City Ambassadors Aareta Mohi (left) and Janice Fai come into their own in Te Marae o Hine – The Square. Photo / Judith Lacy
Who knew that playing swingball gives your abs such a workout! Or was it laughing at my own incompetence? Apparently, to hit a ball you have to be able to see it, but swiping at an imaginary object is always good for a laugh – from spectators and players alike.
The orange-clad city ambassadors are back in Te Marae o Hine – The Square and this year one of their roles is made clear through blackboard play.
New Ambassador Leona Revell drew the short blade of grass and was my teacher and adversary as we worked our way through the games that come out of the Unbox every day.
We start by throwing bags. I get spanked until I start using my brain instead of my laugh box and find Leona putting her bags down so they slide along the wood into the hole. It’s too late though and I lose 5-11.
Throwing hoops over road cones appeals to me, although I prefer being like an Aussie and calling them witch hats. Instead of a black cat or a broom, I have to listen to Leona again and follow her side throwing technique. Some spell cast makes me bounce my hoop off the first cone and land around the second. Woohoo, that was a move.
At swingball I turned into Mr Bean. After a lot of hitting and missing, Leona announced that we would be playing the friendly version. My game didn’t get any better.
Leona also made concessions for me with Jenga, rejecting the one-touch rule. Being more cerebral, I thought I might outperform my attempts to hit the ball, but sadly no. My cauldron ran out of knowledge and – confession warning – I deliberately quit the game. Leona, full of energy, asked if I wanted to move on to the next game, but I said I had to take notes.
This year, ambassadors are bringing their skills and knowledge to their services with everything from waiata, balloon animal making and juggling.
There is also croquet, giant Connect 4, volleyball, badminton and rackball.
My favorite pastime from last year is back – the sun loungers! I sit back and think not of England but of Palmy.
I look up. New ambassador Aareta Mohi dances and tries to make her colleague George Shiels groove or at least move. It’s funny to watch and thank goodness they don’t ask me to join. Leona joins in.
She tells me that being an ambassador is the most incredible job she has done. “It is an absolute pleasure to come to work.”
The work is about making connections and telling people how wonderful Palmy is.
“It creates a community that I want to be a part of. It’s a beautiful thing, it’s more than just playing games with people.”
That said, she’s a big fan of play – both for adults and children and for its mental health and physical benefits.
She is happy to hold egg and spoon races and build obstacle courses.
When the city ambassadors program was included in the 10-year plan last year, there was no general agreement around the council table. But the program is here now, so we might as well go out there and make the most of it.
And how about a challenge for mayor and aldermen to start the year right – an egg and spoon race against municipal officials. I’ll watch it from my recliner.