Samoan Tradition: Ifoga

One Samoana Throwback: First published Jan 4, 2009, this post explores a tradition of forgiveness like no other. It’s a fact of life: humans are attracted to drama… which makes me – and apparently, Samoans in general – oh so very human. I don’t remember when I first heard about the Samoan tradition of ‘ifoga’, … Continue reading Samoan Tradition: Ifoga

Samoan Etiquette: Meal Time

When I was in high school my family moved to New Zealand so we could live close to my ageing grandmother. An added bonus was that just about all my mother’s 8 siblings (and their children, and their children’s children) lived in the same neighbourhood, and for as long as my grandmother was still with … Continue reading Samoan Etiquette: Meal Time

The Samoan Visiting Gift Etiquette Pt. 1

Visiting family is always a great thing – catching up on the stories, updates on family members, sharing food and sometimes sharing tears, all in the name of ‘being together’ is no doubt one of life’s simple pleasures (if you are close to your family lol)

And then there leaves the question of etiquette. Sure, most families would have some type of give and take, the token of love can be in a simple plate of food, a nice chocolate cake and even just a bucket of KFC! But what is the procedure and requirements when you visit a family in Samoa? What amount of gifts or monetary ‘mea alofa’ is required?

…from Screaming Tree

The Art of Mu

The nimble fingers dance across the board with hands showing wear and tear of a hardworking life, a dedication to working the family plantation, building the family home, the hand of a bible holding childhood, disciplinary cuts of a hand upon a child – once strong and useful to the Aiga these hands are reduced to the competition of a quick thinking mind and the reasoning of veteran conscience that dictates the outcome of this simple game.

To the naked eye of an outsider, the old men playing Mu is an equivalent of a bunch of alcoholics, but if you look deeper it is more than just a game that these souls play to fade away the lazy hot Samoan afternoon, but a last element of competition to show superiority and being a man in this culture of hierarchy and duty bound soldiers of a village, family, country.

…from Screaming Tree

Put your hand in mine

When your in love with someone, you do all your lovey dovey cutesy couple things, wierd – for some reasons Samoans here in Samoa just don’t do that.

Its Taboo.

Kids walk to school with thier friends and hold hands, girls can hold another girls hand, a boy can hold another boys hand – but a girl and boy holding hands is kaukalaikiki (considered cheeky) LOL

So unless we are either pro-gay and lesbian, it is instilled in our culture that holding hands with your girlfriend or boyfriend is just something ‘you do not do’ (even if your married!)

…from Screaming Tree

Elevator Buttons

In Apia, there are approximately 6-7 elevators. Yesterday, I was thrown back into reality of how a simple thing as operating an elevator is still a foreign experience for our own people, an elderly lady entered the parking entrance of the Government building in Apia and was going to level 1, Eira and I had to get off at ground level (our inability to walk up 1 flight of stairs…is something else) but as we stepped off the elevator this lady became very scared and started to shake visibly, Eira held onto the door from closing and the lady asked with a tear in her eye how she was supposed to get to level 1…

…from Screaming Tree

Samoa is still smiling

On the way to work the other morning, I listened to a bunch of The Edge FM djs broadcast from poolside, Aggie Greys, over in Samoa. The typically irreverent crew eschewed any sightseeing for lazing about in the sun, bragged about how much they’d had (and were planning) to drink, and conducted interviews with local hotel staff that bordered on lewd – “With a name like Ru-ta, you’d be a popular girl in NZ!” and so forth. And then the girl dj recorded this pitiful, painful to the ears, rendition of some pop song celebrating her time in Samoa.

At first I winced at the audacity. That’s MY Samoa you all are enjoying way too much over there! But then I realized, wait… less than two months after this year’s devastating tsunami took too many lives and destroyed some of our most treasured resorts, people are enjoying Samoa again.

Whoever it was that came up with the plan to send a bunch of boisterous Kiwi djs over to prove that Samoa, as a tourism industry, is definitely open for business again… you did good!

You’re probably also responsible for this heartwarming gem:


Lo’u atunu’u Samoa / My beloved home, Samoa

Even typing this is gut-wrenching. When the news hit here in Niu Sila / New Zealand, I feared for the worst, and hoped the best. The early reports were few and far between, keeping my hopes alive. Early in the morning a work colleague, who had just come back from a holiday in Samoa a week earlier, came into my office and casually joked about the tsunami hitting a few huts, might kill some chickens and a few roaming pigs. I know she meant it jest-fully, and I think I smiled and went along with it, because I was still hoping she was right, that it was just a few things.

But fear began to grow, a large lump in my throat, my stomach turned, as news throughout the day progressed and the magnitude of the disaster only just became apparent. All the news was about the Samoan Tsunami. My work colleague came in later that day and expressed her sadness and asked if my family was affected. As did many other work colleagues. I lied to them all, and said my family in Samoa is safe. But only minutes earlier, my mother had rung to say my cousins who had left for school in Samoa were still missing. Why did I lie? Because sometimes it’s easier to deal with a situation without worrying others. Despite feeling a deep hole in my soul, of worry and hurt, the need to lie also helped me cope with the unknown. Lying was also a form of keeping as much of normality intact despite your world crumbling around you.

Throughout the week I would stare outside my office window, high up in this glass tower, in this concrete jungle, looking into the distance of the beautiful Waitemata Harbour, beyond the mighty Rangitoto island and into the horizon towards the great Pacific ocean, towards Samoa.

It was an emotional rollercoaster every time I answered a call from family for updates, or clicked the refresh button on news websites. My heart was torn, ripped apart, and pulled in all directions. [FULL STORY]