Speaking up has repercussions suga

E oo le vao.
Imagine you’re deep in the forest, and you think you are alone, so you speak and your voice travels through the trees and into the ears of the person you speak of.(usually this is in the context of speaking ill of someone).
Thus, speak well because even in the depth of the jungle your words will travel.
That’s what the proverb alludes but it also is a perfect analogy of why we, from small communities struggle to truly express a view, no matter how well founded or meaningful.
No matter where we are, our voices are never alone, and our views are always connected to us, our families and loved ones.
Now throw in politics and we have a situation called, a shit-storm also known as friggin’ shit storm.
In a western democratic sense, you can stand on the top of the hill and say, “I support Polo because he is a hardworking member of the community and is truthful and he cares. He is also well educated”. You say this because you are aware of Polo’s work, saw him support the bill that affects you (eg LGTBI+ gay marriage, anti smoking, education – whatever or googled it).
But if you are from a small place, and you went to school with someone who is connected to the other candidate Pa’u, who is also contesting but was involved in a corrupt deal a few years ago.(You saw this on google and in reality for example).
Then, your voice is going to be wavering in fear of the wrath of Pa’u, and because Pa’u’s cousin is your uncle’s emplyer’s friend’s uncle’s niece.
Speaking your truth has reprecussions but failing to speak your truth means that corrupt people will continue to speak for you, and advocate for you, and assume that they are your leader in NZ.
I love coming from a small community, but I hate that it is also a tangled sinnet of relationships that are volatile, convoluted, hateful and deceit. Thankfully, there’s ways that can solve this: stop going to church, or convert to a palagi church, haha but really.
Bless those churches that are about spiritual enlightenment and not about the financial contributions every week. Amen LoansrUs.
ok, that was me thoughts derailed.
My mantra is the same as last election, question, research and find out what politicians have to offer, their experience, google their names and what you come up with, go to public meetings and ask them questions.
They speak for you and me. Hold them accountable. Question them.
If they are not truthful to you today, they won’t be truthful ever.
If they don’t advocate for what you care about. Don’t vote for them.
All too often, Pacific peopl are misled and blinded by politicians who rely on our familial-loyalty-repect-love relationships.
That era of voting because our parents voted also needs to be looked at. Are they still delivering?Look at the policies they propose.
And the current era of politicians who say they speak for us and are unsure what they stand for.
Ain’t nobody got time.
PS: this post is about nobody in particular, so don’t get your tarpaulines in a twist unnecessarily.

My favourite tuiga images thus far

 

The first of Agnes – who won the Polyfest Samoa Stage comp last year and Sabrina at the sootaga in Wellington.

 

Can you tell I’m running out of topics to write about? hahah

This week, I have the exciting task of making a tuiga that a very energetic dancer will wear, which needs to be light, portable and stays on her head for hours,

so help me Gawd!!!
manuia le aso

 

 

Inhaling Resilience

  • Resilience  

noun

 

1.  the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. (like a faga meme’i really:)

2.  ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

At the end of any tragedy, you will hear reporters speak about the resilience of the people, their ability to bounce back and rebuild, restart their lives, etc.

Whenever I think of resilience, I think back to the aftermath of Cyclone Ofa and seeing villagers from Falealupo regrouping and working tirelessly to protect their families, before outside help arrived. I also think of the families in Papa Sataua who built rocky foundations into the hill so that when Cyclone Val struck the following hill, they had cover.

I was, just a newborn of course but my memories of this time was that: people responded immediately and took ownership of the situation.

It is this resilience which also allows people to remain in their place of origin, despite the challenges.

Today, one of the catchphrases by so called palagi experts is resilience.

But here’s something I believe:

It difficult to teach resilience to people who have not really experienced a traumatic event or experience, or challenging situation. You can learn the definition, run a workshop and get case studies together.

But, resilience truly kicks in when we are forced to take control in a desperate situation, during or after the fact, with very little or no intervention at all.

…but, next week, I will form part of a group teaching activities and I just realised it includes resilience *gag*

Funniest part is this, ….the people running the event were allocating who covers what and the leader asked if I could cover resilience because it was “an interesting concept”, and I sat there thinking:

Honey child, I survived 3 cyclones, countless trips on the Salafai on stormy days, 2 car crashes, Omega’s cooking, quietly sneaking onto the rocky path in stilettos at night to go clubbing, many hidings from teachers and the pastors wife,  a tsunami and a loaded gun in my living room, we inhaled resilience 🙂

That’s what I was thinking, what I said instead is, “Okay”

(I win verbal battles in my mind, its another story when it comes to articulating it:)

So, while we’re at it, let me tell you a story, it’s like a fairytale or fagogo except it’s real, go right ahead and laugh about it but don’t laugh in my face when we meet:

Resilience in Lalovaea

When we were young, we all went to school in Fusi (Safotulafai) – all of us until my eldest brother Kilisi made it to SamCo and off he went.

At lunchtime, someone from home would come with a Tupperware of sandwiches or taro and chopseuy or whatever was there for lunch. There was usually 7 of us, unless someone had moved onto Logo College up the road.

Food was therefore there most of the time. There was the odd day when someone doesn’t show up with the tupperware but we were ‘resilient’ and sometimes walked to our relatives begging for food, much to our family’s embarrassment. More often than not, our friends or other children will also hang around for the Tupperware to arrive.

 

Other days, we’d be  given .50cents each to spend.

 

Let me say this, you get f*ckall with that .50cents.

 

But, if you pool all our coins together, we could get something good so that we’ll starve during lunch break and then buy a bottle of coke and lollies after school  aaaand then walk home (since the busfare has been spent too).

 

My grandmother Faleasiu Liki is from Fusi, so walking home is another food journey. We get stopped by family who will tell us off for walking home and then feed us ulu and miki or elegi or whatever is there.

 

Food was always there.

 

Then, one by one, we started moving to Apia (Upolu) to do the rest of our high school and my cousins went off to Seattle, (broke my heart when they left but that’s another post).

 

Now, going to Apia for someone from Savaii is a big deal. But going for us was different.

 

We lived at the family home in Lalovaea, but, without family.

Let me tell you this, I realised then that I. Was. Poor. And. Hungry.

The struggle was real without having family and without that Tupperware showing up.

We had to learn to make that case of tinned fish last the month.

I think back now and realise, I truly learnt what resilience was in Lalovaea.

While we, siblings laugh about that struggle now, I remember that it was in that desperation that I found myself focussed and certain about what I wanted in life.

It was so damned clear.

I wanted so desperately to be able to fend for myself, without having to rely on others.

I desperately wanted to earn my own living and be able to afford things that I wanted.

But more of all, I wanted to get the hell out of a desperate hopeless situation.

The only way we knew was through studying and getting a scholarship (to get a degree).

So while this is turning into a blimmin’ testimonial, I just wanted to bring it back to the initial topic,

Resilience.

Resilience for me was the ability to survive a desperate situation and believing that there is hope somewhere, somehow. I just had to weather the tough times and all will be well in the universe.

 

I want my children to know struggle. I want them to inhale resilience.

Worms slide through my fingers

Blessed is the worm that slide through my shivering fingers and into the salty black ocean,
Lament the unlucky worm caught in Uncle Satuu’s home-made mosquito net racket that is immediately devoured.
Chomp on blue, green, red worms while they squirm for their short-lived existence.
Samoan delicacy at its best – Live, wriggling reproductive organs that float to the glassy surface only once on a balmy full moon in November.
The one night when we don’t mind being awake at 2am to sew sweet smelling necklaces and to patch mosquito nets to be used for catching the ellusive worms.
Throw in a dozen bottles of Vailima and the night stretches out into the dark shadows of sleeping Itu-o-Tane shorelines.
Only to be disrupted by coconut lit fires and disgruntled pigs as humans take their place under leafy fuafua trees.
We wait and wait and wait and wait.
In the shadows.
While able bodied men paddle their flimsy canoes in search for where the palolo will choose to rise.
“It’s going be a good year, I can feel it” says the toothless man from Fagamalo.
“I doubt it, there were no thunders and worst of all, no lightning in October, it’s a waste of time” mumbled the old lady from Avao. In the darkness, I see the shine of her two gold teeth and the pink of her round plastic hoop earrings.
I think to myself, If I was a palolo, I would swim away as fast as I could from her.
The early morning air is a pungent fusion of Impulse perfumes mixed with fragipanis, mosoois and pig shit.
Depending where you’re stepping in the dark, the latter can be unpleasant.
Women gather their children, chiefs chat near the fires, young lovers hold hands in the pleasant darkness, young girls gaze at half undressed boys and dogs bark into the darkness because they can. Until someone throws a rock unto their emaciated ribs and quietens them momentarily.

As we wait, we worry.
The sun rises not too far away, yet the palolo refuses to surface.
And just when the fires started to die out, the voices of the men fill the air, and a sea of bodies rush to the sea, with buckets and nets and Goodyear tyre floaters and little children in tow.


Nevermind the dangerous undercurrent
Nevermind the rising tide
Nevermind the sharp corals
Nevermind the reef’s treacherous edge looming close
Nevermind the hungry sharks.
Nevermind the bodies swept out to the unforgiving deep, still holding onto their buckets of worms, never to be recovered.
“Make laia, it just wasn’t their year” says the toothless old woman, while she chows wriggling palolo between her two gold teeth.

The faasamoa is alive and well here

On Saturday, I was invited by my friend and s’hero Hana Moemalo to her community event.

She has booked me several weeks ago, and it wasn’t a smooth process,. she simply said “sau e judge le makou pageant” (come and judge our pageant).

For those who know me, y’all know how I feel about pageants. It took me years to try and avoid that part of my past but in some circles, it keeps popping up.

Samoans have three obsessions: God, rugby and pageants. True story.

And coming from a small-ish place, it felt like none of my professional and academic background mattered when I was in circles of Samoans from Samoa.

So in that context, I rolled my eyes at Hana but knew better than to decline her invite.

On the actual day, I had to collect my students and set up our stall at a trade show, before proceeding to ‘said pageant.

I kept thinking, “Oi aue – beauty queens and stilettos ahead”.

On arrival at the hall, I saw no stilettos in sight and the actual contestants, were two young women from the youth group who were judged on everything BUT their physical attributes. They had to be skilled at paluina o le ava, reciting poems/chants, dance and were actively involved in the rest of the categories that the youth were participating in.

The whole event was centered about youth and the theme was “Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao” similar to “Serve Now for your blessings tomorrow”. Everything was conducted in Samoan.

At one point, a 7 year old had to stand in from of the stage and recite a whole page of scriptures. Her voice wavered, she shook a little, but her words were clear and powerful. I couldn’t stop my eyes tearing up at seeing this child, and realised that those around me also cried.

As I was sorta trying not to cry, I noticed that behind the curtain (there the girl stood) were the feet of an adult – perhaps her mother, coercing her to read on. And I just laughed (ok, cry-laughed) because —-that was me. That was my siblings and most samoan children on white sunday.   We had to stand in from the entire congregation and recite. Under duress.

Trying hard to speak with meaning because your momma is sitting in the front gesguring to her jandal. hhahah joke but really.

The entire event was beautifully planned and the competing groups clearly had put so much effort into their performances.

When it came to decision time, it struggled to make a call, but was grateful that the revered faifeau made the decision with me.

I walked away from that hall with renewed respect and adulation of the work that so many of our people do, to keep our culture alive.

I was also in awe of people like Hana, who hold full time jobs during the week and then much of her time is supporting her community. I have also seen her do additional hours supporting her youth into employment and educational opportunities.

Faafetai tele lava Fono mo lou alofa ma lou naunau I le manuia o alo ma fanau a lo tatou atunuu. Absolutely humbled, grateful and blessed to have done this, and to witness the celebration.

We care about your hopes and dreams, …nah, just kidding, sit yo ass down!

The title of this entry is a little dramatic but, it sums up how I felt after an event I attended a few days ago.

I won’t say which, but it was geared towards young women. And their dreams and desires for the future. It all looks wonderful in writing and having attended an event in the last year, I was all for it and encouraged a lot of young women I work with to attend.

BIG FAT MISTAKE.

I walked away a little shocked and embarrassed that I took people there in the first place.

Let’s backtrack, in any initiative or activity where you want to promote youth engagement, there are some things that organisations need to know:

  1. If you want youth engagement, make it Youth Engagement.
  2. SAFE SPACE. This is so so so very important. Youth need to know that they are in a safe space where they can speak without judgement or fear.
  3. Their views need to be respected. Or at least heard – before yet another older person shoots them down.
  4. Ownership: Youth need to be given a chance to take pride in their contribution and take ownership.
  5. In doing so, you will empower young people to speak up and engage.
  6. By all means Lead them,they need guidance, but what I saw was young women being channelled down a hollow path
  7. Clarify your purpose, your objectives and stick to you.
  8. Negativity. Leave it out the door.
  9. Make an effort to know or have some understanding of the work they live in.

At the event I attended, several brilliant young women were invited to speak. Despite the daunting task of addressing a crowd of strange older women, they stepped up and shared their hopes, dream and plans for the future. Several were emotive about their journeys. All of them were wonderful.

What followed after was rather embarrassing:

One  attendee QUESTIONED them for not wanting to be the Prime Minister of NZ, sneering at their low goals of being lawyers and engineers. Those are a waste of time, she bellowed. She then went on to share her sad story about her distrust with religion, which I accept, but in the process, she undermined the voices of those who spoke so humbly of their beliefs.

Another attendee then ‘lectured’ them to change their mindset. And another asked loudly, “What is this obsession with phones and facebook and all that”

A Member of Parliament who I was very much looked forward to hearing, got up and started rambling about her parliamentary group that have travelled to the Pacific – who want more Pacific women in their respective Parliaments and then, she was done. I thought she was going to speak to the topic or inspire the young women. zzz.

As the day wore on, the young women simply stopped contributing and several were coerced to speak up! It was clear that they were not in a safe space where they can speak and their contribution was not fully appreciated.

Overall, disappointment.

Thankfully, we had an event immediately after where it was organised by youth for youth, run with finesse and a very clear purpose – the change in atmosphere restored my faith that day.

Phew!