Wednesday 21 February 2024

The passing of a Pasifika peoples' champion...


Today, I was shocked to hear of the passing of Fa'a`nānā Efeso Collins who was a NZ Samoan list MP (Member of Parliament) who had just delivered his maiden speech upon entering parliament only days ago. He had been at a charity event when he collapsed and was unable to be revived.

It was so sad to hear about this news, as he was a rising star of the Pasifika albeit SamoaNZ community who advocated long and hard for Pasifika peoples and those not in the upper echelons of NZ society. It is indeed a sad loss to our community and my heart goes out to his wife and daughters and family of whom he dearly loved.

My memories of Efeso (as I knew him then) go way back to when I first started teaching English in 1990, at a high school in Otara where he lived. It was his final year at high school and my first year in teacher. I may have written about this before but upon learning that I had a Master's degree, I remember that he told me that he too was going to get a Masters degree when he finished school and he did.

I remember meeting with him at a students' budget dinner, once at Auckland Uni, where I had just started my first doctorate degree around 1997. He was then the first Pasifika (Samoan) President of the Student Union that had been mainly headed by Europeans. It was there that he started making his mark with interest in politics.

When I first became a panel member for the Pasifika panel for Auckland Council for one term (3 years), around 2015, I met Efeso again but this time he was an Auckland Councillor who had won his seat alongside Alf Filipino who is a stalwart of South Auckland local government. Having Pasifika representation at this level was so important for voicing the needs of the Pasifika population.

Probably the last time I met with Efeso was a couple of years at an Pasifika ECE Early Childhood Education function where he was the guest speaker and delivered his speech with many jokes. I went up to him later and had a brief discussion. I told him that I had voted for him as a mayoral candidate but I didn't think that Auckland or NZ was ready yet for a person of colour.

I last remember seeing him sometime last year, at a round about in Papatoetoe, as he contested the Papatoetoe/Manukau seat but didn't win it. I tooted my car horn and he was surprised to see me showing my support of him.

Efeso came from humble roots and demonstrated to many that it was possible for a Pasifika person to succeed with a hard work ethic and humility that wasn't afraid to voice his opinions in support of the most vulnerable.

He certainly will be missed in the legacy that he left in his family, friends, and the many communities that he found himself in. It was truly an honour to have been there right at the start to see him as a young Christian SamoaNZ man grow and challenge the heart of Auckland as a peoples' champion.

He journey here on earth has ended but long may his legacy live to encourage other young and bold Samoan and Pasifika men and women that the world is your oyster if you work with integrity towards achieving your goals. Gone but not forgotten. Ia manuia lou malaga Fa'anānā Efeso. God's blessings be with you...

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Highly recommended "Next Goal Wins"...


Got the chance to finally watch the movie "Next Goal Wins" directed by NZ's critically acclaimed Director Taika Waititi. It's a movie that I've been anticipating to watch since last year but in all the busyness of the end of the year, I wasn't able to watch it until returning back from Samoa.

I wanted to take my children to watch it with me so we finally pooled our schedule and found some time during the holiday to watch it together and it was definitely worth the wait. In fact, I'd definitely highly recommend it as a family movie to watch together despite some of the stereotypes that it does portray.

After the movie we went to catch a bite to eat at the local Denny's and got to debrief about the movie and it got positive results from all four of us. Especially in its portrayal of American Samoa although I must say that there were scenes that didn't quite match the location i.e. some of those scenes looked like they were shot in Oahu, Hawaii (one of the airport scenes) and possibly NZ with some of the grassy soccer field scenes? ha ha - just too much green grass for Samoa with the trees in the background.

We were particularly happy with the positive positioning of fafafine i.e. Samoa's third gender which we thought was well portrayed but also sensitive in the sense of some of the difficulties that they face and try to overcome within the various worlds.

I'd definitely watch it again, and would like to thank Taika Waititi for bringing this story of American Samoa to the light. It is an underdog story but it also shows some of the sacrifices that individuals living on a small island make when wanting to play on an international field.

I'm so glad that I was able to take my family a few years ago to visit American Samoa in that they were able to see the differences with Upolu/Savaii or Samoa as it is now known. The American accent was one of the first differences that they became aware of and then the use of the American dollar although they are only a territory.

Hopefully, it's a movie that can encourage more of our diaspora (living outside of the motherland) Samoans to visit Samoa and/or American Samoa to see where their ancestors came from and to hear and see the Samoan language and culture in action. Much like this movie portrays...

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Waitangi Holiday 2024....


It was neat to wake up to a beautiful day in commemoration of our National Waitangi Day holiday as commemorated every 6th of February since the signing of our founding document of the Treaty of Waitangi or Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840.

It was neat to see that Google in its daily search engine graphic added its own illustration in celebration of this special day.

Last night, on a national news channel I watched as many converged onto Waitangi, a place that I had taken my children to on various occasions. It holds special significance to many but it is also a contentious place for some.

At present, in New Zealand, there is some controversial legislation that is being crafted by politicians, who are currently in power, that questions the principles of the founding document and look to rewrite them in some fashion, however, there are many who do not agree with any changes and this is being scrutinized at the moment.

The renaming of government departments in taking away their Māori name on signage etc. was also a contentious topic of this present government which seeks to do away with the indigenous language on government departmental signs and replace them with English only signs. 

A movement that makes no sense when these signs have been already established for over a decade and disestablishing them would only mean wasting funds that could have been used elsewhere. However, the deeper contention is that it displays racist agendas and rhetoric of recognizing only 1:3 of NZ's official languages i.e. English and not Māori.

There's an even more deeper sinister understanding in having read the book "Caste The Origins of Our Discontents" by Isabel Wilkerson (2020) which concurs that such acts are really of a caste system wanting to ensure that their worldviews are entrenched in legislation that favours them and takes little account of the indigenous peoples of the nation.

It's going to be interesting, going forward, as there were many protests and debate by tanga whenua (indigenous peoples as Māori) at Waitangi even before the day had begun. It reminds me that we have come a long way but there's still a long way to go in our national race relations...

Sunday 4 February 2024

Long weekend brunch at "Percy's"...


Having a great long Waitangi weekend (although Monday's not really counted because it's a normal day) but some are taking Monday off and extending the weekend to return back to work/school on Wednesday.

I started the weekend with a neat brunch with a good work colleague at a newer local restaurant called "Percy" which seems to be a purpose built restaurant right in the middle of a light industry zone.

So that the clientele were quite mixed with tradies, in their high vis' uniforms, who were dropping in for a quick bite to eat or take away. There were business people in their suits and ties. Mom's and couples with babies etc. It was quite an interesting place to be at and looking forward to taking my children out there too.

The scene outside was beautiful with a man-made lake surrounding the perimeter of the restaurant at one corner with some taking a scenic tour around the grounds after their meal. I quite liked the different ambience of the place with hardy outdoor furniture for those wanting to eat outside of the main restaurant.

Inside there were booth like seats with thick coordinated cushions, places for singles to eat and tables for groups and couples. I also liked a place for working individually on laptop compatible workspaces which makes this place pretty special.

All in all, a nice start to the long weekend even if it isn't really as long for some...

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Ice Skating in Summer...


Had a great long weekend (Auckland's Anniversary) and it started with trip with my three children to an Ice skating ring in the middle of summer!

It's fair to say that I was the bag watcher, book reader and enjoyed the lunch there with a hot dog combo that I'd not had in a long time.

It was neat to see them enjoying themselves as our youngest to getting ready to start her first year in high school at an inner city all girls school.

It'll definitely be a first for us as I have preferred co-ed schools which is a snap shot of the world around us. Funnily enough when I was at Uni, some peers assumed that I had attended a girls school like this one but it wasn't in my parents' wish list.

However, our youngest wanted to explore her options which lead her to starting tomorrow with a powhiri (Māori welcome ceremony) at the school for each new student and their whānau (family). So we'll be up early to get there with limited carparking and to wish her well in her new journey.

Therefore, the ice-skating was a way to break the ice before attending a new unfamiliar school and sharing good times with her Uni-bound elder siblings. Now with all of them based in Auckland city and out of our familiar suburbs.

A new year with new journeys. Wishing her well for 2024 and also all who read this blog. As I believe that the best is yet to come with my studies still continuing and hopefully ending by mid year. Definitely, never a dull moment...

Monday 29 January 2024

Happy Birthday to our middle child...


It was a great yesterday to have a birthday party for our middle child although it wasn't great day for a beach party with the constant rain. 

We instead opted to have a party at home complete with BBQ and then she was able to go with family and friends to a Kareoke bar for an evening of singing and dancing.

Here's her 19th birthday cake from our fave local cake shop which is the "Cheesecake shop". It was a chocolate torte with chocolate icing and great with ice cream too.

I'm also looking forward to her first year at Uni in having taken a gap year last year. Although she did do a course at MIT Manukau Institute of Technology but it wasn't really what she was really interested in doing.

Now she'll be able to get the full Uni experience with more confidence and understanding in having had other experiences instead of going straight to Uni.

It's definitely something that I encourage with my family members in encouraging the idea of lifelong learning and reading or watching movies that help us to understand the ways that other people live or think.

Looking forward to an encouraging year for her with so much to look forward to and to learn. The world is her oyster as I start teaching again for a new year with new students. I'll be encouraging and wishing the same for them as well...

Friday 26 January 2024

Happy Birthday to my lil' artist sis Maria...


This is a shout out to my lil' artist sis, Maria, who had her birthday this week. It's a little belated as I've been busy returning to work and juggling my usual hectic schedule but it was great to take time out with family to celebrate her birthday at a local family restaurant which made it real special with no dishes afterwards to clear.

I also wanted to showcase a real special art piece/s that she not only made for me but she also designed for four other women in my family including my mom and daughters.

In each of the pics that she made for us, she artisticly narrated symbols of what each of us meant for her and also wrote a letter that explained each of the symbols which was pretty special.

Some of the symbols that she has on mine include: Moana which is my fave Disney movie of all time, the peacock on top is symbolic of the tatoo on the hand of my late dad who was very important in my life, the paint brushes are of me enjoying painting and the tropical frangipani flowers are also a favourite of me and my mom.

She also added the central cross which is important for me as a Christian woman in my faith journey and the eagle for which she sees me as a leader in my family now with my late dad's passing the leadership onto me. The beautiful tropical sunset is another fave that I have and the compass of being able to support many in their life's journey as a teacher.

It's such a beautiful reminder to me of the artistic skills that she has as an incredible artist and I'm hoping to do more collaborative projects with her in illustrating more books as she's completed a few book covers for me in the past.

Here's wishing a Happy Birthday to my lil' sis', Maria, and wishing her the very best for a future that lies ahead. I know that her artistic skills are a gift and a talent that we have been blessed to have been privileged to receive these special personal artistic and symbolic narratives...

Tuesday 23 January 2024

"Wish" Disney's latest animated movie...

 Got to watch the movie "Wish" with my two elder children who had wanted to watch the latest Disney animated movie. I got there a bit late as I had ordered 3 bubble tea flavours that took a little longer than I anticipated but the taste was worth the delay.

I hadn't been quite sure what to expect as I had watched the official movie trailer and couldn't quite make out the storyline but I did find it interesting that it wasn't a movie that I could easily anticipate. The cast of characters were quite diverse from the onset and the main character I think was portrayed as African American by her hair.

No spoiler alerts except to say that it was a little different from the storylines that I have been accustomed to with Disney productions and perhaps that's why it hasn't featured as strongly as other previous movies like "Encanto", "Frozen" and "Moana" with songs that perhaps aren't as memorable too.

The protagonist character reminded me of a male "Maleficient" from the "Snow White" movie but didn't quite play out as well but again I must say that it was a very different ending which plays out differently from what we're accustomed to.

So I'll leave it there. A great time to spend with loved ones but not a movie that I could highly recommend except to say that it may not be quite what you would expect but sometimes that's a good thing as my entourage enjoyed it a lot...

Sunday 21 January 2024

Great to be back in NZ...


It's great to be back in NZ and received the seminal book called "Caste The origins of Our Discontents" by Isabel Wilkerson (2020). I had ordered it online before leaving for Samoa as I wanted to read it before anticipating the watching of the movie which I think it hitting NZ theatres soon early this year.

It's a very difficult read for me and I find myself putting it down and walking away for sometime to let it all sink in. It definitely has changed the way that I see historical accounts of the world as I once understood it. I'm also taking my time with reading this work as it's hard hitting and challenges me in ways that have to consider deeply as a teacher.

In anticipation of watching Isabel Wilkerson's book turned into a movie, I am so glad that they were able to acquire our NZ's, Maori artist Stan Walker, to sing such a haunting song that I think sums up the beauty and horror of the subjects that she speaks about in her book.

No spoiler alerts yet, as I think one needs to take the time to read it. It reads like a dissertation (Ph.D. non-fictional work) yet accessible for many. However, it is definitely not an easy read, in fact my eldest gave me a thick almost 400 page Post-grad romance novel that I was able to finish in around 24 hours as a way of light hearted reading as opposed to the heavy topics that Wilkerson's book deals with.

From my own perspective, it's hard to fathom the atrocities that have happened over the ages and the apparent evil that some cultures and peoples have lived through as both oppressors and victims. Her book was the Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and highly recommended by many critics, writers, celebrities etc.

I'm currently about a third of the way through the book and I'm not rushing it. I think one needs to ponder on much of what she has said. I think it also makes me reconsider what I'll be teaching and will be taking my children to watch the movie when it comes out. I'll be interested to know the angle that the movie will take in telling her stories...

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Back from Samoa 2024...


Back from Samoa and finally got over the jetlag of having a night flight over to NZ and arriving in the early morning.

This pic was one of the last taken at the beach outside our home. My youngest found little spring waters that many villages and families have developed into fresh water pools.

It was something that my late father had wanted to develop for our family so it is definitely something that we're looking in to develop for the future.

It was a little sad to leave our second home but neat to be back with our family with upcoming birthdays to plan and also school and Uni to get ready for in the next month. It was also great to be there with my elder brother and sister-in-law.

Already looking forward to our next trip overseas in May and many more adventures to come...

Thursday 11 January 2024

"Love bears" series painting in Samoa...


This particular trip to Samoa has been eventful with so much happening in our "neck of the woods" at Niuapapa, in the village of Fasitoo-uta.

I did, however, manage to find an old painting that I had painted but then left behind in Samoa before the COVID-19 international lockdowns. I've since placed it on our wall between two louvre windows with a neat lei.

Tomorrow it's my elder brother's significant birthday as he had travelled here together with my sister-in-law and we have a few special surprises for him with a birthday cake, birthday meals i.e. breakfast /  lunch / dinner, and presents as a day of celebration. We're also looking forward to seeing if he'll take some time out of his busy schedule to celebrate as he's been busy with his painting and maintenance work.

Because he lives in Sydney, Australia, this is probably one of the first birthdays that we have spent together as a family celebrating his birthday in a long time and we want to make it special for him, although he doesn't want any fuss etc.

In Samoa, there's so much variety of foods for him but his absolute favourites we've decided to include such as oka (fresh raw fish in coconut cream), some pisupo (corned beef from NZ), and some tasty additions that we're going to pick up from Pinati's which is a favourite Samoa food restaurant in Apia. Unfortunately, there's no KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) which is another one of his favourite (as was our late dad's as well).

We plan to spend it at our home, next to the ocean, as my dearest brother decided to bring his maintenance handy man tools and paint to Samoa to spruce up the family house and he's definitely made a wonder of a difference with his painting and maintenance work on the house.

We've managed to fix some leaks in the bathrooms and kitchen, interior painting with some exterior painting planned. Some tiling needing to be sorted with exterior grills on windows. Security is an important part of the plan as with living overseas, it can definitely be a problem.

Monday 8 January 2024

Bringing back the u'a tree to our home in Samoa...


One of the neat things upon our return to Samoa was seeing the broadleaf paper mulberry tree for making siapo or tapa cloth now growing in our front garden. We had planted it last July when we were last here having found it in an outer village (July 2023 blogpost).

There were three plants that we planted and we took a couple to the neighbours to plant for safe keeping. However, when we returned our neighbour's plant did not survive in having been mowed along with the other vegetation that her family member unwittingly removed.

Ours, on the other hand, is an amazing feat as I had never seen it before and to now have it growing in our garden is a blessing. This is quite special as I've been working on a couple of books to launch fairly soon having had a break in 2023 from self-publishing and instead concentrating on my doctoral studies.

One of the books is based on an ancient story that tells of the origins of the siapo with the u'a or the paper mulberry tree. It's an interesting story because it talks of the relationship between the u'a and another creeper vine or plant called the silato or Samoan nettle.

The u'a plant is almost not grown in many of the villages as fewer people make siapo in Samoa and therefore do not plant them. When I went looking for a plant, I had to go to a family who were selling them locally to ask if they knew of anyone who had plants and was directed to a family who lived inland (or uta) to find such a plant. The family were very accommodating and let me take photos and some baby plants to take root. I also took the details of the kind lady to add to the credits of the book.

Wow! this is so amazing for me to be able to bring the u'a tree back to our family home in the village of Fasito'o-uta and to now look for more plants to grow that are associated with the original authentic painting of the Samoan siapo...

Sunday 7 January 2024

"Return to Paradise Resort & Spa" Lefaga legacy...


One of our fave places to visit when in Samoa is our Aunty & Uncles (with co-owners) "Return to Paradise Resort and Spa" in Lefaga.

It's about a 35 - 45 minute drive from where we live, depending on the weather and traffic and it's a nice place to relax and chill at.

We were invited, last night, by my Aunty Afamasaga Ramona, guardian, matriarch and co-owner of the resort, to have a pre-birthday celebration there for our brother's 60th birthday. It was so neat to relax there after attending my first extended Tauau family meeting.

We had a lovely buffet dinner that included yummy fried fish, curry, salads, chow mein, rice, fried chicken etc.  with desserts that were neat and included fruit salads and chocolate mousse in 'shot' glasses with brownies etc.

Afterwards, we were entertained by the resident band of male staff who also doubled as musicians, singers and dancers. Their harmonies were spectacular and we sang along to their renditions of a lot of different English covers and Samoan songs too.

The dancing was also spectacular with their Samoan slap dances, freestyles and bringing up unsuspecting guests to the dance floor. At the end of the evening the entertainment was complete with a taualuga or traditional Samoan dance by a female with everyone dancing and celebrating behind her.

All in all, we had an enjoyable evening and then we drove back to our Fasitoo-uta home with lots of laughs and glad to retire into the evening. It's definitely a resort that I would recommend for the weary traveller wanting a chillaxing time and even for destination weddings or family reunions of which I hope we will be having 2024/2025.

For more information, please check out their informative website on: ...