Wednesday, 13 February 2019

5 features of diaspora Samoan women's identity markers...

'Return to Paradise' Resort beachfront in Legafa, Samoa
Today I decided to change tack in my PhD studies and reach out to other diaspora (living overseas from a point of origin) Samoa women via social media (and in this case Facebook) to ask about ideas or thoughts regarding what the top 5 features for identifying as Samoan women including rites of passage in our communities i.e. what sets us apart as uniquely Samoan women from other indigenous women groups?

In formal studies there's usually an ethics committee at the tertiary institution that one would have to go through to check on issues of privacy, the types of questions asked, storage of data, that would be asked that weren't offensive or leading, that the research undertaken would be dealt with ethically etc.

The Ethics committee is still a part of this study but I see this as a conversation starter through a social media platform to enable diaspora Samoan women to discuss this topic and if there is interest to be a part of my formal study then the opportunity will be there too.

I definitely have my own views but instead of launching directly into writing about them, I thought it best to consider a range of perspectives from women who identified as Samoan women whether they lived in Samoa or outside of the motherland.

For me I have particular interest in the views of those who live as diaspora Samoan women living outside of the motherland and particularly those living in New Zealand but views from other countries would also be interesting to learn about.

So you are most welcome to list your top five and give reasons for your answers on this website or via through the Facebook thread that I will begin. I guess for me the importance of having public engagement earlier on is that it will allow for women to discuss 'our' own issues or ideas genuinely without having pressure of being a part of a university study.

So what are your top 5 features and why?

Monday, 11 February 2019

'Green Book' movie review...

Last week I had the opportunity to watch the movie 'Green Book' which is currently playing in Cinemas based on the real-life story of two people: a world class African American concert pianist, Dr Don Shirley (has 7 PhDs and speaks 8 languages) and a working class Italian American driver who both make a journey and build a friendship between New York and the Southern states of American to play concerts over a 2 month period.

I highly recommend this movie as one that discusses race relations and homophobia in the US during 1962 around the time with Martain Luther King had started his support of openly protesting against prejudice, racism and the many challenges that African Americans experienced at the time.

The actual name of the movie is named after a 'Green Book' that was compiled by an African American post office worker, years earlier, who was aware of the dangers where apartheid-like laws operated in many of the Southern States.

It also assisted many black travellers by giving names in the book and the locations where black travellers could stay for the night or for a few days at hotels, motels or itinerate places that they would be welcome to stay when travelling for funerals or across state as this could mean the difference between life or death in some states as demonstrated in the movie.

A tremendous performance by both actors: Mahershala Ali, who plays Dr Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen who plays the Italian American driver with the possibility of winning an Emmy in the upcoming awards...

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Best Oka (raw rish in coconut cream) in Vaigaga...

Best fresh 'oka' in Vaigaga 
 One of the best places in Samoa to pick up Oka (raw fish in coconut cream) is in one of my Aunty's village of Vaigaga. You have a choice of many fresh fish to purchase daily or you can buy a cup of delicious spiced oka worth SAT$6 with or without bones.

So everytime we pass close by we, when we get a chance, we buy some oka in which you can taste the lime/lemon, cucumbers and hot pepper to either consume on their picnic tables with a SAT$1 boiled green banana, or we take it home to place in the fridge to eat with the next family meal.

You gotta believe that it doesn't last long in our family ie. it doesn't last to the next day and then we're craving for more. So no fancy restaurants for us (except we we're out visiting on a special occasion) as when we go to Samoa it's just at the local markets to support our local families or the local supermarket.

So if ever you're in Samoa and you're wanting to check out some fresh oka, don't go past the village of Vaigaga which is only a 5 - 10 minute drive (depending on traffic conditions) as it's sure to whet your 'oka' wanting appetite...

Saturday, 2 February 2019

In memory of the devasting 1918 Influenza epidemic...

Mass graves at Vaimoso from the 1918 Influenza Epidemic and commemoration stone
 Last week I was able to take my family to Vaimoso in Samoa to view the commemoration stone erected by the NZ government some years ago and the lines of concrete depicting the mass graves of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.

It is understood that within villages, some were able to bury their dead on their own lands but so many Samoan were effected at the time that the epidemic was at its peak, that the NZ Garrison got involved in burying the dead who lived close by to Vaimoso in a bid to contain the epidemic spreading further.

It's part of the indigenous research that I'm doing for our next book soon to be released in commemoration of now over 100 years since the fatal influenza epidemic reached Samoa's shores back in the year 1918.

The research for this book has been a couple of years in the making in wanting to get the story right and also in trying to understand the circumstances that lead up to what happened and the aftermath which is still being felt today.

I know that the effects of this devastating event still affect some of the families that I am connected to in not knowing or having gaps of knowledge in their genealogy because significant family members who held that knowledge died during the epidemic and those family connections and stories were not passed on.

I must say that even for many Samoans, this part of their history is unknown to them and I most recently found out where the mass graves were located because this part of our history has not been taught well inside and outside of Samoa and for me, our books are a part of encouraging the education of our children to know about their history that informs their past, present and future...

Thursday, 31 January 2019

'Return to Paradise!'... Samoa e...

Looking out at the lush beauty of 'Return to Paradise' Resort from the welcoming reception area
 Just back from a quick trip with the family to Samoa i.e. Returning to Paradise and had an absolute great time visiting family, some indigenous research on three books that I'm currently working on and celebrating our middle child's birthday at my Aunt and Uncle's (and co.) 'Return to Paradise' Resort in Lefaga.

It was the dream of my Aunt and Uncle's family, with the help of my maternal Grandmother, to develop this dream resort which many are now able to enjoy, not only as patrons but also as it brings income through employment and leasing to local villages when in days of old were seen as being quite remote in their locations but are now thriving.

It's also a part of the story in a book that I am working together with family to collate in my grandmother's biography and many adventures that she took part in even as late as in her eighties. She was still up for an adventure and we hope to share that pioneering spirit that she had which influenced us growing up will be shared in a book with our next generations, especially those who never got to meet her.

In fact, a very big CONGRATULATIONS! to the 'Return to Paradise' Resort team for winning the Samoa 2018 Excellence in Tourism trophy recently which is an amazing feat as you just have to check out the other contending resorts in Samoa to see the competition that they were up against.

And a big thanks for making our birthday special with such tasty cuisine, yes, a little unimaginative as we kiwi's all ordered the fish and chips; the yummy smoothies with my favourite being the Pineapple Hula drink and an amazing birthday cake with frosting that melted in your mouth.

So I would most definitely highly recommend the 'Return to Paradise' Resort as the go to resort for those special occasions of birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, vow renewals, or just to relax complete with several pools (3 for children) that we really enjoyed, a beach that you just have to keep an eye out on wave action etc. a wedding chapel and beautiful grounds to just walk through. They even had a crab race that was fun to watch as well.

We're looking forward to our next Ah Siu Family reunion being booked at the resort in January of 2021, with some already booking well ahead to avoid being disappointed in missing out (that's a reminder to me too). It'll be a place that that we can relax and enjoy together and still be able to special make memories that will last a life time...

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Summer evening strolls with the family...

 Now that summer has truly set in, we have started taking summer evening strolls as a family and it's a good time to get out of the house and enjoy each other's company whilst discussing things that come to mind in a relaxing atmosphere whilst out in nature.

It also benefits the body in taking in fresh air and having that 30 minutes a day exercise that we're all encouraged to enjoy family and what better way to than working out together as a family and making memories whilst we're at it.

I must say that I can't take the credit for it as it's my beloved's forte in getting us out in the evenings to be active when I'd rather be relaxing on the laptop but when I do force myself to put on my runnings shoes and comfortable clothing, then it's all worth it.

This weekend we took time to walk around the Panmure Basin which takes less than an hour with so many workout stations and people doing the same thing that it feels like camaraderie of sorts with some walking, biking, running, skateboarding etc.

So if you're children or partner/spouse ever get bored at home and need something to do then I would encourage a bike, walk, stroll around a local park, the street or block etc. to get that adrenaline up, especially if you add a couple of hills in there and you never know, you just might enjoy it like I'm doing....

Friday, 18 January 2019

Beware $ counting machines don't always get it right...

This week I came across an interesting situation whereby I went to the bank to withdraw some money to send overseas.

The bank gave me my requested amount in $50 notes which was weighed on the bank's money counter and I was able to see the amounts that I had requested on the money machine counter.

As I was busy to go back to work I didn't ask for the money to be manually counted (my mistake!) and took the counters word for it.

I asked that all the dollars be placed in the bank's plastic money bags and sealed it so that there wouldn't be any lost between the two venues that I would be travelling from/to.

However, when I went to another bank, some 15 minutes later to exchange the dollars to another currency, the other teller opened the sealed money bag, started counting the dollars and we both saw a $10 note slip out amongst the other $50 notes.

I was surprised and instantly thought that it was a mistake of either $10 over or the note replaced a $50 note, it was the latter. I decided that it would be difficult to prove otherwise, continued with the transaction as I had a busy schedule ahead and decided to write it off as a stern warning to always check it manually next time.

A few hours later, I discussed the situation with another bank teller and her considered opinion was that the bank in question would show a $40 deficit at the day's end. I decided to go back to the former bank, discussed it with the teller of whom I had withdrawn the monies. She assured me that she would get back to me at the end of the day after balancing their tills.

The teller did get back to me, later in the evening, and explained that there was no shortfall of $40. I then decided that I would go to the bank the next morning to investigate further and when I returned the next day I was told that when checking the weight on that particular machine between a $10 and $50, that they were the same and she promptly gave me $40 in return.

Just a stern warning and reminder, to myself, to not always take the word of a money counter against what you can see with your own eyes, otherwise it's your word against theirs...

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Congratulations to our Pasifika NCEA candidates and committed educators...

 Yesterday, the NCEA National Certificate in Educational Achievement results were released with many proud parents posting on Facebook and other social media of their child's/children's achievement/s.

And I'm no different in being a proud parent of our elder child who has successfully accomplished achieving an Excellence Endorsement overall in NCEA level 2 studies and now in the final year of high school and looking forward to University studies next year.

However, on the flip side of the coin, not all our Pasifika students were winners in this battery of tests and it gives the negative stigma and impression that if one doesn't pass these exams that they are somehow not smart or will not do so well in life.

It is far from the truth, but something that one is aware of in observing how educational exams disadvantage some sectors in society because of the language and cultural capital that is expected to be able to understand and answer the questions in order to get the 'excellence standards'.

As an ex-English teacher in teaching Pasifika/Maori students to excel in pre-University English exams and seeing many rise to the challenge and succeed, I'd talk about providing the difference in thinking: of providing evidence, of being succinct, of being highly structured, keeping focused on the question, thinking creatively in problem solving in order to produce those excellent results etc. and using texts that Pasifika students could readily relate to with universal themes.

That's because I knew that the teacher often made the biggest difference: in being highly competent, in knowing their subject well with a keen eye and then passing on that confidence and hints to students so that they could equally do well.

But in observing some of the teacher delivery and expectations, it is a worry that Pasifika students, in many schools are often seen as not doing so well, but to me the biggest difference is having caring and capable teachers who make the difference who are both Pasifika or non-Pasifika but the difference is being committed to do their best so that they can get the best results out of their students with no excuses or blame!

So my congratulations are to all committed teachers who care and are competent in teaching our Pasifika students and to supportive Pasifika parents who care enough to give that time and space for their children to do well because it's often been described as a 3 legged stool where the: parents/family, child and school/teachers are in sync that brings about success to each child and that if one of the legs isn't functioning well then it is doubly difficult for the child to succeed in school.

A big congratulations to Pasifika students success but also a thought to those who need more support in wanting to leave no one behind...

Sunday, 13 January 2019

'Ei Katu' popular Cooks Islands flowers garland...

One of my craft projects last year was learning how to make an 'Ei katu' which has been popular in the Cook Islands  and Tahiti for many, many years. The words mean in their te reo (indigenous language) flowers garland worn upon the head similar to a lei (Hawaiian, Samoan word) of flowers worn around the neck.

Usually they are made with beautifully scented tropical flowers for specially occasions like weddings, 21sts birthdays and now graduations etc.

Now with the proliferation of so many silk flowers on the market, mainly from China, that looks so real and last so much longer, many Pasifika women have now taken to making silk flower garlands.

For me, I enjoy making them up with many different colour combinations and have worn them at book Festivals, family gatherings and made them up for family members too. I know of many Pasifika women who make these up for family members, groups, dances etc. and they are beautiful to behold in gatherings but mainly of Cook Islands women.

They have become quite popular and I'm also now selling them for those who are interested in wearing them as they can complement a wardrobe beautifully with the many colour combinations that can be made up. Just check out my 'Trademe' page of 'pacifichibiscus' for further details...

Saturday, 12 January 2019

'Lion' movie highly recommended...

Last night, my family decided to watch a Netflix movie, whilst I was busy on a creative project and I ended up joining them in watching the 2016 movie called 'Lion' which is set in India and later in Australia featuring Nicole Kidman as one of the actors in the movie.

The movie is based the life story of a young boy who lives in Northern India who is then separated by his family by boarding a train that takes him, over two days, to Calcutta. In his bid to survive on the streets, he ends up in an orphanage of sorts and is adopted out to an Australian couple. The story traces his journey back to visiting his biological family in India.

I'd heard about this movie some time ago but hadn't had the time nor the inclination to watch but due to my family's choice, I'm glad I did. It was a reminder, for me, that sometimes in life we need to do things that are outside our families and interests to make this world a better place.

I definitely would highly recommend this movie to you, although there are scenes which are quite sad and tells of the abject poverty of India as well as how children were abused or unheeded with the millions of people who live on the street. The movie also reminded me of the 'Slumdogs Millionaire' movie some years ago that really made me stop and think.

Since growing up in my birth church of Mangere PIC (Pacific Islanders Presbyterian church), the founding minister there was a missionary to the Pacific Islands from the London Missionary Society called Reverend Bob Challis (his wife was my piano teacher) he encouraged our Sunday School to sponsor a child through giving monthly volunteer offerings.

I took that idea into my personal life and since finishing my studies and working full-time, I started sponsoring children who lived in third world countries, this was before I had my own family and to this day we are currently sponsoring a little boy and his community in India through World Vision for $25 per fortnight. It's only a small donation but it helps one boy across the world to make his world a better place.

In watching the movie with my beloved, it reminded him of his three years in India on missionary work and learning the Bengali language. Certain landmarks he pointed out as being places that he had visited and a reminder of the poverty that exists there with areas of pollution with so many people who live and die on the streets.

This film reminded me of how important it is to be altruisic in the need to support other communities outside our own. This is part of our Christian faith in leaving a legacy for our children to consider lending a helping hand to those in need...

Thursday, 10 January 2019

A tribute to an Uncle and an early Pioneer...

Onehunga Cooperating Parish
 This last couple of days I've spent with my family in having lost an uncle who was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and friend to many. He seemed a quiet unassuming man but had much love and wisdom that he shared with his family and friends.

The family services were spent at Onehunga Cooperating parish which was formerly Onehunga P.I.C. (Pacific Islanders Presbyterian church) where my grandparents were some of the founding members of the Samoan group back in the 1950s when the first wave of Samoan migrants came to seek the opportunities of NZ.

The church now has combined different denominations to share in worship at the Onehunga church and there is a large hall that accommodates many functions from weddings, birthdays to funerals and other important gatherings.

The loss of a husband and father can never be underestimated as they hold such an important and dear place in our lives and my heart goes out to my aunty and cousins as they mourn the loss of their loved one. One who was so talented in sports, competitive, loved family and horses etc.

He was one of the many pioneers who left beautiful island environments to forge out a new life for himself and his family in the new frontier of NZ in the 1960s. He left a legacy that now his children, grandchildren and ongoing generations can be thankful for.

I couldn't help the tears flowing in watching the video montage and sharing in the sad loss in the knowledge that he has started another journey into the afterlife and eternity, something that we will all face at some time in the future.

Ia manuia lou malaga uncle, may your journey be blessed...

Sunday, 6 January 2019

The Tragedy of the 1918 Pandemic in Samoa...

I'm currently working on researching and completing our next picture book offering and the first for the year in our 'Tala Faasolopito' series or Samoan Historical stories series with the working title of: 'The tragedy of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Samoa'.

In researching and reading articles around this historic but tragic event, it brought tears in realizing the devastation of this event some 100 years ago on the small island of Western Samoa (as it was known at the time) in that Western Samoa had the highest mortality (death) rate in the world than any country but American Samoa had no such deaths during that same period of time due to the quarantine that was put in place by it's administrator.

What's more discouraging was that in reading research reports and academic/medical writings, little is really known publicly of the actual extent of the tragedy that was recorded in history books for us, as Samoans to know i.e. the starvation that occurred for some Samoans in not having easy access to food supplies, the mass graves that were dug that would have buried so many away from their village abodes, the extent to which many factors of the illness and quarantine factors which could have abated so many deaths that is a quarter of the population in Western Samoa dying in the manner of 6 - 8 weeks of the disease in November and December of 1918.

So for me, as a writer, in knowing that my great grandfather had died in this event with many unnamed victims who suffered greatly through this time, it allows me to have empathy and to acknowledge those who died as we will never know the true extent of those who survived this devastating time or have knowledge of their stories.

I hope that this series will assist our next generation young Samoans to learn of and understand the historical events that occurred in our history but also to know how such events shaped future events to come. As this shaped the thinking of the 'Mau' (resistance) movement in working towards an independent nation with Samoa being the first in the Pacific, in 1962, to move away from colonial rule that had devastating consequences in its history. Lest we forget...

Friday, 4 January 2019

New Year and the meaning of the Malu Lima (sacred hand tattoo) ...

Image result for tautua ink This year we've opened the year with now 4 of us women in our close family circle with Malu lima (female sacred Samoan hand tattoo) as I accompanied and supported them to Tautua Ink, Avondale (check our their Facebook page) with now two generations.

As I wrote in an blog post late last year, I wasn't an easy decision for me to make but it was a one that I spent time considering in being a born again Christian for many years and in never being inked in my life until my birthday last year.

I also reflected upon sharing a close relationship with my paternal grandmother, my parents as they now live in Samoa, the links that I have now as a matai (chiefly title), the house that we have now built in Samoa and the connections that I have now made as a writer, artist, educator of dual citizenship sharing my knowledge and connections to Samoa with the next generation/s.

However, in teaching and reclaiming my own indigeneity as a Samoan woman, albeit NZ born, it became an important consideration as I wrote about ancient Samoan stories and shared them all over the world in print form, blogs, websites, talks etc. the consideration of having a malu lima became an evident part of my journey.

I wouldn't say that it is every Samoan women's journey because it is very much frowned upon in the  Samoan Christian community with in it being seen as a legacy of an ancient time that was pre-Christian and heathen but again for me it was about reclaiming and redefining it the malu lima in a Christian context.

So that on my malu lima, the tufuga (expert) Cliff was the artist who placed the depiction of the cross on the top of my hand piece and in trusting in his expertise and the process, I believe that it honours God in my not having told the tufuga about my Christian convictions and in his understanding, he placed it there as the Christian tenets are central to much of my life's decision making.

I also had the consideration of having it either in NZ or Samoa, but with the timing and how the events lined up for my birthday last year, a new friend Tracie made it effortless and set up the appointment for my youngest sister and I to share the journey of our first generation to reclaim the markings together and I think now the four of us are joined as women in our family reclaiming, reimaging and reconsidering what it means to be SamoaNZ women.

One of the important priorities that I've placed upon myself is that I won't post pics of it on social media due to it's tapu nature of which academics are still debating about whether the malu was hidden as a result of Christianity or pre-Christian. For me it's due to the tapu (taboo) nature of it and that I choose not to share in being of an esoteric nature and a connection to my past female ancestry.

So that in my direct line, there are now two of us in two generations as holders of the malu lima in having had no female members of my family, in living memory, holding these sacred markings due to the prejudice at the the time and also negative notions of the stigma attached to such markings.

As with many things in my life, I am thankful to our God above for the honour and privilege of these sacred markings that uphold the gift of bringing new life to the world and the sanctity of the blessing of being a woman. I wear it with pride but also with humility that one should not show it off as it doesn't belong to me individually but that I wear it collectively as a Samoan woman reclaiming what was once lost...