Saturday, 31 October 2015

Happy 96th Birthday to my Gran...

Image result for happy 96 birthday to my granToday I spent some time with my extended family to celebrate the 96th birthday of my Gran. She was tired and slept but she did wake up to talk to my aunty in Australia and to say that it was important for us to love one and another 'ia fealofani' and I could see her smiling when we sang some of her favourite songs like "you are my sunshine" which is one of my dad's best songs as well.

It was neat to meet with my family to catch up and then to share about what Granma had done to bless our lives. My family, my aunties and uncles, cousins and their children reflected on how we have been blessed by her presence and also some of the influences and things she did to show her love for us and we now have 5 generations in our family with a possible 6th.

I remember she paid for my fare, as I was a poor Uni student at the time, and she travelled with me to Samoa for my research. Hence, two of my books have been dedicated to her "Mt Vaea and the tears of Apaula" as well as "Tagaloalagi" (play) with a character called Grenma which was fashioned around my Granma growing up in being wise and sharing her wisdom with others.

I think I might be the 5th eldest grandchildren of my Granma and I remember growing up that she was very strict and much like my dad in being no nonsense but there was also a lot of love for the family and caring for children. Granma also had a very personal relationship with God and would constantly pray for us and was generous in giving away the things that she had to people (like my dad is also.)

She is the matriarch of our family and has kept us together over the years having been a widow to my grandfather in the 1970s and then raising up a family by herself. She taught me how to make potato salad and also trifle, recipes that I still use today with my own added variety but also more importantly about looking after my family and also others.

Happy 96th Birthday Granma, you have left a legacy for us to continue to run the race to 96 years and beyond. God bless our special Mama, Granma, aunty with lots of love...

Thursday, 29 October 2015

"Maui and Sina" & "Tagaloalagi" at Auckland University Library

I got such a buzz today as I'm beginning to apply for different writer grants and had to write up a literary/writer C.V. (which I'm making up as I go as I've never seen one before.)

Anyway, one of the things I had to do was to cite some of the books I'd written as one of them is a book that I wrote for the Ministry of Education when I was contracted to them a secondary schools (7 schools working collaboratively) consortium.

So I went into my old University to see the correct title and found that my two newly released plays of "Maui and Sina" and "Tagaloalagi" are in the University of Auckland library and they're even on loan!

Wow! I was gobsmacked as this is something that I had only dreamed about in having my books acknowledged by the University that I'd spent the better part of 5-6 years at and without any coersion from me - it was seen fit to purchase (as I don't know who the book sellers on sell my books too.)

So for me as a writer, it's incredible news and a real boost to keep on writing. There's so much more to come...

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Vegan or Vegetarian the diet of Samoan ancestors ...

 I remember visiting my family as a bridesmaid at a family wedding in Samoa back in 1990 and I was a semi Vegetarian i.e. I didn't eat red meat but only white as in fish and not really pork. It was a real hit with the families that I stayed with because fish was easy to catch or just the usual staples of taro, lu'au (cooked taro leaves in a umu), green bananas, breadfruit, ripe bananas, mangoes and plenty of coconut cream. A way cheaper way of living.

I think that was more in line with the staple diet that my ancestors ate many, many years ago before the influence of Western palettes that have brought with it fried chicken, an expensive McDs, fasi povi masima (pickled meat) and lots and lots of tinned food with it's dietary concerns of high blood pressure, diabetes and other heart related issues which have recently become a concern in Samoa.

So going back to the 'homeland' or 'motherland' next month has brought about my decision to go Vegan until then which is to have no dairy added into a Vegetarian diet. So far, so good and on my 2nd day of a 30 day challenge which ends about the time that I reach Samoa with my family although we'll see as I might extend it..

I think my ancestors had it right and we've strayed too far with the beckoning of a quick fix and instant gratification in a meal. Perhaps now is the time to consider the health benefits of what our ancestors ate as staples which was food from the plantation or nearby garden and supplemented with fish or other vegetation and fruit. Much like it is for my parents in living more 'greener' and closer to more natural foods without the use of pesticides, herbicides and other chemical nasties.

The last time we were there it was at the 50th Jubilee celebrations of Samoa's independence in 2012 and now 3 years later we're back for more. Samoa, here we come...

Monday, 26 October 2015

Your name in my next books credits for $5 donation?

Good morning, it's Labour day and a holiday and I'm enjoying waking up early and not having to rush the children to school and myself to work and instead I can wake up and take it easy in the morning.

Have also started painting up my next book over the weekend and it's quite exciting in getting the paints out and beginning to think and plan over the text, the paintings and the over all look and feel of the book.

I'd also like to ask if you'd be interested in your name featuring in my next book's credits. I have a 'kickstarter' project started on and already have 3 people's names ready for adding to the next book if the campaign is successful.

It's to raise $2,500 towards reprinting my first 2 books of: "Sina and the Tuna" and "Mt Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula" which are now out of print but which could make neat Xmas presents and funds would also help to develop the latest book which is an ancient story that my dad told me many years during my study about Tagaloalagi and Fue with more books to come.

A donation of $5 would enable you (and your name) to be a part of making the dream come true in expanding to seek a distributor in Samoa next month and also in Hawaii in November. The books themselves are NZ$25 each and your name could be in the credits for 'Tagaloalagi and Fue' before Christmas.

If you are interested in having your name in the next book or would like to order one of the picture books, please follow these steps:

1. Find the website or click on the link:
2. Search for my project under: Helen Tau'au Filisi
3. Click on the project and have a read and decide on which reward you'd like.
4. Register on the website with your name and details. It's easy to use your Facebook rego.
5. Follow the instructions and enter a Credit card or debit card and wahlah it's done!

Alternatively, if you're not into this modern technology and would like to contact me privately you can email on: and we can talk over your ideas.

And have a great 'un'labour day with some relaxation and rest. I sure will...

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Where were you 21st October 1985? ...

Where were you in 1985? I would have been in my second year of Uni at Auckland University and I remember enjoying watching the "Back to the future" movies especially the first movie. Looking back, things have certainly changed.

It was really interesting though to see what has happened since that time and the predictions that were made about flying cars and time travel. I guess we still haven't quite gotten there but what had not been predicted at that time was the smart phones that we now have and how the internet has revolutionised our world.

I think back then I remember wondering about ever having portable TVs and phones but never put the two together in now having mobile phones that we can watch movies on. We can now talk and see our friends in real time and Facebook has literally taken over the world.

Who was to think that this movie would have stood the test of time? much like Star Wars that keeps being re-enacted with storylines changing but still connected to the first. The 1980s was certainly laid back as compared to today but I'd have it no other way.

I guess the next question is: Where will you be 30 years from now in 2045?...

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Samoa here we come (a month from now and counting)...

Image result for samoa image A month from now looking forward to hitting the shores of sunny Samoa if only but for a short week but will be neat to be back with my folks who flew back over the weekend and to enculturalize (my own made up word) myself into the faaSamoa and speaking Samoan.

Looking forward to taking our children again to visit friends and families, to taste the different foods, see some new sites and soak up the sun and maybe even to make some more contacts over there especially at the Universities and to see what literature is currently being sold at bookstores etc. as looking to publish and distribute into the Pacific after launching the next book there.

And as the All Blacks battle it out this weekend with South Africa in the Rugby world cup semi-finals, I'll be painting on canvas for possibly the last book to be launched this year which is about a story that my father shared with me during my earlier studies that I added into the play "Tagaloalagi" and now being developed into a picture book in its own right.

Can't wait to go...

From 1 tree hill to no tree hill... to maybe a tree hill?

The 125-year-old Monterey pine was removed from Auckland's One Tree Hill in 2000 after chainsaw attacks.A couple of weekends ago I visited 'One tree hill' with my family. I hadn't noticed until that day that there was absolutely no trace of a tree and that in the late 1990s - early 2000s there had been so much controversy over what this landmark represented that the tree was cut down by Maori protestors.

In recent news, I read that they are now considering to bring back a tree to be planted on the site again. I remember as a youngster going there with my family to view the panoramic 360 degree scenes of Auckland and then to stand beside the tree to take photos. I thought those days had long gone but now I see that there may be a come back.

I guess as a Geographer I'll always be interested in the connections that we make with land be it positive or negative and in this instance cutting down a symbolic tree to make a bold statement about race relations in Aotearoa, New Zealand which hit home for many NZers who had held special memories of visiting there. In fact, wasn't there a song sung by Bono of U2 that mentioned 'One tree hill?' in honour of a band member who was a NZer who had died.

I also remember a Uni lecturer mentioning that the oblisque that was erected next to the tree was in honour of Maori and the plates surrounding explain a brief history of great canoes that transported first waves of Maori to Aotearoa, NZ, as at the time there was a concern for Maori to the point where even today people say that there are no more 'pure' blooded Maori.

So now it begs the question of 'a tree, or not a tree' what is the question?...

Monday, 19 October 2015

Launching a Xmas re-print project on for Helen Tau'au Filisi

My 'kickstarter' campaign has finally started! I'd been umming and ahhing over re-printing my first 2 ancient Samoan stories (bilingual picture books) series as funds had been diverted to publishing 2 plays and the development of other genre that funds weren't ready to re-print back copies of the first two in the series. 

But then was reminded of having a 'kick starter' campaign which is a virtual funding platform to share my story (or plight) globally and to see if there is enough interest to begin reprinting the current picture books with an update on the covers and a reformat as well as to develop my third picture book "Tagaloalagi and Fue."

So far I have been privileged to share the ancient Samoan stories of "Sina and the Tuna" and "Mount Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula" as a guest author at various primary schools, early childhood education centres, with individuals and groups, at public libraries and are now beginning to sell through Book companies which is very humbling.

It's been quite an exciting journey but if you did miss out of either of the first two copies of these books or want to buy the new picture book for Christmas of "Tagaloalagi and Fue" or even the series, please do check out the link above to the kickstarter link and please share with your networks. And will ship anywhere in the world. Yes, even to Istanbul :)...

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Shakeout and remembering Samoa's Earthquake 2009...

Image result for shakeout Have you ever experienced being in an earthquake? Today my work team did the 'drop, cover, hold' drill at work at 9.15 am after we'd strategically decided where the best place was to run to in the event of the earthquake. I chose under a doorway away from the electrical cords under my desk and the glass windows nearby. It only lasted a few seconds with a few photos taken to record the event.

On September 29, 2009 my family was in Samoa on a 2 week vacation and for my eldests' birthday. We were sleeping over with my mum at my husband's family house(s) on a mountain in Siumu just 5 minutes drive from the coast when the 8.1 earthquake first hit. What alerted me first was the loud noise made by the chickens and then the rumbling started at about 7 am in the morning whilst my children were still sleeping. I remembering looking at my husband and asking if it was an earthquake and he confirmed it  having lived on the mountain.

It was the glass bottles tinkling on the window sills and breaking in the room besides that alerted me to the fact that these low rumbles that we could hear were something to be taken seriously, in the first 60 seconds. The rumbling would then subside but I could see by my slim briefcase that it was still picking up movement from the house as it would keep slightly rocking in waves then as quickly as it started, it suddenly stopped. All this in less than 3-5 minutes.

About 5 minutes later there was chaos up and down the main road to the sea where the school was. By then most children had already gone to school and Fritz (my husband) jumped into our 4WD and drove down to the coast to see if everyone was alright. That was about the time that the tide had receded and was building up to the great tsunami that a few minutes later rushed at the coast taking my mother in laws boat and crashing it on the banks. Many houses were broken, hotels damaged and lives lost.

Later on, we saw ambulances, utes, trucks etc. driving down the only coast road and then returning. It was sombering in hearing about news of the devastation on the other side of the island in Lalomanu and even closer at Poutasi. It is a disaster that I will never forget or want to remember...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Fakalofa lahi atu... Celebrating Niuean language week...

Image result for niuean language week Fakalofa lahi atu, it's Niuean language week here in Aotearoa, New Zealand although I think the majority of Niueans live in Auckland. I haven't yet had the privilege of visiting "the Rock" as it's called now that there are more than the weekly flights that used to be all that would connect NZ with Niue.

During my career and travels in education, I've been in great company with strong Niuean women that I've met along the way starting with Pefi Kingi, who was a strong advocate for Pasifika issues as a beginning teacher and then my colleague Mele Heketoa who's a JP (Justice of the Peace) and has been a past Community Board member. A children's book writer, Lino Nelisi, whom I'd worked alongside many years ago at the University of Auckland's TEAM Solutions and most recently my good friend and prayer partner Cecily Taufelila and Mary (Mez) Aue founder of Coconut Wireless.

Growing up in the Mangere PIC church, I've had many encounters with Niuean people as not being as confrontational as Samoans can sometimes be but for some NZ'ers, the Pacific language weeks are insignificant to them because they may not be in contact with many but to me, and the many other people who recognise the importance of such weeks, it is significant in honouring each Pacific Islands nation and the relationships that we have or should have with them...

Monday, 12 October 2015

White Sunday at Mangere PIC...

 If you happened to be in Auckland yesterday and wondered why there were a lot of children dressed up in white around churches Pasifika or Samoan churches you would have just witnessed a small snapshot of a Samoan white Sunday also known as 'Lotu Tamaiti' (Church for children) which is an annual event on the second Sunday of October.

As I understand it, from what I've learnt from my parents and read, some missionaries to Samoa thought that this would be an event that would bring children to the forefront, for a day, in which children would recite bible verses, sing songs and perform plays in their churches in front of their congregations. This would then be followed by a big family feast for the children.

My parents described this day as being like Christmas day for them as each child could expect to get new white clothes for church and after reciting their part in the play or verses they could expect a family feast in their honour (of course there would be the added pressure for them to perform).

For my family, our annual White Sunday was spent at my birth church of Mangere PIC (Pacific Islanders Presbyterian church) and my children joined the many who dressed in white (with black) and recited their bibles verses, sang songs or shared a creative dance and took part in their age groups play. Afterwards, the celebrations continued with a big feast lead by the children.

This is the village setting that I was brought up in from the vision that was founded upon Bob Challis' vision, as the only missionary from the then London Missionary Society (LMS) whom I'd ever met and his legacy lives on having founded the vision of many PIC churches across Auckland. It was the backdrop from which I wrote my first plays and will continue to expand on ...

Saturday, 10 October 2015

On meeting Robyn P Murray author from Mangere Bridge...

 My last author to feature from the NZ Independent book week last week is local Mangere Bridge Indie author Robyn P Murray. I first read her book after taking it out from the local library and reading it to my children. This book is also translated into Spanish.

It was a neat children's book about a rooster from Ambury Park which is a local park and farm that my children have visited since they were so small and also it also hosted two of our 5 year old birthday celebrations with another planned for next year.

She also wrote a neat story about the giant Clydesdale horse that was there over a period of time who lived on the farm but later died. He was loved by many and very gentle. I remember patting his head and stroking his fur many years ago. His story now lives on in her book.

She has also recently written another story about mountains around the world including Mangere mountain as a children's story. She is definitely one author whom I would recommend as a great storyteller who shares the love and sharing stories with children. A real honour to meet with her...

Thursday, 8 October 2015

On meeting Graeme Kennedy writer of "New Tales of the South Pacific"...

On the weekend, I also had the neat privilege of meeting author, Graeme Kennedy, who is an accomplished writer having worked in Journalism in New Zealand for a few decades. He was also at the book Festival with his lovely wife and we got to chatting as my stand was obviously Pacific with a lavalava print displaying my books and I observed a Fijian tapa cloth on his display with Graeme wearing a colourful lei.

That's the thing about being Pacific (and often Samoan) people as I've observed having travelled in Samoa, American Samoa, Oahu (Hawaii), Rarotonga (Cook Islands) and Fiji etc. I've always felt (I'd even include parts of Australia, U.S.A and of course New Zealand) that there's a definite friendliness with similarities that I've been able to share in having laughs and sharing smiles and experiences with people from the different Islands but similar to mine.

Suffice to say that I was brought up in a church community that celebrated the differences between Samoans, Cook Islands and Niueans in faith, dance, food and as a symbiotic community so that when I went teaching in knowing the different backgrounds of Pasifika students it was easy to relate to them.

So this was what I observed upon meeting Graeme Kennedy. I'd call him an honourary Samoan as he had a keen knowledge about much of the history and some of the characters of whom I was aware of but hadn't met eg. Aggie Grey and her family, political and honourary dignitaries and the like etc.

He had an obvious love for Samoa and Samoans having shared his experiences of flying to and from NZ for over 30 times (almost as much as my parents) and the neat thing was that I was able to understand from him was that he had been very aware of the racism of the 70s that I was aware of in Muldoon's era and had even written articles against it in the then Auckland Star.

I was able to glimpse a few pages of his book on the website and he wrote so caringly about Friar Beauchemin who'd lived in Samoa for much of his life that I think I have to either buy or get my work library to buy the book.

Wow! such a privilege to have met some very special writers/authors at the NZ Independent book Festival and looking forward to meeting with many more...

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

On meeting Dee Pigneguy of "Sonja's Kitchen" book...

Last weekend, I had the privilege of meeting with Dee Pigneguy at the NZ Independent Book Festival who co-wrote a book with Sonja Raela called "Sonja's Kitchen  Sustainable cuisine from the Cook Islands." 
As we discussed similarities between the Cooks and Samoa food health, I discovered that she has a passion for healthy cooking and healthy living and could see the benefits that her book could have on many Island populations that have forgone eco friendly foods for tinned canned and processed foods of convenience including Samoa and American Samoa.
She reminded me of my mum who is also a fabulous home cook in Samoa and in NZ who now spends most of her time in Samoa with my dad. So as I browsed through Dee's lovely book (which she gifted me with of which I am so thankful for) and I pleasantly feasted on the colourful images of tropical fruit and fauna (scientific names included) with beautiful pics of recipes that have been thoughtfully and carefully prepared.
I'll be sharing it with my mum and taking it to Samoa with me on our family trip next month to see if there would be interest of a similar book for Samoa and I'd like to try the famous Sonja's coconut cake with real coconut because I don't actually like the taste of dried and desiccated coconut. 
Dee also has another book which is recently released that identifies patterns in nature and I think all primary schools should have such a book which is graphically amazing to the eye and sees naturally patterns in an artistic way (to me). 
Keep up the great work Dee, you have so much to share with readers young and old...

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

NZ Independent Book Festival debrief and on meeting ZR Southcombe...

It was a real privilege for me to attend my first NZ Independent Book Festival as an author and to be a part of a well organized event thanks to Louise De Varga, a fellow author, and her team who made such an amazing opportunity happen for authors, writers, would be authors, readers, teachers, speakers, printers, publishers etc.

This week I'll be featuring some of the authors, that I met, and their works that I found most interesting for readers around the world who read this blog as I found a neat synergy and feeling of collegiality in sharing tips and experiences in being authors.

And I'd like to start with ZR Southcombe, a fellow author, whom I met at the Festival and whose life story (similar to mine but 20+ years younger) was the catalyst for me to jump into this new exciting journey as a self published author. My business advisor, Maria Fastnedge, shared with me about how ZR Southcombe was also a teacher who had started self publishing her books.

Her story reminded me of myself 20+ years ago in the goals and dreams that I had had in my early 20s and the similarities we had i.e. we both are teachers, artists, love reading (I don't have as much time anymore with my family and work commitments), both write and especially importantly we both have/had the dream to publish books.

So now 4 books each later (for both of us) and still going strong, I'd like to recommend her books to you for both young and old with lovely pictures and ideas as an Intermediate teacher and writer, she knows how to craft her books well with a passion for writing and sharing with many. I think she's an author to look out for and I was blessed to meet with her parents and am thankful for the wonderful opportunity of meeting the young woman whose lifestory inspired mine as I hope to inspire others. To you,  Z,  I will always be thankful and keep shining your light ...

Friday, 2 October 2015

Ready for attending my 1st NZ Independent Book Festival for 2015

 I must say it's a bit daunting to be attending my first ever NZ Independent Book Festival in 2015 as a newbie author with 4 books on the go and much, much more to come. It's that same feeling I get before a book launch that even after the 4th, I still get a bit queasy in not knowing what exactly it entails but as usual will throw caution to the wind, step out in faith and give it my best.

It's just that it such a short time span, things have changed so much in coming from a dream to realising it in reality. It definitely requires quite a lot of work and planning as well as organising and coordinating. It's a different role for me because it makes me go out of my comfort zone and already I'm seeing the benefits but am aware also of the very many things that need to be done still in order to see it fly even higher.

Aligning myself with other Independent writers/authors is quite a statement because it was just 3 years ago when I went to complete a second Masters degree in Creative writing that I realised that there just weren't many publishing companies out there who were now ready to take the gamble on new writers unless they were confirmed best book sellers. Now that I've started, I can see the road ahead and there's still a way to go.

So here I am now meeting with other Indie/Independent writers/authors and it's going to be interesting to move into this space because I already know that there are few and far between Pasifika authors but will definitely be putting best foot forward to learn as much as I can over the next two days.

For other budding writers, one of whom I met yesterday, I would say to go and find out as much info as you can in what it is that you want to do because every writer's journey is different and I feel that for me my backstory confirms where I am today (something I heard from Ps Cy Rodgers). So consider your backstory and see if it confirms the purpose of where you are today and if not then move...

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Karakia and the power of prayer...

Today I was given the privilege of leading our rohe (campus) in prayer something which the founders of Te Wananga o Aotearoa insist to continue in all campuses throughout New Zealand.

In fact, I got up early and meditated on what I would actually be saying with some to be said in the Samoan language but decided not to go with Psalms 23 and the Lord's Prayer and to keep it simple.

As I child, I remember thinking that it was a chore (especially when my dad would insist on having family devotions during my favourite TV programme) but now I know that it's about tapping into a higher power that can stop or release things to happen in the atmosphere.

Later on in the day, I reflected on how prayer has changed so many things in my life and that as we pray and keep our minds open to what God can actually do - then miracles can occur when we least expect it. It's just about believing and following His precepts, no matter what the current trends in society are and He will make a way for us.

So never underestimate the power of prayer, cos any thing(s) can happen :)...