Viva Las Vegas: Te Aitanga a Pokai Whenua 1

It has been a significant length of time since my last blog. There’s a two reasonable excuses: I was finishing off my PG Dip (Theology); and (more relevant) very focused on getting to the USA with my daughter and her class.

Our tamariki attend Te Kura Kōkiri, a kura kaupapa Māori (that’s a an Māori immersion school founded on Te Aho Matua). Last year, my eldest daughter’s class conceived of the idea to go the USA to build relationships with the Navajo and Hopi Nations as a distant indigenous community who share many of our experiences of loss and oppression, and also to explore the world they will enter as young people by going to Google and Stanford University.

Their pouako and we as parents supported them, and expected them to take a very as active role in the fundraising. Our kura supported the parts that pertain to the education costs, but other than that we raised the rest. There were ups and downs, but we got here! For my daughter and I, this was in large part due to the support of our friends and family. He mihi kore mutunga ki a koutou.

This blog is a travel account of reflections rather than a blow by blow account.

I am writing this over a coffee in Oasis RV Resort in Las Vegas. I am driving a huge RV. I didn’t hit anyone or anything driving it on the right. Even writing those three sentences feels weird.

We had a 12 hour layover in Honolulu on our way to Las Vegas. Hawaii itself is picturesque. We spent some time at Waikiki, and the beach is beautiful, the water is is warm and is turquoise blue as far as the eye can see. Given the opportunity, I would go back to Kaua’i, an island further north, but who could really complain? We also spent some time in Ala Moana, a horrific temple to human greed and largesse where I got a very nice new hawaiian shirt and a pair of bright orange sunglasses.

Two things stood out to me in our brief time in Honolulu. The first was the abject poverty on display. We saw dozens of homeless on the streets and in the parks. In one sense, there is nothing remarkable about that in a large city anymore. But it also speaks to the breaking of our social contract; our homeless tell us that we are fundamentally failing to look after everyone. Homelessness is not just about bad choices; it is about a society where homelessness becomes the best choice a person is capable of making amongst the choices on offer. Like everywhere else, it struck me that residents didn’t see their homeless. On the beach, right next to a man on his hammock asleep with his life’s possessions underneath him, a group of 25 were doing a yoga class. The instructor was two metres from the man.

Secondly, the infrastructure is struggling. Everywhere we went, from the airport to the city, there were the odd sign of a city under stress: out of order signs, crumbling paths and roads, blocked pipes. Honolulu seems to me to be struggling under the extremes of its environment, the size of the population and the capacity to pay for its infrastructure. Bar the environment perhaps, this is the story of every city in every country; we don’t have a good way to pay for our public services. We all want water, sewerage, power, shelter. But then we also want maincured parks, clean and safe public transport, an ass kicking police force and so on. We can’t afford the life we have become accustomed to.

We flew on to Las Vegas. We had a few hours to kill, so we went to the city, dropped our bags at the MGM Grand, and walked the Las Vegas Strip. It was 8am in the morning, and it was abuzz with people and activity. All along the Strip people are calling for your attention, wanting to sell you a package, a water, a chance to hold a monkey, a show, anything you could dream of. They talk at 1,000 words a minute, and the word ‘kiwi, kiwi!’ followed our accent as wandered past. Every photo, every conversation came with expectation of a tip; “just $110, $20, oh, a $1? What about another $1, oh that’s great, that’s great!” Las Vegas is visceral in the true meaning of the word: you feel it trying to get into every part of you.

There is no taboo here; just a new opportunity waiting for a price to be put on it. I was in the arcade in New York New York with my group, all young women. A middle aged woman running the arcade asked what I was there for, I said a school trip. She asked if I was with my wife, I said ‘no,’ other parents and the kids. She offered me an entry to a strip dance extavaganza for after the kids went to bed given I was here on my own.

After havin spent half a day on the Strip I think I am in love with Las Vegas and the people of the Strip. They are the most honest people in the world because everything they say is a lie and a fantasy. They live on the facade of the world and have rejected depth over the intense beauty of the experience of the moment. It’s not my choice, but I can see the allure.

Viva Las Vegas turnin’ day into nighttime
Turnin’ night into daytime
If you see it once
You’ll never be the same again.

Viva Las Vegas.

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One thought on “Viva Las Vegas: Te Aitanga a Pokai Whenua 1

  1. “A middle aged woman running the arcade asked what I was there for, I said a school trip. She asked if I was with my wife, I said ‘no,’ other parents and the kids. She offered me an entry to a strip dance extavaganza for after the kids went to bed given I was here on my own.”

    Similar thing happened to me when I went to Tijuana with my sister for her birthday. “Titty bar! Titty bar!” the man cried from two feet away. “Dude, this is my sister” I said. He paused. “She gets a free Corona.”

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