Friday, 30 March 2018

The real reason for this season of Easter...

 Last night I went to our local churches' 'The Watch' service and absolutely loved it. It was a contemplative ceremony with 5 different stations where people could contemplate, pray, write, read, talk quietly and just bathe in the presence of God.

It took me back to when I was in my 20s and a Catholic girlfriend of mine took me to an Easter service at her church where they had around 10 stations of the cross and people could walk around the church to each of the different 'stations' and pray where a carving depicted the various stages of the journey that Jesus had part taken in on his way to his crucifixion and then later resurrection.

Ours was a little different and in semi darkness, candles were lit and soft lighting bathed the space with contemplative instrumental music in the background. This set the scene for the 5 different spaces of:

  1. Finding your way home: remembering when God was in your life at it's darkest and also in the lighter moments; to write a letter to yourself from either past, present or future; noting the date of your salvation (the latter written on a paper and hung on a line).
  2. Your home: praying a silent prayer request but also acknowledging past hurts and writing those requests down to allow God to deal with them, especially any painful actions/memories etc. and (writing those requests on paper and rolling them up and pushed into a grid).
  3. Your street: praying for your 'zone of proximity' i.e. for neighbours on your street, acknowledging the influence that you have and praying for them. We then had to find our street place on a map and (pin a little pushpin into the space).
  4. Your city and nation: we then had to go to a long table and read short excerpts about 10 ministries that the church has in our neighbours and city and to pray especially for the one that touches your heart (there is a glass jar representing each ministry and you choose a large pebble to put into the one that touches your heart to pray for). The ministries are:
  • Red Frogs (reaching out to Tertiary students ministering at events where alcohol is present)
  • Streetreach (reaching out to those who are in prostitution) * My chosen prayer ministry
  • Lifeway Houses (reaching out to those living in communal homes with disability/ies)
  • The Giving Tree (reaching out to children with presents on Christmas whose parents are incarcerated in prison)
  • Kiwi Contax (reaching out to those who are or have been asylum seekers from other countries)
  • Assisted living (reaching out to those who are elderly and often living alone in elderly homes)
  • Refresh (reaching out to those who are single parents bringing up a child or children)
  • Soup Kitchen (reaching out to those who are in need of a meal around various areas)
  • CAP (Christian Against Poverty) (reaching out to those who are in need of budgeting assistance).
  • Christmas Box (reaching out to families with a Christmas box of treats in the Christmas period)
5. Communion: the final station held bread and a small communion drink where individuals, couples or small groups could come to have communion and complete this amazing journey (the bread and wine symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus celebrated and contemplated each Easter). I shared this last act with my beloved and youngest and it completed the neat journey of each station.

I also wrote the following:
At the first station:

Letter from the past to the present and future
He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end
He was with you in the beginning at your birth
He will be there to meet you at your death
He has never left you, nor forsaken you, nor denied you, nor ever given up on you

Even if your partner separates - He never will
Even when your children leave home - He never will
Even when you want to give up and give in - He never will
Even when things look bleak and insurmountable - He will always believe in you to overcome because he did

You cannot live with Him, yet you cannot live without Him
He will be there till the very end
and His name will be praised.

And at the last station:

He is...
... the forgiver of sins (when you confess it to him)
... the one who can take your pain away (when you give it to him)
... the one who can help you to fulfil your goals (when you ask him for direction)
... the one who never gives up on you (when you ask him for help)
... the one who can pick you up when you are down (when tell him your fears)
... the one you can run to when you are in pain and hurting (when you tell him your pain and worries)
... the one who has hopes and dreams for you (when you give him your heart's desires)
... the one who is waiting for you...

May you and your family, friends and loved ones be blessed this Easter season...

Thursday, 29 March 2018

A big shout-out to neice Taylor on fulfilling grandparents dreams...

Taylor with her Papa and Mama (Grandparents)
 A big shout out to my neice Taylor (my elder sister Norma's eldest daughter) for winning the prestigious Prime Ministers Youth Deloitte's $10K Scholarship for upcoming entrepreneur (not sure of the official title) of 8 other Ministry of Pacific Peoples sponsored scholarships.

She's definitely someone to watch out for as she carves her path out in the innovative business world and I love her sense of humour (definitely Samoan) and her creativity which she got from her mum which my sister and I got from our mum. Lots of alofa and blessings going her way in seeing how it made my dad happy in seeing next generations succeeding in their chosen paths of life.

It brings me to the dreams that my parents had, her grandparents, to sacrifice a future in Samoa with beloved ones, in coming to NZ to pioneer a new lifestyle and way of living for themselves and future generations yet still holding on to the principles and customs/traditions albeit adapted to the NZ way of life and we are the reapers and benefit from decisions that they made as our forebearers.

I hope that my children and our next generations who are still yet to attend Uni and venture further afield will always remember in their hearts and in their life's principles the vision that my parents had for us all. It wasn't an easy journey and they had to contend with racism, prejudice and bigotry but due to our Christian principles as well, their legacy has withstood the tests of time and have benefited from the principles of a hardworking ethic, perseverance, determination and tenacity and just never giving up especially when times are tough.

I'm so thankful that I have been blessed with kind and considerate parents who not only have nurtured me but have always challenged me, and continue to challenge me about my principles as a Christian SamoaNZ women, mother, daughter, sister, friend etc. I know that I want my children to continue their legacy and in watching them leave for Samoa today, I know that God chose them especially for me, for my generation and the next...

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Amazing artwork by Anna-Maria Tauau for new book project...

I wanted to give a 'big shout out' to my sister Anna-Maria Tauau (we just call her Maria or Ria for short) for her neat artwork that I've chosen to grace the cover of our next anthology or collection of writing from local writing group 'Mana Mangere writers collective' and hoping to also include some youth voices from local schools.

I chose the title of our collection to be a 'Sense of belonging' firstly because it was to be the title of my first Doctoral thesis in Geography at Auckland University but half way through my studies, I decided to change course (that's another story) and instead got married started my family.

The idea stayed within and after much interest in our very first collection and the confirmation of local Mangere and Otahuhu Boards providing funding for a second collection, the title came back to me as I started to consider the themes that would be relevant and important to share as a community.

For as many know, Mangere and Otahuhu are very multicultural communities and having been brought up in Mangere, I have many fond memories and also some not so great. However, in all of the experiences that writers have had, I've asked them to write about how they consider that 'sense of belonging' and have left it wide open for discussion.

I'm hoping that this particular collection will begin its pace after Easter and I will blogging about the progress up into the launch date of around August/September of this year which is why the cover has already been chosen to create a sense of space in the stories/poetry etc. to come.

Our last collection called 'Mana Mangere voices' that included prose and poetry can be found in most local South Auckland libraries and I found this review by an Auckland writer about the book that she is selling on her website 'Blue Mushroom books'.

"Mana Mangere Voices" is an anthology of stories and poetry from this south Auckland writing group. Powerfully raw, this bold book from accomplished author, artist & educator, Helen Tau'au Filisi, will resonate and encourage reflection. Available now for just $20 


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Draft Auckland Plan 2030 and 10 Year Plan - have your say...

Councillor Alf Filipaina at last night's Fono
 Last night I had an interesting evening at the Manukau Civic Buildings in attending the South Pacific Fono on having a say on the Draft Auckland plan to 2050 and the 10 year plan that is currently asking specific questions to Aucklanders about future planning and resourcing those plans.

The 3 current priorities for Auckland are understandings around:

  1. the population increase
  2. equity for all
  3. keeping Auckland beautiful
It was also interesting to learn the 5 values for Auckland as seen through the Auckland City Council as being:
  1. kindness
  2. diversity
  3. creativity
  4. honesty
  5. future thinking
The outcomes from the work over the last couple of years on this revamp includes Auckland being:

  1. inclusive
  2. Maori wellbeing
  3. affordable housing
  4. efficient transport
  5. environment
  6. education and work
So if you are wanting to have a say, have a look on the website: and don't forget to leave your feedback as to what you think is important for the city in the next few years. There are 6 questions to answer, some of which include considerations as to how much money we need to consider to pay towards rates increases etc.

As for me, I was able to have my say as an individual and then in the group i.e. Pacific Peoples Advisory panel to the Auckland City Council. It's important to have your say...

Monday, 26 March 2018

Weekend at Umupuia Marae, Maraetai...

 This last weekend I spent at Umupuia Marae, in Maraetai right next to the beach. It's a new course of learning that I'm taking with fellow colleagues of mine of whom invited me to join their class in teaching a similar course, mine with a research emphasis and theirs with a language focus.

I think the highlight for me, apart from meeting new classmates and going through the class exercises, was being by the sea/ocean/waters which I've always had an affinity with. It was neat to learn things about how the Maori culture is unique and yet similar to Samoan culture in many ways.

I also discovered that perhaps the word 'tikanga' in Maori is similar to the words 'tu ma aganuu' or customs and traditions in English. It's been great to be in a forum where we can discuss some of the things that are happening for Maori and then I get to consider it from a SamoaNZ perspective.

Definitely good food for thought, and as my journey continues in discovering so many different interesting and important ideas for our next generation, it makes me consider what I need to put into place for our next generations...

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Guest Author at 'Wonder Hub' Papatoetoe West school...

Yesterday, was such a neat day in being invited as a local author with two other authors to be a part of the opening of a local school's new library and technology building at Papatoetoe West school.

It was so neat to be a part of this as each class was asked to display on parade, for parents and guest, a book of their choice where they could dress up as the characters of the book. Some of the teachers went all out in their costumes as there was: the Hulk, Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Witches, Heroes etc.

I went dressed up in my Samoan puletasi (patterned top and a skirt) and told the crowd that I was Sina in 'Sina and the Tuna' which is one of the stories that I'd retold and which many other authors have written about. The school had also bought a few of my books for the library which was a real bonus too.

With the two other authors, we said a few words and then the kaumatua (Maori elder) blessed the 'Wonder Hub' in a traditional Maori ceremony and then a ribbon was cut declaring that it was open and followed by a tour through the building which ended with a cup of tea.

What was so neat about the time was meeting two church friends who both worked at the school of whom I had grown up with at church. At the time, I was the first teacher to begin in the teaching force and then many have since become teachers as well. It also reminded me of how much I enjoyed visiting the school library and reading from a very young age.

I also got to meet a past student who had a child at the school and whom had been an actor in one of my past high school plays. I also gifted a Pasifika play book 'Su'e the lost son' for his family and he expressed later in a message that he had read the whole the play in one sitting in remembering some of the memories that he'd had in the production.

All in all, an amazing day with such a neat resource for the school community...

Friday, 23 March 2018

Pasifika celebration at the 'Cloud' on Quay Street...Auckland CBD...

Pasifika celebration at the 'Cloud' on Quay Street, Auckland CBD
Last night, I was able to attend a celebration for Pasifika month/event this weekend at Western Springs with my beloved.

It was also good to see many of the corporate sponsors and Auckland council representatives, Aupito Su'a William Sio and Alf Filipaina.

We were all entertained by the winning group of the PolyFest for the Cook Islands stage which who were from Mangere College and there were also some other Pasifika dancers who made the evening special.

It was the first time that I'd been at the cloud which reminds of Sydney's Darling Harbour as there were many tourists who took pics around the area. The highlight of the night, quite apart from the Pasifika dancers, was when they turned on the lights of the Auckland Harbout Bridge and there was Cook Island drums playing in the background that synced in with the changing of the patterns and colours on the harbour bridge.

All in all, we had a neat evening with singing, entertainment, some nice Pasifika themed food but at a cocktail type occasion i.e. small portions which made for a lovely evening. As we reflected upon the drive home, it was neat to be a part of a vibrant, growing community of what Aupito described in his opening speech about this Pasifika generation being beautiful, bold, bilingual (multilingual for me) etc.

With so much more to look forward to for our Pasifika communities...

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Busyness in Book stalls and promos and room for indigenous perspectives and spaces...

This year is already looking to be a very busy year with my first book stall already completed and am now with a South Auckland group of entrepreneurs who will be promoting our products at a 'pop-up shop' near the Quay at Auckland's CBD for tourists and interested visitors to visit and view.

It's a really interesting space because it encourages people with indigenous backgrounds to move into a creative space that allows for selling of products to a local, national and international market i.e. cruise ships that visit enroute nearby.

My interest is particularly about sharing our stories especially for our next generations but also to those who care about preserving indigenous histories, stories and cultural traditions that bring meaning to many who are still marginalised or oppressed or still being colonised into thinking that their cultures don't count in the scheme of things.

These spaces allow for a 'normalisation' of being proud (not arrogant) of who we are and to put a face to the often faceless creators behind mass productions. I've been asked to read for a week during the lunchtime sessions or to be able to have video of people (celebrities?) reading our books. However, for me it's not about celebrity endorsement (plus the fact that I don't know many :) but it was for an audience of whom ever are interested to learn from these stories.

So it's something I'm considering and it's also a short story that I'm working on to put into our next Mana Writers collective collection of short stories and poetry which we hope to be produced and ready for launching by the end of the year.

Already a busy year ahead...

Monday, 19 March 2018

Happy Birthday shout out to our youngest...

A quick 'Happy Birthday - shout out' to our youngest who turned 7 years old yesterday as we celebrated our youngest miracle and blessing with a special birthday breakfast after she woke up with delight realising that the day had finally dawned for her birthday (as she started counting down since last year!).

I've learnt over the years that children are such a blessing but that they are only with us for a short time before it's their time to take wings and fly, so that during the parenting time we teach and guide, support and discipline (when appropriate) so that when that time comes, they will be ready to fly no matter what i.e. spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally etc.

It also brings to mind those children who are in vulnerable situations and need caring adults and caregivers to support their needs as they continue growing which is why as a family we support World Vision and sponsor a child in India and acknowledge that it takes a village to bring up a child.

For the evening, she went with her dad and siblings to watch the Chinese circus 'Zirkar' who are touring in Auckland for a short season and enjoyed the clowns, juggling, magic shows, tricks of the trade and surprisingly no animals although it's neat to see that there are fewer caged animals being accepted into circus performances.

Another year older and enjoying the view...

Friday, 16 March 2018

NZ Prime Minister at PolyFest 2018...

Prime Minister, Jacinta Ardern, with local students at the PolyFest
Today, I gave permission for my high schoolers and youngest to take the day off school to witness and experience the largest Maori and Pasifika joint dance festival in the world.

In fact, when visiting the 'Ministry of the Pacific Peoples' info stall, I was told that the PM (Prime Minister) would be walking through and when we were about to go she came in with our local MP (Member of Parliament) Aupito, Su'a William Sio and took photos with some local students including our youngest and then went off to see the rest of the festival.

This year, we went to support my niece who decided to represent her high school on the Tongan stage and then went to observe our high school Tongan group as they didn't have a tutor for the Samoan group (what!?) anyway, hopefully there will be one for next year as I made some enquiries to find a possible Samoan tutor for them for next year.

What I enjoy about the PolyFest is that it gives the opportunity for those students in schools who decide to participate, the ability to learn cultural dance performances that bring together languages, ancient Pasifika tunes with dance movements that have been revived and have evolved over time.

As with these Festivals, there are plenty of food stalls, jewellery stalls, University and tertiary institutes etc. in fact, many organisations who work with Pasifika peoples like to make their presence known there. And I have considered selling books there but with so much going on, there hasn't been the time to organise it.

With another day to go, even more people will be scheduling a stop to this annual event, with more car parks to look for, stall garbage to dispose of and viewing of many amazing performances with cups to be given out tomorrow...

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

PolyFest and Sem A...

It's all go again with my teaching/tutorial classes starting last week and now into the second it's pretty full on but nothing like the workload that I had as a secondary school teacher.

As a tertiary tutor/lecturer there is more room to breath and make constant adaptations and considerations into the adult students backgrounds and the nature of the programme being taught.

And as each new year brings about a new group of students (except this year I had 8 students follow me into a new programme) it's neat to try and learn names and learn about each student and the background they bring with them.

Which brings me to the week of the PolyFest short for Polynesian Festival of dance that is by far the largest competition in the world which features dances from secondary schools throughout Auckland, even nationally and I heard about a school flying in from the Cooks (Cook Islands high school) who are also coming to dance or compete?

This festival has definitely developed over the years since the 1970s in South Auckland and I am so happy that my youthful kids are also wanting to participate for which I have granted them a days 'cultural fieldwork experience' as it's an important festival that passes on cultural knowledge through song, dance, music, tuition, stage presence etc. that are often not taught in schools (unless you're studying that particular topic).

Some schools even offer NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) credits for performance which is a massive acceptance of the effort and attainment that dedicated students can achieve within performances and tonight I'll be viewing our eldests' Tongan group performance and on the weekend I viewed a nieces Tongan performance as you don't have to join your own cultural group i.e. one can even join other cultural groups to learn their dance moves, cultural expectations in dance form and even learn some important values and words.

There are many groups taking the stage and performing a similar time each year over a 3 - 4 day period with various stages i.e. Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands, Niuean, Indian and a diversity stage for various other cultural dance performances.

Not only is there a lot of dancing but there is also a lot of food to sample, and drinks, there are many stalls from various organisations to raise awareness or to sell products etc. I've thought about selling my books but because I already have a very busy life then that hasn't figured into the equation as such.

So off I will go and take a trip with our youth and their friends to view this year's PolyFest and I haven't even mentioned the Pasifika Festival which is also in the month of March in Western Springs park over a weekend with Pasifika performances, foods, wares and so much more. It must be Pasifika month in March...

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Krispy Kreme doughnut phenomenon...

What's the big deal about Kripsy Kreme Doughnuts? I was out to find out all about it since well before the opening in 2017 there was a lot of publicity both positive and negative about the American based company spreading it's wings to Down Under and way past Australia who already has the company well under it's wings.

In fact, on the day of the opening, it boasted huge crowds and lines, with parking hard to find around the store. There were also news articles about how Manukau already had an obesity and diabetes problem (highest stats in the nation) with it's population and this was going to add exponentially to that figure.

So a couple of times I cruised over to view and could see lines and and full car parking so thought to get a dessert alternative instead until I spoke to another mother friend who told me that there were two lines: the quick pre-packed line which was only a 15 min wait or the 1 hour wait to go into 'dine' in the 'restaurant'. The 15 min line was the fast moving one whilst the other stood still.

Well of course I opted for the 15 min one waiting along with a lot of the younger generation and then I realised that the marketing strategy had worked in that a lot of younger people who didn't mind waiting around and spending around $38 for 2 dozen (1 boxed glazed and 1 box assorted) which seemed to be the best buy were quite happy to take that time.

When I took it home and had a taste, I realised what all the buzz was about. It has to do with the 'light' texture of the doughnuts unlike 'Dunkin' Doughnuts' which seems to have a heavier texture and a lot more 'doughy', Krispy Kreme's doughnuts are processed in such a way that they seem 'lighter.'

And then add that to the fact that there is a lot of American celebrity endorsement taking photos with the doughnuts i.e. former US President Barack Obama, Victoria secrets models, Rev Jesse Jackson, Jay Leno etc. It seems NZ will also be adding to that with lots of photos being taken by people lining up and going 'live' to show that they were in the 'Krispy Kremes' line.

I remember being in the States (US) in Oregon in the 1980s when I witnessed this phenomenon in wondering what was the big deal in having a stand alone doughnut shop that served doughnuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner as there had been nothing of the sort at the time. I'm not a big doughnut fan but in tasting the then doughnuts, I realised that with the marketing and being set up as a fast foods outlet that it was easy to access for a quick 'pick me up'.

And now it's Manukau's turn to enter into the food phenomenon of what is fast foods doughnuts. If only it didn't come with all the calories and diabetes sugar warnings...

Friday, 9 March 2018

Excellence awards evening...

It was interesting to attend our eldest's school's senior 'Excellence Awards evening' last night and a real blessing to see the hard work of our eldest recognised and rewarded through the school.

As I listened and watched the event unfold, I couldn't help but consider the fact that very few Pasifika students were walking across the stage to receive their excellence certificate. In fact, I counted about 7 of some 200 students whom I recognised through their family names and features (although I may have missed a few).

I also listened to the guest speaker who himself had been a teacher, now retired, and a foremost developer of the NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) English curriculum and an examiner who wrote many of the first English senior exams. He had also set up the Excellence awards ceremony for the school to recognise the efforts of senior students.

It struck me that as he spoke of excellence being from latin origins and meaning par-excellence i.e. standing tall above the many and being of excelling above the standard. I reflected on whether for our Pasifika communities that perhaps in the communal setting that type of respect is afforded to ministers and our elders and people of prominence rather than individual efforts.

I remember growing up that my parents had high expectations of us and that we could do anything - no excuse was afforded to us even though we didn't have a lot of $ in those formative years. At school, I remember a teacher telling our senior class at the local school that although our class was in the top stream, that at a 'normal' high school, we would be middle of the road. I knew he was well meaning and didn't say it in malice but he also had low expectations of what individuals are capable of doing.

As I continue to traverse the spectrum of compulsory education and the status of Pasifika students, I know it to be very important for the individual engage in hard meaningful studies (mostly rote learning) that equates to having a deeper understanding of how to attain that 'excellence' standard and the 'tricks behind the trade'. It means hours of dedicated personal time, sacrificing the now for the future and having parents or making an environment that allows for that dedication.

I remember many years ago, when teaching senior Pasifika students, I would talk to them about a different 'mind set' that in a sense you had to become a highly motivated individual who would have to make that mind shift and be organised to ensure that 'all the boxes were ticked' no matter what the circumstances are around you. It is a definite individualistic decision that individuals must make and that families can get behind to support.

As a concerned parent and educator, I'm considering my next move of engaging with the school to better inform parents, through a Pasifika parent/teacher/student forum to begin to discuss this, although I have been told that such meetings have occurred before (of which I haven't heard of) and then those of us who have been able to attain those lofty heights can share in a communal setting that 'tricks of the trade' and how to see more Pasifika students walk across that stage with proud parents and family clapping in support. That's if they want to...

Friday, 2 March 2018

Rotten corn and other indigenous delicacies...

Image result for corn on the cob After many years of hearing about 'rotten corn' a Maori delicacy, I finally got a taste of what it was all about. It's reputation definitely precedes it before you see it and I mean the smell is quite pungent i.e. the term "rotten" but in actual fact, I think it's more about being 'fermented' perhaps much like the 'hops' that are used for making beer.
It all happened because we were had a team farewell of a member leaving us for further studies in the 'Matauranga Maori' team (Maori knowledge/worldviews) that I'm a part of on campus and one of our lecturers/tutors brought along a batch for our shared lunch. 
I wondered what that pungent smell was until it finally connected with me that it was the rotten corn. I think they kind of dared for me to eat it and because I absolutely love corn as one of my fave vegetables, I was definitely game to give it a go and I must say that it took me to the next level.
I was encouraged to eat it along with a pinch of raw sugar and cream and was told that it was normally eaten similarly to porridge (the kernels). It tastes a bit bland but when you add the other ingredients, it definitely would make a nice porridge (although I'm not a big fan of porridge).
So if you even get a chance to try some, don't be put off by the smell but as they say, "you can't judge a book by it's cover" I'd say "you can't judge rotten corn by it's smell." Anyway, if I've tasted sea cucumbers, sea urchins, oysters, muscles, pipis etc. as indigenous delicacies to Samoa and NZ then 'rotten corn' isn't so far off...