Monday, April 28, 2014

The art of giving and taking in Samoan culture, until you have nothing but a pu panty.

Lots happened in real life that kept yours truly occupied but happy to share something because I know you're all dying to read about it. NOT! hah.

I don't know about other families, but for some families that I know of, there are givers and there are takers/or receivers. 

It is quite common knowledge, we, sorry, I mean, they don't question our their position, because for some reason, we they are born into these're either a taker or a giver, apparently. 

If you're from an awesome amazing family, you all end up being givers.
You give generously and so does everyone else around you. Perfect Harmony.

So, back to receivers (takers),  these are people who are not accustomed to giving. And after decades of receiving, it becomes second nature, it becomes so ingrained that they don't have a sense of shame in taking - taking - demanding - taking some more.
They take so naturally that when someone sits down next to them with a nice watch, the taker person would say in a nice friendly tone,
"E suga, ka'i magaia lau uaki. Faapega uma lava le uaki a lo'u cousin ga maua mai i loga cousin i Kafuga. Auoi, e match kogu lava ma la'u pea kaukaliga lea ga maua mai i lo'u cousin brada aunty lea ga sau mai Timbukpu"  ---They are charming, these takers, they will charm the watch off your wrist, the cash out of your wallet and the sweat off your back.
They also consider it their 'right' to receive.
And when the givers suddenly stop or realizes that it is fucked up situation, the receivers get absolutely indignant. 
They don't consider their loss but they talk about the poor nature of the giver. They accuse the giver of being arrogant and high-minded and ungrateful. In fact, they say anything and everything that makes the giver the culprit, not them. 

Some smart intelligent people these days have now learnt to stop giving, have learnt to give a little, have learnt to say no to takers.
They have also learnt to say: 
"Actually, I have to feed my children and pay the bills, so your bingo will have to wait, your $2000 donation will have to be delayed or your gambling debts will just have to wait".

Learn to push back and say No, it is not necessary to give $500 to the faifeau because he came to bless the birthday.
It is his calling to pray. He should do it freely.

Stop enabling takers because they will never learn the meaning of hard work and hard earned money. And the value of things. 
Worse yet, their children learn from their influencers. 

Over the years, I have received so many emails from people who are married into Samoan families.
Many of them are Samoan themselves who are unfamiliar with what to do in a faalavelave/culture etc.
Some  are unclear about why things are done without question. Why they give unconditionally while the children go without.

Many are confused and baffled at the exorbitant show of wealth at occasion which dissipates and leave loved ones in debt and despair. 

My message is this:

  • As long as we keep giving giving giving, we are continuing to appropriate, encourage and enable takers to continue taking. 
  • If someone says to you, "I give it because it's my culture" sit them down and ask for further clarification. Ask this, "What kind of culture are you practicing? Are you sure it is culture? Are you certain that by giving more than you have going to make a positive contribution? 
  • Lastly, "What is the purpose of your culture?" (In Samoan: O le'a kogu a le kaua o lau agaguu pe'a e kago aku kago i le go'o?"
  • And when he/she gets angry panty and say "You ignorant shat, how dare you question my values?"
  • Turn your head calmly and ask "And what are these values? Are those values about giving until you are stripped of your ability to feed your children and drown you in debt? 
  • Are those values allowing the takers to give back in appreciation?" 
  • And then when shit hits the fan, ask this:
  • "In your own time of need, who is there for you?"  (--In the family that I know of, the takers are absent until the food is served and the money has been rounded up, they they rock up and act like they own the show). 
Culture continues to be the veil which legitimizes these habits of taking and giving. But we must remember that culture has continually changed and has been manipulated by the practitioners of this so called "culture".

I will always think back to my grandmother who used to say that in their time, when there is a faalavelave and if you have nothing to give, you clearly communicated this with the people affected. When you have nothing, you give nothing in a material sense but you go to the funeral regardless to help out physically.They would sometimes take one fine mat and offer to help. Nothing more.

Then and Now
In the early days of the LMS (the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa), villagers gifted coconut oil, fala papa (mats) and fermented crop to the church to support it, in what is now the annual fa'amati.
You gave what you had if you had it. 
Today, fa'amati contributions are no longer such 'petty' things. They are now extensive wardrobes, decorated mats, fine fabrics and - 4WD vehicles. I shit you not. 

Money has contaminated the essence and the intended purpose of the Fa'asamoa.
 I say this because when you have no money today and cannot contribute to a faalavelave, you are considered a bad person. Or aiu, or e le kausi aiga. Oka se le alofa. Ua makua leai lava se fa'aukauka.
Fefe ia ***.

Money has also taken away the importance placed on hard work. 
Why work hard when you can get money from your relatives? Why fish when you can buy tinned fish from the shop? 
Why work when you can borrow?
Why give when you can receive?
Why Why Why?

I know I am ranting now but I hope that our generation will be more mindful of how we practice our culture. I hope that my age group will have the common sense to say "Give what you can but prioritize your children and wellbeing". Live within your means and know when to push back"
I will continue to celebrate my culture but I am choosing to do it in a sustainable manner. I am choosing values that reflect our world today. I will not continue to enable a culture of dependence. A culture that support people who sit, who preach the good word and fai mai ia mama loko ae e ese lava mea o lo'o fai i lalo gei. Aue Soma e, ma'imau le vasa.

"My" faasamoa is about being there for my loved ones, celebrating their successes, empathizing with their sorrows, being supportive and being there for those who are willing to help themselves. It stops being my faasamoa the very moment that I want to snuff the life out of the constant ungrateful arrogant and culture-wielding receivers"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Would you like to blog?

I wrote something on my bland new virginal legit (zzz boring) blog last week and someone who has been blogging proudly for 2 years messaged me and said:

"You should seriously blog! It's really cool and if you do it weekly, it's great ra ra ra and you can get lots of traffic to your blog, lots of readers - great platform zzz". 

I kindly told her I'm not really good at that stuff and I don't really have interesting things to say.


If only she knew i'm like, a blog whore. 

Fai aku ai fo'i.

In other news, just letting you know that i have a friend whose Mom makes beautiful pale agiga for sale.
Here is one that I have tied onto a tuiga, but the pale agiga itself is separate. It's beautifully sewn and well done. Absolutely ZERO glue involved. Amazing workwomanship! Email if you want one and I can give you her contact details. She is in Auckland at the moment, but otherwise lives in Samoa. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Juicing, Raw, Vegan - A Samoan Story, tuff!!

If you are, or know Pacific people, you will also know we love our meat a little too much, too often. 
Our waistlines and our lifestyle related problems mirror this. 
Then I came across a Samoan in Sydney making the changes we so so need. And I have had the pleasure of asking the beautiful Ymania a few questions. 
Thank you for sharing your amazing story and arduous journey as a girl, a former boy, an intellect, a mother, a Diva, a Lau (above all else) and so on and so forth. Ua lava ga! 
I hope that more Pacific people will rethink their unhealthy choices and be inspired to change!

Je vous prĂ©sente Tuisina Lealaitagomoa Muliagatele Ymania Brown-Gabriel: 


Born Peter Brown of Mulinuu (oka se fia keige sole hahahahaha ish)
Transitioned at 13 (yes my mum took me to the Psychiatric Nurse in Apia and got prescribed female hormones hahaha lol)
Gender marker reassigned in Sydney to plastic female (so my laus keep telling me, the bitches) hahahaha at 23 - still the youngest Samoan I think to go through Gender reassignment.


Born in Mulinuu, my Mum's dad, Luafatasaga Kalapu (the first speaker of the independent state of Samoa)  is from Tuana'i and some city in the Black Forest region of Germany (the Cordtz family at Maagiagi are relatives apparently), I hold the tulafale title of Tuisina from Tuana'i which incidentally is my legal name because I always thought it was a beautiful name and the story behind it....and also I saw myself as the White King bwahahahahaha (jokes don't print that))(TOO LATE - PRINTED LOL), Falelatai (I hold the Lealaitagomoa title there), my mum's adopted mother is from Saanapu (she is a Leaana there and I hold the Muliagatele title) birth father, the late Joseph Kuka Brown was from Fagaloa and Taufusi. His mother was from Vailoa Aleipata (Toomalatai family), and my stepfather, Phillip Conrad Gabriel who is actually my dad because he raised me, is from the village of Lepea

Why did you start juicing in the first place?

June 2012 - I went to get my son from Samoa and saw the pics. OMG. FAT. From being a healthy model size to a supermodel supersize. Leai la Malia. February 2013 - went interstate for work, came back and was sick all weekend - bleeding in my stools, bleeding from the nose, I was a not happy. I went looking for answers and found a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Downloaded, watched and cried like a baby. 
First time ever food was depicted the way it was. And how I saw myself dying if I didn't change. And I started that day. 
My first ever Juice (attached) was my Sunshine Juice (ingredients are in the pic). 
And my first ever smoothie had Tahini (attached)
- 1 handful of parsley
- 2 handfuls of spinach & rocket
- one small lebanese cucumber
- 1 green apple
- juice of 1 green lime
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of Mayvers Tahini
- 2 pinches of pink Himalayan rock salt
- Filtered water to suit

What are your biggest challenges?

Not finding raw turmeric root - its VERY hard to find in Sydney, but in Samoa, its easy - its called ago and grows wild by the streams and river banks..
Not being able to have too many substitutes for my Samoans in Samoa - if I decide to use Chia Seeds, they are not readily available in Samoa!
Not knowing (people lie all the time) if my "organic" products really are organic - I use a vegie wash to wash all produce to remove any traces of bacteria and chemicals
Not being able to tell my viewers that there there are NO shortcuts - it took years to put on the weight and just because you drink one apple and carrot doesnt make it skinny! Persistence in fruit and vegetable juices, diet high in plants and some movement (20 minute walk a 3 or more days a week) is all you need.

When you're feeling down and feeling like sinking your teeth into a pork bun, what so you do to distract yourself?
I watch videos of chemo patients.
Then I let my Mum tell me about how my hair fell out!
Sobering thoughts, activate! Lol

I read somewhere that certain greens increases one's libido, is this myth or fagogo I made up?
My top 4 are:
Olives (hey the Italians and Greeks eat a lot of this fruit - when in Rome!!), avocados (high in folic acid, vitamin b6 and potassium - great for the female libido), asparagus (rich in vitamin E so great for sex hormones), and celery (for men mostly, contains an androsterone, an odourless male hormone released during perspiration that turns women on) -

I have only met 1 Samoan who was a full on vegetarian, what do you think - what would it take for more Samoans to eat food that wasn't a pig, chicken or cow before?

Its a change of mindset, a change of culture. If we knew how dangerous the pa'umu and the imported vaemoa and mamoe and soda drinks are for our health, trust me we would all run back to fresh nius, Koko Samoa, limu and laupele.
The thing is, the danger at the moment appears passive - a few hundred or thousand  people contract diabetes, cancer, heart disease and we just write it off as lack of exercise. But the Ministry of Health and WHO can in no uncertain terms now say that we have an epidemic on our hands. And would it kill us to try something different? The anecdotal evidence is, plant eaters live longer. I was a big meat eater as well being Samoan born and bred. But for me, the only thing was making sure that my stomach was full, or that I was ma'ona.
And filling it up with juices and smoothies and salads, what harm am I doing to myself? other than having fabulous skin at 50yo, and no heart medication, cancer abated, how can I NOT keep eating plants?

In Samoa, every now and then, I get sick and vow to eat healthy, but when I go into the market to buy veges/fruit, it is bloody expensive, what do you recommend that should help people? 

Very expensive in NZ and of course in Samoa, we don't have the variety that overseas based Samoans have (so no excuse you guys) 
In Sydney, I go weekly to the Flemington Markets. 
My tips are:
1. Buy in season - in season = cheapest = savings - don't eat an avocado when they are $3.98 each - wait until they are $2 a kilo (in season) 
2. If in season, buy in bulk, clean and freeze. For smoothies - especially bananas and avocados and mangoes - you save a fortune - at one time, bananas in Sydney were over $10 a kilo
3. When you go to your local Fruit and Vegie shop, I head straight to the bargain bin - still alot of fresh produce that they get rid off because its disposable, but I can stretch that produce a few days with my juices, my smoothies. Greens a usually good for that. $0.50 for a bunch of silverbeet? Yes please.
4. Buy local - go to your farmers markets - for NZ, go here to check them out: Grow your own, if you have time!

Many of our beloved family members have died of diabetes and other lifestyle related illnesses, does this worry you? 

Of course it does. My mum is diabetic. She has stopped her medication based on regularly juicing ginger, bitter melon, and red cabbage - she mixes them with green apples, lemons and oranges to palatise the taste, she loves it.
Heart disease is something I know about - I was born with 2 holes in my heart - and I continue to love mulipipi throughout my teens and twenties....what an idiot I was!
Cancer. Been there, I swear never ever to go there.
Plus hypertension, high blood pressure, stress, smoking (the disease of the stupid - "for more information on Cancer, please keep smoking"), and so many more.

Can you give 3 of your favourite juicing combinations? (Ps, I hate beetroot, celery and ginger. but everything else, ok:)  

1. Juice - Apple, Carrot, Cucumber + 1 lemon or lime (without the skin)
2. Smoothie - Niu (water and aano or flesh), green leaves, banana - top it off with some Koko Samoa
3. Smoothie - Blend bananas, Koko Samoa, any nut you are not allergic to - use less liquid so its thicker!
4. Juice - Cabbage, Apples, + Lemon

Any parting comments you wish to make? 
Go the Aivao Community and Juice On! 

Faafetai lava Ymania, Love your work! Tuff!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Universities are not delivering - for everyone, but that's fine, others are.

On Friday last week, I dropped it at the Directors Fono for PILOT (Pacific Island leaders of tomorrow),  which supports and promotes education to young Pacific students, from Year 10- Year 13.

 The programme is offered by tertiary providers, CareersNZ and is mainly in the Auckland region.

Last year, we took this to Waikato for the first time. Yay!

Anyhow, fantastic programme and its the place where students feel comfortable and are celebrated.

They also do a comprehensive job of following up, right through to calls to students at end of year 13 - checking that they are progressing into whatever institution or appenticeship etc...if they are not, or are unsure, we refer them to the right person/group/CareersNZ and the aim is that we can direct them to their desired pathway.
No one gets left behind.

In a perfect world, ALL students of Pacific descent would be doing PILOT for one day of the year, and then attend the Family evening with their family or influencers.....that is the solution to underachievement and lack of engagement today.

The Fono was hosted by NZMA (New Zealand Management Academy) at their state of the arts facilities at Sylvia Park.

I come from a University background, and in my time with PILOT - I have come to appreciate and value the work, blended learning and tailored approach that private training establishments offer to students in New Zealand. Places like BEST Training where my friend Li Ilolahia works. He knows his students. Places like Martin Hautus at Onehunga and most recently in Samoa - where they will continue their wonderful work getting students into quals. Again, Pulotu Selio and his family take a very very keen interest in ensuring their students succeed. They are passionate about their learning. And hey, its not everyday that you sit down for a coffee and the founder of the Institute rocks up and asks how you are. 

Being around colleagues who work in PTE space make me envious at the adaptable nature of their organisations. They matter. They influence. Their students are truly their focus.

This was clear in my mind as I drove into NZMA and someone walked out to specifically tell me where to park, and walk me (and the other attendees into the building).
Now, the building.
Once again, unlike most Universities, this building is alive and reflective of the users. There are no sculptures and large pillars depicting an artistic ra ra ra....this is a building that is utilized, lived in and functional.

The classrooms are not closed in, there is noise, interaction and learning is visible.
We walked past rooms in the hospitality section and students, all in their respective uniforms/gear are working, a tutor is at a 'bar' judging a student's work, while others prepare their turn in groups. There is so much activity and my mind is stimulated - I feel like I am missing out in all this interactive learning.

It makes me think of Universities' bland offer - beckoning students to come sit in their stark dull classrooms, or to be among 300 other students - facing a lecturer who will drone for 2 hours about regression analysis and qualitative research. You sit and write, take notes and try to stay awake.

My point is this, ....many of the parents and people I meet, are thinking about getting their sons and daughters into University to get a degree. That is their ultimate goal. (And not neccesarily that of the student's).

And I have seen so so so many Pacific students go into that pathway, without the required skill or interest to succeed. Yet - we continue to push push push Pacific students to do this.

University is not for everyone.
We are sometimes so busy promoting Universities, even to those who would have found joy in a qualification from a PTE or Polytechnic or in an apprenticeship. Today, Universities are striving to address these gaps with promises of 'practical learning experience' but really? And what percentage of the course is actually practical?
More so, when they do get into the workforce, do they have the desired skills to do the work?

I have come across so many University students who are struggling to find jobs, but have ZERO work  experience, or their CVs are so badly written, couldn't draft a letter or lack communication skills in the, what's my point?


-Continue to encourage parents and students to understand ALL their options, be it Universities, PTEs, Polytechnics, apprenticeships, internships, cadetships etc.

I have other points, but this isn't the forum for it, hah (:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Manuia lau malaga i le lagi

My thoughts, prayers and love are with my beloved family in Sydney, for the passing of our uncle, Tuisafua Alaimoana Afoa.
We love you!

Uncle Alaimoana at Lagipoiva's wedding, 2011. Photo credit: Stuart Chape

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

But why did you get beaten up? A? Kaukalaikiki?

I remember clearly, standing by the fallen branch of the tamaligi, waiting my turn patiently, to hop on and join the fun. The morning was still new, hibiscus flowers were still half asleep, not yet ravaged by the tropical heat.
Makagaga was at the highest branch, swinging happily, singing even when Vasa, the rascal boy from Fusi ran towards us and shook it so hard that it threw the preschoolers onto the soft wet grass. 
"Aikae!" and several other insults where cautiously thrown at Vasa, in slightly hushed tones away from the teacher's attentive ears. 
Phew - thankfully, she was busy smoking and talking across the fence at Kilipa. Apparently, the bus driver on the Aiaiava got yet another Year 13 girl pregnant. Blasphemous! Whore! Daughter of a peacher whore, she puffed with disdain.
In the midst of the branch onslaught, a wee voice cried out. High pitched. Distressed. 
Emergency! Makagaga is crying! 
Fear spreads across the school yard. 
We run as far away from Makagaga as we could, knowing full well the wrath of her mother.
Surely enough, at interval, all of her scary self came storming up the dirt path in her clothes that were still damp from digging pipis in the lagoon.
"Faakali mai oe e!" 
She pulled Vasa by the ear and whacked him with her shoe. Hard. Bam!
Because Nobody, and I mean, nobody touches Makagaga. 
The violator gets a hiding every time.
In front of the teachers.
Today, we are reminded this very loudly, "I will tear your mouth if you touch my daughter again, ua maua mai,? Sasae lou guku!" 
Vasa cries, Makagaga cries and we cower towards the mat in the classroom, scared and trying hard not to be looked at.
Scared of this evil mother. 
The teacher walked over to Makagaga's mother and told her loudly "Makuai leai a se faiai o kama ia, makuai sasa lava" (That kid (Vasa) has absolutely no brain, beat him hard).
After he is beaten, the angry mother cuddles her Makagaga to her heart and they walk down the dirt path, to their evil house by the breadfruit tree.
Evil breadfruit tree.
Vasa was angry the rest of the day, and he sulked. Sr Laso got angry then. 
Vasa got angrier too and yelled out "Kefe!"
Sr Laso whacked him with her shoe, and despite her small frame, lifted Vasa by the arm and leg.
Like a pig about to be rubbed on umu rocks, and then, in almost slow motion, she tossed him outside. 
Vasa's mother did not come to save her son. She does not live here. He lives with his step mother across the road, in her shiny house, where she applies her bright red lipstick daily and chews bubblegum all day.
Vasa is the least of her worries. When she found out he was beaten up again, she asked calmly 
"Eh, A'o lea foi lau mea ga fai ua fasi ai oe?" 
(Eh, But what did you do to deserve that beating?).
Then she proceeded to beat him too. Until her eye shadow ran and her lipstick faded.
Because that's what a loving mother does, beat her child until he behaves.

This little fagogo is not a fagogo at all. It is a true sad story. Something I plucked out of my memory from a morning long long ago. Of a child that was considered a bad child. Nothing he did was ever good enough. Even we, his classmates thought this, Vasa is a bad kid because he swore at the kaupousa (nun) and he is ulavale. That is what we were told to believe. How very very sad.

Now that I have children of my own, what I have learnt as a Samoan growing up, guides, moulds but also repels me. I do not want to be the angry violent mother than cottonwools her child when she falls off a branch. Nor do I was to be the nonchalant careless mother who believes others and punishes her son because someone said he did this and that.
I am trying to be the mother that communicates and cares for my offsprings, show them the way and talk to others if they are playing up.
Violence is not culture. Violence is not the answer. And it never will be.


Going going gone ):

Monday, April 07, 2014

Welcome to New Zealand Wills, Kate and Baby Georgy!

Best Shot of the Day by Far.....Boom!...William is like "You don't smile that happily when I'm in my thong!):"

Huia Foodstore

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Check out: Memoirs Of An Imperfect Einjo Blog by Tim.

I read a blog yesterday by the intelligent and also fabulous vivacious Einjo:
This latest one about a Pacific campaign and his views on Peseta and National made me go:

Laughs and faigagukus aside, Tim is someone who is very passionate about his work, about academic achievement and supporting people through their academic (and in turn pastoral issues I suspect) journeys. 
He is also one of the gurus behind Samoa Business Network in Auckland.
oka ka'i kele!

And if that's not enough, Tim is the person behind the Pacific Scholar on Facebook - which is a page dedicated to sharing useful info for students/scholars about scholarships, conferences, ideas etc. from any institution or whatever benefits scholars/students. 

Tim is aged 21, single and enjoys long walks on the beach....auuu, aikalo!


check out his blog.

Reflections after 2 days

I have come out of 2 days of a conference I had to chair.
The only reason I agree was because I couldn't afford to be in the conference, as the cost was $2000+.
I could already picture my manager fainting at that one.
Anyhow, here's some observations:

  • Never mix Maori and Pacific together in a conferences. Its not a one size fits all.
  • Always be prepared when you are asked to speak, because you will look like an absolute arse and waste 50 minutes of people's time. 
  • Be true to yourself. 
  • Pakeha have the chance to effect change - instead of  M&P people saying "we have to support our own" - we should ask "how can we all work together to achieve the same goals we are all here for?" 
  • We can educate our people (irrespective of their ethnicity) about what Pacific is, what Maori is, what the challenges are for those 2 groups to achieve at tertiary level, - heck, at secondary level!
  • Conference groups can only do so much - meaningful and more worthwhile lessons can be better learnt if the platform is hosted or owned by someone/instituion.
  • Don't ever agree to chair again if it means 2 full unpaid days and then having to work 15 hours today. FML