No Worries, Mate
Jake Bullock stared in embarrassed horror at the sign BOLLOCKS being held aloft by a tall man with skin the color of a good café latte—something Jake felt in dire need of. People sniggered as they walked past the placard held so high and so proudly in the air it looked positively jaunty. After traveling for God knows how many hours, the last thing Jake had was a sense of humor.
Walking over to the man, Jake looked up. “Are you from the Department of Conservation?”
“Yep, Kia ora, mate. Welcome to Aotearoa—land of the long white cloud.” The guy grinned, showing perfectly straight white teeth.
“I thought I was in New Zealand.” Jake looked around. He saw flags and silver ferns, just as he’d expected.
“This is New Zealand—but it’s also known as Aotearoa. My name is Rangi Hapakuku. You must be Jake Bollock.” He finally put the sign down and held his large hand out.
Accepting the hand, Jake jerked back when the guy drew close to his face. Rangi tapped his nose to Jake’s once, then paused for a split second before he went in again. Jake could feel heat rising on his cheeks. He should have remembered this was a customary greeting. Holding his breath, he rubbed noses with the man. It only lasted a few seconds, and Jake had to admit it wasn’t as intrusive as he thought it would be. Rangi peered behind Jake, as though looking for something.
“Oh, my travel partner couldn’t make it. She contracted chicken pox from her granddaughter,” Jake said, thinking it was the reason why the sign had an ‘s’ tagged on the end. “I’m Jake Bullock. That’s Bull…ock. Not Bollock!”
“Well, no worries, mate. It’s better there’s only the two of us. You have been given a great honor to visit our island.” He started to take the camera off Jake’s shoulder.
“Please, I’ll carry it.” Jake grabbed hold of the straps and held tightly onto his camera, his livelihood. Hell, truth be told, it was like an extension of his arm. Rangi might as well have asked him to detach his hand.
“No worries, mate! We best get a move on if we want to make it to the island before dark.”