Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sydney night life - loud and proud!

Hard to believe that we're finally here in Sydney! in fact I'm at Pitt Street using their free Wifi with the loud 'live' night life outside. Wow! are these Aussies loud! thought to come out to blog as everyone in my family has turned in for the night and taking it easy after a long busy week.

And so thankful yesterday for the Book Launch of our 2nd limited edition book "Mount Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula". I have a lot of people to ask God to bless for their amazing support starting with the centre manager who agreed to the idea and did a wonderful job of arranging the day,and thankfully the Board agreed. 

The two supervisors who with the assistance of the other amazing faiaoga made it really special with the children's performances and loved seeing our little one enjoying herself with in learning the sasa, a neat Samoan solo (poem), a fan dance, etc. so beautiful to witness.

Then we had my 'birth church' minister bless the book followed by Samoan protocol speeches with my husband MC'ing the day and the children waiting ever so patiently to eat which we did with a wonderful umu (earth oven using hot rocks) by the young men of the church. It was such a blessing to see our second book out just 2 months after we launched the first.

Have started on working on a couple of writing projects for children's books but also considering to start publishing the different genre that I've been writing i.e. performance plays as there are so many different genre and stories to tell.

Again, I feel so blessed to be here in celebration and thankful of so many things and also checking out book promoting here in Sydney too. With a lot of faith, you never know what can happen! ...

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Happy Birthdays, Book Reading and Sydney travels

Yesterday was a special day with my dad and nephew both sharing their birthday in Melbourne with my mum and brother's family.

I also had the privilege of visiting a Mangere school, Favona Rd Primary, where they were celebrating Samoan language week by asking me to read to the Samoan and other interested students and a Samoan parent shared about customs and protocols of the faaSamoa.

I read "Sina and the Tuna" and had one interesting question from a student who asked "how did the Tuna turn into a coconut?" as one who has been a teacher/parent and has been asked many questions such as these I carefully answered, "it's like how in Beauty and the Beast, the Beast turns into a prince at the end well, that's the same with the tuna, it's about using your imagination and in those days people really believed that it happened. Not sure that that was the best way of answering the question but he seemed satisfied with the answer.

They also gifted me with some amazing gifts: the beautiful flowers, the nice necklace and matching small sei and an $ envelope (in the pic above at my work office) which was so humbling and altogether unexpected and I want to thank Judy, the teachers at the school and their privilege of being able to share this story with the next generation. May God continue to bless children and teachers wherever I get to share these stories with them.

Tomorrow my family is also flying out to Sydney for a week for birthday celebrations for my beloved, to meet family and friends living in Sydney and to also check out book promotion across the Tasman. If you would like to make contact and arrange for an author reading at a local school please message me and we can arrange the details etc.

Sydney, here we come...

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

2nd Book launch for "Mt Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula"

Getting excited in launching our second contribution "Mount Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula" with the bilingual Samoan version translated by Fritz (my husband) as "O le mauga o Vaea ma Loimata o Apa'ula".

Already I've given a sneak preview to 'Rise Up Academy' in a reading there during Samoan language week and also enjoyed sharing my first book "Sina and the Tuna" in two short readings at my youngest daughter's Samoan pre-school and also at a Maori bilingual pre-school as well.

I've also been asked to address a school assembly as a NZ Samoan writer during this Samoan language week and it makes me smile as have come a long way since only dreaming about being a writer for so long.

So on Friday we are launching this interesting but very sad story about the origins of the name of Mt Vaea, a mountain which has much significance to me and my family members. The connections being that it was a story that fascinated me when Aeau Taulupoo Lafaialii first shared it with me back in 1989 and then I decided to climb it which brought about an adventure all of it's own and then again in 2009 climbed with my 4 and 6 year old children with their cousin, yet another adventure.

For Fritz, it was about running up Mount Vaea for his distance training as a long distance runner at high school and then cooling off in the pool of 'Loimata o Apa'ula' afterwards; and for my father it was about working at Robert Louis Stevenson's former house which was in the 1950s, the last NZ High Commission before Samoa became Independent in 1962. My dad worked in running general errands and remembers how the Mount towered in the background but 'Loimata o Apa'ula' was only for the guests to bathe in.

The launch will be at my youngest's Samoan pre-school in Mangere, this Friday, and please RSVP via PM if you would like to attend. Another neat blessing that I would like to share with the next generations...

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Samoan language week - Author book readings

Talofa lava,
It's been neat to be blessed with the opportunity to read and share stories with the next generation and so far during Samoan language week was gifted with the opportunity to read to children at 'Rise Up Academy' with a sneak preview of our book "Mount Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula" which will be launched at the end of the week (with more details to come).

What was especially neat was that in sharing with a range of ages I was able to see what interested them as well as reading the story and 'ad libbing' (i.e. adding my own bits) to help connect the story with each audience. It was also neat to see how many children had visited Samoa but none had heard of this particular story as such stories have not often been seen as having any significance but I hope to begin to change that tide with our NZ born Pasifika children.

I think it a privilege that in sharing this story with future Pasifika leaders or any students of schools that I will attend and speak or read at, that they will consider heritage stories as being part and parcel of the identities that they partake in. Just as many children/adults consider Fairy tales or Disney Princess stories as being essential in the learning process.

It must say that it has been heartening to see that NUS the National University of Samoa now has a course of study in which undergraduate students go out into the field and like me (almost 30 years later) are now collecting ancient stories to document in different villages.

And for me I look forward to continuing to share many more stories to come.
Ia Manuia.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Samoan language week: 24 - 30 May

"Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao" Serve now for a better tomorrow. It has been a neat reminder, this week, to treasure my heritage language. The Samoan language is the second most spoken language in Auckland/Manukau (after English) and the third most spoken language in New Zealand (after English and Maori).

I was pre-schooled by my mother with Samoan as my first language but upon starting school, I was taught to write, read and think in English. Those were the days of cultural assimilation and everyone was taught to think that English culture and language was superior than any other. Things have definitely changed since the 20th century and before meaning that since 2000 there has been more recognition of other languages and cultures as being all important.

So now I have a child in a Samoan Aoga Fa'ata'ita'i (pre-school). There are schools that teach Samoan bilingual classes from Year 1 all the way through to taking NCEA (National Certificate in Educational Achievement) from Years 9 - 13. In University you can also complete degrees with Samoan as a major.

Wow! things have certainly changed in just my lifetime. Check out your local libraries, schools, churches and community organisations. There's lots happening...

Friday, 22 May 2015

2nd anticipated Book launch

 Looking forward to launching our 2nd book sometime in the next two weeks just finalising details with the book at the printers. The book is called "Mount Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula" or in Samoan "O le Mauga o Vaea ma Loimata o Apa'ula". Hopefully it will coincide with celebrating Samoan language week next week and although it is a somewhat sad story, there are some neat memories that I have when collecting this particular story which I will discuss around the launching.
If you visit Samoa or have visited Samoa, you might see a large mountain which is in the background when approaching Apia township, that particular mountain is called Mt Vaea located in the village of Vailima and some may know of this story although as I often say, this is only but one version of many versions of the origin of the name of this mountain.
The significance of this particular mountain is known around the world as the last resting place of the well known Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson as he was buried on the mountain in 1894. His literature is still taught around the world in many universities as a novelist, poet and travel writer etc. of his time.
When I first climbed it in 1989 as a part of my Masters thesis fieldwork, a group of us girls (at the time) climbed it off the beaten track and straight up the mountain which was quite scary at times as it often seemed like a vertical climb and just hanging on to vegetation roots to keep from falling down. There was a track that the boys took but someone had said that this might be a faster route and boy were they wrong. It took us much longer and we got to the top of the mountain looking like we'd been scrambling through mud as it had also rained whilst we climbed (ha ha).
I returned with my children in 2009 for my dad's birthday celebrations and for the Samoan 50th Jubilee of independence and took my children up the mountain track i.e. my 4 year old, my 6 year old and a cousin. It was hot and we hadn't taken any water but this time stayed on the track. It was neat to take them to see the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson at the near apex of the mountain.
I know that many Samoans have not climbed the mountain or see it as something to do but many tourists from overseas go to visit the site. Even in my /mihi (Maori language introduction) I often refer to Vaea as my mauga or mythical mountain as it has special significance to me as where my parents villages are there aren't even mountain ranges nearby and I have written a poem which will be in my first poetry collection to be published later in the year on climbing Mt Vaea.
So if you ever get the chance to visit Samoa and want to climb a mountain, you might want to consider giving mount Vaea a try...

Monday, 18 May 2015

Brother Love - Ruketekete Te Mamae (The Roimata Song) Go TEAM Beau!

Just in case you are watching NZ's X Factor, I thought last night was so neat for both Pasifika and South Auckland finalists Nyssa and Beau. Don't get me wrong, the band was good but you can get that kind of performance anywhere in the world but these two took the contest to a whole other level.

 I've posted 'The Roimata song' for those of you who just haven't been acquainted with the original or with a range of Pasifika music. I was brought up in a local PIC Pacific Islanders (Presbyterian) church where we learnt to have an appreciation for different cultures be it Cook Islanders, Samoan and Niue cultures shared through the English language. I got to learn to dance to Cook Island drum beats to eat Niue delicacies and to embrace my Samoan culture (although sometimes reluctant).

In being exposed to a range of Pasifika cultures, I love different aspects of each culture and for Cook Islands it's their 'maynaise', Cook Island donuts, drum dances and their lyrical ukelele. So when Beau came along and shared his culture with the world, I just loved it! that's the way to go! and a great role model to show the world that you can 'beatbox', dance urban contemporary, dance Cook Islands guy style and sing in the lingo too :) as well as in English. I hope he wins.

I also like Nyssa with her Samoan siva to 'Crowded houses" song but to me, Beau won the night and has it all. Still backing my sister thought 'cos she's from Mangere, a fellow Samoan woman who can probably sell thousands and albums but he stole the show hands down for me.

Still Nyssa could do it too and made me smile when she shared about a year ago being a cleaner at Rainbow's End and who can forget that yellow cardigan that she wore in the heats. She's been a pretty awesome singer but when it comes to talent and the X factor. Beau you've got my vote. And a big 'ups' to your parents, who exposed to you their love for music as a Cook Islander/Maori from Rewa 'hard' all the best you both deserve to win.

And there is hope for our next generation yet...

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Teach for a time touch for a life time ...

On the weekend, while I was busy waiting for an event to happen, a young policeman introduced himself to me as being one of my past students. I was so sad in not remembering him from the many students that I had taught over the years and instead congratulated him in his line of work and smiled in thinking that at least he remembered me and wanted to make that connection.

I remember both inspiring teachers and those I'd rather not remember. A a few years ago, I tracked down my Intermediate school teacher at the time, who only taught at the school for a year and was the first Maori teacher of whom I'd encountered at the time. Everyone thought he was very handsome (including me but I was in denial at the time) and he was very strict but very understanding. I remember he took us on a fieldtrip to town to watch the first 'Rocky' (Sylvester Stallone movie) because he was interested in boxing and then brought in a black and white TV (at the time) to watch a heavyweight boxing match between Muhammed Ali and someone else...

I never wanted to be a teacher to start with, but what with bills and feeling the need to pay off my bank overdraft and helping out the family, it took another year after my first Masters to complete a Diploma of secondary teaching and then started formally teaching in high school as an English teacher in my mid 20's (when I had lots of free time and single) and have never looked back.

I remember doing all sorts of extra curricular activities with students such as taking them on various camping trips all over the North Island (I even got locked in an outdoor toilet once as a prank - but quickly managed to get out to the amazement of the culprits), dragon boating and waka ama since I love the sea. I loved playing badminton with them and would regularly slam the shuttercock at them to feel my wrath - ha ha (my fave sports), ran women teacher relays against the seniors (and we won after I tripped up), wrote, produced and directed Pasifika plays for them, (cross) dressed up as Romeo with a sword in my first year and just generally had a great time.

In the latter years, I've met their children, have seen some on Facebook, Friends (website) and was also a bridesmaid for one of my senior students (when I was single). Some of the most treasured memories I have in having been a teacher (I hope a good one at that) and touching lives...

Friday, 15 May 2015

Royal visit to Mangere - Prince Harry...

It was neat to be able invited as a Board member of my old school (Nga Tapuwae College) now known as Southern Cross Campus to witness the visit of a HRH His Royal Highness Prince Harry.

Back in 1983, I was invited as the "Head Girl" (although we didn't officially have one) in order to meet with his parents Princess Diana and Prince Charles and Prince William (before he was born) on the grounds of Government House in Auckland. I even got to shake her hand (twice) and that left an impression on me with a couple of photos that I took of them.

Today, it was raining like crazy and the school was under tight security and I just slipped in before 8.30 am. The children in the junior school had made flags and some classes were rained out standing along the roadside leading up to the school in hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

When he finally arrived we were ushered into the school hall (where I used to love to play badminton) after a quick welcome by the campus director and he had the opportunity to various Pasifika dancing by a small group of Samoan, Tongan and Cook Islands dancers. He also got the opportunity to give out a few of the school academic and citizenship prizes to students which was pretty good as well.

The beautiful lei he is wearing in the pic above is a Tongan design of fresh flowers and thankfully they gave us all one as we sat on the Manuhiri side (although we - on the Board weren't really visitors).

So all in all, it was pretty special for the students of the school. I think it particularly reminded me of how he did seem very personable and quite humble in acknowledging that there were children standing in the rain, waiting for him when they were getting quite wet. It was too bad that he didn't get to address the school directly but I guess he can't be speaking at every place he goes too as that it could get quite demanding.

Today, it reminds me to reflect that as a Christian, we all are pretty special and all sons and daughters of the ultimate king which makes us princes and princesses, it's just that sometimes we just don't know it or easily forget about it...

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Only a prayer away...

This week has been made me stop and think about the fragility of life and how often I have heard about how life is tough but it also reminds me to reflect that yesterday was a lesson, today is the present (like a gift) and tomorrow brings hope from the life lessons that we've been gifted with.

One of the things that I think have been overlooked by many commentators over the years as our nation, indeed world, becomes more and more secular is the power of prayer, an often untapped supernatural power source that can change a situation when we start to tap in.

I think of some miracles that I've encountered through prayer over the years in how I have witnessed many peoples' prayers answered including my own and it's not so much due to some whimsical notion of sending a message somewhere out there but that it actually taps into a supernatural God who has power over the universe to make things happen.

My own dad is a prayer warrior and I remember as a child learning to pray at a very young age and having these conversations with God that were very real. My dad taught us to have regular family devotions in the mornings (when time permitted) and definitely at night (especially when my favourite TV programmes were on); to say grace at the table before a meal and to finish our day with a prayer to God before bedtime. Something that he still does today and I strive to do with my family. He has a powerful relationship that doesn't waver with the tide and it was hard understand at times as a child but I've seen how his relationship has softened over the years and is very real.

As I entered into education and developed ideas of my own, my prayer life was not as strong until I rededicated my life in my mid 20's through and started again on my Christian journey to be reminded of the power of prayer.

I remember when I was still single and in my early 30s I lead a bible study and prayer group at the local PIC Pacific Islanders (Presbyterian) church which later developed into a early morning prayer group that still meets regularly almost twenty years after it was first established, every Monday morning at 6 - 7 am. There, I witnessed an elderly couple who fervently prayed that their children would come back to a relationship with God as they were the only ones still in a church. Both passed away within a few years of each other but their prayer legacy saw their children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren returning to church and a relationship with God.

I remember praying for a husband and children into my 30's and seeing a mountain somewhere overseas in one of my prayers, only years later to realise that my then husband to be was in the Nepals climbing mountains as a YWAM based missionary near Mt Everest (the tallest mountain in the world). Now that's a miracle that God can do some amazing miracles.

In a sense, I want to put it out there that prayer changes things, it takes that burden off of an individual and gives it to a creator God with a learned trust that it even if it may or may not happen, either way things will be okay because other neat things are going to happen along the way. I now have an amazingly supportive husband and some creatively amazing children - maybe if I hadn't prayed along the way, it could have been a different story.

If you've never tried it, give it a go and then you might like it. Take that burden off your shoulders and give it to someone who can really make things happen and then your present will give you hope for tomorrow...

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

XFactor - in all of us

BT and the Vibes, Dom (MC), Beau, Stevie and Nyssa...
Have enjoyed watching the last few episodes of New Zealand's XFactor and particularly now that it's come to the final 3: the band (BT & the V), Beau and Nyssa.

Interesting that never before in the history of Xfactors around the world that a band has made it to the finals. I think it's even more interesting that apart from the multicultural band that we have a Samoan young woman (whose parents are missionaries in Samoa) with a Cook Islands/Maori young man from South Auckland making it to the finals from the hundreds of contestants who had competed for a place on the programme.

I'm happy for any one of the 3 to win because they are all so talented and so deserving: BT & the V definitely have the Xfactor and multi faceted in playing musical instruments and singing as well as working on their own arrangements. Beau comes from parents who founded the band "Ardijah" and is also multi talented in beat boxing, singing, dancing etc. and who started busking in Manurewa outside Southmall shopping centre, a neat role model. And then there's Nyssa with her lovely voice and cool personality, so funny (I just don't like the way they dress her half the time) but she can surely sing and deserves to be in the finals.

Looking forward to watching the finals in weekend and may the best multi talented artist/s win. But it also makes me realise that each of these people have spent hours and possibly years of perfecting their talent that this wasn't a once in a lifetime shot but that it's a culmination of giving it a go - one day at a time and never giving up. It's an inspiration to us all that if there's something that you really enjoy and you're good at it - to keep striving at it and you never know, opportunities such as these could come your way or you could carve out a path and make it happen 'cos we all have an 'x factor'... we just have to discover what it is...

Monday, 11 May 2015

Mother's Day surprise

Yesterday, I received a neat mother's day surprise as I'd opted out of our traditional restaurant family launch or dinner (no cooking or dishes to do) and decided with my husband to take our family out to a local beach and park for lunch with the beautiful sunshine that we experienced yesterday.

Much to our surprise, as I'd decided to take a walk to the pier, my children and husband noticed a seal basking at the dock with quite a crowd around watching. 

It was quite fascinating to see it up close and personal in not having bars or a thick glass to separate humans from the seal. Unfortunately, I hadn't thought to take my camera (so this pic is not an original) but my children were quite happy to watch the seal bask in the sun and ignoring the crowd of people obviously curious at the spectacle.

Even after half an hour of my extending my walk and returning, they were still quite happy to sit and watch the seal until a young man came along with his girlfriend and decided to splash the seal (all the while with a lot of people calling him an idiot). The seal barred it's teeth as a warning and we decided that it was time to go and enjoy some ice cream and cake.

It's funny, upon reflection to think that often we might miss some amazing experiences because we opt to keep to tradition, or stick to the tried and true instead of taking a risk, walking off the beaten track or for trying something new just for the fun of it.

If I hadn't taken that time to try something different (although I knew that my children would have loved going out for dinner) we might not have had that encounter with the seal and the same goes for writing and publishing my first book as I now look forward to publishing a second by the end of the month.

It's not until we move from what we already know to where we want to go in experiencing something different, that we start to get results towards a life that may be more fulfilling with neat experiences and memories that we otherwise would have missed out on...

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers

Mothers' Day is a special day that I enjoy every year. It's not so much to do with the commercialism of the day but it's a time that I can reflect on my mother and indeed other mothers who have had a positive impact on my life.

My mum taught me so many things that I now take for granted like the: importance of education, she nurtured the creative side of me and was always a cheer leader who first encouraged me to pursue my first Masters although it would have been easier on my family if I had just got a job. She taught me to be selfless in putting her kids first in ensuring that there was food on the table and proper home cooked meals. What I took for granted in my youth but what I now know took a great deal of effort and preparation in planning and cooking each meal.

She was good with money and not frivolous, paid bills on time, never got into great debt and had time to serve other people in our family, church and others when the occasion called for it. That's why of all the women that I've known, my mother is the person that I most admire, not to say that she was perfect as we all have our flaws but she taught me a lot about what mother's need to know about taking care of their children, spouse and families.

She's self disciplined and can sing and prefers alto, like me, but she also harmonizes well so that when my parents are here in NZ and we share in a family prayer/devotion we all harmonize with my dad on bass/tenor and my mum and I switching between alto and soprano. Things that I took for granted growing up.

It was neat to be able to talk with my mum today as she will be celebrating mother's day in Samoa and I here in NZ. She knows me so well and I would offer to say that she's my best friend, aside from my husband, even in the darkest of days. I hope that I can be even half of what she has meant to me to my own children and to those who might be reading this blog, I hope that you will take the time to call or talk to your mum and tell her how much you appreciate her...

Sunday, 3 May 2015

"Ancient stories to inspire cultural pride"

Had the privilege of having Justin Latif from '275 times (celebrating Mangere sharing its stories)'
Edition #8 come on to campus to interview me for their latest edition. He wrote a very positive story with a pic and asked if Fritz could translate for them as it's Samoan language week at the end of the month.

It's interesting as I see my writing as very much 'grassroots' in writing about things that are important to me in having experienced much as a first generation NZ born Samoan living in Mangere. I've had the privilege of observing and seeing many things first hand and have had some neat mentors growing up and especially my parents helping me to understand things along the way.

The article wasn't 100 percent accurate but it did get the gist of why I wanted to write and release "Sina and the Tuna" as my first book for the public. I think of all things, it's about having a dream with a God purpose and in always holding onto that dream no matter what the circumstances.

In my case, it was about writing and even painting but I never actually put it together until I was given the idea on 23 January of this year and then had my first book launched on 19 March due to my parents leaving for Samoa a couple of days later. To me, it was a culmination of many years thinking about it and then finally having the breakthrough of seeing the process through to print.

I wonder how many of you who are reading this blog today, have a dream that you've always wanted to fulfil but haven't really shared it with anyone or don't really believe that it can ever work out. I hope that my writing can help to inspire you to strive towards that goal and to never give up. For me it was the 'God factor' that made it happen because of the speed at which all fell together in a couple of months after decades of dreaming about it.

And there's more to come...

Friday, 1 May 2015

30 years Birthday of Te Wananga o Aotearoa

30 Year celebration of Te Wananga o Aotearoa
This week marks the 30th year of Te Wananga o Aotearoa which is an indigenous institution of higher learning for Maori and all peoples from every nation. It also boasts in being the 2nd largest tertiary institution in NZ (in terms of student population).

It has been a real privilege and a great learning curve for me to have experienced working and transforming my educational philosophy within an indigenous tertiary educational setting.

It was back in the late 1990s that I had the opportunity to visit UBC the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and there I was really amazed to be amongst PhD students critiquing main stream education and paradigms in society that had been quite detrimental to them as First peoples nations in Canada.

At the time, I wasn't aware of the movement of Maori to set up alternative university type settings and now in working in one I can say that it has been a blessing to see things very differently to the perspectives that I was educated in at the University of Auckland and most recently at AUT University.

The privilege I see is that my perspectives have changed in that through Te Wananga o Aotearoa's principled approaches, I see through 5 different perspectives:
  1. my spiritual lens as a evangelical 'born again' Christian
  2. through Maori principles of Takepu (Taina Pohatu)
  3. my own cultural lens as a NZ Samoan (hence the Samoan classes continuing)
  4. through the lens of other cultures of my colleagues/students
  5. through western mainstream paradigms of thinking/theories (my past mainstream educational experiences as a student and educator)
These perspectives were not all embraced or understood in any of my prior schooling experiences growing up in Mangere, in being a student then a teacher in South Auckland schools and even when working on Ministry of Education contracts for many years or/ and as a post graduate/tertiary educator.

These things I wish to challenge our mainstream education system about in that in embracing and learning through these (at least) 5 perspectives our Pasifika students would particularly become even more confident in who they are, in what they bring and in how they can make a positive difference in NZ society.

It's a University paper that I'm thinking about writing sometime in the future... but now right now I still have some of my own stories to write first.

Malo le taumafai Te Wananga o Aotearoa ua fati le faiva... Happy 30th Birthday with many more to come...