Bonjour à tous encore. On the 17th of April, in Wellington, I met the rest of the Young Ambassadors, the organisers of our trip and the task in front of us; to be able to tell the story of those who came before during the Great War. It was a great start and despite being the only male on the trip, I felt welcome by all. Being in the company of all the team has made me very excited to commence this journey.
Upon arriving in Wellington, we were given a lot of information that answered many questions, such as: what is our project about? What will happen with our French counterparts? Etc. The entire first part of the day was spoken in French, which I’m sure most of us were surprised we picked up on so much of. Following the information, we played a game in order to get to know each other better; this was interesting as the French understanding broke apart in some aspects with some of us, but it worked out in the end, with many laughs had in between.
Once we broke for lunch, which included delicious French standards such as cheese and baguettes, the ambassadors found ourselves engaging in heavily political discourse. This was a very promising aspect about the day, as it means for us that we are able to have discussions about a range of things when are all together, which will be good for the trip in terms of when we have to wait/travel on the trip, there won’t be as much boredom as there usually is. It’s also promising for the future, as we are able to discuss these topics now which carry and will carry heavy implications during our time.
Following lunch, we had further discussions about our projects and what they will involve. Then, we pulled out large maps of France, we spotted out the places we will visit and began to think about the places we would like to visit in order to gain more insight about our own ancestors. Learning more about the stories of the other ambassadors and their ancestors was very enlightening as it gave me more insight as to where I want to go with my project and what to expect on the trip.
My project will be following my ancestor Emere Kingi, who was in the Maori Pioneer Battalion during their time on the Western Front, as he was very young. I will inquire about how they must have felt in their role as tunnel diggers instead of fighters, and if they knew the importance of their jobs at the time. Also, I will inquire more about the Maori Batallion and their involvement in the Arras tunnels, as there is a side of my family that has Maori connections which I have been learning about recently and I believe learning about the past will be beneficial for my project.
I have also been inquiring about the stories of General Henri Giraud during the First World War through a connection I have with a descendant of his who goes lives in Dijon. This has given me an insight of the pride and passion which the French fought with when they were defending their own land. Through him being wounded and captured, to his escape and long road home, all he wanted was to fight for his country.
I am looking forward very much to meeting our French counterparts and learning more about their ancestors, as this will give me more material for my own research as well as a general understanding of how they view the war, 100 years on. I am excited about all the activities we are doing and a little anxious as I have to speak on behalf of the group on the National Army marae during the Powhiri, but all will be fine.
Would like to thank my school and my family for financially supporting me to go on this amazing journey, which is shaping up to be an incredible experience.
Alors, à bientot pour maintenant.