Saturday, 30 January 2016

Grammar schools vs High schools/Colleges...

Image result for grammar school
It's been quite a few nail-biting weeks since deciding at the end of last year to transition our eldest child from a middle school towards a secondary school. There were a few choices to consider i.e. another charter school, the local colleges/high schools, a private school or a grammar school.

So as an informed parent I went through different schools ERO (Education Review office) reports; checked through the Education counts website at the schools achievement data and paying close attention to Year 13 NCEA pass rates; looked through the league tables and compared schools performances; spoke to different parents with children at a variety of schools; checked out schools websites and then began contacting and going out to the schools to have a look.

One of the interesting things was that after the first impressions of each respective school in their 'look', meeting the front line office staff was another interesting experience. Some reception women were friendly and others were not so. This included phone manner and discussions.

In the end, we chose to enrol her in a grammar school in that the career choice that our child has had since primary school, demands a rigorous academic pathway which we thought would be supported through our chosen school. Not only that, but the school also offered soccer and art as options that our child chose excel in as well as the academic subjects. There is some discussion to be had on cultural capital but that's in another blog.

Don't get me wrong, having experienced the local high schools both as an educator, student and board member many local schools do have students who perform well at the local level but by in large most schools who are performing at a higher percentage of students passing NCEA level 3 are either from private schools, integrated schools i.e. Catholic based schools and grammar schools.

Wishing all the students who are attending new schools in the new year, like our 3 children a very prosperous new year...

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Helen Tau'au Filisi on Pinterest...

<a data-pin-do="embedBoard" href=""data-pin-scale-width="80" data-pin-scale-height="200" data-pin-board-width="400"> Follow Helen 's board My books on Pinterest.</a><!-- Please call pinit.js only once per page --><script type="text/javascript" async src="//"></script> 

I've been with Pinterest now for a few years and really haven't utilised it to it's fullest potential. If you're not familiar with it then try clicking on the link above or google search it as yet another platform where you are able to share ideas visually on boards.

I now have some 20 boards and thought today to tidy up my site and to add a few of my own works i.e. paintings that I haven't featured before so will go about in the next few months to change things around and to utilise it to highlight some of my interests and ideas visually.

I presently have boards on Samoan arts; organising and storage as some things I never get enough time to do but I certainly want to (good intentions); gardening ideas (again something I'd love to do more of); lots of colourful handcrafted ideas; Zephyr Mark 2 cars (it makes a lot more sense when you read the poem); tropical sunsets; my books etc. etc.

This is definitely a platform for you if you are visually inclined or if you would like to store your favourite visual images to share with friends, family or the world although there is also a place to have a 'secret' board where you can share with only those whom you want to share it with.

If you are interested, you can search for me on the Pinterest website as "Helen Tau'au Filisi"... Happy Pinning!...

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Poetry collection cover ideas...

My lil' sis' Maria's poetry collection book cover design concept
Currently working on my next book which is a collection of poetry that I've collected over the years with different themes and ideas. For the special book cover of this poetry collection, I've invited my lil' sis Maria Tauau to design the artwork for the cover.

The design brief was that it needed to be colourful (although she prefers line and ink drawings). It needed to have hibiscus flowers and a silhoutte of a woman and to have a Pacific flavour. This is one of the colourful design ideas she came up with and she is now up painting the final design which is a little different from this one but just as stunning.

She is definitely a gifted artist much like our mother is and the legacy that my children are continuing in. The design brief was also quite challenging in that it was outside my sister's comfort zone but I knew that she was up for the challenge having taken Year 13 Art (printmaking) as I did in my final year of high school in wanting to go to Uni art school but my life instead took another turn and it turned out even better than I had envisaged.

One thing I've learned in life is that the many interests and things that we enjoy doing daily or are passionate about can or should be turned into the things that pay us a wage or salary as it's been said that if you work in an area/s that you enjoy that you never have to work another day for the rest of your life...

Monday, 25 January 2016

Grown up colouring book... highly recommended!

A sample of my grown up colouring book page in "Secret Garden" by Johanna Basford (2015)
Last year, I gifted myself, on my birthday, to a grown up colouring book which was the latest craze in books and the first one in colouring books for grown ups that I'd ever heard about. Note that I don't use the word Adult colouring books as I've been told that that sounds like they're the X-rated ones (and didn't know that anyone would be interested in those either.)

Anyway, I'd read about it probably on one of the Facebook articles and then read in more detail on her page about how Johanna Basford started her journey, in Scotland, as an illustrator turned ink evangelist and got her drawings published as a colouring book collection geared towards adults.

There have been many copycats or rather a craze started particularly in the US in watching a doco about it on TV last year in how it has spawned a new industry and hit record sales in NZ last year over Christmas and all over the world. So that if you go to a book store, you'll see many different examples of colouring books for adults but I prefer Johanna's one as it was the original.

The interesting thing was that when I first started colouring, having taken it to Hawaii on the plane, and then continued over the holidays, I found it very therapeutic but the only problem being that it gets a bit tedious, for me, to colour in the little detail. Instead, I find I can only colour in little sections on one page and then move to another. So if you look at my pages, you'll see some only half finished as I definitely can't stay long on one page (I get a little bored).

It might take me a few days to finish one page as I'm colouring several at a time but I do enjoy the little spots of time I get. So, if you're thinking about wanting to give this a try, I'd highly recommend it as a de-stressor and you even get to admire your own work afterwards. Some books even have single pages whereby you can tear/cut it off and place in a frame to put on your wall...

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Nga Tapuwae College - gone but not forgotten...

Publication celebrating 40 years celebration of Nga Tapuwae College now known as Southern Cross Campus
 Yesterday, I received a book from a dear old friend, Chris, whose mother Rose used to be my piano teacher for some years. I named my second child with Rose-Marie as a middle name after her and my mother (Maria as a derivative - as Mareta was my mum's original name). Mrs Challis, as she was known to me, was such a special woman.

Her husband was one of the last London missionary society ministers who originally came from English, known as Rev. Bob Challis. He worked tirelessly with my father and many other founding members to seed my birth church for Samoans, Cook Islanders and Niueans now known as Mangere PIC (Pacific Islanders Presbyterian church) with its large land and 3 registered pre-schools onsite (of Cooks Islands Maori, Niuean and Samoan bilingual classes).

Chris gifted me with the book that was distributed last year called Nga Tapuwae Ki te taki o Autahi Recollecting the Early Years (Southern Cross Campus, 2015). Chris had had a stint teaching there and her father was mentioned, in the book, as having been the minister to provide opening remarks and the prayer for the opening of the school.

The book was written as a remembrance of 40 year celebration since Nga Tapuwae College, my old high school that first opened in 1975. I was invited but unable to attend the celebrations with my hectic schedule last year. The book was distributed as a memento of the occasion.

I started reading it late last night before sleeping but then couldn't put it down and slept in the wee hours of the morning as it brought back so many memories and also gave me insight into the thinking that went into establishing the first multi-cultural community college (high school) in the country.

Mrs Ann Gluckman, was the first woman principal to ever have been appointed in a New Zealand school at the time. I still have some memories of her and some of the things that we had to do to raise money in those early years. I started there in the 3rd form as a 13 year old, reluctantly, in the 4th year of it's operation as I had wanted to go to the more established, Otahuhu College, at the time but my father didn't see any need with a new high school just down the road within walking distance.

In reading through various founding teacher's reflections, I realised how much many of them helped to shape my early life in NZ education. Many of them were palagi/pakeha/of European descent and some of them were exceptional in their teaching.

I'll always remember the late Mrs Mary Kayes as my first high school English teacher who first introduced me to Witi Ihimaera's early works; Mr Forbes Worn who became a mentor to me in my senior high school years; Mr Lenny, whose dry jokes I used to laugh at as the only member of the class who understood them etc. So many neat memories but the latter years were quite turbulent with different factions that brought about a reorganisation into a multi-level campus of students from Year 1 through to Year 13 combining primary, intermediate/middle school and senior high school into one campus and calling it South Cross campus.

I'm currently on the Board of Trustees there but I can see that much has changed since those heady days yet in some ways so little has changed. I'll never forget Nga Tapuwae College - you are gone but not forgotten...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

I lava you too... Pixar Disney short film - reminds me of Hawaii

I so like this video and it reminds me of the Islands of Hawaii and their culture where my elder two children and I spent the best part of the whole day, last month, in travelling from 10 am to getting back to our hotel around 10.30 pm from the Pacific Cultural centre in Laie, Oahu.

There we watched a film, as part of our tour, in their large film theatre that traversed us through the various Islands of Hawaii as well as our tour guide discussing with us various factors about each of the Islands that I was not aware of i.e. how one of the Islands was used for bombing by the military and the military also being one of the biggest employees as well as tourism in Oahu.

However, with the sounds of the ukulele and the beautiful oneness with nature as with most indigenous cultures it is often portrayed in stories of old as I have been retelling. So although this is probably a more recent story, stories such as this of the personification of mountains in a love story such as the story of "Mt Vaea and the tears of Apaula" (2015, Tau'au-Filisi) in Samoa echoes the fragility of human relationships.


Monday, 18 January 2016

I, too am Auckland...

I had heard about this project and came across it and thought to share it with my blogging community. Interestingly enough, it reminds me of my first years at Auckland University back in the mid 80s with my sister. She was the first of our family to attend law school and I started the following year on an arts degree and was first to graduate with a Masters degree in my family.
Back then the comments that are shared here were surprisingly quite similar i.e. with the reactions of student colleagues in thinking that I had gone to a private or exclusive girls school but when I shared about coming from a public school in Mangere, it took many by surprise.
South Auckland had a bad reputation back then too, so much so, that I was aware that some people and businesses didn't want people to know that they were from Mangere with the phone number prefix of 275 or Otara 274 that they would request for a phone number change. 
I also became aware of correctly pronouncing Maori and Pasifika words rather than the Anglosized European pronunciation which I still do today.
I remember starting in my arts degree in English, History, Art History and Geography with a few Pasifika people in my first year in the huge lecture theatres or smaller classrooms, and then it whittled away to even fewer in my second year and by the time I'd entered my third year, in many of my classes there was only myself or one other. Of course, as Pacific and Maori students we would gravitate to each other and other people of colour but by the time I'd entered my Masters year, I was the only one left standing amongst my European colleagues.
And being in the department of Geography was even more interesting because most of the teaching faculty were older well travelled European males and my 'professor' or mentor was a Korean academic. Somehow, I didn't take it to heart and was encouraged or ignored but kept plugging on with my family as my best motivators and working part time on weekends in town. I guess, I had a bigger picture in mind, in knowing that I was the only Pasifika woman in this circle and kept my goal first and foremost to graduate.
It made me realise that perhaps it's time to soon return to teaching in a mainstream tertiary academic environment as I've been quite privileged to be able to work in an Indigenous environment with people of colour in that the tensions are quite different. But in listening to these tertiary students stories, I think there is still a mountain to climb in addressed covert racism and in some parts institutional racism but to not take things too personally in that it is not your personal endeavour to educate or change peoples' perceptions of you but rather continue to meeting those expectations of your goals.
You never know, you might be one whom they will seek help from in years to come...

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Original Apia markets burnt down...

So sad to find out yesterday that the original Apia markets had burnt down. I remember going shopping there last November when we visited with our families and even more sad that my husband's sister had a stall there with her beautiful designs and hoping that she and many other stall holders will have the opportunity to develop their businesses again after a rebuild.

Now awaiting the news about when the rebuild can occur as I also read in a local Samoan Facebook article that some think that the present government may take this opportunity to build another government building there in place of the markets that would service Samoa's relationship with Chinese investors. I hope that this is not the case and that the Samoan people and particularly families and villagers of the stall holders will stop this as there are few places in the world where you can buy products directly from the so called 'indigenous people' in the capital or close to town.

In Waikiki, this was not the case as one would have to go outside of the main city centre and I would say the same for Fiji apart from the local fruit and vege's markets. In Australia, you don't see much in the way of indigenous Aboriginal arts in Brisbane and Sydney where I traversed in June of last year. And it is so important that indigenous people are able to be self sufficient in selling their arts directly to the public without having to have their arts replicated by corporates for the tourism industry.

Wishing my sis' and other stall holders the best in what the future holds as there were no fatalities and hopefully the best is yet to come...

Friday, 15 January 2016

Beware Chikungunya virus in Samoa...

 Image result for chikungunya EnglishAs my parents return back to Samoa after spending the Christmas/New Year holiday with us and having spent a short time in November in Samoa, I think it important to issue a warning for travellers there to be aware of the Chikungunya virus that 4 of my 5 travelling party came down with upon returning to New Zealand.

Our families living in on the Upolu Island were not at all affected but having travelled around to Savaii and then returning, somewhere along the way, one of our party first contracted it with a red rash like affect on her chest. It looked like measles but without a fever.

Within a couple of days, I had a very sore back and within days of returning, others in our travelling party came down with headaches, swelling on feet, hands and the rash spending around the body i.e. face, leg, hands etc. I was able to continue working, although it was a little sore to walk around and going upstairs was quite a mission. In fact, I felt as if I had aged overnight and it was quite sore to move at times. Others in my family were unable to work and just wanted to sleep it away.

Upon visiting the doctor, we were told that it was becoming more common in Samoa and that it was a virus spread through contact with infected mosquitoes; that it usually would start with a red rash (looks a little like measles) and then limbs can become swollen and sore and feels arthritic. We were also told that the best cure was prevention with lots of mosquito repellent to use at all times and upon reviewing our trip I realised that it was only in Savaii that we didn't use repellent.

So that would be my suggestion to any travelling to Samoa to be aware and vigilant as I am aware that there is a church party from my birth church, Mangere PIC, who will be travelling to Samoa in the next few days. "Be calm and wear insect repellent..." the consequences are very sore indeed!

Image result for chikungunya English

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

5 things to do everyday...

Image result for 5 things to do everyday I read a Facebook article today about another writer's ideas of 5 things of what to do every single day even when life is stressful. Her ideas were:

  • Writing a To-Do list
  • Make your bed
  • Get dressed in something that makes you feel great
  • Do a load of laundry from start to finish
  • Keep kitchen clean
  • BONUS: Do something for yourself for 10-15 mins
When I read through it made me think about what the 5 important things I should be doing each day and also a good idea for you to consider what your list might entail.

My list is as follows:
  1. Get inspired: starting the day with a positive frame of mind through prayer/meditation or Bible reading/inspirational readings etc. as my dad taught me.
  2. Plan when to do the important things on your To-Do list already prepared from the night before. (Especially the things on your year goals list.)
  3. Exercise for 30 minutes eg. YouTube clip etc and eat healthy meals throughout the day.
  4. Demonstrate your love to the important people in your life.
  5. Tidy a section of your house.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Back to work with a new outlook...

Image result for back to work One of the neat things that I like about my job in education is that I work with a diverse group of individuals from different cultures and backgrounds even work ethics and values. So that it makes for a colourful day and never a dull moment. Some of the background events that have coloured my world and has shaped my life, I've written into short stories and poetry that will be featuring in my writing to be published this year.

I'm hoping to start the year by launching my first poetry collection which has been a long time coming. I must say that I've been writing poetry for years and this collection will feature some of the poetry that I first wrote in the 1990s. I'll also be featuring some of the more currently themes that have become important to me over time as a writer and I'll be interested in getting feedback as the year goes on.

For me, poetry writing started when I became really interested in studying poetry at high school. I was intrigued in how English teachers were able to decipher a story from a poem that sometimes made little sense to me. Now, as a writer, and having taught poetry to senior students for exams and studied poetry in my University courses, I have a better understanding about what it's all about and hope to share some of my thoughts with an audience of readers.

I first started writing poetry seriously whilst taking a Creative writing course with Albert Wendt (a now distinguished Samoan writer) at the University of Auckland in the early 1990s. At the time it was a Certificate in proficiency Creative writing course that only provided 12 spaces for people to apply for and at the end of the course a short collection was published. Now one can complete a PhD in Creative writing at any of the bigger Universities. I remember writing and then having to share a selected piece with the group often sitting on the floor in a circle. I'm sure that Albert Wendt didn't 'get' my poetry at the time but over time I've discovered and developed my own poetry style.

Some of the poets that I've enjoyed reading over time have included the great English writer William Shakespeare (and more about his influence in blog posts to come), Maya Angelou (African American), Ruperake Petaia (Samoan), Konai Helu Thaman (Tongan) just to name a few.

Am looking forward to venturing out and sharing some poems that will be funny, some controversial, some developed to make one think and sometimes to just ponder over...

Friday, 8 January 2016

The wettest holiday summer weather yet ...

Image result for today's new zealand weather forecast This has got to be the wettest summer Auckland holiday weather in memory that I have. Having rained during Christmas and then New Year weekend and set to rain again this weekend it's unprecedented.

It's kind of funny too as when we were travelling last year, we seemed to hit wet weather in Sydney, Samoa and even Hawaii. So maybe it's been following us since and has now settled in and around New Zealand.

But I must say that I do love working in wet weather when all is warm inside and often it's windy or rainy and cold outside although I do remember working in the outdoors when I was much younger and it rained and I couldn't wait to come inside for a warm shower.

Being a geographer, I remember having to study weather patterns and rainfall having to do with seasons, the hemispheres, the seasonal wind patterns etc. and now the greenhouse gases but so glad that now I just need to know if it's going to rain or shine for my washing to be dry. Ha ha.

Anyway, wishing you all warm summer or winter whichever part of the hemisphere you happen to be in ...

Thursday, 7 January 2016

New Year prayer week for 2016...

Image result for new year prayer week
There's a tradition in my birth church (Mangere PIC Pacific Islanders Presbyterian church) of having a prayer week for the Cook Islands, Niuean and English speaking community in the first several days of the new year. It's a time to reflect on the old year and to look forward to praying for the year ahead.

For some reason the Samoan minister there doesn't advocate it but for those who are Samoan we are able to join in with the English speaking Monday morning group as I did this morning. This particular group was founded by a group of us as young single women but I'm the only one attending occasionally as my family now worships at another church which doesn't have this tradition, however, I found it refreshing and encouraging to be able to come together at 6 am in the morning and to reflect on a bible scripture, share and pray together.

Over the years, since around 1996 when we first started (when I was still single) some 20 years ago, I've seen prayers come true for many, including myself, and I now have my children attending whenever possible as my dad does when he visits from Samoa.

For this year's prayer focus, I'm believing for greater things to happen but also to walk humbly with my God. I hope that this year will be a fruitful year for you and your family too...

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

New Year, new look, new ideas and books...

Image result for a new year a new look
Having been blogging for over a year now, I thought to change it up a bit and to try something different, hence the change in the appearance of the blog site and will be trying out some new ideas throughout the year as there's so much out there in the digital stratosphere.

Some of the upcoming changes this new year for me as an author/self-publisher/illustrator is the launch of an author website which has been a long time coming and with interest nationally and internationally. The big reveal will be announced fairly soon.

I also have a couple of exhibitions and book launches upcoming with a poetry collection in the first quarter of the year and will keep all the loop as I looking at starting a historical series on events that have shaped Samoa but have also personally affected my family's life as well.

I think it may be quite interesting as I never learnt any Samoan history growing up in South Auckland and only picked it up at Uni where I started asking my parents questions about different events that I was learning about. I even asked Fritz (my husband) who'd been educated in Samoa in his formative years and he expressed the same that it was only through talking to older family members that he learnt about historical events.

I'm hoping that this series will not only teach my children about the history of their forefathers (and mothers) but also to assist in helping them to understand their identities and to see how our ancestors overcame adversities. This is shaping up to being a very interesting year ahead and all the best in your endeavours as well...

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Goal planning and Serenity prayer for 2016...

Image result for goals checklist
I've been big on goals ever since I was a kid growing up. I think I got it from my parents who really encouraged us to do well in school in seeing education as a key to understanding the world around us and in being successful (whatever that might mean to the individual).

I, in turn, have passed this on to my children and in my job as an advisor to degree students. I also encourage goal setting and planning at the beginning of the year as a big part of becoming successful in their studies in continually checking on those goals throughout the year to the end.

I often say that the key to success is not about having a smooth sailing year, it's about being able to problem solve along the way to ensuring that unless it's a life and death situation or emergency - what strategies/contingency plans/re-routing can be put in place to overcome the situation/s or is there something that I really need to stop and think about.

I know in my own 3 degree studies, it's never been plain sailing, and it's to expect the unexpected. The other most important part for me is being grounded as a faith believing Christian that most times things will happen that are out of my control and that I just have to give it up in prayer to a God who can handle it but to also have the wisdom to know about when I need to move on things.

It's that time honoured Serenity prayer ...
Image result for serenity prayer printable

Friday, 1 January 2016

Wishing you a Happy New Year for 2016...

Image result for happy new year 2016Wishing all my friends, family and readers a very happy new year for 2016. Looking forward to what the new year offers in opportunities and openings as a publisher and author but also as a mom, educator and entrepreneur great hopes for my family.

In regards to new year's resolutions, I gave up on doing that many years ago and instead have a goals sheet that I write out at the beginning of every year. It includes two goals in each category with a timeline:
  • Spiritual / Physical / Family / Financial / Professional / Mental / Social / Community support
So maybe if you have given up on New Year's Resolutions like me, you could give this a go. I've been doing it for many years and have found that it keeps me on track and I keep it close and review these goals throughout the year. So yes, last year, I also had the goals of publishing two books and it came true.

Just give it a go! you never know unless you do...