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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tau turns two

Our son Tau turned two. We organised a party for him and his friends at a local indoor play area with all sorts of games for the kids to play with. After and hour or so of play we called them back to have lunch sing the birthday song and cut the cake as well as have a go at the coolest pinata ever that our friends made for Tau. It was a fab party. Almost everyone made par the ones that had left the country on holiday. We all had a nice time catching up with friends while the kids played. Tau got loads of presents which was fun for him of course. Thanks to everyone that came. Great times

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Samaga Pe'a

The time came when the completion of the tattooing sessions were near. We went to Samoa for three and a half weeks and we were hoping that it would be done well before then but by the third week we were not so sure we'd be done well before or in time. You see in Samoa there are a lot of unforseeable circumstances that arise. One of those was the tattooist's family from ovearseas showed up for family meetings and all. So there had to be days off while the tufuga dealt with his family duties. On top of that Mother's day followed and then the final week was full on tattooing everyday until it was completed on Saturday.
On this Saturday I dropped the two victims off to the tufuga's house, hung around to serve breakfast and then went back to our host family to help with the preparations for the samaga ceremony. Samaga is the ceremony that formalises the completion of the tufuga's work and where he lifts his taboos and bans and let's the new pe'as out into the world as free responsible tattooed beings. The family along with all of us were all excited about the end of the work.
On the final day when they were tattooing the last bit of Aleki's body I was there to video and take photos of it. We had discussed it the night before the amazing end of his journey and I mentioned some protocol that occur at the end of the pe'a.
Well come the time, they tapped in the final tap and the tufuga said "Ua uma" or "It is done" Aleki slowly sat up. They told him to take his time and not to rush as his legs were freshly tattooed. Apparently some people topple over when they get up too quickly. The next thing took us all by surprise as Aleki stood up and did what a proud, robust Samoan does in moments of triumph, he did the tuliususu
"Chooo hoooo"
and proceeded to do an aiuli(dance) and hugged the tufuga, his assistants and all the supporters that were in the fale. Not a single eye was dry in the house as I think everyone hadn't expected such a Samoan reaction from New Zealand born, English speaking(with a bit of Samoan) Lealali Aleki. It was a beautiful moment to witness in my eyes, I felt so much pride and love for this man that was my husband. He had broken barriers and overcome this massive test in life and I was proud to be by his side all that way. I couldn't have dreamt of a more beautiful ending to the tatau journey of Lealali Aleki.
The surprises didn't end there. I went back to the main house to assist with the preparation for the ceremony and there I found the neighbouring family old ladies were making leis for the occasion using fresh flowers.
I was so touched by this act of family love. I was so emotional there and then at the realisation that all these people were celebrating with us and were doing what they could to help with the ceremony. As my mother puts it, when one starts the pe'a, the supporting family all hold their breathe as everyone anticipates and prays for the succesful completion of the job.
1. For obvious reasons, so the tattooed man comes away with the full tatau and
2. If unfinished it is the shame of not only the half tattooed(pe'a muku) man himself, his children will be shamed but that of the whole family as well.
So the completion of the tattooing was now celebrated by all. The neighbouring ladies and young men came to help our hosts with preparing the food. My mom arrived in time for the ceremony with things for the sua(presentation). Alex's Mom, Dad and aunty arrived with clothes and a beautiful ie toga(fine mat) from Alex's uncle in Manase that he wanted to give for the sua. Alex hadn't even met this uncle yet.
The ceremony went well and Lealali and Folasa were humbled men at the end of it all. The outpouring of love and support from our families and friends was just humbling. The prayer was conducted by Leilua Keni who's a deacon at his Methodist church in Sataua. Lealali and Folasa danced with pride and joy and for a few minutes pretended they weren't in much pain. We took a lot of photos of everyone there to remember this day by.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Cyclone Phet

Cyclone Phet was downgraded to a Tropical Storm yesterday. There was lots of heavy rain in Muscat that caused the wadis to flow. Buildings in the wadis were inevitably flooded. There's this big mall called the CCC centre here in Qurum that was once more flooded as well as the Mc Donald's near it. In Gonu three years ago the water covered all of the fast food outlet but this time the water was half way up. Still a lot of damage I'd say to their equipment and the lot. I think they make enough money that this is just a minor glitch to their operation. Otherwise the south of Oman where Sur is, there were pictures uploaded by people there showing a lot of houses were flooded. Once more that poor city suffers from the floods. We drove around Qurum and Al Khuwair areas this morning and I must say it's impressive how the roads have already been cleaned or in the process of being cleaned by government employed labourers. I must give it to the government they obviously learned from the last cyclone. Luckily the rain stopped last night and the water has receded in the wadis. We were actually on the beach as if nothing happened there. They had built a bridge in Qurum so that the water ran freely under it into the ocean. It was just completed a few months ago so that was lucky. Last time it was a road that blocked off the wadi and marsh area that when it flooded the water basically washed the road away. There's roadworks in many areas that are obviously aimed at alleviating the waterways to run straight to the ocean and not block the wadis no longer. Unfortunately some of those road works would be slowed down by the flooding so far. I hope not many suffered from this cyclone and that it dissipates before it hits Pakistan.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Cyclone Phet in Oman

While I'm blogging away, Tau and Aleki are fast asleep. I decided to cease the moment and catch up on my blog. I quickly checked my facebook page and a friend was online who also lived here in the same complex. She informed me that there is a cyclone heading for Oman! I thought she was having me on but then she called me and confirmed. She'd been shopping for food and said that the store shelves were cleaned out as people went to buy food to prepare for the worst. Saddest thing is we have no idea. This morning we went out to view two prospective houses and came back and were at home all day. We had the radio on in the car and there was no mention of a cyclone then! So I'm hoping and praying that the cyclone doesn't come our way:( I just looked online and they mentioned it weakening but not too sure. On top of that I tune in to Euro news and the breaking news is that of a man that had gone on a killing spree somewhere in the UK! It is madness. I better go get some sleep in case we have to battle a cyclone tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

By stander / supporter / family

Watching the tattooing and the tattooed men from the sidelines is an amazing experience in itself. My mother said to me from the beginning to prepare my husband and myself for it is a challenging journey and it is no easy feat. Well her words couldn't have been more true.
My task throughout the tattooing was to make sure everyone was well fed, that everything was running smoothly and be there to support Aleki and give him the encouragement to keep him going. There were some bumps along the way but one had to try and keep it together so that the two guys can just focus and get through the tattooing.

Unfortunately for Lealali Aleki's(warm showered bum for most of his life) the cold showers throughout the day were nearly as bad as the tattooing itself (he said). Moreover they had to sleep on the floor on fala papa(hard mats) throughout the three weeks. They weren't allowed to use sheets while sleeping(and the nights were cold) nor sleep on mattresses. On the third night Lealali suffering from sleep deprivation decided he'd sleep on the bed because it might get him some decent sleep. I decided not to protest and let him do what he wanted. As we're chatting away with the family the sergeant major showed up for his nightly checks only to find yours truly knocked out on the bed. He immediately got him to get off the bed and back on the mat and that was that.

The tattooist has all these taboos that once the tattooing starts the participants have to respect. Well these rules all make sense for they are all to aid the participants on the road to a fast recovery. For example sleeping on the mat: The mat presses on the skin of the area tattooed thereby squeezing out any gunk trapped under the skin. That's my take on it and they've been using these rules for centuries so they really do work. On the mattress the skin sinks into the mattress and the skin dries stuck to the material. So when the patient moves the skin is ripped from the tattoo making it an open wound!
The advise from the tattooist and from those that were tattooed was that the cold showers and massage with soap and water was the quickest way to heal nicely. And a doctor friend advised Alex that it had been proven that nothing beats soap and clean water to keep the wound clean. So on went the 8-10 showers a day by the boys as the tattooing progressed.
Watching what these men went through day in and day out, I was in awe of this art that is part of our culture. In awe of not only the art itself but also a lot of respect for those undergoing pain everyday to complete this part of our traditions. What makes them go back to the tattooist every day for more pain boggles the mind. Lealali Aleki said he drew his strength from our ancestors and from his Samoan heritage that makes him who he is today. His Samoan up-bringing in New Zealand by his parents and his Samoan grand-parents who spoke to them only in Samoa and ingrained in them the importance of the Samoan culture and the interweaving of family into everything that makes Samoa unique.
The support from strangers and people we'd never met before was amazing. Other tattooed men just showed up at the fale to show support, to egg on and reassure the two new victims. Others came and stayed the whole day and helped to shower and massage the two guys. Others just came to eat and left. Others came with food or kava to asi(contribute/assist) in the process. This is what it was all about.
Another chief of the family came on the first week-end for a family meeting and was surprised by the tattooing, he decided to stay to support Aleki and Iegi through their ordeal. He was actually tattooed as well back in the 60s. It was amazing to see these tattoos from different eras. They all were of the same outline but the intricate designs varied from one to the other.
Mind you most of these people were my family but I hadn't met half of them before. The fact that I was my mother's daughter I and my husband were part of the family and we were their children to look after. Whether I had shown up before to this part of the family or not was not important. The bloodline spoke for us and I was thankful to my mother for keeping all these family ties alive.

Taga tatau i Samoa / Tattooing in Samoa

My husband was offered and he accepted a matai title from my family early last year. Afterwards he said to me that it was time he gets the tatau. He'd always wanted one and now he felt was the right moment to get his tatau.
The tatau is the full body(covers 65% of the body) tattoo that young men who come of age get. Today men get it when they are ready or want it. So we planned quietly and arranged to do the tattooing in Savaii with a tattooist at Vaipu'a Savai'i whom also tattooed my brother 6 years before. Alex and many of our friends have been tattooed by this man Su'a Loli Keli with arm bands or other designs. He's a real artist with a good eye. He's very talented and everyone I know he'd tattooed come away smiling and happy with the design they get from Loli Keli.
The time came and we traveled to Samoa via New Zealand. We spent one night in Auckland and the H-Town delegation picked us up from the airport which was really nice. We spent a few hours with them as Tau and MM got on like a house on fire until we couldn't stay awake any longer. We relaxed at the Millenia hotel in Apia for 2 nights before we caught the Lady Samoa III boat to Savai'i from Apia with Mom. We did our big shopping in Salelologa before we headed out to Sagone.
We'd decided to stay with relatives in the village. We went straight to the tattooist house to do the formalities to give the fusika and discuss the tattooing and all. There was a nice feast that evening with our hosts and we got to meet the rest of the family. We felt comfortable and welcome from the first day. The tattooist(tufuga) arrived at around 8am the next morning. After breakfast the tattooing began at around 9am. Alex was joined by Iegi. Iegi is from our village and a friend of my brother's. He was to be the soa or the partner of whom shares the pain with the primary tattooed man (it being Alex in this case). So each session starts with the primary participant followed by the soa. The designs are not necessarily the same for both men.
They started with the va'a (canoe) mid-way down the back. They took three hours to do Alex's back and then broke for lunch and finished off the day on Iegi's back.
Watching that first hit by the tattooist is something else. And that's only the beginning of the journey of the tattooed man.

Day 1 after the first session. Alex is watched over by Leilua Viali who was the fofo(masseus) and mentor. Alex and Iegi called him the Sergeant Major because he checked on them at the most unexpected times to send them to the showers, remove any sheets from the tattoos or make sure they're not sleeping on the freshly tattooed areas.

Emergency in the village

I went back to the house to make sure the chow was ready for the galuega (tattooing) and found my cousin had driven to the galuega with it. As I was about to hop back in the car to go back to help my cousin's wife ran up to me accompanied by some random village boy if I could help this family by driving their child to the nearby hospital as the child had collapsed. I agreed and the boy and I drove to their house not far away to pick up the child. When I drove up, three women ran towards the car with one cradling what looked like 3-5 year old girl in her arms. The little was unconscious as her head was lolling as the woman cradled her. I asked if she was breathing and the older woman said that the little one was breathing but just not responding. I drove towards the hospital with what's now the little girls grandma and two aunties. I wasn't aware of the whereabouts of the mom but the little girl was under the care of the grandma that day it seemed. As I was driving along to the hospital the grandma said to the others that we must stop to see someone named Fiu.
I thought they were talking about another relative so I turned into that house as they pointed it out. As soon as I stopped the car all three were out in a flash with the child while yelling out to the household if Fiu was there. The answer was yes and that Fiu was in the umukuka out back so they called out to Fiu to come. Next thing I saw, was this household running around gathering leaves and herbs as it dawned on me that this was the village taulasea(natural healer)! I sat in the car drumming my fingers waiting. There were more than enough people there so I wasn't going to help in any way but be in the way if I got out of the car. Eventually after the child was given a mixture to drink and massaged I heard cries and then the girl's aunties asking her questions like 'what's your name?' and 'who am I?' and who's this?" pointing to the grandma. The kid must have been answering correctly because they were happy with that and they bid adieu to the healer and returned to my car with a wakeful little girl. They hopped in the car and thanked me profusely for driving them. As I came out of this drive and was about to turn towards the hospital they all quickly decided that there was no need to go to the hospital and that we should go home. I insisted that the child must be checked by a doctor but they were adamant that the child was okay now and if I could drive them back home faafetai lava. I reluctantly dropped them back to their house. They wanted to pay me for taking them but I said not to worry about it and drove off after telling them that they must take the child for a follow-up at the hospital.
Should I have just driven to the hospital against their protests? But then
I decided that it was not my place to try and tell them what to do or not to do.

Tales from our trip to SAMOA from April 27th to May 19th 2010

We've been with the family in Hamilton for three days now. We've had a nice relaxing time. Tau's grandparents flew up from Welly to spend more time with him and it's been a lovely week-end. Jody and I have had our night out after our scrumptious dinner at Lone Star where I ordered a whole bowl of mussels and ate it all too. yum yum. It was just really yummy. Anyway we're now packing and head to the airport real soon. Next destination Brisbane to the Labans and meet the newest handsome addition to the family Mr. Lyell Jnr Laban born to Lyell & Victoria Laban. He must be my granddad's 100th great-grandchild as grand dad had a few to many kids in his scandalous time.
I better get going bro-in-law is busy cooking up a storm for brunch this morning and my tummy is making funny noises. I shall update on the tattoo journey as soon as I get on my own comp at home.
Here's a taste: On our first week-end in the village one guy was caught driving through the village locking a woman's head in his arm as he drove around. Then he stopped under an ulu tree and put a gun to her head and was threatening to shoot her due to her telling everyone about his indiscretion.
Let's call him the Unsub to borrow from Crim Minds. So this eventuated because the lady(victim) caught the unsub in an empty house she was house sitting with another village woman that was not his wife. The victim went straight to the pulenu'u(mayor of the village) and reported on the unsub. The mayer called a village meeting and punished the unsub 1. for breaking and entering. 2. for the extramarital affair (apparently he was caught before and was warned to stop of be banned form the village.) So this time the village banned him and told him he wasn't allowed back until further notice.
After the meeting the unsub went straight back to the victim and threatened that he will kill her when he gets the chance. The pulenuu was again informed and an emergency meeting was called. At this meeting the chiefs decided to ban the unsub for life and this time his family had to provide 50 aumatua(female pigs) and 1000 tala by sunset or all face banishment from the village for this guy was warned countless times and not respecting the village rules anymore.
By 1pm the family came up with 1 aumatua and 10 pusa apa(elegi boxes) but the village said it wasn't enough.
By 4pm they came up with 2 dead cows and about 40 pusa apas or something like that.
The village decided to accept this payment and let the family stay but the unsub remains banned for life. So that week-end we had lovely fresh steak for dinner as the pusnishment goods were distributed to all the families.
Needless to stay I was starting to like the village and was hoping for more steak as long as no one dies in the the village police