Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Professor Konai Helu Thaman visits AUT Manukau campus...

Prof. Konai Helu Thaman adorned with a red garland
It was such a privilege today to attend Prof. Konai Helu Thaman's lecture on culture in education. She was visiting from USP (University of the South Pacific, Suva Fiji) from where we had just arrived back from a couple of days ago and listening to her discussion and poetry reading was such a neat blessing as I agree with much of what she said although from a different perspective as a NZ Samoan.

I first discovered Konai, when I first started teaching in the early 1990s and it was through reading her poem "You, the choice of my parents" that I became interested in her poetry and academic works. In fact, at her discussion when she was introduced, a Tongan man sang her poem and it brought tears to her eyes as he sung her poem like lyrics to a song whilst strumming a ukulele. Simply beautiful.

The last time I met with Konai was in 1999 when I was working at the Ministry of Education on an initiative and I was working in a team that was organising a conference for local educators i.e. principals and teachers. When it came to a keynote speaker, the only academic that I could think of who could make a significant contribution to the discussion, at that time was Konai and the committee agreed and she gracefully accepted. She was a gentle and graceful now as she was then and so very down to earth with much humility.

In the room, it was pleasing to see a lot of Pasifika academics, undergraduate/post-graduate students, educators, community rep's etc. sharing in the conversation, her experiences resonating in many ways and listening to her experience as a senior high school student in Auckland and then an alumni of the University of Auckland from the department of Geography (where I also graced the halls - we have that in common!) before leaving for California to pursue her PhD and then to Fiji where she has taught for 40+ years.

After her discussion, it was open to the floor (audience) to ask questions and one of the remarks from a fellow colleague whom I went to University with and is now on staff at the University of Auckland was that there are only 3 Pasifika professors in the world and she didn't count those who were of Maori or Hawaiian descent and two of them were in the room i.e. Professor Konai and seated next to her was Professor Tagaloatele, Peggy Fairburn-Dunlop from AUT University, Manukau campus.

The third professor that I am aware of, I had also met a couple of weeks prior was Professor Malama Meleisea at the opening of the SAAB, Sei Orana store (ground floor of the Samoan House or NZ Samoan Consulate buildings). I had bought a reprint of his book and asked if he didn't mind signing it as I had studied his book at Uni and wanted to restock my depleted bookshelf. He was kind to agree and also offered that there was a Samoan version currently ready for press to soon be printed.

I'm not sure that my academic path will take me in that direction but I did make an appointment to meet with Professor Tagaloatele next week to discuss becoming more involved at the Manukau Campus in the near future when she greeted me. I think this is important in the sharing of ideas and encouraging other fellow Pasifika women to complete their various degrees to open up further doors of opportunity.

There I also met up with some past Pasifika educators and friends/colleagues and I want to make time to meet regularly to discuss some of the pressing issues that we are aware for Pasifika educators in Auckland primarily. It would be a time of supporting, encouraging, informing and sharing stories with the view of making the educational landscape better for our children, grandchildren and generations to come...

Monday, 28 November 2016

Fiji video and the "Sleeping Giant"...

The "Sleeping Giant" mountain/hill range view from Nadi, Fiji.
In case the video doesn't work, one of the big highlights of being in Fiji was viewing the "Sleeping Giant" mountain/hill range again after many years. I first heard about the Fiji giant when researching the story of the giant "Moso" in Samoa in the 1980s as there was a belief that Moso's other footprint was in Fiji somewhere.

In the retelling of the book "The footprint of Moso" (2016), I tried to retell the story connecting the two stories as little is known of the story of the sleeping giant in Fiji and I hope that one day a Fijian will write and publish it for the world to know.

It was also very interesting whilst viewing the movie "Moana", that the story of Te Fiti/Whiti was also told, one that I had not heard of, and I assumed that Te Fiti was male, although I knew the Hawaiian volcanic deity "Pele" to be female. The metamorphosis into a mountain/hill range is a feature that I am aware of in many Pasifika stories and was well told in Moana too.

In fact, of the four "tala o le vavau" (Samoan - ancient stories) series of books each of them tells of a personification of landforms/landscapes or phenomena which tells of the early close and sacred connection of our Pacific ancestors with their environment.

The following four books tell of various natural phenomena in ancient stories:

  1. Sina and the Tuna (2015) an ancient Samoan story about the origins of the coconut
  2. Mount Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula (2015) a ancient story about the formation of Mount Vaea and the waterways of "Loimata o Apa'ula" (now a small pool as it was filled in with dirt) in Upolu Samoa.
  3. Tagaloalagi and Fue (2015) an ancient Samoan story about the origins of people pre-Christianity 
  4. The footprint of Moso (2016) an ancient story about the origins of a lava rock form in Savaii, Samoa.

In a sense, the stories were told as if to take word images photos of these important landforms/landscapes or natural phenomenon in order to explain the formation. These stories held important information of the beliefs that Pacific ancestors had with their close relationship to the environment. In Samoan these natural phenomenon were called "pine faamau" or pin to fasten or give evidence that the phenomenon existed.

And so these stories continued to be told from one generation to the next...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Last days in Fiji...

Wedding Chapel at the Sheraton, Denarau Is, Fiji

Serene beach scene at Denarau Is, Fiji
Our last day/s in Fiji have been neat starting with a morning swim and walk, going into town and then ending with a evening or night swim. Everything going at "Fiji time" as we are told from the dawn of the day to sunset at night.

Last night we also went to check out some takeaways and found a Burger King with "Stunner meals" starting at F$11 and their MacDonalds was where I remember the KFC to be many years ago, and there are the local foods that my beloved and I enjoy not to mention the sweet pineapple, watermelons and various other tropical fruit.

The main shopping strip at Nadi are full of souvenirs from the high end shopper to those wanting to pick up guests for friends and family at home. We also had a local tell us to go and buy from the local craft markets as the other larger stores had their stock imported from Sri Lanka and probably Bali.

I think it's been a wonderful time away and although I do look forward to going back home and starting things for Christmas, it also reminds me to take time out to look after ourselves and to plan for our next break and holiday away. Already our children are looking forward to the next holiday back and that's something we'll keep in prayer...

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Having a great time in Fiji...

Bula Vinaka! Yesterday had a great day celebrating my birthday with family in Denarau Island and Nadi, Fiji. It all started with a blueberry pancake breakfast made by my daughter and sister then we went to watch the movie "Moana" which was such a neat surprise for me as hadn't been aware of the opening until we arrived. Followed by a lunch and a sunny swim in the warm hotel pool. We then went into town for a nice dinner and finished the day with another late night swim. (The above video is of us going to town.)

My family have really loved this time out and it's been so good to be able to relax and rejuvenate. Another neat event was being able to view the "sleeping giant" mountain range when we first arrived into Fiji as we made our way to our Hotel. Sadly not much is known about the story behind the "sleeping giant" as most tourists know it by the Sleeping giant gardens, mud pool and walk. I allude to this story when I wrote the picture book "The footprint of Moso" (2016) in making a connection between the two stories of giants from Samoa and Fiji.

Fiji will always have a special place in my heart as I remember my first visit to Fiji was in the 1970s when my parents took our family to Samoa for the first time and due to some plane difficulties we spent the night in a hotel in Fiji and I remember being so surprised at seeing frogs jumping around as we walked to our hotel room.

I then didn't visit again until the 1995 when I went for a holiday with my brother and sister. Then again in 2000, when my aunt arranged for me to go to Fiji to confirm the wedding venue and plans which we enjoyed in 2001. My family then didn't return until in 2011 for our 10th wedding and again we are here celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. A real blessing to have had this connection over the years.

However, for the Fiji islands cyclones have had some of the most devastating effects on the people over these years and was told by a staff member earlier this year they experienced one of the most severe cyclones in memory.

I've also been aware of the military coups that Fijians and Fijian Indians experienced over the years which has had many Fijian Indians migrating to NZ and has seen a rise in certain Auckland communities i.e. Otahuhu, Papatoetoe and Mt Roskill with a high proportion of Fijian Indians, most notably in school ethnic populations.

So this has been a time for me to reflect and consider where we've come from and all the things that I need to complete before the end of the year with Christmas just around the corner...


Friday, 25 November 2016

Blessed birthday in watching "Moana" in Fiji...

Our youngest in Nadi, Fiji before watching the movie "Moana".
I couldn't believe it when we flew out of Auckland and briefly met Temuera Morrison (Maori actor) who plays the father, Chief Tui, one of the main characters in the movie "Moana". Only Maria (my lil' sister) was game enough to ask him for a selfie and he obliged. I only walked past him in the plane (Air NZ) and shook his hand and said "looking forward to seeing "Moana". He must of thought what wierd random people to be talking to him or maybe he's used to it.

I later found out from my beloved on the Fiji TV news that he had travelled to Fiji for the premiere opening of "Moana" in Suva yesterday and today, for my birthday, I beloved granted my birthday wish of going to see the movie just out of Nadi, in Fiji with our two younger children. The timing couldn't have been more perfect as I had wanted to watch the movie and in NZ we would have had to wait until the December when the World premiere was only a couple of weeks ago in the US.

I must say, before the movie came out, I read through some of the critics various blogs and posts etc. of the movie and even those who said to ban the movie in protest due to intellectual property rights etc. the muddling of all Pacific cultures into one melting pot and I can also understand the anger at having a multinational corporate group like "Disney" raking in the profits from such a movie but for me...

I absolutely loved it! yes, as an academic, writer, storyteller, artist, Pasifika woman, poet etc. I definitely am not a pureist when it comes to culture and I cringed at certain parts of the storytelling and ideas such as the size of Mauis short/thick torso but all in all I listened very carefully and watched, cried, laughed and smiled when watching what I thought was a well crafted story that had so many elements of so many different Pacific Islands, that if you didn't know how to differentiate between the different cultures, this movie would definitely not tell you how to do that - that would have to be from your own personal research.

What I thought really spoke for me was that it esteemed our Pasifika ancestors and set the story straight that it wasn't Captain Cook who "discovered" the various Pasifika Islands as they had been well discovered many more hundreds of years by Pasifika ancestors who were amazing navigators and seafaring peoples. It also reiterated the importance of telling "our stories" that I have found so fascinating to re-tell for the next generations.

The movie also shared various elements from my Samoan heritage from the "Cheehoo!" of Maui's catch cry, the "tuiga" of Moana's tupou (Samoan princess-like status) headress, to Chief Tui's tatau (tatoos) and even listening to some of the lyrics was simple amazing.

I also liked how Maui played by Dwayne Johnson was so cocky as I thought Maui to have been as the Pasifika demigod and "trickster" as I knew growing up and it was also very cheeky in the ways that I know many Samoan young men are too :) Even the Samoan fale (traditional house) was incorporated with the sinnet lashings was simply amazing. There were many other elements from the Maori, Tokelauan, Fiji, Cook Islands etc. that were also incorporated into the movie but you have to ask someone from those Islands to find out.

The whole cinematography of the movie was beautiful. From my own artistic viewpoint, I'v always been drawn into the beauty of the Pacific Islands and even here in Fiji, I marvel at the beauty of nature, the brightly contrasting colours of the flora with the golden or black sands of beaches and the azure blues of the waters. It's also the way that I paint with contrasting colours of the sea, land and flowers. Just simply beautiful and the movie does justice to the beauty that I know, love and treasure of the Islands.

Even the pull of the sea to the character Moana, I have often felt that, even as a youngster growing up in NZ, of loving the water, going to beaches during the summer, of swimming and eating seafoods, fish either in NZ or in the Islands as I was brought up by my Samoan born parents. I love kayaking, paddling in waka ama or outrigging and even tried Dragon boating.

Even yesterday my beloved and I ate locally caught and cooked octopus, I mean, it helps if you know your sea foods and to me the movie helped to define me as a Pasifika person within so many ways of knowing. The sea creatures and other fauna were also incorporated in the tapa type prints, the weaving etc. so many motifs were featured throughout the movie that if you didn't know what the Pacific Islands were all about, this movie definitely gave you a sense of what it is or may have been like.

To all the "haters" out there, I would say don't take it too seriously, people will take whatever they want to get from the film but I definitely didn't want to judge the movie before I saw it as the critics had their own opinions but for me, the time has come of age in that the movie gave a sense that "we" Pasifika peoples history as brilliant sea navigators and is being taken seriously with Taika Waititi (Maori actor, producer, writer etc.) behind the original script of the movie and the rewriting of history acknowledges the mastery of Pasifika peoples to where we are today.

So Happy birthday to me and go see "Moana" with your families and enjoy!...

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Chillaxing during our 15th Wedding anniversary with kids on Denarau Island, Fiji...

Beach view at the resort at Denarau Island, Fiji

Pool view at the resort at Denarau Island, Fiji
Bula! It's such a blessing to be able to take our family each year to travel either within New Zealand or overseas. This year marks our 15th Wedding Anniversary with my beloved as we got married in Fiji on Sonaisali Island resort, 24th November 2001.

This year we made last minute plans to visit again since 2011 when we returned to mark our 10th wedding anniversary at the site with our children. This time, the last minute plans were nail biting, so much so that we were still waiting to receive our renewed passports (all 5 of them) the day before our plane flew out yesterday. Talk about living on the edge and having lots of faith! and never a dull moment.

I also thought to take my youngest sister, Maria, as she's been a great help with the book cover designs and next year marks her 21st birthday and what better way to celebrate her special significant day than to start with a before party function in Fiji.

In thinking about our overseas wedding, although it was initially very difficult for our extended families to accept our wedding in Fiji, we had a wonderful time with our minister/s, our parents, my grandmother, our aunties and uncles, siblings and those who were able to attend. I'll always remember how happy I was with my dad swimming in the pool in the morning before the wedding and having a great time with family.

Today, we are again spending a lot of time with our children in the pools, beach and splashing about for ages and just having some R and R. Because we live such busy lives with school and work, it's sometimes very hard to reconnect, between schedules and the busyness of life, but in taking time to just relax, we are able to chill and enjoy our time away with just Christmas around the corner...

Monday, 21 November 2016

Goals 2017...

I know, you're thinking it's way too early to be even thinking about 2017 in that you haven't done your Christmas shopping or thanksgiving planning, the Christmas parties to attend the children's end of school prize-givings etc. that's the same as for me but at church yesterday Pastor Campbell talked about having 20-20 vision when it comes to goal planning now for the new year and it's something that I've done over the years too.

He spoke about having 6 areas not only for your own personal goals but also for incorporating family goals and it's something that my family will be discussing as we look forward to going on holiday in the next few days. The goals he suggested were in the area of:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Family
  3. Relational
  4. Vocational
  5. Financial
  6. Personal
I do the same with my books in that I've already started planning for and can confirm at least 2 books of 5 for the coming year, Lord willing, and I'd like to start a new series of a Samoan historical picture book series that ties into personal stories to tie Samoan historical events into current understandings. 

There are so many legacy stories that I'd like to share with the next generations as when I was growing up most of my formal education was through a European lens but in doing my own research from a NZ Samoan perspective, I was able to learn to use various tools of learning and teaching to grow understandings of collecting important stories to pass on for upcoming youth including my own children.

This is quite exciting and looking forward to the family vacation and forward planning with the Christmas holidays and having a rest over the break although I have still quite a bit of study to catch up on my doctoral studies - Roll on Christmas...

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Lemon flavoured green tea my favourite...

My favourite tea of choice
My favourite tea happens to be green tea with lemon. In fact, after leaving Uni I was at a capacity of at least 3 cups of coffee a day to keep me up and going and then decided, when I went teaching in the early 1990s, to give it up completely and have been coffee-free ever since.

I also gave up tea at the same time but over the years, I decided to allow it back in and I've enjoyed lemon tea instead of the usual tea. My mother was my inspiration in that growing up she never drank tea or coffee in the ways that she was brought up back in Samoa, so I decided to follow suit in my adult years and don't miss coffee either even with the new exotic types of coffee, I don't even know what a capachino (don't even know how to spell it) tastes like let alone a mochachino.

But the other day, my beloved came home with the above pictured tea which I instantly liked. Green tea is supposed to be the more healthier option that I had picked up to drink last year and in adding the lemon, wow! just love to start the day with it or to end the day.

Often I'm asked about when I started thinking about creative writing and it was definitely in high school with my year older sister having a knack at poetry and winning the high school senior creative writing prize cup. Did I mention that I never won that cup? but it was something that I really wanted back then. Now, I no longer have to look to the past except for nostalgically with my cup of green tea with aromatic lemon in hand...

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Te Wananga o Aotearoa Summer Graduation...

Totem pole outside the centre
Graduation Ceremony of TWOA at the Vodafone Events Centre
 Yesterday, I attended the TWOA (Te Wananga o Aotearoa) summer graduation ceremony with my family. We went there to honour one of our family member's efforts upon completing her computing course. 

This was also the same course that I completed but due to having completed quite a few different courses over the course of my being at TWOA, I thought it more important to let our family member enjoy her night with a nice dinner and supper afterwards.

One of the neat things about having the TWOA Graduation ceremony at the Vodafone Events centre in Manukau, is being able to enjoy time with family a graduation ceremony without having to go into Auckland city with it's traffic jams, often an austere environment and expensive parking. 

It also allows local families from South Auckland, the opportunity to be able to enjoy the day and to see the sights such as the very tall Totem pole outside the centre which resembles Native American and Canadian totem poles with a distinct Maori artistic flavour in the carving.

There is also the new Vero Wero: Whitewater rafting course directly behind the totem that was newly opened last year as the first man-made water course in NZ. I haven't yet been in but looking forward to taking our family there as we all love the water, whether it's swimming, or kayaking, paddling in an outrigger or just having fun. Our love for water must be through our Pacific genes.

So now it's at the end of another learning journey and the start of new learning journeys for both of us. I was asked a few days ago what me being an "educator" means. I guess for me it means as in the Maori work "ako" and Samoan word "a'o" to teach and also to learn. It's about learning so that we can pass it on to the next generation...

Friday, 18 November 2016

SSAB Opening in Mangere - stocking my books!...

Ribbon cutting at opening of SSAB 17 Nov 2016
Had an amazing opportunity open yesterday as I attended the opening launch and ribbon cutting ceremony of SSAB Samoan Stationery and Books in Mangere at the Samoa House (Samoan Consulate) now moved from the city. There I met the Managing Director, Fiti Leung Wai, and when I approached her to discuss about stocking my books at the store, she agreed (cheehoo!!!) and promptly made an appointment to talk with the Auckland Managing Director whom I know too. Wow! I thank God for these amazing miracles since first self-publishing last year.

This is quite out of left field as I had first approached SSAB at their megastore in Samoa late last year but as they were gearing up for Christmas and the opening of their new Pago store in American Samoa she was too busy and I had to fly back to NZ before being able to show Fiti the books. We also got to see their Savaii store and so I think I've seen all their stores except for a Hawaiian store that I joked with Fiti about but they do have some Hawaiian products selling too.

Now, upon returning from Fiji next week, I'll be able to sit down and discuss/negotiate terms and conditions of stocking the books and am amazed at how things have turned within a week of seeing the SSAB store stock up for their opening and looking forward to seeing my books promoted there too. I also want to thank Jackie Curry for the invitation as this was so unexpected and I also thank the Samoan business network association for keeping me in sinc with what's going on.

What I like about the store is that I can see me doing my Christmas shopping there where they also have a Christian literature section and an array of gifts for birthdays and special occasion buys at reasonable prices plus I would be supporting Samoan enterprises rather than the multinational brand companies or made in China products that I have bought in the past.

They have an amazing variety of earrings and jewellery, some even for the high end shopper, shoes, clothing, Samoan books (yeah!) as I can now restock on some of the titles that I had lost as family members would ask to read and then forget to return. There are also toys, games, some of the latest gadgets and they are also opening a section where goods can be bought in Auckland and paid for whilst picked up in Samoa.

Wow! still smiling at this great opportunity and looking forward to a break in Fiji, as I really need one to recover :) Thank you God!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

View from Mangere Mountain "Te Pani o te Mataoho"...

View from Mangere Mt of what used to be Mangere sewage pond (crater)
My research journey with my class in Indigenous Research this year has been very interesting and I am painfully aware of the many decisions that were made by past local government and businesses to disrupt the beautiful landscape in Mangere to make way for modernisation as Auckland grew from the 1950s onwards.

I also found out that the name of the mountain for local Maori is "Te Pani o te mataoho" in which there is a story behind the name Maori name of the mountain and I have encouraged some local Maori from the iwi (tribe) to write about it as few know the incredible story behind the name but that is story is for them to tell.

One painful decision to the land was choosing a dormant crater which used to hold Maori canoes before European settlement to become an open sewage system for Auckland. You can see the crater in the pic above viewed from Mangere Mt and Ihumatao in the far distance. I remember it used to be sectioned off and there would be different colours to the sewage that was contained within the crater.

I remember as a child and into my 20s driving past the area and it would smell from the sewage and we would try to hold our noses or breath as we drove past. I wrote a poem about Mangere Mt which is in my first poetry collection in paying homage to this beautiful landscape that was mistreated and still being used as a sewage treatment plant although now using treatment tanks for the sewage waste etc.

Since the early 2000s modern treatment of sewage is doing away with the open sewage system and now there is a drive to restore the waterways back to it's former glory but that will take years and hopefully within our lifetime to see people swim, eat fish and seafood from there.

Presently, it's just nice to look at and have heard that there are plans afoot to change it into an aquicentre of some sort that will allow people to enjoy the area as a aquatic sports centre but not so sure how that will pan out.

Still, to see how the seabed is starting to restore itself with birds slowly returning and sealife hopefully sometime in the future, the landscape will one day return back to it's former glory, if left quietly alone ...

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

"Aunty Ma" a brilliantly moving story told through Maori theatre...

The cast of "Aunty Ma" script by storyteller William/Wiremu Davis
At Te Wananga o Aotearoa, I get the privilege of being able to experience Indigenous arts through a Maori lens as a NZ Samoan artist/author/academic etc. and it's a real privilege to share in the stories, performances, songs, whaikorero (speeches) and toi (the arts) at this Maori Indigenous tertiary institute of learning. It's a far cry from my former days in mainstream education and often challenges the perceptions of what I used to think as "the norm" in my former days as a student and then teacher professional.

Last night, I got the opportunity to take my class (Indigenous Research/ers) to view the play "Aunty Ma" in it's entirety as we had been invited to watch a rehearsal by the Maori performing arts class earlier but hadn't watched the ending. I was again blown away by the amazing script and story telling qualities of the performing arts students who used waiata (songs), te reo (language), taiaha (Maori weaponry) and many other elements to tell the story of a lady of grace whom we affectionately know at Te Wananga o Aotearoa as "Aunty Ma."

The story is about her life and the influences that made her what she is today as a passionate educator who was one of the founding members of Te Wananga o Aotearoa. This year she is leaving us due to her failing health etc. having spent 33 years as a stalwart of Te Wananga o Aotearoa. The story tells of what she encounted as a young Maori growing up in Te Awamutu and the story of how Te Wananga began.

I would highly recommend that every one watches this amazing story. The story was such that a number of the earlier trustees mortgaged their homes at least twice in order to be able to pay for the establishment of the buildings in Te Awamutu and were given a rubbish tip to build on top of for a $1 per year for 30 years (so symbolic of the racist attitudes of the day).

Today, Te Wananga o Aotearoa is the second largest tertiary education community in the country. It boasts teaching many Te Ao Maori (Maori world knowledge) courses as well as several degrees including the Bachelor of Social Work, Bachelor of Education and now Masters in Applied Indigenous Knowledge as well as heading towards a PhD or doctoral studies.

There are many campuses scattered throughout the North and South Islands and encourages multicultural communities of learners and staff throughout the motu (islands) where I also teach now in sharing the story.

The performances are free at the Mangere Arts Centre, today and tomorrow at a 1pm Matinee and a 7pm evening show. Well worth the watch...

Monday, 14 November 2016

Earthquake tremors felt in Mangere...

Large volcanic dormant crater 100 metres from where I live
Early this morning at about 12.20 am, my husband and I were talking when we felt our bed moving beneath us and I could hear the creaking of the door which had been closed. We stopped talking and listened in the dark as we could still feel the tremors for what seemed like 30 secs before it stopped. I then got up and asked my beloved to confirm if he thought it was an earthquake as I suspected. He knew that it was and checked around the house before turning on the TV to see if there was any news on the matter. I checked briefly outside which was very quiet, returned to bed and asked my husband to pray before we went to sleep after an eventful weekend.

I woke up as my beloved got ready for work and after he left I checked on Facebook feeds and there saw the news that I had been concerned about played before my eyes in the news feeds and various other forums. I then turned on the TV and saw that indeed it was a sizeable earthquake that we had felt the tremors of and thanked God for our safety in seeing the devastation that it has caused to parts of the South Island.

I think what is scary about this scene is that on 29 September 2009, my family and I were in Siumu, Samoa on a family holiday and had just woken up at about 7 am at my husband's family's house when the earthquake struck. As we were in their house on the mountain we felt and heard the earthquake rubbling and things moving in the house and we knew that this was seismic activity and there was nothing we could about it except to wait until the tremors subsided.

Only to be within 15 minutes later faced with a tsunami at the coast, a 5 minute drive down the hill where the school was. No one could have predicted what we were to witness next on that day when bodies were driven up the only main road in the village hours later and the next day when we drove around, we were astounded at the devastation of the earthquake around Samoa.

After that event, we discussed our plan in that should something of that nature happen that locating our children was a priority and family members, as well as checking out on our neighbours etc. We have water stored and now reminded to check on exit supplies as well as communications to be ready and available.

Today was a timely reminder that we never know when these things will happen but we need to consider what we need to have prepared and planned in the event that it may happen....

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Visit Pania Warrior Princess of Ihumatao...

Image result for ihumatao soul Had an absolutely stunning day yesterday with my class on our hikoi (research fieldtrip) around Mangere. Our first stop was to meet the whanau at Ihumatao headed by the beautifully eloquent Pania a.k.a. Warrior Princess of S.O.U.L. (Save our unique landscape) a group from the area who were formed to try to fight against a big corporate company i.e. Fletcher building 480 houses on their back doorstep right on their sacred lands - our own "Standing Rock" likened to the Dakota pipeline protests in the US with united tribes of Native Indians standing up to fight for their lands and waterways.

Their campsite is a quiet and respectful occupation of their ancestral lands and Pania explained how the land was taken off their people when they wouldn't pledge allegiance to the English queen (a treasonist act in those days) back in the 1860s and they were ordered off their lands and told to leave for the Waikato where the Kingitanga movement (Maori king) had been formed in resistance to the new settlers (Pakeha - Europeans) taking over their lands all over New Zealand, since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. They were later allowed to return but to a smaller reserve whilst the bulk of the lands were sold to the new European settlers and used for mainly farming and horticulture.

As she told the story of the history of her people, I was moved by her steady and measured eloquence, her patient and respectful discussion of what to me has been the continued raping and pillaging of their lands, a remnant of what we see today of what must have been an amazing testimony of early Polynesian now Maori technology. As we looked atop of maunga, with panoramic views, I knew that we were standing on a last bastion of a historical Polynesian settlement/s soon be buried under concrete and urban sprawled housing, a testimony to our technological advancement.

We then walked on the Otuataua Stonefields and listened to the history of what was once a thriving community with horticultural advancement, a trading post with stunning views for hundreds of years before European settlement and now reduced to rubble (in parts) by the vicious quarrying of many of their maunga (mountains) some of which no longer exist today. The stories of how some of their ancestors bones are buried in some of the lava caves soon to have houses built on top of them - incredible!

After sharing stories, we then shared lunch, parted ways and headed for Mangere Mountain, as it is known today, but it's Maori name is Te Pane o Mataoho which has an amazing story behind it. I obviously support the stand of Pania and her people and have encouraged them to tell their story and will koha (gift) my time to seeing this become a reality as so many people do not know the important history of Maori mana whenua (original indigenous descendants) in Mangere and the histories that need to be told to the next generations.

After walking around the maunga (mountain) and listening to the history while viewing the various features and the panoramic view of the other volcanic mountains of Auckland from the vantage point, I realise the importance and the magnitude of the what needs to be done in order to ensure that this encroaching does not continue to advance further and would implore that many, many more local and national iwi (tribes), communities, academics, churches, schools, families, friends, neighbours etc. need to visit Pania (our local warrior princess), hear her story and then respond in doing something about it i.e. "the right thing" to ensure that our next generations not only hear but can "see" history/herstory...

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Huia Publishing - sharing our stories with the world...

Over the last couple of days I spent time at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Hamilton in a workshop with other Researchers/lecturers from the Wananga with Huia Publishers. The above youtube clip is an encouraging history of the first 21 years of establishing the Publishing house and the influence/impact it has had on the New Zealand literary landscape.

Robin Bargh was the director who first started the business back in 1991, in seeing the need for Maori literature to be available for New Zealanders in schools, homes, bookshops etc. It was her vision that has seen many Maori and also Pasifika peoples publish their stories in various forms and has added colour to New Zealand literature.

I remember as a high schooler reading Witi Ihimaera's early books and being able to relate to the stories, even though they were about Maori, it resonated with me more so than a lot of the English literature that I read in schools. Patricia Grace, was another Maori writer who also inspired me as young adult and particularly "Potiki" in what I see now happening to the landscape in Ihumatao with "dollarman".

I came out of the workshop even more inspired to write more stories and to consider where too next in my writing journey. In fact, many participants came out of the workshop buzzing with writing ideas and new considerations about about why, who and how we write to inspire and encourage other generations to share stories, to continue in their journeys as Maori as Pasifika peoples.

So encouraging and with so much more to come. Thank you Huia Publishers...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ancient lifeways of Tamaki lectures...

Ian Lawlor, archaeologist at Mangere Arts centre
It was interesting to listen to the "Ancient Lifeways of Tamaki" lectures/talks last night. There were quite a lot of people who come to listen and I was very interested in Ian Lawlor's presentation of the Mangere Ihumatao area's history which was both amazing and disturbing.

The amazing part of it was that there was documentation from excavations that showed the area had been inhabited probably as one of the first areas that Polynesians came to live and cultivate in New Zealand and then adapted into what we now know as Maori practices over time.

One of the sites excavated even had Moa bones carbon dating to around 1100s well before the English discoverers came. The early Maori even had sophisticated garden systems whereby they were even able to support the growing city of Auckland in the 1800s when the first English settlers were still growing accustomed to the land.

Unfortunately, due to Western ways of thinking and the economic growth of Auckland, he spoke about how many of the volcanic mountains were decimated and quarried in providing for the road ways of Auckland and it's progress.

Today many of those mountains no longer exist except for aerial photographs of the area back in the 1800s and 1900s. Therefore, many Maori descendants of the area are only seeing a part of the landscape that hasn't yet been destroyed although the current occupation of Ihumatao is challenging Fletcher Living to not buy or build on their sacred lands.

From an Indigenous Researcher's perspective it was also interesting to note that the Intellectual property of the matters discussed did not explain how Maori would benefit from this knowledge. I suppose it is something for us to continue to talk about...

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Neat time at the NZ Book Festival with some creative authors ...

Claire Bunt, author and teacher
I had a neat time at the NZ Book Festival in Mt Eden yesterday meeting lots of authors (many of whom we'd met at the festival last year) and I will be blogging about some of the creative authors I met and some of their stories. One of whom I'll introduce to you today as children's author, Claire Bunt.

She is an amazing woman in that we shared similar stories as she was a teacher at Mangere Intermediate when I was there as a student between 1977 - 1978. Although, I wasn't taught by her I vaguely remembered her on staff.

There I had a teacher in my first year, called Mr John Toetoe, who was a handsome young Maori teacher that many girls/ladies liked but boy was he strict, however, I think he had a soft spot for me and encouraged me to do by best in my school work when I was slacking off and he loved for us to run around the large field as our fitness.

He was also good at teaching us Maths and I began to excel in Maths from his class through to High school. He was one teacher whom I'll never forget and Claire Bunt also remembered him and other teachers at the times that we were both there.

Claire Bunt writes children's books and also sends them off to Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands for free by the box for children in schools to read. She has such a neat heart for communities and also supports UNICEF. In fact, she even gave me a couple of books for to read to our youngest child and was very blessed by her.

The two neat books that I read are featured at the front of her stand as: "A Day of Surprises" and "The Green Hat that blew away" both are from the "Life in the Solomon Islands" series and beautifully illustrated by Philip Webb. She also has another book called "Whatever happened to Milo?" and these stories have literacy activities associated to them.

And looking forward to sharing many more stories of neat authors that I met throughout the week...

Friday, 4 November 2016

Art work for cover of "Sacred steps of Tigilau"...

This pic is the new painting for the upcoming book launch of our last book offering for the year, for the play "Sacred steps of Tigilau". The carving was carved by my middle child as a part of her technology project at school and I loved it on the spot and asked for her permission to incorporate it into my artwork for the cover of the book.

In some cultures and areas in New Zealand girls/women are not accepted to learn carving but there is a growing interest in carving for woman that at Te Wananga o Aotearoa where I work, they have allowed women to learn carving too.

The other amazing opportunity is that with the 50th Golden Jubilee of my primary school, Robertson Road School, they've accepted for me to launch our book on the Gala Day on the 2nd of December between 6 - 7 pm which is a real honour.

It was a neat school that set me on a good stead for the rest of my academic journey and now I feel that I am able to give back to the school by launching and advertising my connection with the school and where it has taken me to now. I also hope to encourage and enthuse current students to also reach for their goals and to go as far as they are able to in their studies at school.

Also looking forward to tomorrow with the NZ Book Festival day and with so much going on, I really thank God for these great opportunities!...

Thursday, 3 November 2016

50th Celebration Robertson Road School...2nd Dec...

Robertson Road school 50th Golden Jubilee celebrations on 2 Dec 2016
Wow! hard to believe how fast time has passed by with the 50th Golden Jubilee of my Primary school, Robertson Road school, now coming into fruition. The dates that I attended the school was between 1970 - 1976 and then I matriculated (as they used to say) to Mangere Intermediate for the following two years and then completed my high school education at Nga Tapuwae College now known as Southern Cross campus.

The date for the formal Ball is on 28th Nov (Tuesday night) at the Holiday Inn for $75 from 7pm - 12 midnight with special prizes etc. and the Friday 2nd of Dec is set for a big Gala day from 3 - 7pm. I'm hoping to have an announcement for that day but just confirming and then will be able to discuss details.

I remember having some neat teachers at the school and my mum even bought the photos of all the years that I was at school there. Starting with black and white photos and then graduating to colour photos (yes, I was around at that time :)

Primer 1: Miss Race (Real strict, and I was very careful not to get in trouble with her)
Primer 4: Miss Brookbanks (A neat teacher who didn't finish the year but I liked her nice manner)
Standard 1: Miss Mitchell (Scottish - did some amazing art projects with her i.e. string art)
Standard 2: Miss Sharkey (Very strict and gave me talks about my behaviour - to be good)
Standard 3: Miss ? Really liked this teacher and went to say goodbye to her when she left the school
Standard 4: Mr Meikan (Maori - lots of singing and worked hard but very strict and with a neat sense of humour).

Looking forward to this event as the school was foundational in assisting me to have a great start to what has become a career in education as well as now writing and painting etc. I remember having some neat art classes that really nurtured my interest in art from a very young age and still continuing it today with the books. Looking forward to more details to come...

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Attending NZ Book Festival this Sat 5 Nov in Mt Eden...

This Saturday, I'm exhibiting at the NZ Book Festival that's being held at Mt Eden Memorial Hall on Dominion Road from 9am - 4.30pm. It also happens to be the day that a school that I am on the Board of Trustees with is also choosing a new principal so it's going to be a bit of a juggle to be at both places at once but will see what can be done.

This will be the second year that I have attended as a self-published author as last year, I was just getting started and it was a whole new learning curve for me. Now, I'm still on the learning curve but so many different opportunities have opened up for me with now venturing into poetry, upcoming art exhibition/s and academic work.

Still, I think it's important to remain within the various communities, as a writer, and to be available to discuss ideas and thoughts with those who are interested. Unfortunately, some of my books are not available with the need for re-printing but will be happy to take orders for upcoming Christmas.

I've also just found out today, that 3 of my poems have been accepted to be published on a New Zealand literary online magazine (I think that's what it's described as) but more of that story in future blogs as these opportunities unfold.

So really looking forward to setting up for this Saturday and taking along the various books on offer to discuss with interested book lovers. Last year, I think I was the only Pasifika/Samoan self-published author that attended the festival and maybe this year there may be more but all the same looking forward to an eventful day... Oh, and it also coincides with Guy Fawkes celebrations in the evening...

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

It takes a village to raise a child...

Woke up early this morning with this idea in my head as a pivotal concept in my Doctoral thesis. It's been something I've been thinking about for a while in skirting around the fringes but now considering how it brings my thoughts together.

In trying to make sense of this: my parents were both brought up in villages in Samoa on both ancestral sides in fact I'm currently seeing how far I can go back (with the help of my family) to see how far back our family tree can be traced. So far it looks like at least 7 generations in using, a Morman website, to link with other family trees and trace back to different villages in Samoa.

However, when my parents moved here after my paternal grandmother had already settled in Auckland, the village dynamics changed and in a sense the church became our village, in many respects, with the functions of the village as was my experience growing up. This translated as the church playing a pivotal role in raising families through shared beliefs, experiences, it took a teaching and instructional role and set out the norms of behaviour.

In retrospect, it was my father's strong stance with my mother's support that brought about this foundation into our daily lives that I often took for granted growing up. It was a norm that I shared with other first generation NZ born Samoans whom I attended school with and I was aware then that not every Pasifika child was raised in similar environments.

I now wonder, for those Pasifika families whose roots are no longer in a church, who their village system was with? and now have school communities or sports communities taken over this role for some? or have many now turned to the nuclear family and friends as being their village setting?

The village concept is a powerfully positive idea for raising a child if it is a positively empowering village environment that grows an individual to be confident spiritually, physically, mentally and holistically in their wellbeing as they enter into the wider world. It is definitely a concept that I'll be looking into with more vigour...