flower garden in the front yard caught my attention. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a somewhat unusual fascination with hydrangeas, but especially, periwinkle hydrangeas. Carey’s house was completely surrounded by periwinkle hydrangeas. I felt like I had hit the jackpot, and truly, we already had.
Carey’s 20 month old son is named Harley. Harley is a feisty little guy with a sense of humor. We quickly learned that his vice is Peppa Pig, a cartoon show for little kids that we don’t have in the US. All of Harley’s mischievousness subsided when Peppa Pig came on the computer screen. Zach and Harley snuggled up on the couch our first evening, enjoying a variety of YouTube clips of Peppa Pig. Harley would turn to Zach every few minutes and babble, “blabla blabla Peppa Pig?” and Zach would respond, “yes! Peppa Pig.” This conversation probably happened 20 times within the course of a half hour.
After enjoying a wonderful burger dinner with Carey and her family, and getting a great night’s sleep, we woke up and drove to the hospital to meet Dr. Dawson Muir, Harley’s doctor. We both really enjoyed our interview with Dr. Muir. He made some very poignant comments on the importance of treatment in the developing world and gave us more insight into Maori culture. He wrapped up our session by telling us an unbelievable story about an adult patient of his who requested his clubfoot be amputated because it was so painful. Dr. Muir agreed to the amputation, and when the man requested his amputated foot, Dr. Muir gave it to him. I should just stop there, because for most people, that’s horrifying enough. (Dr. Muir did explain that it’s not uncommon for people in New Zealand, especially Maori, to request their own human by-products from a medical procedure because they will bury it to connect them to the land.) After adding some spices and a touch of culinary finesse, he cooked it up and his pigs ate well that night.
When we got back to the Carey’s house, Harley was in the mood to play in the garden. Zach and I grabbed our cameras and started snapping. Harley created a new game, wherein he would crawl between my legs every time I ran after him. He also went around smelling the flowers. I think that Zach and I really got some great pictures of Harley playing around.
In the afternoon Carey took us to walk around Mt. Maunganui. The sun was finally coming out, and we were able to get great views of the Bay of Plenty. It was also nice to have a day that was active after we’d spent so many driving in the car. After our walk, we went to get some gelato. I think Harley enjoyed his gelato the most out of all of us. It ended up everywhere.
In the evening, Zach interviewed Carey and her husband Greg on their experience with clubfoot. I stayed with Harley and tried to keep him preoccupied, but every time he heard Carey or Greg’s voice in the other room, he would run, cry, and scream to go towards them. I quickly realized that I needed Peppa Pig to come to the rescue. Harley and I spent the rest of the interview watching the show, to the point that the battery died on the laptop. I was so thankful for Peppa Pig.
Carey, Harley, Greg, and Carey’s parents made our trip in New Zealand. Not only were they incredibly welcoming and hospitable, but without Carey’s enthusiasm and encouragement, we probably wouldn’t have made nearly as many connections as we did. It is really the people like Carey, and all of the mothers and fathers we’ve met with so far that have inspired this project. We will be forever grateful for all of the support and motivation we receive on a daily basis from the people we connect with from all over the world. So to everyone out there who is reading this last post on New Zealand, thank you for everything.