Custom Search

ENG1WYL Story: Wai Pipiha

by Caroline Seawright
Year 1 Essay for Writing Your Life at LaTrobe University, Oct 2010.


Wai Pipiha

It started in Rotorua.

New Zealand is such a beautiful, green place. Off the Kapiti coast I watched, in awe, as the wind powerfully pulled wave upon ocean wave into the air in a violently swirling vortex and then dance the fully formed waterspout gracefully across the water's surface. It was so beautiful; the shining rays of the sun flashing from behind the dark, ominous cloud formations over the sea, and, up ahead, a bright rainbow set against a dark, matt grey sky. The waterspout had suddenly formed from a small wedge hanging below a thunderhead, to lengthen as it sinuously connected with the frothing brine below. It then whirled its way across the waves to the mainland. It stretched too far as it hit land and its connection was severed with the water below. The spout weakened and turned into nothing but a fine mist before it dissipated. It was breathtaking, something which will stay with me forever.

Another thing from that trip that will never leave me, figuratively speaking, is the dinner we had the night before my dad's birthday.

My folks were in windy Wellington for dad's work. He would not be home for his birthday, so I decided to visit for the weekend so I could wish him a happy birthday in person. That weekend we drove up from Wellington to Rotorua, hoping to see geothermal geysers and experience Maori culture.

It had been my decision to go to a hangi, a traditional Maori performance and dinner. As evening began to fall, a gaggle of bright and varied tourists milled around the carved tikis which guarded the entry to the Maori village. Screened by dark green ferns, there was nothing visible but a dark opening to whatever lay beyond. Warriors emerged from the darkness and the traditionally attired group performed the haka. It was their challenge to us before we could enter their village and partake of the evening feast.

I had not realised that it this night was to be the start of my own, personal challenge.

The buffet spread out before us had, so we learned, been cooked beneath the ground on hot rocks in the traditional way. Of the delectable delights provided that night, I recall most clearly the bowl of delicious mussels to which I had freely helped myself.

My dad, a tall, strong, and quite amiable man with grey hair, will not eat any seafood but prawns or fish-and-chips. He does not enjoy anything but plain, old-fashioned British fare. My mother, a short, dark haired, indomitable Scottish force of will, only eats fish. So it was I, alone, who ate the mussels.

It was dark when the stabbing pains hit me, jolting me out of my sleep. I incoherently dragged myself from my bed to the nearby bathroom. Sweat poured from me as I tried to fight the pain digging into my belly, yet in that cold room I was slowly freezing. Hours - or was it minutes? - passed, and the pain would not leave me. Nothing I could do could change it. My face became chalky white, my eyes dilated as I tried to focus on myself in the mirror. The cold wormed its way deeper into me, and the unbearable pain gnawed at me, forcing me to make my unsteady way back to my bed.

I did not make it.

I remember the world starting to go black at the edges, and feeling lighter than air. I stumbled, trying to turn the corner to my bed, and somehow managed to get a hold of a chair. Then gravity shifted. I could not understand it - the floor flew up at me!

The last thing I remember was my face hitting the carpet, and my universe went black.

Moments later, I uncomprehendingly looked up into the frowning, worried faces of my parents who had been awoken by the clatter. Questions were asked, full of loving concern, and helping arms took me to the bed.

"Do you want Nurofen?"
"Do you want some water?"
       "...Water, please."
"What's wrong?"
"Do you need to go to the bathroom?"
"How's your face?"
"Did the chair fall on you?"
"Here, put this cloth on your forehead."
"Are you feeling okay?"
"Do you need an ambulance?"
       "...No, I just want to go to bed."
"Is there a doctor open?"
"No, we have to wait until morning."

I brushed aside the questions, just wanting to sleep now that the pain had subsided.

I did see the local doctor the next day, and he concluded that it was food poisoning. It was probably the mussels. He gave me some tablets to help should I get any more pain, and sent me on my way with the bill.

Feeling quite normal again, we managed to visit Whakarewarewa Maori village, and saw the beautiful Pohutu and Prince of Wales Feathers geysers shooting majestically into the air. We all ate corn on the cob, cooked in the village's thermal cooking pool. That night we celebrated dad's birthday with a lovely dinner, and candles on his birthday pavlova!

Little did I foresee that, months later, I would be subjected to numerous tests for recurring gut pain. The pain was tolerable, nothing like the night in New Zealand. Much later my gastroenterologist concluded that I had fallen victim to fructose malabsorption, a gastric problem instigated by those bad mussels. It is a condition whereby most of my favourite foods were savagely and seemingly forever cut from my diet.

My life was turned upside down. I felt like the sea water off the coast of New Zealand. There I was, minding my own business when I was suddenly yanked up into the air and tossed around in all directions, whirling around like the waterspout.

Yet there is a rainbow amidst the chaos. The pot of gold at its end is the wealth of foods available to me. I am quite lucky that there are so many options and substitutes available today. I can find wheat-free bread and pizza - a delicious pleasure! It is amazing what you find when you look.

For my last birthday, my mum even presented me with my favourite meal - Beef Wellington. It is a gorgeously scrumptious pastry wrapped dish of eye fillet smothered in pâte, mushrooms and onions. Mum's fructose-free version came minus the onions, covered in wheat-free pastry. I liberally smothered it in gravy and truly enjoyed my delicious birthday meal.

The violent waterspout had reached land, and the storm passed leaving light droplets of rain. Every meal will be a challenge, but I believe I can rise to the occasion. My life had changed, but the sun has come out to shine on my new world.

Seawright, C , Wai Pipiha, Short Story, < kunoichi/themestream/ wai_pipiha.html>.

© Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2010 - present

If you enjoyed this page, please join my Egyptology & Archaeology Essays Mailing List.

Or contact me on Twitter:

comments powered by Disqus