If you can imagine Popeye
with a bushy grey moustache, then you can imagine my LETS host and
New Zealand LETS tour organiser, John Grant. He was waiting for me
at the airport on this cool summer night wearing a light blue pair
of shorts and a light blue short-sleeved shirt. My plane had landed
on schedule at 20 minutes into the new day, so this was about the
earliest start to a day that we'd both ever had. And I was about to
have the first of many reality checks on my short visit to New Zealand.
There at John's feet was a sign bearing my name, JAMES TRAVIS! Obviously
I had a lot of work to do before I would make JAMES TARIS a household
Even though Wellington is
the capital city of New Zealand, it's only got a small population
of 300,000 people, so it didn't take long to get to John's home in
the outer suburb of Churton Park. John's hospitality was typically
"Would you like a cup of
tea?" he said. So this was the start of my new routine of having about
6 cups of tea every day, and the diet which had seen me lose 6 kilos
over a 6 week period suddenly flew out the door. From now on my weight
was at the mercy of my LETS hosts.
Fortunately, I slept like
a log till about 6am. After all, there was little chance of suffering
from jet lag, because thanks to daylight saving, there was only a
one hour time difference between Melbourne and Wellington.
Accompanying my cup of tea
for breakfast were a couple of hot buttered muffins with a generous
helping of strawberry jam and yogurt. All definite no-no's for my
diet. But heck, as soon as I'd hopped on the plane in Melbourne, my
thoughts had taken a different direction altogether. It would just
be LETS, LETS, LETS from now on. Gee those muffins were yummy!
John was still fine tuning
my travel agenda that morning. More emails had come in so he was frantically
re-arranging things to fit everyone into my tour. I'd asked to meet
with as many LETS groups as I could, and he was doing all he could
to satisfy my wishes. As I marked off all the towns I'd be visiting
on my map of New Zealand, I was pleased to see that I'd be travelling
through most of the North and South Islands, stopping off in about
16 towns. There was even a 3 day stay programmed for me in the popular
tourist town of Rotorua where the hot springs and geysers attract
international tourists all year round.
"But you've got to get used
to the smell of sulfur," John warned me. "Those geysers smell like
At 52, John was a very fit
man. Small in stature, but always on the go, he was the perfect example
of a workaholic. If it needed to be done, John would do it (or he'd
already done it!) And this was what I experienced all the time we
were together. And he was extremely versatile. Whether it be cooking
meals, cleaning house, repairing appliances or organising LETS events,
John was always precise and punctual. And as you can imagine, the
backbone of Wellington LETS.
And my presentation? It
was set for 7pm that night!
Wellington LETS And
My First Hongi
The Green Dollar office
was on the 6th floor of a tall building in the heart of Wellington.
The Mokai Kainga Maori Centre had been generous enough to make a room
available to Wellington LETS for only about a dollar a day!
We got to the meeting room
by 6pm. There were already some members there enjoying coffee and
cakes. And by 7pm, we had attracted an audience of 20 people � many
more than they'd had for quite a long time. Maybe these people were
James Taris fans. The printed sign on the A-frame proved otherwise,
advertising me as JAMES TARRAS!
Robert Te Whare, Chief Executive
of Mokai Kainga, was present as well. It is customary for maori men
to greet each other by touching noses. They don't rub noses like the
Eskimos, they simply tilt their heads so that their foreheads and
noses touch just for a second or two. Being Greek, I can relate to
this sort of welcoming, because it is commonly accepted for men from
Mediterranean countries to greet each other with a kiss on the cheeks.
This maori gesture, called a 'hongi', is pretty much the same.
So before I started my presentation,
I got Robert to come to the front of the room and had my first hongi.
My presentation went for
just over 2 hours, and was received well by everyone. As usual, lots
of questions were thrown at me, and all were answered to their satisfaction.
But the greatest compliment was when John told me about their newest
member. This man taught flute, mathematics and made baskets. And he'd
been coaxed up to the meeting by John Grant only minutes before it
started. He didn't know anything about LETS. He didn't know anything
about me. And he didn't know anyone at the meeting. But by the next
day he'd contacted John and volunteered to take on the roles of Treasurer
and Newsletter Editor!
article is taken from the ebook,
Land of the LETS Green
Taris web sites