Samoa/Pasifika Experience 2018
We have just returned from church this morning on a fabulous day. The group received blessings from the minister which was a thoughtful message to receive.
The students were awesome yesterday which was a long day starting at 3.00am and finishing with lights out last night at 9.30pm Samoan time which was 8.30pm NZ time. Thank you all for the effort getting students to Kristin which allowed the bus to pull out from school at 4.27am.
At present, following our short walk back from church, students are having a swim in the pool before we head to lunch and then going to the Papaseea Sliding Rocks for an afternoon of culture, sunshine and laughter.
We head across to Poutasi Village tomorrow where we will have the first job hopefully of emptying the container into our base fala for our stay. Late on Friday we received permission for our goods to enter Samoa by the Minister of Revenue. A truck will transport the container over the Island Road from Apia to Poutasi.
17 July 2018
We were greeted at dawn with a chorus of roosters and church bells at 5.30am to begin a very hot but exciting day. Slowly but surely everyone clambered out of their mosquito nets at the smell of toast cooking. As 8.00 am came around everybody was already stretched out in the shade frantically fanning themselves in the scorching heat. I and a few others came up with an idea to introduce themselves to the Chief’s wife, Tammy and cool off by dipping our feet in the crystal blue water whilst we fed eager fish. By 10.00am we were all dressed in our uniforms and ready to take the walk to Falealili Secondary School where we were welcomed by hundreds of smiling peers.
After a quick welcoming and morning tea, we wandered through the classrooms and everywhere we went we were welcomed with warm smiles and open arms. I personally have met some amazing friends who have made me feel greatly welcome and I am looking forward to the days to come.
To wrap up the day we dove into the shimmering clear waters with a stunning view of a fiery sunset. We may only be four days in but I am already in love with this island and its people.
Written by Arabella Thompson
18 July 2018
At 8am we left the Poutasi Village centre. We were making our way to the Poutasi Parade, which celebrates the 11th anniversary of the partnership between three overseas companies and young potential workers from Poutasi village. We sat in the 30° heat and listened to the Poutasi Village chief, Joe Annandale, share the history of this significant event. He went on to give Kristin a special mention which was then followed with a speech by the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi.
After that, we headed to the nearby Faleali’i College, where we were greeted by the students’ happy faces. In small groups of three or four, we joined up with our friends made yesterday. We spent two periods at the school. My first period was business and I was greeted with two friendly smiles, who were Jordan and Smith. Both of them introduced me to the whole class. They were very friendly and welcoming.
The teacher asked for one of the Kristin students to share a song so Jules Aitkens sang True Colours and to our surprise, the whole class joined in, and they sang in harmony. It was so impressive. We had an amazing time!
When we arrived at Togitogiga Waterfall where everybody was relieved to finally get into the cool waters. Almost immediately, we dispersed in different directions to find various platforms from which to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. It was a pleasant relief from the heat and humidity.
Overall, I had an incredible day and will never forget it.
Thursday 19 July 2018
It was 6:30 and I heard the chorus of roosters, dogs barking and my peers waking up. We all got ready for the day and made our way to the secondary school. We slowly scattered in different directions and participated in their classes. The students and teachers were all very welcoming to us and they made lessons extremely interesting for us.
At around 12:00 pm we walked back to our fale to swim in the crystal-clear water of the ocean.
After our swim, we drove back to the school to meet our exchange buddies. We all went home with our different exchange students to meet their families. Many of the families did not live in Poutasi Village but they lived in the nearby villages. So, many of the students took the bus or car to their separate homes. Several of us had never met our exchange students but luckily for me, I was paired with someone I had already made friends with Tihella.
We walked to her house and I was introduced to her family. They invited me to lunch and we bonded over the differences between New Zealand and Samoa. After lunch, I sat down with her dad and we talked about many different things while Tihella did a few jobs around the house. We met up with Charlie and his buddy, so we walked around Poutasi together and even went to the village next to Poutasi! From there we met Lachie and his friend at a where we jumped into ta small river in our casual clothing and had a really good time. After my second swim of the day, Tihella and I returned home for dinner. I found out that they were very outgoing and so I taught them how to do handstands and some trendy moves. After visiting them and knowing her family and friends, I was really sad about leaving them. We exchanged gifts and I thanked their parents for welcoming me with such kindness and for treating me like family. I will never forget her family. I have never met such happy children who were so thankful for what they had. I will never forget this experience and it made me so thankful that I was able to experience such a beautiful event.
While we were on our home visits the container arrived and was unpacked by local men in about 45 minutes according to Mr Murray. All items are safely stored in the open fale. Much thanks to the businesses, community members and Kristin families for the generous donations given on the wish list that will allow the schools and village centre to thrive – Clare Lu and Anna Li
Friday 20 July 2018
The joyous spirit of Mrs Murray (and her tuneful vocal-chords) awoke us at the early hour of 6:30, to begin what was to be an exciting day ahead. We quickly got into our morning routine of preparing breakfast, showering, eating and packing our bags. A buzz of excitement loomed from the previous night, and we were all keen to reunite with our buddies and spend some time in class with them.
The walk to school in the blazing heat, at only 8:30 am, of the Samoan sun was harsh against our ‘Palagi’ skin, but we were all well-covered with sunblock so being burnt was not an issue for us.
I met with my buddy, Prince Vaa, and he took me with him to experience my first ever Samoan class. I felt a little out of place, but the broad and friendly smiles of the students made me feel better and I was able to enjoy the lesson.
We were taken into the main hall and the students began to sing traditional Samoan songs while we waited for the guest-group from Apia to arrive. Their harmonies swept far up into the rafters and goose-bumps started to cover my skin – such amazing and natural singing!
The guest group was very interesting: they began with a cool dance and finished with what sounded like a very inspirational speech in Samoan, however, I was unable to understand specifically what he was saying, but I felt the emotion and passion with which he spoke. Our time at the school concluded with a few farewells from friends as we wouldn’t see them for a couple of days.
Next on the agenda was lunch, which was quickly followed by our departure to the Vaiula Beach Fales, which were only a few minutes away by van.
When we arrived, I was shocked by the fact that our ‘beach fales’ were so close to the water! We dispersed into our groups and all got ready for a well-deserved swim to kick off our weekend of relaxation.
I was excited to see the familiar faces of the four Year 12 and 13 students who had finally joined us in Samoa.
As I sat on the edge of my fale drying off and gazing at the crystal-blue water, my mind began to wonder – could Samoa be heaven on Earth?
by Jules Aiken
Saturday 21 July 2018
You would think that waking up in paradise, waves crashing against the sand merely metres away from you, and sunlight streaming through a slit in the wall would be peaceful. But as I violently woke when the sound of the crowing rooster pierced my eardrums, I realised how lucky I am to wake to a soft alarm clock most mornings, at a time of my choosing. Well, that might be a slight over-exaggeration, but Samoa living is so different from what I am used to.
After a laid-back breakfast at the Vaiula Beach Fales, we went straight into some cultural activities. These included weaving plates and baskets for our dinner out of coconut leaves. It was challenging at first, as we were learning these trades from girls my own age, whose first language was Samoan.
But we persevered through the frustrations, and after around forty minutes, ended up with twenty beautifully made plates, and five woven baskets. Emily Davies and I even mastered the basket weaving skill and made a basket with little to no help from our teachers. In fact, Mr. Murray is currently using our trendy basket to carry laundry around the Fale.
Our plates, bowls and baskets were all going to be used in the preparation and consumption of a traditional Samoan meal called an Umu.
This is very similar to the Maori Hangi. Being cooked underground, the flavours are beautifully enhanced with the taste of Samoa.
The real peak of the night was the Fiafia. This was an exchange of dancing and singing between our hosts and ourselves. For me, this included watching our newfound friends Jean and New Lynn perform an amazing Samoan dance.
They were so beautiful to watch and it really inspired me to delve into my culture and family history much more than I already do. Following their performance, we sang and danced to the song “E Nga Iwi E”, and while performing, I was reminded of what my sister told me before I departed to Samoa – ‘Take every opportunity, even if you think you look stupid’. That night I think I sang one of the best performances of my life. Even though some of the locals were looking at me strangely, I took my sister’s advice and took the opportunity to enjoy what I was doing. I hope that I continue to connect with the culture, and take advantage of as many opportunities as I can.
By Allie Johnstone
Sunday 22 July 2018
The sound of rain drew me from my peaceful sleep, where I was immediately greeted by the waves crashing on the beach.
It was one of the best night’s sleep I have had in a while. Everyone met for breakfast around 9 am, with no routine in mind and we ate a lovely, relaxed meal prepared by the people from the Vaiula Beach Fales. Everyone was moving in a slow tempo, and it was pleasant after the hectic but fun week we just had.
After breakfast, we all broke up into separate groups and cleaned up the fales we had been staying in. There was a small interval between the clean-up and take off where everyone simply relaxed and enjoyed the last moments of freedom before we returned to routine. Once we had packed up everything, we met up in the main area and performed the songs from last night to Dave Peterson, the owner, as he sadly missed our evening performance. Before we sang our songs, Mr. Murray gave a heartfelt speech and it made me realise how many things actually go on behind the scenes and feel grateful for how much everyone does to make this wonderful trip go as smoothly as it does. It was so humbling performing to Dave and the people from the Vaiula Beach Fales. Just seeing the looks on their faces and how much they appreciated our sign of gratitude made me feel wonderful and I extremely enjoyed it.
After our short performance, we drove to Apia for lunch. The route we took was different from the first drive up from Apia, and we went around the coast. I got to see different sides of Samoa and the views were breathtaking. The water looked so clear and barely anyone was around because it was a Sunday, which is a church day. Once we had lunch everyone drove to the Togitogiga waterfall. It was our second time there and was just as good as the first. At first, I was scared to jump off but once I did it was amazing. The water was refreshing after the heat of the day. We stayed there for a while and even played a bit of water polo with a ball we’d bought.
To end the day everyone returned to our fale in Poutasi village. It was sad to leave the beach fales, but I also found it a relief to be back because it meant that we would be returning to the schools soon as well. All in all, I had an amazing day, filled with the right mix of relaxation, fun, and excitement.
– Natalie Rayner
Monday 23 July 2018
We had to wake up really early this morning, so we wouldn’t be late for our special welcome to the Saleilua Poutasi Primary school which was a 30 minute walk away in the boiling heat.
The walk made me extremely grateful that we can take a bus or a car to school every morning and afternoon. Upon arrival the marching band led us part way around the field and into a classroom filled with children buzzing with excitement.
The small, tightly packed room made us feel forever grateful that we get to be seated in a very large auditorium at Kristin and that we have such great facilities available for us to use.
We were able to watch the young Samoan boys make coconut cream from grinding the insides of the coconut into a large, steel bowl and then using some straw to ring out all of the cream. We then wrapped this into leaves creating palusami for us to eat later. With morning tea and lunch both being provided, we were very fortunate to have been so well looked after. It was very friendly of them to prepare such delicious food for us to eat.
During interval we were swamped by kids wanting to play with us. This moment felt very special to us and was incredibly overwhelming. We all made so many new friends and enjoyed every moment, whether that was playing sports with them or just holding their hands and walking around.
The next activity that was prepared for us to see were a few items done by the Year 8s, 7s, and 3s. They performed their unique and entertaining acts to us which then led to us joining them and also the teachers having a dance in front of all the kids. This showed us how outgoing and energetic they all were and how much they were looking forward to our arrival at their school.
To finish off our first successful day, we sat down to a table filled with amazing dishes prepared by the kids and staff.
We cannot wait for the rest of the week to see what is ahead of us. Today has been yet another very special day and we feel so blessed and happy to have been showered with love from the primary school children.
- Sharon & Holly
Tuesday 24 July 2018
We were woken bright and early this morning with the lilting tones of Mrs Murray’s delightful singing, imploring us to get up and greet the beautiful and eventful day that waited before us. After our morning duties, we began our customary walk to the primary school before the heat of the day overtook us.
Upon arriving at our destination, we first entered the Year 8 class, where everyone excitedly urged us to join them. We were overwhelmed by their friendly and generous nature in allowing us into their class community. Afterwards, we went to see the younger children – finally people who were shorter than Anna! We taught them Maori action songs and gave them the lyrics to learn. However, they took the Maori language in their stride, as it was similar to their mother tongue in many ways. We farewelled them after an interval filled with games and laughter.
After midday, we travelled to Apia to visit the New Zealand High Commission in Samoa. We were thankful for the air conditioners after a week in the muggy heat as we were welcomed by the High Commissioner – David Nicholson. Many questions were thrown at him and his team, but they were handled well with backing statistics and examples, giving us a broad understanding of the relationship between New Zealand and Samoa. It was interesting to be back on land owned by New Zealand, after being away for so long.
We raced to the markets to enjoy our first shopping spree in Samoa. Bargaining was a new experience for many of us, as we needed to find the best deal as many of the same things were stocked in multiple stores. We found it surprising how everything was relatively cheap and how friendly the shopkeepers were. Many of us bought gifts and souvenirs for friends, family and ourselves. After purchasing and bargaining for our gifts, we left them with the teachers as some of us headed off to splurge on a healthy and nutritious meal – Maccas. This was the first fast food we have eaten since leaving New Zealand – so it made a good treat after over 10 days of healthy food.
It was my birthday today (one of us - guess who) and I had a wonderful day showered with love and ice cream (literally). My favourite component of the day was heading off to the markets and purchasing gifts for folks back home, as there was a wide variety of items and everything was crafted with natural products in one way or another.
It’s time for bed now - can’t miss Mr Murray’s rendition of ‘A Place of Aroha’ by Mrs Patchett! Nitey nite!
- Guy Williams and Anna Li
Wednesday 25 July 2018
As the sound of roosters and church bells widened us from our sleep, we were all very excited for the busy day planned ahead. Washing, cleaning the bathrooms, breakfast prep and fale clean up were the four duties that all the students dread. We completed our jobs, ate a delicious breakfast and strolled to school.
The sound of 200 screaming primary school kids invited us to Saleilua, Poutasi primary school and we settled into our chosen classrooms. Arabella and I decided to join the Year 3 class for the morning. Singing and dancing filled the morning with positivity and enthusiasm as we embraced the environment and made new friends. “Ding, Ding, Ding”. What was interesting is that on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays they wear the white and blue school uniform. Then on Tuesday and Thursdays it's the yellow and greens.
The sound of the bell filled our ears and we ventured into the hot Samoa sun ready to play some games. We walked across the field and many children joined us begging to play. We played duck-duck-goose, tag, soccer, rugby, volleyball and many more fun games that enabled us to have fun and play with the little primary school kids. At that moment I felt so lucky to be able to spend time and interact with the Samoan kids.
It was then time to go to the beautiful Togitogiga Waterfall. Everyone loaded into the minivans and headed off in search of refreshing waters. The sound of the waterfall crashing against the surface of the water beneath welcomed us with open arms as Mr Murray and Mr Mataio popped a phat manu off the rocks i.e massive bomb! We were all relieved to be in cool temperatures after a busy morning in the scorching hot sun.
The second part of the day was not as much fun. After a filling lunch of sandwiches, we helped out the builders change the roof of the open fale next to our house. We carried massive corrugated iron sheets across the house and helped the workers where possible.
Our next task was the packing of the pencil cases. Thanks to our many generous donors we are able to provide the primary school with many gifts such as these pencil cases. To make sure that each child had an equal amount we unpacked all the pencil cases and put the contents into different categories such as pens, pencils, rubbers and extras. We then created an assembly line of sorts and put all the pencil cases into different boxes which will then be handed out to the different year levels next Monday at the farewell.
The final part of the day was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far. The Sinalei Resort was where we spent our evening today.
The food was delicious and the setting was luxurious. It was like nothing I have ever seen. After our extensive meal, we got to watch some of the locals show off their skills in an amazing display of fire and drums and when it came to our turn to perform our sāsā and E Ngā Iwi E we were blown away by the awesomeness of the locals’ performances.
Sadly we had to say goodbye to Mrs Murray after dinner. We all wish her safe travels back to New Zealand and she has been an awesome help here at our fale.
– Emily and Sean
Thursday 26 July 2018
At 6:30 I sleepily awoke and felt excited as I remembered what the day had in store for us. After doing our morning jobs, we got ready to leave and took the walk in the hot sun to the Primary School. Today the school had a sports day, and we were running it. Clare, Sharon and I were running Dragon Tails and Frisbees. I had such an amazing time with the primary schoolers, running around, throwing frisbees and dancing. They were very energetic, and I made many new friends throughout the year groups.
A group of workers were finally able to deliver roofing sheets, donated by Mrs Newbold's and her husband Rod, that will go toward the construction of the new school hall at Poutasi/Saleiula Primary School.
In the afternoon, we had the second homestay on the trip. I had a different person from the first homestay, and I was slightly nervous about it. My buddy lived in Poutasi village, where we are staying, and I had a very enjoyable time walking around with her and her friend and meeting their families. It made me realise that life in other countries is very different from the life we have in New Zealand.
Here's an idea of what it was like from Sean's perspective as he had the big camera.
I had a tasty dinner of bread, fruit, taro and fish, cooked in an underground oven called an umu. I was very thankful that I got to be a part of the experience of spending time in another culture. This was one of the most fun parts of the trip so far.
– Emily Williams
Friday 27 July 2018
This morning I woke with a start as I remembered what a special day it was, my birthday!
As the other students sleepily awoke from their slumbers, I was eager to get ready and start the day full of adventures. I got ready for school as usual by having breakfast, completing our daily duties, and then we were on our way to the primary school. After the hot and tedious walk to school was accomplished, we could hear the sounds of the students buzzing with excitement as we walked in. Immediately, students ranging from the ages of 5 to 13 were grabbing my hands and pulling me every which way. I wanted to soak up all of the moments I had left with these amazing children, as it was our last day of school with them until our farewell. It makes you feel so happy inside when you see how happy you are making all of the kids.
After we finished up our last classes, our group was eager to make our way to the waterfall to have a swim. The cooling water refreshed us, so we could prepare for a special dinner with Lamapeti Fagueli (Kristin Schools first scholarship student out of Falealili College that graduated in 2017) and his family. This experience was so moving as his uncle, the high chief of the village Salani, informed us of the journey him and his family went through when the tsunami occurred in 2009. Lamapeti’s family prepared for us a delicious Samoan style dinner, which was followed by beautiful Samoan fia fia (dance). Overall this day was filled with incredible opportunities and experiences, and it will be one of my best birthdays yet.
- Kali Raj
Saturday 28 July 2018
Nu'usafe’e Island was always in our view whenever we went outside, teasing us from across the water and today we all finally got to visit it. Our group of nine people were second to manoeuvre through the choppy water and coral reefs to the island on a small six metre dinghy. Halfway through the boat ride our DOT (director of transport/boat owner) and tour guide pointed out a turtle swimming past our boat which only just caught my eye as it disappeared under water into the reef.
Our job on the island was to grab an old pillowcase and gather up the debris left by the occasional passing cyclone. We all quickly noticed the number of plastic bottles, old jandals, styrofoam pieces, wrappers and packaging littered around the island. Working in pairs or small groups, we picked up the rubbish around the beach area and we found a small cave made by the roots of one of the tropical trees. Inside the cave there were around 25 discarded plastic bottles! I was shocked that some of the waste that we create can end up on a tropical paradise like this island.
After the clean-up, already in our togs, we jumped in the crystal clear Pacific water and explored the reef near to where we beached. Under a rock a group of us found a colourful sea urchin surrounded by fluorescent tiny blue fish dancing around the coral avoiding our presence. There were also lots of yellow angel like fish and black ones too. I felt completely disconnected from our digital entrapment: I say as I write this blog on a computer!
A highlight of this trip was when we had to choose the fastest crab to race each other with the prize of one of two spots on the trip back in a dug-out waka. I was lucky enough to have the second fastest crab of Nuusafe’e. I felt fortunate as we paddled away from the envious looks of the others.
When we were all safely back at our fale, we joined Chief Joe at his home for a barbecue lunch which we all ate heartedly. Chief Joe talked to us about how grateful his village was to have Kristin’s support.We took the long drive over the hill to Apia to shop at the markets where some of us got snow cones which were refreshing in the humid heat and others bargained for bits and pieces. We ended the day with a scrumptious pizza dinner. Tonight, Mr Murray has taken a group of students to paint the blackboards at the Salelua/Poutasi Primary School so that they are all ready for Monday.
Today was one of the best and fun days so far in Samoa. I will definitely remember this day for a very long time.
- Josh Daken
Monday 30 July 2018
Today was the last day at the primary school and I know I had been dreading it since the day we first walked through the front gates. Today we gifted the primary school whiteboards, blackboards, clothes, pencil cases, teacher packs and other class equipment.
This was all so very humbling as this helped us to understand how truly lucky we are, the kids' eyes widened and their bodies leapt with joy, we were granted with a once in a lifetime emotion.
For me personally, this was the saddest, most overwhelming but also the day I will cherish the most. We took photos, hugged, cried and said our goodbyes knowing we will all never forget these moments and pure goodness.
As our new lifelong friends lined up to send their farewells I started off strong but in the end, I was balling my eyes out knowing I will never ever, ever forget this experience but more importantly this day. My stronger bonds and friends that I made gave me lava lava’s and necklaces that I will keep with me forever to remember their smiles and friendship.
I noticed the different cultures and school behaviours that everyone in Samoa shares - like the welcoming and opening of their hearts to us palagi’s (Europeans).
Every time I waved from the van door, feeling free to say hi I do and they all jump up with excitement to say hi. Throughout the trip, I had noticed the good and bad differences but I will be taking back all the good I have picked up and sharing it all back in New Zealand! I have got addresses of new friends to whom I can write and be able to continue my journey with them!!!
– Charlie Jenkins
Tuesday 31 July 2018
Our last full day in Samoa began with a quick wake-up from Mrs Underdown, and we got ready for the day yet to come. Our departure to Falealili College was prompt, and on the walk, to school, we all cheerily discussed our favourite days we had experienced on the trip, and what we were going to miss most when we left.
As we arrived at the college, the familiar faces of the students greeted us and we all sat down to get ready for the farewell ceremony. The ceremony began with a Samoan siva (dance) by the year 9 students. I was captivated by how well the students were able to stay in sync with each other and liked how even though they were focusing intensely, they all kept a smile on their faces.
After the siva, the year 10 students sung us a farewell song with beautiful harmonies. The year 11 students performed a Hawaiian hula dance that was awesome! My buddy (Prince Va’a) was in the year 11 group that performed the hula dance and he had a special dance solo that was entertaining and cool. The ceremony concluded with one of the college’s teachers performing “Proud Mary.”
It was amazing and afterwards, one of the students told me that she had performed on a Samoan television show called ‘Star search’ (which is like NZ’s got talent or the X factor) in which she got into the top 4.
We were hosted for lunch by the college, where there was some Samoan food like palusami (umu cooked coconut wrapped in taro leaves), oka (raw fish), chop suey and taro.
We said our farewells to the students at the college and there were a few tears, but our friendships and memories we spent with each other will be cherished for a long time to come.
We then hopped into the vans to drive to Apia for a 2nd lunch. We were given many different options to choose for lunch but ironically, the big McDonalds sign lured our entire group of 20 towards it and before you could say ‘Mc Flurry’ we were already inside ordering. After our extravagant lunch, we drove back home to be were greeted by some of the local children and we played games like ‘snap’ and ‘noughts and crosses.’
We were hurried inside to get ready for our final dinner in Samoa and took a short stroll over to Leilua and Pua’s home looking like real Samoans with our lava-lavas and necklaces on. We were welcomed by Solomona’s family and Chief Joe, his wife Tammy and of course Pink (their lovely Labrador.) I was surprised to see that there was a DJ and band who provided the soundtrack for our impromptu dance rave.
Dinner concluded with some ice-cream and more dancing. As the sun set in its beautiful array of red and orange and it begun to get dark it was time to say farewell. Farewell to the rich and interesting culture, farewell to the tasty Samoan cuisine, farewell to the majestic scenery and saddest of them all farewell to the beautiful people.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Goodbye to this amazing island and until next time, Tōfā soifua.
– Jules Aitken