Wednesday, July 20, 2016

13 Minutes - A moekolo, traumatised honeymooners and Samoan Tourism

On 17 July 2016, it only took 13 minutes for the Australian Channel 9 show to make a circus out of the Samoan Prime Minister and the Samoan prison system. Although it's caused a bit of excitement among Samoans, I think we're giving it more credit then it deserves.

As far as the angle of the story was concerned, I felt they had successfully hit their mark. I mean, Liam Bartlett is a veteran and 60 minutes is top-shelf journalism (*cough*), so the honourable Tuilaepa should've seen the editing on the wall (see what I did there?). They cunningly put a moekolo, a prison, and a tragic rape incident under the microscope to put out a warning to all tourists visiting Samoa matalasi. But I couldn't help but wonder whether Samoan tourism fell victim to a corporate rivalry between Channel 9 and 10. Isn't Samoan Survivor showing in a couple of weeks on channel 10? Heck, I bet Liam had a blast in Samoa on Channel 9's account!

But here's a few concoctions my coconut brewed up when watching this 13 minute piece:

 Firstly, I was disappointed with Liams opening statement saying that there is no intention to rubbish Samoan tourism, only to have the next 12 minutes rubbishing a specific resort and then showing an edit where it appears the Prime Minister supports the notion by saying it's best that Tourists stay within a specific area. What da falaimoa?

Second, there was a time and space where Samoa never had a prison system. All judgements and punishments were carried out within the context of the village chiefs. I wondered if this Tualima lived 100 years ago and carried out the same crimes, would he even still be alive? There was no death penalty in Samoa, but beatings were off-the-record. (tongue and cheek). Maybe Samoa trying to adopt a foreign system doesn't work so well for them, and I'm not just talking about the prison system. The 13 minutes of this episode made a deliberate beeline to contextualise Samoa as a first world westernised society. Referencing the money that is sent from Australia to assist in projects of upgrading their infrastructure etc. Samoa are not primitive but to make comparisons to Australia is bit of a of stretch. What do we call this? Media colonisation?

Thirdly, and probably the most pressing issue when I was watching this show was the fact Tommy had to suffer the ordeal of his new wife being raped next to him. I am well against any form of sexual abuse, and I mean no disrespect to the couple and especially the husband. But that Tualima could only have touched my wife over my dead body. I was upset for both of them and angry at Tommy for not putting his life on the line to protect his new bride. Maybe it's just me, but I would struggle to look my wife in the eye afterwards, knowing that I could've thrown pillows, the mattress, the bed base,...hell my whole body at this creep of a man who held a knife and threatened my wife with it. But bigups to the couple for working through this tragedy. But men, let this be a lesson. Die for your woman!!

Fourthly, the hypocrisy of an Australian journalism program to scream danger on a small island. Did 60 minutes forget about "The Backpack Murders?" among other incidents for Australian visitors? Didn't Wolf Creek make a grand exhibition of putting the fear in those young travellers that dare to travel down under to see the Devils Marbles? (Oh hell no I didn't) So before the pot calls the kettle black, and you get overwhelmed by the 13 minute barrage of Bellzeebubs bollocks. Ask yourself, have cases of visitors being raped and/or tragically murdered in Australia made this country a dangerous country to visit for a holiday break? No, Australia is an awesome place to visit....and/or in my case, live.

Lastly, did this story really deserve to be alongside the horrific ordeal in Nice, and the #BlackLivesMatter tension going down in USA? Maybe it was just me, but I thought the Samoan tourism story was small fish compared to it's counterparts in this particular sequence.

Let's not get too worked up about the 13 minute coverage. I'm pretty sure 60 minutes haven't done enough to destroy Samoan Tourism. I think the greatest harm in this story was done to the couple that will have to work through all the emotional pain from their traumatic experience which was meant to be their honeymoon and the tourist businesses that will have to deal with the immediate devastation that will last much longer than 13 minutes

p.s who the heck is Tualimas parents? I wonder if Tualima will be a Samoan Survivor?


Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Samoan born in NZ, who now calls Australia home

I've been reading some material online and a biography of the missionary Reverend George Brown, who served from 1860-1874 in Samoa. His observations give me some incredible insights into some strong tradtions of Samoans that have remained up to more than a century later. This is fascinating given the fact that the largest migration of Samoans was in the 1950's -1970's (because NZ needed factory workers for their ever expanding industry and service sectors, and saw the Pacific Islands as a harvest for labourers) and yet in 2016, some of these observed traits still run strong in the Samoan blood.
He observed the people “to be amongst the nicest and most lovable people with whom I have ever lived.”
Although in another entry, he observed that the villagers, “were extremely sensitive to what was considered to be an insult.” And he records times of trying to bring peace between villages in feuds and battles (some he successfully intervened and some he didn't), where people were either badly wounded or killed. 

"On they came, a band of stalwart fellows, almost naked, brandishing their guns, spears, and clubs, leaping and shouting, to the place where we were sitting. Their bodies were smeared with oil, their hair dressed with scarlet flowers, and their foreheads bound with frontlets made of the bright inner shell of the nautilus. It was difficult to recognise the features of those with whom we were acquainted, as every one had tried to make himself as hideous as possible. The chief led the way, dancing up to us, and shouting: ‘What is that for?’ ‘Why are you sitting there?’ ‘Why do you stop us?" (Rev George Brown was known to read, write and speak Samoan)
During a religious meeting out in the open air "about 300 were present. The Chief commenced this their first Collection in their own village by a subscription of $10 thrown into the plate in such a manner as to let every one know what he gave. Others then followed many of them giving $2 each. We thus realised $122.72".

The missionary's entries don't appear to just journal and record for the sakes of accountability to his administrators, but it also come across as personal observations and reflections of which he appears to try to make sense of a people who are quick to help, have a song, a chat, dance, a laugh, yet they are quiet and serene during relgious services and yet when they fight, they fight to the death (even for seemingly peddly issues) and when they give to what they believe to be of a higher cause, they give with all their heart.
Today not much has changed, Samoans are still much like what Rev Brown observed. However, most Samoans are no longer native, they are living in other countries. Statistics reveal that there is a much larger number of Samoans living outside of Samoa. According to Wikipedia about 400,000 worldwide to 100,000 living in Samoa. A lot of nations where we reside, such as New Zealand, USA, and Australia, still struggle to understand how to consolidate what appears to be fragemented traits of the Samoan people. In fact, in a previous blog I explore the idea that a lot of Samoans possibly don't understand why we are the way we are. The DNA runs deep but the understanding is shallow.
Most have noticed that Samoans that attend church services (and sometimes even at schools, hospitals or anywhere where those particular Samoans deem to be a sacred place), are on their best behaviour or they're there and behaving out of obedience to the parents or the wider community.
When Samoans party, we party hard and when we fight, we fight with the same tenacity of our ancestors. (Fortunately fighting sports, rugby, rugby league, football, rugby etc are a channel to allow the warrior spirit to manifest....unfortunately outside of these paramaters, it's just thuggery). We're still sensitive to insult, especially if it's to do with the honour of the family (natural or gang etc). And some church services still practice announcing the amount of the donation before "plating it".
Rev Brown not only learned the language, he learned the traditions and the culture. Armed with this knowledge and understanding he was able to prepare the gospel message in a way where the natives of Samoa could digest it.

This guy was on to something. To be able to add value to their lives by sharing the awesomeness of the gospel, he had to learn how they lived and did things. This missionary spirit is something to aspire to (notice I didn't say colonialism, but that's another topic altogether). 
Although I'm a citizen of Australia, I still don't know enough about the people that have lived here for thousands of years. I appreciate the bush, beach, sleeping under the stars, 4WDriving, food grown on this place etc and I realise, I'm feeling the presence of this awesome land and need to appreciate that others have mastered this appreciation well before me. I'm on a mission in Australia, I best do like Rev George Brown and start learning the hidden treasures of this place. “There are many plants and trees inland that the Natives do not know at all. One which I found near the mountain but did not see anywhere else is very beautiful indeed – it has a large white flower and looks very pretty amongst all the black stones. I was very much struck with the evident marks of the goodness and wisdom of God manifested in the wise provision He makes for supplying the wants of people. On the Beach the Cocoa Nut supplies drink for all, but here there are none and but little water. However there is an abundance of a species of vine … and we had only to cut one with a knife then put the severed end to the mouth, make another division a little higher up to serve as a vent and then drink as fast as possible. From a piece about 18 inches long about a tumbler full of fine clear water can easily be obtained.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tangata Whenua

One of the units at college I'm studying is "The Torah-or Pentateuch" and we're currently dissecting the account of creation. The biblical account of mans creation tells us that the human race derived originally from the dust of the ground, Genesis goes on to tell us that God's instruction to man and woman was to labour in love for the living animals and the land.

This connection between human and earth has run through the DNA since the beginning of time, but it's a low down dirty shame that over generations and generations of people where farming was mandatory, we've now come to a sudden halt with a mass of people just have to meander through aisles of shelved and packaged food items to purchase from the local super market.

My dad and his mini plantation back in Auckland NZ
Some people I know have a green thumb and keep a garden out of enjoyment and leisure rather than necessity. My wife for example loves planting herbs, veges, and flowers in her little patch. And my dad, had a massive passion for planting taro etc when we lived in New Zealand. He often likes to reminisce and share stories of when he'd spend weeks on end sleeping at his family plantation in Samoa and working the soil and all the hard toil that came with it. There's a twinkle in his eye when he talks about the time of harvest, and I feel the excitement at our dinner table when my wife announces that the herbs and/or vegetables used for our dinner came from her little garden.

One of the most fascinating and peaceful people I've noticed that have a healthy relationship with the earth are the Native Indians of America. I've never lived among them, just spouting from a bank of knowledge that I've acquired from reliable sources like Hollywood :P , Encyclopedia etc. (oh and people that lived among them), It seems they have a mutual understanding of giving and taking and a deliberate aim to learn life principles by observing nature.

In New Zealand, or Aotearoa where I grew up, the natives, or the Maori's were synonymous with "Tangata Whenua" if compared to the Samoan language, we'd say "Tagata Fanua" literally "People Land", therefore the Maori's were known as the People of the Land of Aotearoa. I enjoyed listening to the myths, legends and songs from the Tangata Whenua. Even the art reflected their value on the importance of the land. They fought for their land and worked it for all the necessities in life. And from a young age, I believe the stories made an impact on a young suburban Samoan that didnt' know didly squat about gardening.

But the fascinating thing is, the populace of todays' first world countries have toppled the natural way of things on it's head. As God instructed in the beginning to "tend and keep" (Genesis 2:15) the land and animals, we tend to have kept it and consumed it. The more we consume, the less the land has time to heal and provide. How can this earth keep going on like this? Even in it's degenerate state it still sustains us.

I'm convinced every person that confesses to be a Christian ought to give time to acquiring the skills to tending the garden, or someway contributing to replenishing the earth around us. I'm not challenging myself and you to change the world, but just the environment around you. See how much you end up connecting with your piece of land. We should all pledge allegiance to being part of the Tangata Whenua.



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hills Adventist College WOSE 2015 Reflections

The Theme at Hills Week of Siritual Emphasis
Since being blessed after the week I did the speaking appointment at Central Coast Adventist School in March of this year, I had all intentions to try and reflect on the week that was. So here's a crack at last weeks. This is for my own purposes as I look back from here on in, for those who were there and can reflect in the experience and also for those who benefit in one way or the other from Uncle Dave's drivel.

The whole affair began from the same dude who invited me to speak at the CCAS, the chaplain, Nimrod Maua. He'd inadvertently dropped my name on another chaplain at Hills Adventist College (HAC), Ian Cangy and so it was, I accepted and last Friday completed the week.

If there's one thing I learned from my very first appointment in the year at SNZ big camp, learn, learn, and learn. The amount of experience that was at the big camp was enormous, ranging from well learned missionaries, to a professional film-maker, and the kids, woah! So much to take in. If God opens the door for you to serve in whatever ministry you've been given, then do so, BUT receive from those around you also.

It was the feedback from Nimrod that were some of the most beneficial. He would share his experiences and impart some of the knowledge that benefited or didn't in his walk, I took note and even applied them as the week went on and saw how fruitful they were.
The greeting into worship

So when I went to HAC, I had intended to drill the mind of Ian Cangy as much as I possibly could. But the difference between CCAS and HAC was I drove back to college everyday with CCAS to ensure I didn't miss my Greek classes, but with HAC, I hung around and got to chat with the kids during recess and even spend some Q & A time during classes.

So I return now with notes from the experience of chaplaincy from Ian Cangy. Numerous conversations with kids ranging from Years 5-12, with an array from "what's your favourite colour?" to "what made you believe the Bible?"

At HAC, the theme was "take 2". It was a clever theme in that it looked at how God is a God of renewal, forgiveness and grace and is looking at "taking 2" with you. The talks revolved around five topics. 
  1. It takes 2 to feel valuable
  2. It takes 2 to be forgiven
  3. It takes 2 to be held accountable
  4. It takes 2 to be fruitful and share your gifts
  5. It takes 2 to be a power of influence
The leaders in song and music
I was blown away by the work at HAC. Ian Cangy assured me that the kids had conjured up the theme, the interior design, they made up the band, the drama team, the program, the AV, anything you can think of were ran by the students OR arranged by the students. The only thing Ian did, was call me. And here is something worth noting. Quite often I've noticed in our SDA circles that we place so much emphasis on the speakers. When an event is going to take place "Oh who is the speaker?". "Is he/she good?", "Is he/she conservative/liberal?" which will measure our motivation to attend or not. But here's the thing, the speaker is just a prop (hehehe I like that, a prop? See what I did there?*hint rugby*). The people who have been on the ground, know the audience, know the environment and have been praying for them longer than the time you got invited as a speaker. They are the key influence in power, and as a should invest your effort and time in listening and vibing from them. God's ministry will continue long after the speaker returns home.

I'm incredibly appreciative from the team at HAC. Thanks for having me and making me feel valuable by appreciating my stories, and still being my friends even after hearing them :D.

Here are some of the things I learn as I journey in 2015.

The WOSE team
  • In the beginning of the year, I was preaching to a community of young kiwi kids who had some familiarity with the SDA church and everything that is attached to this particular culture. The massive thing I learned here was that God can make you fall in love with kids within a days familiarity. 
  • At CCAS, I was told 70% of the students are of a non-christian background and therefore had to speak Jesus in such a way that was digestible and tasted nice enough to entice them to the main meal (bible study). The big thing I learned here was all my SDA doctrines had no placeto be mentioned when non-christian kids talked to me about issues in their home and how they wanted to me to pray for them.
  • At HAC, it was a similar ordeal, they knew I was going to share the Bible, and talk about Jesus. And although I had felt like Hip-Hop was on the wrong side of the monopoly game board, it occurred to me that the kids still liked me for just being me. And that, that is a freeing feeling. 
  • I'm learning more and more, that God's way of reaching those that are reaching for Him are far beyond the box I had limited Him to. God will use whoever, whatever, and however, and we're best to just roll with it. (If this doesn't sit right with you, trust me, I know exactly how you feel)
  • No disrespect to Nimrod, Ian, my fellow Theology classmates, and any other ministers around the world, but I'm noticing more and more that the people who He has called to ministry are definitely not the ones congregated at the arrivals hall, we're just convinced we know who the pilot is and he knows how to get us to the destination and we're trying to tell as many people as possible who are at the wrong gates.  
Students in Worship
And here's the the thing. As much as I'd like to bust out in inoculations of Daniel and Revelation vaccination shots, I've got to bring Jesus Christ to the forefront and speak about the Physician. I've been wrestling with these ideas for awhile now. The three angels message are so dear to me. The details of our churches history, the 2300 day prophecy, the prophecy of the Messiah and so much more. But how are these teachings relevant in the day to day dealings with people such as these kids who don't know the bible, and it's contents, and haven't yet experienced Jesus?

Rally cry "It takes whaaat?!"
And I realise, it all comes down to "it takes 2". Relationships mean everything. Most people know that Sokha and I are married. But we have experiences with intricate details that only matter to us. We understand each others facial expressions, and voice tones. She knows some of the stupid things I got angry about early in our relationship, but all of this doesn't matter to people outside our marriage....unless of course they really want to know US. My eldest has already started inquiring about US pre-marriage.....and why should I not be surprised?
If someone really wants to know Jesus, they will ask the right questions. And they will be blown away by how much, and how willing, and how valuable they are to Him. I praise God for the experiences he's given me this year, and the brothers and sisters that have allowed me these opportunities 

(Photo Credit: Rod Long)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Blackout in Nappy Valley

The kids couldn't wait for the wind and the rain to pass so they could get outside
The last fewdays saw the Nappy Valley and the surrounding area lose electricity and all phone reception from 6.30pm Monday to 6.30pm Thursday. A storm decided to visit and as natural disasters do, they remove all our necessities.....pardon me..conveniences....luxuries?

I remember a flash flood hitting Brisbane a few years ago, and our little family had to pull out our candles and sit around in the dark with the guitar, sing and talk. There was something magical about this moment. Yes the electricity was out, we couldn't travel anywhere, but we had each other, and it was fun.

She needs to thank her mama
On Wednesday everybody came out of their units to see how the others were faring, and if there was any news as to when we'd have the power on and such. Dawn, Mrs Jamaica across the street was roaming up and down looking for firewood saying, "let's see if my childhood in Jamaica with the outdoor kitchen did me any good" and moments later she'd returned with a pot full of porridge to feed the mouths that had been shooting the breeze that whole morning.

We had no where to rush to, the schools had been closed down. work was out, and where ever we were we needed at that moment, no longer had any precedence. We didn't need to be anywhere, we were where we was. Standing in front of each other, talking to each other, and listening, nodding, we have generations and generations before us. These moments just feel right.

Seeing what we can do with our food
Fridges had to emptied, and some of our neighbours began the exodus to family and friends in other areas to be in a more convenient situation, and they gave out their food in the case they went off during the outage. Tulaga pulled out his weeks supply of meat and we had a BBQ in the evening, followed by a session of koko and chatting until 4.30am. 

I don't ignore the fact that the SES and other agencies were hard at work to get things rolling again for the sake of normality in the 21st century, but maybe a storm now and then is needed to ensure that we recognise our pathetic reliance on electricity. And acknowledge our necessity for person to person connection to ensure the cable of community is still our power point. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 Shades of Kae

Excuse the crude title, but there's not much else I can make of this movie that succeeds the 100 million copies that sold hot about four years ago. I remember some friends harping on about this book, (yes they were female), and it got me curious......nearly to the point I was about to read the book for myself. So before you read on, yes, I may not be qualified to make a knee-jerk reaction to this film, but give me a moment to explain myself.

In these reviews that my friends talked of, I heard more about the character "Christian Grey" and how he was an alluring, control-freak, but successful businessman who had seduced an innocent, naive young woman into his web of sadomasochistic shenanigans. 

By all appearances he seems like a charmer, however, he's a dude with some serious issues, and his hooking up with "Anastasia" by all reviews appear to be the bait that got all these readers hooked. Heck! I read an article the other day about this Australian woman who claims that the novel saved her from her post-natal depression.....STRAYA! So it can't be all that bad.

But here's why I'm calling it out as kae. Because if it looks like kae, and it smells like kae, then it is kae. There's a community of men like myself who are trying to pass on the old traditions of what it is to be a man, chilvary and honour are some of the dying traits and it needs to be preserved. The importance of chilvary, utter most respect for your mother,  how to respect women, looking out for your sisters, and I think you get my drift, but then jokers like Christian Grey appear on the scene and women find him fascinating? It sends mixed messages to blokes like me (ladies are masters at this).

If any bloke like Christian Grey even got within a 5km range of my precious daughter, his surname will change from Christian Grey to Christian Black-Eyes, because he's a misrepresentation of what it means to be a man. If he represents what women fantasise about, then should we get upset when we see a flurry of Christian Grey copycats? Is this why some women suffer from returning  to their abusers? (Shall we open this pandoras box?) I'm tempted to take and assume some angles on this but I'll keep it strict to the point that Christian Grey needs a hiding. 

If  Anastasia was Samoan, this movie would've been a good action flick. No need for car chase scenes, just scenes where a guy in a fancy suit is getting chased by brown dudes wearing a skirt.....and the brown dudes cousins.....and their cousins cousins.....yeah something like that.

But this is not a rant about stopping you from seeing the film (but save yourself the coin) it's about the attack on giving a subtle mandate for men to be high-class white collared jerks. That sex and bondage stuff I'll never understand, but damn that's messed up man.

Let's not get it twisted, Christian Grey is not the man you want to bring home to mama. He needs to come and hangout with a bunch of us lads, sip on some koko and unlearn the things that he's learned. And if that doesn't work,........then he'll have to learn the hard way. Okay rant over.

One more........ I'm sick of the constant disruptions of that stupid trailer on YouTube when all my daughter wants to see is Peppa Pig! 



Monday, December 8, 2014

Nappy Valley - Community within a community

Today was my first day of  experiencing what it's like to lose a family from the Nappy Valley community. If you don't know what Nappy Valley is, I'll digress from my previous statement to explain real quick what is is. It's a residential area for married students, or students with families attending Avondale college. It's nothing flash, a small village-like block of 2 bedroom units nestled on the outskirts of the college, and just across the road from the Cooranbong shops. The houses may have been built around the late 70's or early 80's with paper thin walls and a somewhat foamy-feel floorboard. But if you just looked at the physical location and build of the units you miss the magic of this place.

From the moment we moved in to Nappy Valley (the official name is College View residences). It was evident that the majority of families were here to help each other out. A friend helped me move my gear in, (Junior who lives off campus) and my then neighbour (Peau and Tupu) had prepared a meal for us after sweating out the move. Then I returned to Brisbane to finish up work, my wife and kids were at the mercy of the other villagers, who transported her to the shops when needed among other errands.

When I finally arrived 6 weeks later, I instantly felt the sense of community when I saw the kids playing outside with each other. Kids would come in our house, and my kids would go in the other houses. Nights where we would just chat and have feeds together. It taught me that this culture of hospitality and fellowship isn't a Samoan thing (because it's in the Samoan setting I usually experience this), it's meant to be a christian thing.

Many times when one or two families are in need, others will assist even though we don't have much to offer. And it's not always the same family, eventually the time will come when it's my own, and sure enough, we get help on the wings of impeccable timing. Any bible student would understand that this resonates with the church found in the book of Acts. And this has happened many times over in this village.

But sadly, all of us residing here have a reason and a purpose. To finish our collective courses and contribute to the corners of the world that awaits us. The first year for my family and me is complete, and with this, we have families that are leaving us. Two families that have been a huge influence on me are Pats and Maika's.

Pat who will always be the most resourceful Samoan I've ever met, who exercises hospitality like nobody's business, and is a testament to the tenacity of God's calling since he came with limited English vocab and is now currently a few units short of graduating with a Bachelors Degree. And Maika, who's brain works at a capacity that sometimes I question whether he's autistic but reads the emotional climate like a barometer and has a heart of gold. I'm going to miss these brothers. But I know our departure from this place is inevitable.

Nappy Valley seems to have served as a the practical teaching to the theory of what I was learning about the church of Acts and the early church. It makes me realise that when it's time for my family to make moves......we're going to miss this too one day.

It's a darn shame that it's taken me to live in a place like this for just over a year to realise how much we miss out on in general suburbia. I remember feeling this when I was in Samoa, but hadn't felt it in NZ or Australian suburban life, However, I do know it use to be this way once upon a time.

Maybe, just maybe if Christians did live out what we're suppose to, we could counter the private, keep-to-myself, look out for number one culture that's been imposed on us and bring back the old school. The school of hard knocks but tight-as relationships.

God bless you brothers, and your families. You will be sorely missed from Nappy Valley, but we know that you'll be blessed at whatever God does when he takes you from the Valley and climbs with you to Mountain heights unimaginable.