The evening started off with a small, but diverse group, gathered in the Garden. I remember Germans, Brits, Italians, Romanians, Estonians, Canadians, a couple of us US folks, Kiwis, and Austrailians. It was pretty laid back, folks just chatting, talking, sharing stories. I met Jon - the Tali Band guitar player, and G$, Joe and Sheyla all came later. The food was good - steaks, ribs & chicken all grilled out, with some salads, & ecouterments.
The Colonel - the ranking Kiwi gave a speech prior to eating, thanking everyone and inviting the guys to speak - which they politely declined. So we ate, continued to mill about and talk, and the beer started to flow. Of course, us USAF folks, few in number, all declined. Then, after most folks had finished eating, the Colonel again spoke, but this time, the guys decided to talk.
I don't recall his name, but the first Kiwi that spoke up began his talk with a Haka - which I had never seen before. A Haka is a traditional Maori war chant - the Maori being the indiginous people of New Zealand. It was very intense - the language was unfamiliar to me, but sounded pacific. There was loud chanting, rythymic, slapping of his thighs, and grunts - lots of hand gestrures and movement. It was very cool - to say the least. Very cool. When he finished - Mark spoke, thanking folks. Then Chris spoke - even gave Jon a Kiwi hat, as they had become pretty good friends (asked Jon, "Ok, where's mine?" - to much laughter and applause).
After Chris spoke, the first Kiwi did another, more animated, louder Haka. Wow. Very very cool. I was completely amazed.
I found out a bit more about it talking to Sheyla after he finished. She has been to New Zealand several times, and had seen a number of them, so she explained the signifigance, and history of the Haka a bit. I felt honored to have been witness to this.