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TAUKAKAPA: A MOUNT EVEREST EXPERIENCE
By Siosifa Pole in All Sorts
The writer compares the life of a Christian with climbing Mt Everest and the Tongan Taukakapa concept, to aim high in our personal endeavours.TAUKAKAPA: A MOUNT EVEREST EXPERIENCE
Our family was fortunate to have a time out from our busy life in the Parish ministry last year. I have to thank the members of the Parish for giving us that space to relax and to reflect on the importance of family. As usual, we always try to find somewhere in the country that can give us that space. We found it this time in the Waitaki Valley. We enjoyed our time in two places - the townships of Otematata and Omarama. The first four days we spent at Otematata and we spent the rest of our holiday at Omarama. Those eight days were full with exploration, discovery, excitement, endurance, and learning. Because we aimed to explore the natural surroundings of the Waitaki Valley we planned to travel each day a long distance on both tar-seal and gravel roads to various destinations. We travelled up the hills and down the valleys to those destinations. At one point we lost our way and ended up in an unknown place in the country, which reminded us about the nature exploration. However, we endured and at the end we found our destination. Our destination was a popular sight-seeing place, known in the Waitaki Valley as the Clay Cliffs.
Clay Cliffs is about 10 km west of Omarama. The Clay Cliffs are huge pinnacles and ridges with deep, narrow ravines separating them. The Clay Cliffs are made of layers of gravel and silt, deposited by rivers flowing from glaciers existing 1-2 million years ago. When we arrived there it was windy and raining. This meant that the way to the Clay Cliffs would be slippery - for it was muddy - but it didn't deter us! Everyone was determined to walk up to the Clay Cliffs. When we arrived, Naomi decided to climb up one of the lower pinnacles. The girls decided to climb too. I was standing worried about whether they would safely reach the top, which they did. As I was watching them determined to reach the top of this pinnacle, I asked myself whether I would climb. At the end I decided to climb too. When we descended it was dangerous in the same way as we climbed up. We arrived safely at the foot of this pinnacle and on our way home, Kakala said to me, "This is our Mount Everest Experience dad." I asked her, "Why do you think that this is our Mount Everest experience?" She answered, "Because it was so difficult and too dangerous." I responded to her, "You are right Kakala but it was exciting when we reached to the top." Kakala replied, "That's right Dad!"
This conversation perhaps reflects the kind of experiences that mountaineers and explorers have when they climb Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. No one ever reached to the summit of Mount Everest until Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did on the 29th of May 1953. It was a mixture of fear, exhaustion, and frustration but also of joy, excitement, and triumph. Striving to the summit of Mount Everest articulates the experiences of those who are aiming high in their personal endeavour. Aiming high is not an easy adventure. It is a combination of endurance, courage, vision, and determination. It is also involved frustration, uncertainty, risk but also joy, fulfilment, and self-belief as the experience of those who reach to the top of the pinnacle. As Madeleine Albright writes, "As you go along road in life, you will, if you aim high enough, also meet resistance....But no matter how tough the opposition may seem, have courage still and persevere."
Aiming high depicts the Tongan notion of 'taukakapa', literarily meaning 'stretch and touch'. It is a word that derives from picking of fruits from fruit trees like coconut, mango, orange, kuava, tava, and many other tropical fruit trees that grow in Tonga. It is a difficult task for climbers to pick the mature and ripe fruits from any fruit tree. In some instances, climbers have to climb to the highest point of a fruit trees or stretch out to the edge of a branch to pick a ripe mango or an orange fruit. When the climber is stretching out to pick the fruit either from the highest point - or from the edge - it is possible that he or she may fall down. It is not a nice feeling when you fall from a mango, coconut, or orange tree. I had that experience myself a few times, and I can tell you it is not nice! But that is the risk that anyone who wants the best fruits form fruit trees has to take. Taukakapa envisions determination and courage to strive for the best in the midst of challenges and obstacles. It insists on taking risks in order to achieve a better future and to make a positive contribution.
The notion of 'taukakapa' elaborates a vision which evokes perseverance, determination, self-belief, and hope. When someone does their best to achieve that vision, it can be the pinnacle of his/ her journey - and that's inspiring. We are in the beginning of Lent, a Christian Season that began on Ash Wednesday and will conclude at the sun-down on Holy Saturday. During Lent, as Christians, we remember the sacrificial life and ministry of Jesus as he began his journey from Galilee and ended up on a cross on Golgotha (Place of a Skull). It was not an easy journey, for he was tormented and mocked, but he endured right to the end. The end was not on the cross . Three days later his tomb was found empty. Christ was risen from the dead. During Lent, we are reminded of our own discipleship as we attempt to follow the footsteps of Christ. These footsteps of Christ in our lives ideally will bear the marks of justice, love, compassion, peace, and hope. We are called to follow Christ not only to the highest point, but also to the lowest point. The lowest point is the edge or the margin, where the most vulnerable people of our society live, namely the poor, the neglected, the homeless, and the widower. The Taukakapa concept encourages us not only to aim high in our personal endeavour, but also drives us to reach to the edge and the margin of our society with the love of Christ and touch them with compassion. If we can do this during Lent, this will be our Mount Everest experience.