It was a Friday afternoon at Te Rapa pools. Hanenepounamu had a swimming class at quarter past three. She pulled
out her new goggles and her brand new one-piece and felt overjoyed. When she got there at 2:30 , Hanenepounamu was excited. She ran around like Usain Bolt. She grinned and was full of energy.
“Everybody come to the pool!” Ms Angela shouted. She began the roll call.
“Ashley, Kayden, Tessa, Aiden, Han-ee-poo” she stuttered. Then she blushed. Some kids sniggered. Ms Angela asked abruptly,“ Is Ha-nee-whatever-it-is…you?’
“Who me?” Hanenepounamu replied, looking around uneasily.
“Yeah, do you mind if I call you Hannah? It’s just easier”.
“No,” Hanenepounamu answered shyly. Inside she thought,
Yeah, I do mind.
“Ok , Hannah”.
Hanenepounamu and her classmates started their lessons. Hanenepounamu splashed and dived.
“Well done , Hannah!
“Hah, why are Māori names so long?” one child asked.
“Yeah, why do they have to be so hard to pronounce?” said another.
In the car, on the way home, Hanenepounamu was sucking on a popsicle.
“How was your first swimming lesson?” asked Mum.
“It was good, but Ms Angela was calling me Hannah.”
“What?” asked Mum. "Why?"
“I don’t really know. Maybe she couldn’t say my name.”
“Does she know what your name means?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Well, she was your Tipuna’s mum. Hanene means to blow gently and pounamu is a beautiful, precious, strong greenstone.”
“Yeah, I am strong”.
At the next lesson, Hanenepounamu‘s mum approached the teacher.
“Ms Angela!" she said.
“Are you calling my daughter Hannah? She has a beautiful name and that is what she should be called”.
“Oh, yes, well…” stuttered the teacher.
“I don’t like you calling my daughter Hannah."
“But she said I could call her Hannah”.
“Did you name her?”
“Well, if you don’t know how to say Hanenepounamu, then I would like you to learn.”
“W-w-well...” Ms Angela was speechless.
Hanenepounamu’s mother recorded her saying Hanenepounamu’s name. Ms Angela tried to say Hanenepounamu. It wasn’t perfect but at least she tried.