Friday, December 6, 2013

AirBnB brings savings, surprises, community and ukulele teachers

If you are open to them, surprises and serendipity can take you on journeys that are truly lovely. (I guess they can be truly ugly too, but I ain't talkin' bout that right now, or probly eva; why waste my life's breath?).

So with the following testimonial, I doth tangentially protest the current New York furore about giant hotel chains having their profits stolen by little old ladies and their youthful counterparts.

Community linking

Many years ago I was involved in a trading scheme called LETS in which I traded veges and other things. Mostly, though, it helped me make new friends, and catalysed the formation of a band for a dozen years. LETS was an invaluable community connection for me offering numerous surprises and opportunities for serendipity. This was the mid 90s and whilst it helped me make local connections, I was also part of a global research and activist community, courtesy of a new thing called the internet. Remember, it wasn't the www then, just the internet. 

The ukulele is doing exactly the same thing for me now, not only locally, but globally.  

The www is sooooo developed, it shapes our lives, and shapes our exposure to surprises, serendipity and organised chaos. The peer reviewed social networks are especially niche life changers, whilst the main webbie bits are transforming corporate America (and hence the globe). For capitalism, think Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, iTunes, and on and on.

For peer networking think Facebook (!), Freecycle, Car Share schemes, ukulele music networks ...

... and AirBnB.

You gotta spare room? Rent it out to international passers-by – but only if you want, and when it is convenient. You'll meet nice people; or get reviews about people who may not be your type (and hence you can say no). The peer-review mechanism allows you to get a fairly good idea of what sort of people you are getting yourself into.

For instance, in relation to Seattle, our host said …

Wow....I loved these guys....Mark, his wife and a friend stayed for 1 night and they were lovely. Respectful, quiet, clean and best of all great people....thanks you three

And our brief review said… Utterly delightful host and place. relation to a defacto suburban, probably illegal sorta hostel thingie in Vancouver, we mechanically said … Good clean central secure place.

They responded in slightly more effusive kind (entirely unwarranted – we really didn't have a 'host', just a poorly paid (probably exploited) 'manager' – we barely met her) … Mark and Jane were delightful, polite and lovely guests. They left our room tidy.

(oh that I'd be tidy at home!)

It is a shame that NYC and other places have banned it.

Whitianga, New Zealand, has not …

I like to write my blogs almost immediately, but I didn't get the chance after this choice experience. We stayed in this rather functional tourist town on the Coromandel Peninsula just because we wanted to. It was pure speculation. Google Maps suggested it was a hilly location. Nope.  Dead flat with obligatory tsunami evacuation route warning signs here and there. We found the cheap accomm – Sarah and Mike's – a rather functional inelegant house with a hallway that would be great for children's winter cricket. Despite initial Jane-like comments (you only take me to the best places darling) we stumbled well.

Sarah (non…non…Saha…possibly a francais pronunciation, possibly unique), our French host, was in the garden. We said hello, midst the strawberry picking frenzy we immediately embarked upon. Moustachioed Mike (for Movember) was suitably hirsute and a bit formidably Maori looking. Both of them the most delightful people ...

... we said ...

Staying with Sarah and Mike was the quintessential Air BnB experience. Absolutely lovely. We connected really well socially with them and they are both impeccable hosts making us so welcome in their humble house. We would have loved to have stayed longer but had to keep moving.

... they said …  

It was great to have Mark and Jane staying at our place. We learnt a lot about ukulele, and loved their workshop at our school!

And so, conversations turned, ukes mutually presented, vocations swapped. Mike is the school Maori teacher, 1st year graduate, brimming with 1st year passion and idealism, work a mere leap over the back fence.

Mark: Do they have uke at your school? I wonder if they would be interested in us doing an impromptu workshop?

Mike: Wow! I'll check it out first thing tomorrow, I reckon they would like that!

So it happened, and what a delight.

Into the arms of a loving school

We leapt the back fence into their charming kiwi school, armed with ukes and music, across the field, quizzical eyes on us and them.

What we loved most at first sight was the barefootedness. Kids everywhere with no shoes, running, playing, rejoicing in their childhood. Of course some were shod too. In Australia they would be shot by the principal, and immediately told to be shod.

We were (metaphorically) embraced by the music teacher who herded 25 or so kids ranging from 8 to 15 years old into the music room. Ukes were pulled out of the immense classroom set (Makalas) and after 25 minutes of teaching we had four uke parts, one amazing lead singer and a complete version of Royals by Lorde. Jane and I teach well as a team.We do have some video evidence, but are awaiting school permission.

Mission successful, we head back across the field, only to be waylaid by an enthusiastic prep-teacher who herded 3 classes into her one room to hear the visitors play some songs. (WTF do we play???!!!! We've never done a kids' concert before!). We managed to pull out of our proverbials a terribly played one-chord version of Kookaburra sits (electric wire etc), Hey Soul Sister (I can't believe little kids in late 2013 are aware of this 2010 pop song. I mean, they were three or something! But they sang with gusto), and Pokarekare Ana.
Note the kid on left pulling a face. Not the one in yellow.
That last song was good as we felt that any Maori kids would probably feel affirmed that some white fellas from Orstralia thought their song good enough to sing properly! In turn the kids sang us a song (along with that infernal pre-recorded music that invariably accompanies children in place of the now rare musically literate primary school teacher who can actually wield a piano, guitar or ukulele). 

The teacher so loved us that she shared with us the following song advice – Wonky Donkey – a kiwi classic.  

After extricating ourselves from endless children's questions we left Whitianga, drove for 40 minutes to reach a place 2 km away and gave a workshop to a grand total of 3 adults – not the greatest highlight of our trip (though our host was, as ever, delightful). It was rather eclipsed by our uplifting AirBnB and school adventure.

Back home ...

A week later, back home in Oz, I did a bit of internet surfing which went something like this. iPad in hand, otherwise occupied, wikipedia Whitianga, ooohhh, a link to the school, click on link ... I wonder if we get a mention in their newsletter? Et voila!
Ukulele workshop and MBAS music opportunities
We had a wonderful opportunity drop into our lap this Wednesday with the impromptu visit of Jane and Mark from NSW. They are in New Zealand to attend the ukulele festival and asked their host Mike Bennett if there was a ukulele group at our school that they could offer a short workshop to. What they didn’t know is that we have 200 students in Y3-6 alone, all of whom are learning the ukulele, and many more in Y7 and above who also have the ukulele as part of their learning programmes. With a bit of quick thinking we were able to find 25 children from Y4-8 to join them for what was an amazing half hour where Jane and Mark taught us to play Lorde’s song “Royals” in three parts. The fact that our students were so quickly able to pull this together with the help of Jane and Mark is testament to the “give it a go” attitude of our students and the excellent foundational music skills we have been able to help them develop.
The music education on offer at our school is extraordinary. There are very few other public schools that offer the same depth and breadth for students that we do from such an early age. I am in the process of collating our itinerant music requests for 2014, and once again we already … etc … 
à bientôt et kia ora! Whitianga.
We'll be back.
Et merci AirBnB.