30 November 2010

samoa musings

In several weeks I will be off to Samoa, spending Christmas and New Years there.  While I am looking forward to my pending travel, my feelings at this stage are a little mixed.  I am, of course excited about the prospect of spending Christmas somewhere other than New Zealand.  On the other hand, when you have lived in New Zealand for as long as I have, it can be easy to romanticise all that Samoa has to offer.  Even though there a few little negatives I have roaming around in my head, I rest in the knowledge that I will be going well prepared (packing and otherwise), having spent enough time in Samoa to feel confident that everything, in the end, will be fine.  Over the next few weeks I will post on what I am excited about, what I am not excited about and some of my hopes I have for my time in Samoa.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi. 

29 October 2010

tweet tweet .. tweet tweet ..

This morning was a delightfully busy one around town, running errands and running into people .. thankfully people I was happy to meet!  When I got home with all errands complete including extras I did not expect to tick off, I ate my lunch, found out my best friend's boyfriend left her, flossed my teeth for the first time in probably a year (disgusting!), brushed my teeth, then sat down to say hello to my Twitter friends.

The only problem with saying hello to my Twitter friends is Twitter is not working properly!  While I can faikala, I cannot tweet back.  Very frustrating!  I never thought I would say this, but I think I have a small problem .. yeah right!  I could totally give up Twitter if I really wanted to .. .. ..

That said, in an attempt to feel like I have responded to my fellow Twits (is that what they are called?) here is what I have to say ..

@Samoan_Prince Did you go to work or are you slacking off like me?Shhhh .. it can be our secret :)

@LisaahAurelia SHUT UP with your photos .. they are fantastic and did I mention I hate you!Hahaha ..

@swisshamo LMBO @ "HELL TO THE NO" .. I'll start reading next year because I do not want to take all them books to the Islands!Why read when I can be drinking and getting a tan!

@maloana LMBO @ #redwine .. check this out http://whatscookingamerica.net/Menu/FormalDinnerSetting.jpg

@maloana @Pacific_Soul I don't think I have been suspended .. what does that mean anyway?I have not changed my username and definitely have not blocked anyone .. #honest!

@maloana @swisshamo @Pasifrika Does who tweet?I can't see what that tweet was about because Twitter is not working!

@sleeping_beutie WELCOME BACK!I emailed you to explain my absence :) And poor Vaniah .. you should teach her how to tweet and call it 'bonding time' ..

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

07 October 2010

it does matter if you are brown or white

Monday morning saw Breakfast host Paul Henry questioning New Zealand Prime Minister John Key as to whether or not Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand was a New Zealander, and whether the next Governor-General was going to look and sound more like a New Zealander.  From this, two vocal camps have emerged - those in support of Henry (particularly after being put on a two-week suspension without pay, even after a public apology), and those screaming for blood.  Then there is the gaping majority who don't seem to give a toss!

I will be one of the first to admit I am a Paul Henry fan.  I even tweeted my love for him after his People's Choice Award acceptance speech at the 2010 Qantas Film and Television Awards!  I became a Paul Henry fan earlier this year because A. I started watching Breakfast semi-regularly  B. He is funny and a bit dorky  C. He is not reluctant in sharing his opinions and is prepared to back it or back off, and D. I find the other Breakfast host Pippa Wetzell somewhat boring and Tamati Coffey rather irritating.  While I do think the comments made by Henry were inappropriate, I do not think them inappropriate enough to terminate his contract with TVNZ.

In my eyes, Henry's words are a very real reflection of the view of a number in New Zealand society, both young and old - if you fall outside the category of white middle-upper class and do not speak Kiwi, or Posh-Kiwi for that matter, you have no real claim to belonging to New Zealand.  As much as people in this country are in disbelief that racism like this could and should exist here, the fact remains, racism, in its many forms, is happily rearing its ugly head in Godzone.

And if you don't believe me then just talk to the drunk palagi I saw a few years back aggressively yelling racial slander at anyone walking by who did not mirror his dirty pink skin, or the naive palagi teenagers on my bus last month playing "Spot the Coconut" accompanied with an abundance of sniggers, or the fat-mouth-palagi I met through work blatantly admitting she is racist, or the drug-fucked palagi neighbour three houses down telling my mother to go back to where she came from.  I could go on, but I won't.

All this talk has me coming up with more questions than answers .. When are people going to stop shooting at Paul Henry as if he is the only racist in this country and look at the bigger picture? .. In New Zealand today, how are the seeds for an environment of basic understanding and respect for people from all walks of life nurtured? .. How do I learn to love the aggressive drunks, the naive teenagers, the fat-mouths and the drug-fucked despite their lack of love for me?

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

02 September 2010

Samoa VS South Africa

A few weeks back, the Samoa Observer ran an article on New Zealand-based Samoan woman Sefulu Falealili Hermens who claims poverty does not exist in Samoa, after her experience of witnessing poverty in South Africa.  She was over there for the FIFA World Cup.

I was shocked to think anyone, especially a Samoan, would compare Samoa and South Africa, then come to the conclusion that there is no poverty in Samoa.  And her quote "I always hear that there is poverty in Samoa...but I can tell you from what I saw in South Africa, there is no poverty in Samoa", makes me think she is in no position to be talking on the topic because she has either not been to Samoa, at least in recent years, or she has and is blind because the reality is, poverty DOES exist in Samoa.

It is undeniable that Western ways have been encroaching on fa'asamoa for over a hundred years and has led to natural resources being underutilized by many in Samoa.  There are generations of Samoans who don't know how to put stuff in the ground to make stuff grow for food and shelter.  My question is, is that enough to make ends meet in Samoa today?  Keep in mind a few other basics in life like health care, education and clean running water.  They all cost money remember.

Ignorant people often point the finger and claim that all poverty is self-inflicted.  I disagree and feel compelled to give them the one fingered peace sign.  As with anyone who is living in poverty, one can only imagine the circumstances which have led to their lifestyle.  Laziness leading to poverty is self-inflicted.  Falling through the cracks leading to poverty is injustice.  The ignorant who see people in poverty need to open their eyes and look beyond what is in front of them because the real issue is what has got people in that situation in the first place.

With all that said, I think comparing standards of living between Samoa and South Africa is ridiculous.  Just because the face of poverty in South Africa compared to Samoa seems to be overtly in your face and there seems to be more hope, especially in regards to natural resources for Samoa compared to South Africa, it does not mean poverty does not exist in Samoa.  Poverty comes in all different shapes and sizes.  I only wish Sefulu could see that too.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

17 August 2010

Chasing Dad

Last week on the Samoa Observer website, I read the article "Do you know this boy?" which led me to the immensley heart-warming blog Chasing Dad by a Kiwi man named Al Ronberg on his journey to visiting Samoa.  Al's father who passed away in 2000 after battling Alzheimer's disease, spent time in Samoa during the 60's, including Samoa's Independence Day.  In short, October will see Al and his family travelling to Samoa - a place that has captivated him for the longest time and a place his father adored.  Part of Al's journey to Samoa includes attempting to find a boy in a few of his father's old photographs taken in Samoa (one pictured above).

Reading Al's blog got me thinking about my own journey back to Samoa as an adult.  I had been to Samoa several times as a child, however time erased all but a few precious memories.  In my early 20's, I started talking about going back and a few years later, I finally made the move to live there, albeit a short while.  It was not till on the plane from Auckland that I fully comprehended what I was doing.  All these mixed emotions overwhelmed me as I thought of all I had left behind and the unknown that lay ahead.

That first trip back to Samoa will forever be one of the greatest experiences of my life.  To see, to smell, to touch, to taste, to feel, to hear, to breathe, to cry, to hurt, to laugh and to love in Samoa somehow helped me know myself better.  And the strengthening of the connection to my mother who is Samoan, to her parents and their parents by simply being, in a land I had yearned to be part of again, is priceless.

To Al Ronberg, I wish you well and hope you find what you are looking for.  Keep your heart and mind open and everything else will follow.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

25 July 2010

My Heartland

Tonight the moon is bearing bright on the land.  It is nights like these I often think about my Grandmother.  When I was young she would tell me stories about how she would lie awake in bed while everyone else slept, reading by moonlight.

Tonight the air is enveloping everything with it's chill.  It is nights like these I often think about my Grandmother.  When I was young she would tell me stories about how she would have to walk to school, rain or shine.  Winters were the worst.

Tonight the heart is heavy with longing.  It is nights like these I often think about my Grandmother.  Now that I am no longer young and she has gone, I long for more stories that give sight to the landscape of her Heartland.

Tonight is one of those nights I often think about my Grandmother.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

25 May 2010

'O le lima e paia le mata

While we are on the topic of labels, I thought I would explore another label I have been smacked with in my time...


The funny thing is, I don't think I ever got called a Palagi by just about anyone until I lived in Samoa, and the people referring to me as Palagi were Samoans!  If only they knew.  Or even if they did know, would that have changed anything?  I know a few times it would have because I bummed a few people out.

The most memorable was while out on my own watching some sport and very much minding my own business, I caught a man sitting further down from me confidently exclaiming to his friends in Samoan that I knew absolutely nothing about fa'asamoa.  I looked up at the unfamiliar face just as one of his friends was telling the guy that I in fact did know something of fa'asamoa and understood what he was saying as he had heard me talking Samoan earlier.  With all confidence gone, I never saw the guy again.

Sure I have fair skin, but what is it that possesses a Samoan to assume I am clueless about fa'asamoa?  And to declare this right in-front of me? 

One thing I know for sure is I am Samoan.  I have a history, a culture and a tradition I share with every other Samoan, irrespective of where I was born.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

17 May 2010

who am i?

After my very minimal attempt at researching the word 'afakasi on Google, I found that according to Urban Dictionary there are two definitions for the word.  The second definition I really cannot cope with while the first one I can as it is very much in line with my definition: derived from the word half-caste, 'afakasi is a Samoan term which refers to a person with one Samoan parent and one Palagi parent.

Often throughout my life I have been asked the questions "What are you?" and "Where are you from?" to which, in more recent years, I have responded with "a human being" and "I am from New Zealand" knowing full well the answer they are actually searching for is an explanation for the way I look - Polynesian yet fair skinned.  Every time I get asked those questions the person is usually sure I am Māori and checking to be polite or feels a need to label me for whatever reason as they are quite unsure of my race and ethnicity.

History all over the world tells us the word half-caste was very much a derogatory term and I firmly believe the term 'afakasi is derogatory today although maybe not as widely.  The thought of someone that does not know who I am calling me 'afakasi makes my insides churn because today it seems, being called 'afakasi goes beyond describing genealogy and extends to describing the understanding of an 'afakasi's own ethnicity and culture.

As an 'afakasi, I am not a human being roaming this earth doomed to incompleteness for the rest of my life because I am merely half of something and half of something else.  I am a complete human being who carries my genealogy as a whole - Samoan and Palagi side by side - even if I do not know every single detail due to factors beyond my control.  I do not pick and choose things Samoan with an air of ignorance and arrogance to make up half my identity because I am not just half.  You can look at me and stop at the fair skin, however it takes a brave person to go deeper and find out not what I am, but who I am.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

22 April 2010

this is me

Hello. I am a female in my 20's, born from Samoan and European extraction and I live in New Zealand. I was brought up with a mixture of fa'asamoa and fa'apalagi. Somewhere along the line, I realised I was different - I could operate in both the Samoan and Palagi worlds, although I did not feel complete in either. Even now I feel more at ease in the Samoan world, my life sometimes feels like one big anomaly. When I think I have it all figured out, someone says something or something happens and I feel like I am back to square one!

After much thought I have decided to start this blog 'Afakasi Memoirs. Why? My first answer is "because I can". The more in-depth answer...I am working on that. For now, this is a forum where I can speak freely and whoever cares to read and share may do so. I hope by sharing my story I will be able to understand more about who I am and learn from the wisdom of others.

While trying to figure out a name for this blog, I found a personal definition for the word memoir by Gore Vidal: "a memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked". Vidal managed to say what I think a memoir is and set it apart from an autobiography.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.