Monday, 3 October 2011

Simone in the city

Some of the 'lovely ladies" at Mardi Gras

Well as you all know Sydney is the centre of all fabulousness. And it celebrates the said fabulousness each year with Mardi Gras, a gay pride event that originated out of the police trying to shut down the parade in 1978. In general, if you ever try to tell Aussies they can't do something, this irreverant bunch will turn up in numbers to show that they can. I love that attitude. Speaking of attitudes I loved and fabulousness- for those of you who have yet to have the plearsure, let me introduce you to Lani Wendt-Young's character in her recently published Young Adult Fiction Book- 'Telesa'- the one and only 'Simone'.

"...he strutted along the corridor with all the studied ease of a runway model, stopping often to greet passersby.
"Daahling, how was your weekend? No way! Was he there? Ohmigosh, you're kidding. I hate you! Tell me all about it at lunch. Oh, girlfriend wait up. how was your Friday night. I heard about the V-Bar hmmm, you wicked girl! I know I was busy at home with our faalavelave and doing all the chores going crazy I couldn't get out. See you later! Yoohoo daaahling!"
Like the Queen of England ackowledging her humble courtiers...."

There is no doubt in my mind, that Simone would love Sydney, and Sydney would love Simone- they both have that 'joie de vivre'. So I am very excited to host Telesa's author Lani Wendt-Young on this blog to delve into Ms Simone.

Lani Wendt-Young: Thanks for having me on your blog Sisilia. I haven’t come here solo today – with me is TELESA reader Tim Baice who’s studying at Auckland University. i had this idea of getting a fafafine to give me their feedback on Simone. Tim is way more knowledgeable about the world that the character of Simone has grown up in and I’ve asked him to share his (vivacious and fiery) thoughts on Simone and on the portrayal of fafafine in Pacific fiction….

Simone and the ‘Third Gender’ - “You took a page out of one of our diaries.”

Si-mone has a natural appeal, especially in the way in which you have introduced him in the novel. We as the readers see through Leila's eyes as she is slowly making sense of her surroundings so people who lack experience with Fa'afafige are generally introduced to one - food for thought for people I guess - a really delicious tactic which I find you use in the book a lot - leave people hanging for more. I like how Uncle Tuala's description of Fa'afafige “a boy who is like a girl” just touches the surface, without trying too much to put them into a certain category – it represents a wide view.

I really like Simone's character because there isn't a lot of Pacific fiction published by/for/about Pacific people and I feel that what is missing in the literature are the stories of the third gender - fa'afafine - and if they are mentioned it’s normally just to highlight everything that is apparently "wrong with society" – a deficit lens approaches. I really like how you've written Simone in just to be a natural part of Samoa College, you've normalized it and haven't really made his/her inclusion an issue. I also really liked how Leila conceived of and articulated Simone's character - through her hand movements, the way she spoke, the things she talked about, the natural make up, the lip gloss and did so in a way the clearly painted an image but did not taint Simone's character - I really liked how there was no judgement there - not that you would blame Leila for doing so.

Si-mone reminds me of so many of my mala friends here in NZ, but especially the ones in Samoa and they're the ones that tend to not have their voices heard in stories (this is so predominant in Pacific Research especially research around Pacific youth). The beautiful thing about Telesa is that everyone that reads it is able to take away from it something different according to experiences/tastes/beliefs and the inclusion of Simone is like an acknowledgment of fa'afafines and their role in Samoan society. A lot of people would be able to relate to Si-Mone which is one of the key reasons why I think Simone's character is important. Plus Simone just adds a level of flare that Sinalei or any other back up's aren't able to LOL. (Sorry to all the Sinalei's out there). Simone’s eccentric character is a nice distraction from the pain we all feel (when Daniel puts his shirt back on) or as Leila tries to control her passion for Daniel. The fast talking mouth, the hand gestures, the makeup, the trying to be prettier than everyone else classic classic classic loved it!

Simone is a classic character. The mala at school that befriends and gossips with all the girls, that knows everyone’s business, and is only after the hottest guys at school! Let's not forget the person who does everything to stand out in any way possible especially in relation to the other girls around her. Simone is a loveable character, and I like how he took on a nurturing role to Leila. This was very true to life. A lot of girls gravitate towards fa’afafiges in schools because they say it straight, and I’ve experienced it myself at Uni in terms of fa’afafige being older sisters to younger and inexperienced girls. You could see this in the way Simone fussed over Leila's taupou outfit and then turned out to be best buddies with Aunty Matile - such a realistic character! That's why reading this book had me cracking up because it was like you took a page out of one of our diaries and wrote a character about it (no not the pages about Daniel, and how his shorts sat precariously low on his hips, NOO those pages were private) LOL. So yes it was really easy to connect and appreciate Simone. It was also very realistic to read about Simone's issues with some of the other guys (Daniel having to protect Simone from bullying), which you know is common with fa'afafige so Simone wasn't this glorified ‘Aunty’, he was a real fa'afafige who had endured the same issues most of us do in life.

I also really liked and could easily relate to Simone's caring disposition towards Daniel. How Simone was so protective of Daniel given their history but also at the same time making known his personal feelings of affection towards Daniel. This tension played out quite nicely and seemed so natural. I almost feel like as Simone constantly questions Leila's relationship status with Daniel, his declaration of support for her as taupou accompanying Daniel's solo is part of this, “I'm in love with him but there is nothing I can do, can only dream of it, because the imperfect society we live in, a relationship between he and I could never work kind of thing, so I’m stuck with going along with whatever makes him happy and clearly it’s this magu Leila” LOL.
In summary, Simone's character gives great insight into the role of fa'afige in Samoa. My one suggestion would be that it would have been great to see some fa'afafige lingo in the mix, einjo, nupi, maja, neite, just to add a bit more spice and make her/him that much more real. All part of the "reals" diet.

(You’ll note I used he/she interchangeably. Sometimes when you get this wrong when meeting a Fa’afafige, you can be in trouble! )

From one Daniel lover to another.

Huge Fan.


Thank you Tim. Love your thoughts on Simone and will definitely be taking on your suggestion of fafafine lingo in Book 2. Can I get some lingo tutorials from you pleeease!?

Telesa:The Covenant Keeper is now avail. from Sleepless in Samoa and from Amazon.
EBook - $5.99 Print Book - $14.95.

Saturday, 1 October 2011


So what has brought me back to blogging after such a long hiatus? Well I have VERY IMPORTANT news. I have something I MUST share with the ENTIRE world. I am sure you are all thinking, it's that bloody Welsh ref, she's going to get stuck-in, like every other Samoan in the world. I'll get round to that. First things first. It's important to focus here, and feel the full import of the news I am about to impart. Here it is... On friday I fit in to my pre-Lagi jeans !!!! And when I say fit into I mean that I felt like I was being cut in half and that I was cutting off circulation to my rolls the button AND zip does up!!! Yes all the way!!! I felt like Obama one the eve of his inauguration- YES we can!!!! I was like "I am wearing these bad boys into work, they may never come off" (and not just because, literally, I may not be able to get the bloody things off). Now I may have to claim some responsibility for the Manu Samoa losing, because obviously there weren't going to be two major miracles in the day.

And when I say miracle- I'm not in any way taking anything from our boys. They were AWESOME! Just saying that when you are in the pool being referred to as 'the pool of death', you know that getting through it may be just a little difficult. As to the referee, well to be honest I feel a little sorry for him because it really is not healthy to have THAT many Samoans stalking you. He was in an untenable position. No matter how he reffed, there was no way he could be seen as unbiased, when the result of the game directly affected whether the country he was from went through to the quarter finals. IRB should be facing some serious questions. But who is going to be holding them to account? The Manu Samoa played heartbreakingly well. It was rugby at its very best. The way those boys played calls for answers. So I suppose the big question is will the Samoan Rugby Union ask them because after all booking accomodation can't be their only expertise??? I am sure that it's all very complicated and I don't understand the politics etc, but, I can't believe that the All Blacks or the Wallabies, or indeed South Africa would ever have been put in that position. I also can't believe, that if they were, they wouldn't have said anything PRIOR to the game.

Still, I am so grateful, that the biggest gripe we Samoans have is the IRB. Today I was in Hyde park, eating macaroons to console myself (and it was working- that's the power of sugar) when we heard some chanting. The Warriors are playing in the NRL Grand Final in Sydney on Sunday, so we hurried over in case it was a flash haka. You know how they are all the rage right now. It wasn't the haka, it was Hazaras. Hazaras are a Shia Muslim ethnic group that, according to Human Rights Watch, have been the target of previous massacres and other serious human rights violations by Taliban forces. There were mothers with prams, children holding their father's hands, young men with funky shades and tight shirts, and grandparents. They had all come out on a Saturday in Sydney, because for them racism means more than rugby.

So that gave me some serious perspective. Which is why, of course, I am blogging about the big issues like my butt. Did I mention, I fit in to my pre-Lagi jeans?

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Books, blogging and blame

I didn't blog last weekend. I blame Lani Wendt-Young. Yes, Lani! I know that may cause shock waves amongst her loyal fans and followers. But read on, and you will see that this is not a baseless accusation.

I was very careful not to offer to review this book prior to publication. Not to say I would have been taken up on the offer in any event. Having admired Lani and her blog 'Sleepless in Samoa' (in that order) from afar, I was dying to read her book. BUT how to go about it... what if I didn't like it?!? Super AWKWARD!!! I've never been the sort of person who can tailor my opinion to sound more positive than it really is. Also I was worried that if I was reviewing based on a book that had been given to me, no matter how much I liked it, the review may seem slightly sychophantic.

So I decided to be patient (which has never been one of my virtues). I paid my $5.99 on Amazon and instant gratification. Telesa magically appeared on my kindle. I know it has something to do with 3G, or radio waves, or mobile technology or something like that. Whatever. I prefer to think of it as magic. Because you're never too old to believe (and because technology is really not my strong point).

And I did believe. In Leila, Daniel, and of course the screamingly funny Simone'. The characters jump off the page. And that too is a little bit of magic. As I said on Amazon Leila's powers- of fire and earth, the power of volcanoes, is compelling and let's face it...pretty damn cool. Leila's struggle with finding her identity, and her powers, all while she falls in heady, heart-wrenching, love with the hunky Daniel, pulls you in, and doesn't let you go till the very last page.

'Telesa, The Covenant Keeper' is "Young Adult" fiction and it will clearly capture teenager's imaginations (and the imagination of those of us who are still children at heart).

Perhaps the thing I loved most about the book was that I actually forgot it was by Lani. I forgot it was written by a Samoan. Like any good book, I was caught up in the fantasy, in this other world. As I wrote on Amazon- Yes this book was based in Samoa. Yes it's by a Samoan author. But that background information was just that. This book transcends culture, it deserves a wide audience, and should appeal to fans of both romance and fantasy genres. The characters, rich and three dimensional, come alive under a hot tropical sun, even all the way over here in Sydney, I could feel the heat.

So back to not blogging. As a young mother (well my baby is young, and I'm pretending to be) I have very little spare time. And it is very, very, very hard to blog when you can't put a book down. Yes I mean physically unable put it down. I was discovering agility I never knew I had, slinging the baby under one arm, quickly handing him over to his dad, and diving under the duvet covers, hoping to hide, 'Telesa' in hand.I didn't have time to blog and I blame Lani Wendt-Young. And I can't wait till March till the second book in the series comes out, and I can blame her again!!!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

She works hard for the money

If you're a child of the eighties like me, it's likely that you danced around to Donna Summer's 'She works hard for the money' with a mop or broom in hand. Though perhaps not as likely to admit it (you are probably thinking 'Have you NO SHAME?!?' -The short answer is no, not really...but that is a different topic altogether). I think I first heard it watching some Disney show where Cinderella was dancing around to the song. Unfortunately I wasn't watching in Disneyland with Mickey in fulfillment of all my 5 year old fantasies. Rather I was in Samoa, with my head at an angle, trying to make out what was happening through all the 'snow' on a fuzzy tv screen, that was trying but not really succeeding, at picking up a signal from Pago. Nevertheless it had a big impact on me. Obviously I related to a girl who only had to do a bit of housework before being whisked away to a ball.

So, for my first week back at work after almost 7 months of maternity leave, it was the soundtrack in my head. I was rocking to it while I was in meetings, having serious discussions and generally being very busy and important! Of course my work is a lot different from Cinderella's. No chimneys or ashes are involved, my boss is no evil step-mother, my colleagues are not demanding step-sisters who need a reality check about their real charms, and (very sadly) there are no helpful little dancing and singing mice. Still, after 7 wonderful months of FREEDOM mat leave I expected to feel very sorry for myself.

But (to my surprise) it really wasn't all that bad. My office had physically moved to (very plush) new premises in my absence. So a lot of time had to be spent admiring the natural light and the panoramic views of the city (both of which were noticibly absent in the previous premises).

The first day my love, brought in the bub and a lovely picnic lunch, and took me to the Royal Botanic Gardens. The sun shone down and I susu-ed Lagi lying down on a picnic rug in the park overlooking the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. This was truly lovely except for the fact that I was competing with an ibis, and apparently my bub takes after the ancient Egyptians in finding them fascinating. After that first day though, my smart little one realised he had to make the most of the opportunity and would latch on with gusto every lunch time and when I hurried home to him every night. So though I missed him and his beautiful smile, I knew he was with my mum and his dad who love him almost as much as I do and who can look after him almost as well as I can.

Of course I was bombarded with e-mails *bing, bing, bing, bing*. But this was exciting as well as slightly overwhelming. It's amazing what excites you after you have been away from work for so long.

So it really wasn't all that bad. But it's Sunday now, and I'm looking down the barrel of another work week. And I find myself humming *she works hard for the money, so hard for it honey*.... and thinking 'Where's my bloody pumpkin?'

Monday, 22 August 2011

Motherhood and Darwin's Descent of Man

Six months ago we welcomed my beautiful baby into the world. I am sure this is a bit of a surprise because despite well-founded fears based on my previous inability to keep any living thing alive (yes including cacti, the type that survive the Sahara, but apparently not my black thumb), Lagi is a healthy, hearty, happy baby, already raising one eyebrow inquiringly, in that very Samoan way.

What has suprised me most about parenting is how utterly primal it feels. I lie next to my baby at night, and listen to him breathe, and feel so innately protective I could almost growl (or rip out someone's throat). As you can imagine my poor partner has to approach the bed very very carefully.

I am surprised at how much I love the way he smells. And how much I hate it when I can smell other people, particularly females, on him. No matter how good they smell. No matter if the person I can smell on him is my darling mum, who has taken him, to try to give me some much needed sleep. I can't explain it. I figure it's some throwback to that animal ancestry.

Sometimes when he has had tears streaming down his face, I hold him in my arms, and I almost feel like licking him. Like a cat. I would like to state categorically that I have never done so. I restrain myself by kissing away his tears.

I love his smile. He's too young to know any artifice, his smile lights up his whole face. When he smiles up like that at me, his whole face glowing because he sees mine, I know he loves me and my heart feels like its going to burst out of my chest. I couldn't have imagined love so elemental. It's no wonder that in creation stories, people are said to be born of the earth. That's how this love feels, like the earth- deep and old, though he's just six-months-old.

When we have been away from each other, we collapse into each others arms in mutual need. My breasts hard with susu, he seeks out hungrily until he latches on, and we both sigh with relief and happiness.

I expected that I would find motherhood difficult. And it is sometimes. But I have never felt so in touch with myself. It's so basic this need to look after this baby, to love him, to do anything for him. Maybe Darwin didn't need to do that whole study of finches. The survival of the species must be based on mums' (and perhaps even dads') feeling this way.

Long Distance Love

Despite having determined almost a decade ago that long-distance relationships sucked were very difficult, and I would never ever enter into, or entertain one ever again (never ever ever), I somehow find myself in a relationship where my partner works overseas. I would blame the baby (refer to previous post) but unfortunately this is not a chicken and egg situation. This particular chicken (and yes I am referring to my relationship as a chicken… I am going there) had to precede the egg- that's just biology or perhaps if you're more romantic... chemistry.

Not only is my partner always ‘leaving on a jet plane’, he is flying the bloody thing. Which means unless I crush all his childhood dreams that he has worked damned hard to attain he independently decides to changes careers, this long distance thing is going to be pretty much a permanent fixture in our lives. Let’s not go into how I obviously shouldn’t have fallen in love with someone in his profession. I have heard all about ‘AIDS’ i.e. ‘Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome’. I have sneakily avoiding that by not getting married (yet). I am pretty sure that particular solution won't work indefinitely.

I don’t think it’s insecurity. I’ve always been a confident person. This is the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. You know how when you’re really young, you don’t realise your parents lie. You think they are like God. Literally. That their word is gospel. Well my parents would constantly tell me- ‘you’re so intelligent, you’re so beautiful’ AND. I. TOTALLY. BELIEVED. IT. WAS. THE. GOD. HONEST. TRUTH. I didn’t know they were capable of telling anything other than the truth. You’d think that reality would have struck when I started school and had to socialise. But apparently I take things on face value (especially when that face is telling me I look good). I don’t remember which kid tried to shake this notion, or what they said, but I do distinctly remember reporting it to my parents. They were dismissive, ‘Princess, they’re just jealous.’ You may have picked up that we weren’t big on humility in my home. Yes this could have turned me into a narcissistic precocious brat. But hey, my parents reckon that never happened! And I TOTALLY believe them! Instead I developed what I consider a distinctly male trait- the ability to back myself (without any reasonable basis). So I really don’t think it’s insecurity.

It’s just reality. My love and I fitted easily together. I was delighted to discover how easily. We grew up on the same small island, and while we didn’t know each other then, it seemed to result in us having many of the same values. As the child of a palagi mum and a Samoan dad, I am all for inter-racial relations, but I know first-hand the cross-cultural miscommunication that can occur. Of course I dated non-Samoans, but being with my love was like coming home. We didn’t have to explain things to each other. So many things were just understood. But though we fitted easily together, the reality is, ALL relationships require work. ALL relationships are hard. And it’s a lot bloody harder when you’re away from each other half of the time.

Especially if you’re from a country that is rather laissez-faire when it comes to relationships (or at least faithfulness in those relationships). I was genuinely surprised by the outroar over Tiger Wood’s infidelity. Every magazine in the western world seemed to puzzle over this behaviour. The analysis seemed to be that the only answer could be that he was a sex addict! Meanwhile all the Samoans I knew were universal in their conclusion… he was... wait for it... a man. No other explanation was needed and a number of us asked ourselves, ‘Are we truly sure he’s not at least part Samoan?’. More about this phenomena has been rather wittily related in Coconut Girl's "The state of affairs in this country founded on God". As if that post needed more publicity!

I trust my partner even though he is Samoan with all the charm, charisma and greater likelihood of cheating that that entails. I really do. But I’m not na├»ve. I don’t really believe distance make the heart grow fonder. Ha! More like, distance makes the eye wander. And I don’t mind as long as it’s just the eyes (see I’m realistic and reasonable like that). I appreciate that my partner may actually be attracted to other women. Even though I would never ever ever be attracted to any other man (particularly not the men that regularly feature on Sleepless’ page). However I truly believe he loves me, and that he would chose me, yes even over Beyonce (my parents confirm that I am, in fact, more attractive than her).I believe that he respects me like I respect him. That he wouldn’t act on any such attraction. But it is still hard being apart where I can’t monitor his ass despite that belief.

Of course it’s not just the increased likelihood of infidelity (at this point I should admit that I haven’t done actual polls or statistics on this). It’s also just not having him here. I mean it’s pretty simple- I miss him. I am in love with the guy. I want to share my life with him. I want him to see our son grow. Every day. I want to share my days and my nights with him. Most All of my days and nights. And of course I need him to take out the rubbish (and oh he’s also pretty good at cooking).

Long distance relationships really are hard. And here’s my little piece of wisdom. Yes finally, what passes for some wisdom in this long-winded piece. You have to be absolutely sure that the person you are in that relationship with is the right person. You don’t want to waste time or effort or, most importantly, your heart. Life is difficult, and you can’t always choose your circumstances. But you can choose how you deal with them. So I’m choosing to work damned hard! Because he is worth it. And so am I.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Fever and finances

Things I have learnt in the past couple of days.

1. I should never try and blog (or do anything else) while I have the flu. This will not lead to anything good. It will lead to me staring at one sentence in a fever-induced haze while my eyesight deteriorates for no good reason (as opposed to when I can write more than one sentence, and you all benefit from reading it- yes I am sacrificing my eyesight for YOU dear reader... I want to make some analogy to Beethoven and his deafness here (oh my God... maybe I still have that fever))

2. I should never ever ever think about finances. Especially while on maternity leave. One of my brothers actually read my blog once (I am not sure whether to attribute this to our family penchant for pocrastination or my incessant enquiring 'so have you read my blog? have you read my blog? you know what you should do, read my blog' etc etc. What can I say, I wanted to share the Beethoven-like brilliance. Anyway he was like 'you blame everything on the bub'. Well, OBVIOUSLY! As you can tell he is yet to become a parent. Otherwise he would know that that is one of the major reasons to procreate. People say you have to get more responsible once you have a baby. Not so! You instantly have a ready made excuse for pretty much everything. House is a mess- well I have a baby. Bringing fat back ('sexy' is so last year!)- well I have a baby. Getting in late to work (I am even projecting my excuses ahead of time)- yes you guessed it- I have a baby. Why take any responsibility when your unsuspecting bub can be heaped with the blame. Especially as he has limited means to counter the slander (at least for now) and limitless means of looking gorgeous so that nothing ever sticks to him anyway. So I am definitely blaming the baby for the finances (which I am still refusing to look at). It certainly wasn't the fact that I have champagne habits on a beer salary (though I LOVE that Eric Bibb song). It has nothing to do with my inability to save or complete incomprehension of the word 'budget' or more accurately how that word (one hardly likes to say it more than once) might apply to me. It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that when asked to list my personal (as in totally frivilous and funded by myself) travel the other day I noticed I had more than 20 trips outside Australia in the past five years alone. What can I say- travelling is addictive and I have an addictive personality. Anyway, we are blaming the baby.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Oh those helycon University days!

Oh those helycon University days! I had a close group of girlfriends. We were all pretty innocent. We were all from one island or another (well actually, one was Maori, and was actually male, but still). This wasn't planned, we just all somehow gravitated towards each other, finding a similar sense of humour and a deep unspoken understanding. I don't make friends that easily. This always seems to surprise people. I'm not one for false modesty. I know that I'm outgoing and I talk a hundred miles per hour (the latter being no cause for boasting in any event). I'm a daughter of a diplomat, a social butterfly, flitting and flirting through any social occasion, confident in any company. Still I don't make friends easily. I'm always happiest with a few close, long-held, dear friends.

But these girls quickly inveigled their ways into my heart. I have so many stories for each one. But in consideration of your time and busy schedules will only retell a couple. When I got off the plane, bright in a puletasi (because that's what you dress your 17-year-old in when she's going off on scholarship, the brightest blue and red puletasi you can find so noone can miss her- or the fact that she got a scholarship). Yes I was a FOB- 'fresh off da blane', literally, and about to struggle with my suitcases (bursting with more bright puletasis). There were no trolleys to be had for love or money. Obviously they had been snapped up by those on earlier and bigger flights. I was wrestling with my luggage while looking around dispairingly for a trolley (or a hunky man with big muscles- at that stage of my life I was very used to men coming to the rescue- this is not a testament to my good looks, but rather to the fact I have three brothers). Soon a gorgeous athletic girl zipped up next to me, grinned and slung my suitcases up on her trolley. I looked on in awe as she pushed the precariously balanced load. Our hostel rooms only contained a single bed, a huge desk and a cupboard, with very little space for anything else. But my dad was going to be stopping over for a couple of days. Another girl turned up at my hostel room door armed with blankets, canned tuna and tupperware full of mixed lollies. How could I harden my heart to girls like these?

We shared what little money we had. Some of us were on scholarship and some on NZ student allowance. It was fortunate that these two sources of income came in on alternate weeks. It meant one of us was sure to have some funds by Thursday of each week. This bounty normally lasted till about Saturday. We were young and we were away from our parents for the first time. Drinking and dancing to that song 'Freeeedoooom, freeeedom, he' was not unheard of.

Yes inevitably we spent an inordinate amount of time at the university pub. We played a game called 'I never' sometimes, because it was a little bit naughty and a little bit fun. To play each person got to make a statement-'I never cheated on an exam','I never ate a packet of tim tams in one go', 'I never kissed four people in one night', and if you had, if the statement was true for you, you acknowledged it by skulling. Then we would all accuse each other of cheating and collapse lauging. The questions would quickly turn to relationships and sex. Especially if we played with boys. It was like the uni 'spin the bottle' (which I was always a bit too goody-two-shoes to play in school). I especially loved this game because, as a virgin, I was at a distinct advantage. I could sip sensibly and make outraegous 'I never' statements secure in the knowledge I wouldn't have to skull.

So it was one of those evenings when we were in the pub rather than studying. There was a group of boys there. A group of boys that several of us liked to flirt with. Naturally we started playing 'I never'. 'I never imagined Maria naked' I announced grinning cheekily at my friend Maria. All the boys skulled. And on it went. We were all getting sloshed. 'I never masturbated' slurred one of the boys. And all the boys skulled. Of course. And one of my girlfriends. Probably the most innocent amongst us. We all collapsed laughing again. More merriment ensued. It was a great night. The next day my lovely innocent friend said to all of us, 'I can't believe none of you have ever...'. I laughed, 'Of course we have hon, we just didn't admit it'. More collapsing laughing. My innocent lovely friend was outraged at our deception.

I recount this story because I have watched in horror from afar, as a girl, younger even than what we were then, a child, made a silly mistake. When I say silly mistake I don't mean masturbating. That's only natural, at least for 99.99% of us (even if only 10% of us, maybe less, ever innocently admit it). But capturing it and sending it to a creep, was obviously a mistake. I'm sure that poor kid knows that now. I realise enough has been writen about this. So I recount my own story of youth. Of inebriation and innocence. My own story of friendship, foolishness and fun (where all names have been changed to protect those likely to hunt me down and kill me otherwise). To put forward a personal perspective.

As a postnote, I am horrified that this child pornography has been posted, forwarded and watched. My personal perspective is that each of these actions should be prosecutable. There should be laws to protect children (even from themselves) and to make people think twice (whatever the motivation) before pressing play.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Travelling and coming home

I may have a slight tendancy to blog on others pages in the guise of 'commenting'. I did not technically blog yesterday... because I have been too busy 'commenting'. I blame all you great bloggers. Why do you write so damn well?!? Why do your blogs make me laugh and have my fingers hovering over the keypad.

I keep on trying to keep my word to keep comments short. But then someone blogs about a topic close to my heart, and everyone who knows me knows self-restraint is not my strong point. I had been holding myself back (yes all those comments were my version of holding myself back) but then Sleepless asked about something I a passionate about. I love Tattoos. And it's not just because they are so damn hot!

When I was 27 I broke up with fiance #2 (fiance #1 had resulted in an ill-fated and short-lived marriage when I was 22 and I was not keen to repeat the experience). Taking stock after the break up I realised that (1) I should try not to get engaged after going out with someone for four months (because I couldn't wiggle out of it after he did a massive production proposal complete with bling bling ring that he had designed and the whole remote luxury island thing, rather than because I was in love), and (2) that I hadn't taken any major holidays by myself. Ever. I was 27 and photos of me in England, France, backpacking around New Zealand and Australia, always had the flame of that moment with his arm slung around me. Obviously it was time for this independent woman to get on a plane.

One of my close friends was getting married in France later that year and that seemed the perfect jumping off point. My parents were not keen. I tried to remind them I was planning on going to Europe, tried and tested by teenage tourists for many years (ie. harldly dangerous travel). My mum started to launch a campaign against me going which largely consisted of her warning me about the white slave trade (as previously discussed Europe is not known as a dangerous travel destination and I think my darling mum was just trying to point to a logical reason why she didn't want her only daughter touring solo). No matter how I tried to convince her that I was not 18, not a virgin and not even white, thus not fitting any of the target critiria, my mum refused to be reassured. But I was determined. So for the same reason they tried to stop me in the first place, when the parentals realised I was really going, they gave me money to help make the trip happen (and possibly to keep me out of the hands of white slave traders). I will never forget that amazing trip. From touring vineyards in Alsace to the strains of Samoan hip-hop to the stunning scenery of Slovenia, and the romance of Rome. It was a coming of age. I returned to Australia supremely happy and extremely BROKE!

One month later my cousin called and told me my cousins were getting their pea done. Despite being totally broke and totally out of holiday time, I knew I had to get on the plane home. I had wanted a malu since I was 16. Oh yes that's right, that's what this blog is supposed to be about- tattoos. Though I loved the pea, I didn't think the malu were particularly beautiful. But I loved how they were an intrinsic part of Samoan culture, I loved how our tradition of tattooing endured through colonisation and church disapproval, and I loved that they announced permanently and indelibly that you were Samoan. When I was 16 my parents weren't so keen on the idea. They muttered about how I would change my mind when I wanted to wear short skirts (my mum) or when I was practicing law overseas where tattoos were associated with gangsters (my dad). But I was determined.

I remember reading the poem 'Wild Dogs under my Skirt' and feeling it so completely. I was 27, living in a Western society, practicing in a conservative profession, and still determined to get a malu. So when my cousin called, I knew I was getting on that plane home. My dad, now proud at this choice I was making as an adult (as opposed to an impulsive 16 year old), was on that plane with me. At my behest, my mum tediously photocopied a reference book on Samoan tattooing (the kind you are not allowed to take out of the library because they are too precious) and faxed it to me in Samoa so I could look at the designs and tell the tufuga what I wanted (oh the naivete). I was summarily informed that the tufuga would be doing it his way or not at all. I was tattooed with 10 of my cousins. My dad sat there and held my hand and stroked my temple, as the chisel bit into my legs. We had a sama with the full Faasamoa. Oil and tumeric were rubbed over me. An egg was cracked over my head. Ie toga, clothes, pusa apa and money were presented. It was an amazing experience. It was a coming of age.

So my malu is about travelling and about coming home. It's about staying true, being who you are, no matter where you are. About family who don't necessarily agree with you, but then support you anyway. About not letting wrong choices (fiance #1 and fiance #2 and all holiday snaps containing them) define you.

There are some things that change and some things that stay the same. Always. My malu is permanent and indelibe, like my love for my family, my aiga, my country. And it reminds me of my dad, with a look of pride, holding my hand, and wiping my brow.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A fairy godmother

Methodists don't do Godparents. Not that I'm a particularly good Methodist in any event. I am the granddaughter of a Methodist Minister. His wife, my grandma, was also the daughter of a Methodist minister. My uncle is also a Methodist minister and we have ministers in each generation dating back to the missionaries. So I am Methodist. It's something I identify with deep in my bones. However with a divorce, a much loved baby out-of-wedlock, and a much loved fiance who I haven't got round to marrying yet, I am far from the 'no playing cards as it is too close to gambling' religion I was brought up in. I was at church the other day and had to laugh as a 70-year-old stood up and was talking about the 'old' church 'where you knew someone had slid back because she was wearing lipstick'. Now that's more like the church I grew up in.

The truth is, prior to my baby being born, I hadn't been to church in forever. You know we are all super church going when we are in Samoa because that's what we do on Sundays. But overseas, some of us, how did that old man put it, 'slide back'. I remember a few years ago going to church with a very good friend in Canberra and feeling so happy. The beautiful hymns had tears streaming down my face. I thought then, why don't I go to church more when it makes me feel this good. I'm not sure what it was. Maybe just the fact that I love to sleep in on Sunday (and laziness wins again). But when Lagi was born it was such a miracle. I hadn't even had a boyfriend a year before (yes a scandalous and long promised blog about that is still to come). I had realised that I would rather not have children, than have children with the wrong person. I had resigned myself to the fact that this might mean I wouldn't have kids. That I would be a childless but eccentric and well-travelled divorce. Then in quick succesion I met my love and had Lagi, my little miracle (although actually he is not that little- being a hefty sturdy 5 month old who is way off those palagi charts- I refer to him as island sized). And I knew I had to start to go to church again. Not just because that's how I want to bring up my child. And not because I think church is in any way necessary for being Christian. Rather because my beautiful baby boy, made me so grateful, I wanted to celebrate and praise and thank God for him (and the many other blessings in my life but mainly him).

The church nowadays (both the Uniting Church in Sydney and the Ekalesia Metotisi Samoa) has welcomed both me and my baby into its folds. Never were there people more welcoming and less judgemental. Lagi was baptised at Matafele by my beloved Uncle and it was one of the most moving experiences in my life.

But Methodists don't do Godparents. But I do. Blame it on Disney but I have a romanticised notion. I don't want the wand or the pumpkin carriage. But I want someone my child can go to, depend on, divulge his innermost feelings to (especially as he grows up and he realises he is not happy with his mummy), someone who will love him and guide him outside the family. My best friend is not Methodist. I don't even know if she's Christian. But she is one of the most beautiful, wonderful, generous people I know. There is noone I know more sensible, noone I know who has a bigger heart, and noone I would rather have to guide my child spriritually. Because when it comes down to it, whether or not she has faith, she has LOVE, and to me, that's really what God is all about.

Big blog love

Just when self-congratulation wasn't enough anymore, I got nominated for my first ever blog award. Woooohoooo! By coconut girl who really needs no introduction from me, but I am going to go ahead and introduce her anyway. Now a lot of people may think I love CG's blog because of it's sometimes salacious and scandalous nature. Being Samoan, how could I resist that combination. But it's simply not true. I love CG's blog because she is the bravest blogger I know. She tells it like it is. And it rips your heart out. And the way she writes, can have you laughing and crying in the same post. She has a gift. Now let's all hope her controversial blogging doesn't get her stalked and killed as we need that talent amongst us!

SO back to the award- it recognizes awesome fun "new and upcoming blogs with less than 200 followers". By the way coconut, there is no way you have less than 200 followers, it's just that they aren't 'official'!!!!

The rules of the award are:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun.

I am very rle-oriented but here's where things get a little tricky. First of all many of the blogs I would have picked (like Sleepless, Swiss Hamo, Rock Fob , libertine and of course CG herself) have already been nominated because they are just awesome like that (man, I better hurry up and finish writing this before every blog I stalk is nominated) Secondly I don't actually know how to put up a picture or link back because I am new to this whole blogger thing. I will give it the good ol' college try, as the Americans say in their movies (I have yet to hear someone say that in real life but I don't live in the States, I live in Sydney, and I believe movies are directly reflective of that society as a whole).

So here's my top 5 picks
1. Kuaback's blahblahblah - Kuaback often has me laughing and in furious agreement all at the same time.

2. Tamaooo- This guy's writing is raw and real and has you looking at yourself. It can be confronting, when someone writes like that, straight from the soul, without self-cesure. It makes for compelling reading.

3.the bloggess - I admit I have only read one of her posts but it was hilarious and come to think of it she may have more than 200 followers but pugi I'm trying to show I'm widely read (as opposed to just stalking other crazy islander bloggers)

4. Faikakala- for the title of the blog alone- it is so damn smart! Fotu writes beautifully of new motherhood. I read her writing and feel we are experiencing the same funny, crazy, lovely moments of new motherhood.

5. Sleepless - Ok I realised you've been nominated before but I can't help it. If I left out your blog it just wouldn't be a true reflection of how often I click on your page (both my laptop and my iphone automatically bring up your blog when I type in 'S'. I love your insightful blog and it inspired me to start my own (slightly less insightful) one.

Happy blog reading and remember, when you're feeling the blog, comment on it. Feedback is always interesting. As CG can attest.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A little bit of of home (whereever you are)

Recently my dad, who's based in Japan, and my cousins, who are based in Hawaii, crossed paths here in Sydney. Obviously we celebrated this fortuitous occasion in the way Samoans always do. By eating. A lot. In any event it got me thinking about how one of the awesome things about being Samoan, is all the other Samoans, all over the world. Yes the Samoan diaspora, it's a wonderful thing. My work has taken me around half the world. My own personal tafao vale-ing has taken me around the other half. And I have found Samoans from Sri Lanka to the Solomon Islands. Samoans who will come up to you at the airport when you are waiting for luggage at the carousel and say 'hey are you Samoan?'. Once this is confirmed they will give you their number, deliver food to your hotel and even take you to dinner.

There are only 180,000 people in Samoa. But those of us Samoans outside Samoa, well expand those numbers exponentially and then multiply some more. You trip over Samoans in the most unexpected places. From Tokyo to Turkey (I haven't actually been to Turkey yet but as anyone who reads my blog knows I am a big fan of alliteration). And somehow it's instant friends and virtual family (and then you talk for two minutes, and realise you are actually related). It seems like you wouldn't get along on ethnicity alone. But (not to sound totally self-congratulatory) can we help it if we are such a charming and open-hearted lot?

I love that Samoans are succesful all over the world. That we who come from this very small place, a paradise in the middle of the Pacific ocean, hold our own in mega-cities in a diverse range of fields. I can name succesful Samoans in art, sports, engineering, law, politics, government, music and the list goes on. We can't be doing so well on charm alone! When I was working in Samoa, my brother encouraged me to get some overseas experience; "It's easy to be the big fish in the small pond" (even though to be honest I was a very small fish in the small pond but he IS my brother, he is obviously going to interpret things in my favour). So, ever swayed by my brother, I tried out a bigger pond, and (more self-congratulation to follow) I've been pretty succesful relative to my peers. Small pond, or slightly bigger pond, it seems we Samoans, kick ass.

I love that Samoans world wide (even those rare virtually non-existent times where you are unable to find a family connection) open up their hearts and homes to you. Even those who don't have much will take you in and treat you like a queen. We are notoriously fiercely proud as a people, and that is never more evident than when you are given the best of everything by Samoans overseas struggling to make ends meet.

I love that, when my partner, my love (who is Samoan)is in PNG, I know that there are Samoans there who will look after him (and let him jump the line at their doctors offices and talk with him there for hours while other patients pull out their hair in the waiting room). I love that if the plane goes down (please God, never let the plane go down), I will have people to contact, and cry to, through the ever reliable coconut wireless.

I love that no matter where I travel to, when I meet a Samoan, in those far-flung and foreign lands, it is a little bit of home. And like home, that small dot in that wide wide ocean- it is warm, welcoming and truly beautiful.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Love takes time

Love takes time. I don't mean that to fall in love takes time. I couldn't make that statement with any credibility, given that I fell (first in love and then pregnant) in the first few months of meeting the love of my life (but that, my dear readers is for another blog- scintillating isn't it- you'll just have to start following the blog to get all those juicy details). I am talking about the time that disappears when you are fully and sickeningly in love.

I have noticed the amount of time I have free while my love is away. When he is here we are ALWAYS busy. Busy playing scrabble and chess (as if our lives depended on it as we are both competitive like that), busy watching re-runs of 'The Office', which I introduced him to, or 'Bros and Hoes', which he introduced me to (and I ridiculed until I also became addicted). Busy snuggling, picnic-ing in the park, shopping (mostly for food- that's as glamarous as it gets when you have a five month old) cooking and (more importantly) eating, busy just doing nothing together.

I should have started with a disclaimer that all those sick of love or just sick of me going on about it should avoid this post.

When he's not here I bake, I put photos in albums, I start a blog. I get so many things done. When he's not here I become super woman. All the things I can't do for myself when he's here (like take out the garbage, change light bulbs, move furniture) I can do in a single bound (I would like to stipulate that that energy is put to much better use when he is here... awola!!!)

When he's not here I just wish (hard) that he was- here, home,and happily taking up all my time!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Confessions and Kindles

I'm going to make a confession. Though to be honest it's not much of a secret. I'm a bookworm- a voracious consumer of books, a worshipper of the written word, a passionate lover of stories. I've had a life long love affair with books- they have been my steady companion, my fast friend, my ardent flame.

Yes I have flirted with movies and television shows on occasion. But it is books-the way you can curl up with them, the way they spark imagination and inspire introspection (and to be honest, the way they are exclusive, a true personal experience)- that have my heart.

I was the kid that chose to spend lunchtimes in the library. No, it was not because I didn't have any friends! I also maintain it was not just because I sucked at skipping (I'd trip before teddy bear even climbed those stairs) and elastics (I could do M.I.SS.I.SS.I.PP.I at knee level...maybe). Books were the doorways to other worlds, other universes, and I loved immersing myself in them in the cool darkness of the library in the middle of a sunny Samoan day.

Of course in every love affair there are issues. One of the very things I love about books, their textile nature, their weight and bulk, have weighed down my bags, bent my back, overflown from my shelves. And then there's the problem that they say is the number one cause of relationship breakdown- finances. Books are expensive. Here in Australia you can easily pay $25-$35 for a book. Now conservatively I can go through several books. Not a week, a day! That's a pretty costly habit (and somehow I always seem to be severely skint so cost is an issue for me).

So my love got me a kindle for my birthday (and when I say he got me a kindle, I mean I ordered it, and told him that's what he got me... and my understanding darling dutifully paid for it (refer to previous posts about his perfectness for me)). I am officially in love. Yes with him, but also with my kindle. It is AWESOME! I can cart around hundreds (maybe even thousands) of books. It slips sexily into my handbag and sits there, reasuring me when I'm on a 3 hour flight that even if my beloved baby deigns to sleep, I will not be bored. It is AWESOME! The kindle is so thin and lightweight, I can flick through those books with one hand while susu-ing Lagi with the other. It is AWESOME! I can download books for a fraction of the price. It really is AWESOME! I was sure to outline all of these benefits of my birthday present to my love. He was especially pleased about my cost benefit analysis as like all young(ish) couples we are on a budget.

I still love browsing bookstores, I still buy books there too (Amazon doesn't carry a full range of Australian and New Zealand literature and of course one of the greatest joys of my life is buying books for Lagi and introducing him to the joys of reading), trips to the library are still one of my greatest pleasures, but I love this new technology that gives us yet another way to enjoy reading. Life is just a little bit better with my kindle.

Even though I have discovered that when you can shop for books from the luxury of your bed, and they are delivered a few seconds later to your kindle, even the 'fraction of a price' e-books can really add up. So much for cost benefit. Oh well it's still definitely lighter.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Samoa, susu and subtext

I look kind of palagi. This was pretty easy to figure out as a kid growing up in Samoa, because kids would follow you around saying 'palagi, palagi'. I may be somewhat obtuse sometimes, but even I can pick up on that level of subtlety. I was a kid who longed to be browner. I spent endless time in the sun determined to get a shade or two darker. At Uni, despite sun smart warnings and that "wear sunscreen' song, I was slathering on the oil, and obviously I blame this destructive behaviour on that early trauma (everyone knows all destructive behaviour should immediately be blamed on either childhood trauma, or those solely responsible for all childhood traumas ie. parents). I look so palagi that people often talk about me, in Samoan, right in front of me. I can't complain about this, as it really has given me a great insight into a number of things (like the stupid things guys say when they think you can't understand them) and endless amusement (same example as above).

It also means that people express surprise at how 'Samoan' I really am (even though you look so WHITE). So when I was in Samoa recently I wasn't surprised to gain a bit more insight. A couple of girls (who knew I spoke Samoan but were commenting on me in front of me, as we Samoans do) said "E, ga faapea a'u aga e palagi, e susu lana pepe i se apa, ae lae susu lana tama i lona tino'. The subtext seemed to be that formula was more desirable but it was expensive. And that everyone knew that palagi's (a) had more money (b) were going to take the convenient option or (c) wouldn't pull out their breast faster than the speed of light or all of the above.

Ok I admit it- I lured you in with my innocuous little tale about Samoan childhood, but (as you may have figured out by now) this is actually going to be a rant about... breastfeeding. Oh the CONTROVERSY! Few topics are more controversial or more sensitive to new mothers than breastfeeding. This is probably because it is so bloody hard. But and I'm going to just be frank here, breastfeeding is irrefutably better for the baby. People tiptoe around saying this for fear of being viciously viscerated. Generally don't mess with someone who has just popped out a child. They have just realised exactly what they are capable of.

And I get it. I really do. To say breastfeeding has been a struggle for me would be the understatement of the century. My nipples both cracked and wouldn't heal, for four months. For those (obviously not mothers) who are like 'pfffttt, just four months', let me translate- it was at least 16 weeks of excruciating agony. And yes, my baby screamed unexplainedly both day and night. Many people suggested supplementing with formula. My exhausted partner was imploring for formula (at that stage it was ANYTHING to keep that baby quiet). But I had a few things on my side. A mother (who breastfed all of her four children for over two years each and is a staunch advocate of breastfeeding) who was an unbelievable support, and my own fierce determination that my baby would have the best. My baby is 5 months old, and while no longer excruciating, breastfeeding for me is still along way from comfortable. I can't go anywhere or do anything without my baby. It's not exactly convenient. There's no zumba or salsa classes for me (so that's why I'm so chubby just in case you were wondering). I'm not saying this makes me better than anyone and I'm not judging. I'm just saying I really do get it.

But we shouldn't be scared to say 'breastfeeding is best'. It's just the truth. I'm not disrespecting or dismissing those (very few) mothers who really can't breastfeed. I'm saying that mothers should be encouraged. Here in Australia, the midwives have specific conversations with you about the importance of breastfeeding. There are posters, leaflets and books which tell you about the innumerable health benefits, the fact that you have the right to breastfeed in public, and encouraging you breastfeed for at least 6 months. Now I am no public health policy expert but I really think this message could go along way in Samoa. Especially as some of the very important benefits of breastfeeding are that it lessens the chance of both childhood obesity and diabetes. Obesity and diabetes people! These are the major health issues for us Samoans.

I just don't think the subtext in Samoa should be formula is fantastic. I don't think the subtext should be the only reason not to be on formula is the expense. It's important that everyone understands the full health benefits of breastfeeding, whether in Australia, or Samoa, or any other country and then make an informed choice.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Faasamoa and Faalavelave

We all know that the very words 'faasamoa' and 'faalavelave' are signs to sigh, roll your eyes, hide your handbag, declare bankruptcy or all of the above. There are few certainties in life, but if you're Samoan, the only thing more certain then the fact that you've had to deal with faasamoa and faalavelave, is the fact that you've had a HUGE whinge about it! This is especially true if you belong to my (spoilt and entitled) generation, as opposed to my father's (stoic and suck-it-up) one.

But here's the thing about faasamoa and faalavelave. At the time of greatest grief, when you've lost a loved one, it gives people a way to show respect, love and family solidarity. It helps people come together. It allows you to not be consumed, to do something. All last week I saw how incredibly healing that is.

I have never been more grateful to have been brought up in the faasamoa. It's a blessing to understand what needs to done without being told. To feel helpful. To be able to actually help.

I was brought up in a close and loving aiga- my father's siblings are not only his family but his best friends (in fact my father has always been mystified as to why I insist on having friends outside of the family- so superfluous!) My aunties and uncles have always treated me like their own child, there has never been any differentiation, and my cousins have always felt like brothers and sisters to me. Still, I have never felt so supported and loved by my own aiga than when they came with their si'i to my partner's family- to acknowledge our relationship and (more importantly) my darling son.

We are so often presented with the hardship of faasamoa and faalavelave. It is widely discussed, blogged about, and even submitted on. As a former prosecutor in both Samoa and Australia, I have heard case after case where people have justified fraud and theft because of the burden of expectations of faasamoa and faalavelave. I don't deny (and nobody could) that faalavelave can be difficult. It actually literally means "problem". But that 'problem' has a positive side. And just sometimes (especially in times of hardship and grief) it's really nice to take a minute...and dwell on the positive.

Friday, 29 July 2011

So Crazy in Love

We just got back from the fatherland (there will be at least one blog on that subject shortly). Both me and my love were and are exhausted. Our trip was unexpected and unplanned. My love's dear Grandpa passed away and, as soon as we heard, he went directly from PNG where he had been working for 3 weeks, to Auckland and then to Samoa. I had two days to organise my travel with my darling four month old. Needless to say the house was left in a state of chaos. Even greater chaos then me alone for 3 weeks with a 4 month old could produce (for those of you who don't know me, that is a considerable amount of mess).

But when we walked in the house after virtually no sleep, my love didn't comment on the fact that we were tripping over clothes and clothes hangers. We took our baby and collapsed on our bed. When we (finally) woke up, he went shopping and then barbequed up a storm. He happily tramped around Sydney yesterday as we spent time with my youngest brother. Today my love took me out to brunch, and then when we got home and I was susu-ing Lagi, he managed to unpack our bags and clean EVERYTHING even behind the back of the fridge without me asking (although it is widely known that I am not a domestic goddess and thus the likelihood of me asking or thinking to ask about cleaning anything let alone behind a fridge is zero to none). So today he is officially PERFECT.

It's not the big dramatic expensive gestures. Love isn't a movie. It's the every day thoughtfulness, the every day considerations, it's the every day LOVE. These are the things that show me that I am treasured, adored, loved by the man I love. It's the every day things that have you humming that stupid Beyonce song (the one that you don't even particularly like). So yes I realise this sort of love is sickening to the public at large but I can't help it- I guess I am just 'looking so crazy in love'.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Manuia le malaga

I had met you before I ever met you. I had heard so many stories about you, from the boy you brought up, the man I love. Stories that had laughter and were told lovingly (in the wry way only someone who truly loves you can tell stories about you). Like how you used to tell him you walked every day to Auckland Grammer.... from Papatoetoe. And how he only realised that couldn't possibly be true when he moved to New Zealand! In our house, your tales were recounted, your opinions repeated, your life retold. So though I had never met you, there were some things I knew. You were an author, you wrote fiery letters to the Samoa Observer, you weren't afraid to put in your two sene about the issues that you were passionate about (and there were quite a lot of those issues, as anyone who has read the Observer can attest to), and Samoa was the country of your heart. But the thing I knew about you that was the most important, the thing I loved about you before I ever met you, was that you were a fantastic grandpa, and very dearly loved. I know that the man I love, took so many lessons on being a man, from you. I benefit from those lessons every day. He is such a considerate and loving partner and a wonderful father.

Even before I met you, you welcomed me into your family and into your grandson's life. You just wanted him to be happy. That's how love and family work.

When we finally did meet (and I am oh so glad we did) I liked your dry humour, even when you applied it to my driving (that light was orange!!! I learnt 'dem skills' in Sydney traffic!!!). I loved that you loved to read, and that we had an avid conversation about books, and I wonder if you had a chance to dip into 'Inheritance'. I loved that you had projects and plans, and that your age didn't seemed to have made any real discernible difference. Your stroke was so sudden. But you lived and loved so well, right up to the end.

I am so glad Lagi got to meet his great grandpa. We will read him your book and tell him all about your adventures. We will encourage him to follow in his great grandpa's footsteps by living fully and loving well.

I know you loved writing and reading. So I offer this (poor piece that it may be), to honour you (you who meant so much to the man I love) and your life well lived.

Manuia le malaga Bob

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Memoirs of a (youngish) mother

I have never been clucky. When I was about to hit 30, my biological clock didn't tell me it was time to procreate, it told me it was time to go to Cuba! So I understood the shock (and perhaps even horror) that some friends expressed on finding out I was knocked up. One friend literally fell off her chair. Literally. I'm still not quite sure how it happened, but as I was saying, she was really quite surprised. To say people didn't see me as the maternal type would be an extreme understatement.

But I knew I loved Lagi, pretty much as soon as I was pregnant. 11 weeks in, I had a nuchal translucency test. What can I say, I am an A type personality. I need to know everything that pertains to me, and the pregnancy was pertaining to me like a mother.... When they told me Lagi had a 13% chance of having down syndrome, I broke down. I knew in that moment just how much I already loved him, peanut that he was at that stage. I had been kind of blase' about the whole thing up until then. Maybe it's some kind of unacknowledged superstitiousness- you don't want to feel too happy, just in case. I know 13/100 doesn't seem that bad, but the normal odds for a woman my age was supposed to be 1/233 or something like that, and that made us HIGH RISK. The doctor broke it to me sympathetically (which is why I knew it was VERY bad- as we all know doctors are normally trying to hurry you out within 15 minutes, so they can hustle the next patient in- ka-ching!). After crying and calling my parents, I immediately launched into research mode. Because when you're a lawyer like me, that's what solves everything. Researching and reading (frantically). I comforted myself that the nuchal test, which consists of blood tests and measuring liquid at the back of the neck, probably didn't have many Polynesians in their samples. Sure enough, when I had the amnio (A type personality remember, there was never really a question) it turned out that my little munchkin just had a thick neck. The 23rd chromosome was A ok!

When Lagi was born I felt overwhelmingly possessive. Is that love? It certainly was primal. I wanted the doctors to give me my baby. Immediately! I wasn't even that keen on his father holding him (which was just delaying him being given to me, in my opinion). When they put him in my arms, my overriding thought was 'MINE!' Those hormones are pretty damn powerful. Looking back, I'm not sure how else you survive those first few weeks, let alone maintain your sanity. But at the time (again crazy powerful happy hormones) I was ecstatic despite the exhaustion!

Even during the 'feeding frenzy'. Yes, I know, when I heard that term, the day after Lagi was born, I thought (I'm a diver and have seen a few in my life) 'Surely it won't be that crazy'. That night, Lagi proved just how accurate that term was. It certainly felt like Jaws- 'da dum, da dum, da dum'. Despite his lack of teeth, Lagi managed to cause some serious damage. Now I don't blame my sweetheart. He was HUNGRY. And not just hungry, SAMOAN HUNGRY!!! And my milk (or more accurately his milk) hadn't come in yet. Here's the thing though, despite the lack of sleep, despite the pain that could only be described as excruciating, the thing that was the hardest, the thing that was heartbreaking, was not being able to give my baby what he needed at that moment.

I was only in hospital a few days. My love wasn't allowed to stay over night. At the time I found this very hard, but in hindsight it probably was very good for our relationship that he got to go home and sleep (so he could come back and cater to my every whim the next day). I live in the inner west. It's a popular and populated area. The ward at RPA Hospital was completely full to bursting, and the buzzers for the midwives went off all night long (though I would have slept through a fire alarm if my little gremlin had let me). My hat is off to the midwives at the hospital, who tried their very best, but it was obvious their numbers hadn't boomed along with the population and they were obviously understaffed. Suffice to say I wanted to go home.

When we brought Lagi home, it was in Moana the mini (because that's how unprepared we were/ are). Fortunately at home there was that wonderful thing- FAMILY! I will forever be grateful that my parents came all the way from Japan to welcome Lagi into the world. Because it meant they were also available for assistance that went well beyond adoration.

So that is the very first chapter. It seems strange not to finish a story, but I guess that's the awesome thing about being a mum, there's always something to look forward to, there's always another chapter to write. I may be able to do that, at some point, in between the normal joys of motherhood. Even though I've never ever been clucky.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

You are my sunshine

The other day I met up with a friend and colleague who has a 16 month old. 'So' he asked about my darling child 'Is he sleeping once or twice during the day?'. I was like 'They sleep?!? During the day?!? But that would let you do stuff. Wait just a second, let me get my head around that mind-blowing concept..... Ok once again... They sleep?!?'

My darling child is not so enamoured with the sleeping. Night or day. The ONLY exception to this is when I am lying next to him, and my susu is firmly in his mouth. Then he'll sleep quite happily. Though if I try to be tricky and dislodge myself, first there is nuzzling with a wide open mouth, then the nuzzling gets super insistent (if you have never seen a Samoan baby nuzzle, it sort of resembles some sort of tackle, they really put their shoulder into it), and should the expected susu not be there.... the eyes open and outrage is expressed. LOUDLY!

It is probably (almost certainly) my fault. When my love is home he is like, "E! E ova ma le matagaga o lau pepe, you baby him!'.
'Hmmmm .... yes, because he is a....wait for it.... a baby! Moreover he's my first child, and my parent's first grandchild, my brothers' first nephew and your first-born son. He has been passed from adult to adoring adult ALL of of his life and he is not only accustomed to attention, he assumes the universe revolves around him. And to be honest, my universe certainly does.'

One of the things both the books, and your own helpful mum, will give you advice on is how your partner is likely to feel a little out shined by the baby. Out shined? Just a little? I am crazy-in-love with my partner but still I think 'You are like, a minor star and he is like the sun. And it is day time! All the time! Sometimes it is hard to see you for all the sun's (MY son's) brilliance (and just quietly, you are only allowed in the same galaxy because you may have had some small part in the sun's (my son's) creation (though I can't remember what that part is, so don't be reaching over for me like that! LOL!))'.

So it probably is my fault (although you know God needs to take some of the responsibility here for making my darling son so gorgeous). My son doesn't sleep that much. And we are attached at the hip (or more accurately by the susu). So the house is messy, the washing isn't out, the dishes are in the sink and I never seem to get anything done. It probably is my fault. But he looks at me with those big brown eyes, or flashes me a gummy smile, and you know, I just can't seem to mind.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Samoan Sliding Doors

There are so many people in Samoa you know, but don't really know. We Samoans often moan about all the people who think they know us. You know all those people who like to mind YOUR business. This phenomena seems to strike as soon as you hit puberty (after all that's when things do get interesting) and then continues all the days of our lives. Apparently the lack of a Samoan Soap Opera on television, means people look for it on the streets. I guess as a race, we're just ingenious like that! Not to mention creative! I can't tell you about the number of stories I have heard about myself. Stories which were WAY more interesting than my real life (even though that is in no way boring, let me tell you). And I know I am in no way unique here. Every girl who has grown up in Samoa, must have had at least one very concerned citizen call- 'E suga, her poor parents may not know just what their daughter has been up to!'
But for all that moaning, about all those people, when we are in Samoa, when we Samoans are out of Samoa, we seek our own kind. And sometimes we can be very very pleasantly surprised.
Today I met up with a girl who I knew, but didn't know. We were in the same small school, but not the same class, or the same crowd. When I say 'crowd', in my case that may be slightly over exaggerating. In high school, up until 6th form, I had 3 close friends. Yup just 3. I was exclusive like that. LOL!
Anyway this girl was in the year beneath me and seemed pretty and was part of a popular group. I knew who she was, but didn't really know anything about her beyond the superficial. But in true Samoan style, it ends up that her cousin is the love of my life and the father of my son. So we met up. Yes, the pretty girl from high school is now a beautiful woman (a fact I had already discerned from facebook). But she's so much more. She's funny, insightful and honest. And I thought. About all those other people I know, but don't really know. Who might have been friends, but weren't- because sometimes that's just the way those doors slide. But I'm happy that they slid openjust far enough for me to meet this girl, and for us to become friends.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

My first ever blog

So this is my first foray into blogging (so be kind). Way, way (way, way, way) back when I was a kid growing up in Samoa I used to write. I'll tell you a little secret- although I'm Samoan... I'm not sporty. I know! I'm not particularly good at singing either. You are probably thinking 'well what kind of Samoan are you?!?'. I know! I've reconciled myself to being a freak of nature that way (and it may be that I slightly acknowledge my palagi genes here, but only to blame them for my totally unsamoan lack of singing and sporty talent). But I digress. As I was saying, as a kid I used to write. Maybe it was the aforesaid lack of any other discernible talent, or maybe it was because there was a lack of quality (or in fact any) television, a lack of available books or maybe I just had something to say (everyone who knows me will crack up at this point, as they know I've always had WAY too much to say). In any case I loved to write. And largely (in fact entirely) due to my mum entering me into various competitions, I won a few competitions and got published a few times (yup that's me- published author- ea? e ke maua? LOL). Anyway one of the very cool things that happened as a result of this was that I met Sia Figel a few times. This was after I had seen Sia do a very funny, very entertaining reading from her book "Where we once belonged". So though I'm not much for hero worship, I was making a bit of an exception. So someone, for some reason, decided to fly some poets and writers to Savaii to do some reading of their work. Unbelievably (and this was the height of my so-called and short-lived literary career) I was asked to go. That was the first and only time I've been on the actual plane to Savaii- normally it's Lady Samoa II all the way! On the tiny plane, Sia asked 16-year-old me, 'What do you want to be, what is the next step for you?'. 16-year-old me confidently confided that I would be going to law school. "Ah" said Sia "the death of a writer". I held my tongue. A rare event even then. I thought that was a huge reach. My 16-year-old self dismissed this naysaying (and maybe even thought unkind thoughts about how just because it wasn't achievable for everyone, it certainly wasn't unachievable for brilliant 16-year-old me, who could be a lawyer AND write literary-prize winning novels, AND probably do a number of other awesome things with my awesome self). But Sia was right. I haven't written a hell of a lot since going to law school. And that was a long, long (long, long, long) time ago. So be kind!
I have been lax. No stories have flown from these fingers for too long. But I have been inspired! I was in the Maldives for work. Work that was HARD! Work that was TIME CRITICAL! So in the middle of the night, when I should have been finishing the HARD and TIME CRITICAL work, I procrastinated a little. Maybe the beautiful islands (which I was not getting to enjoy because of the HARD and TIME CRITICAL work) made me a bit homesick. I googled Samoa. And I found some fantastic blogs about Samoa and by Samoans. I was hooked. Since then blogs like Sleepless in Samoa, Faikakala and Under the Coconut Tree have kept me company at crazy hours of the morning.
And why am I up at crazy hours of the morning, you might ask. Well, I have been pretty privileged to have a little man enter my life recently. And that is the story of why, even though I have a four-month old son who loves constant attention, I've decided (rather crazily) it's time to get back to writing. And this is why you are now being inflicted with my first ever blog! Enjoy!