Monday, 22 August 2011

Motherhood and Darwin's Descent of Man

Six months ago we welcomed my beautiful baby into the world. I am sure this is a bit of a surprise because despite well-founded fears based on my previous inability to keep any living thing alive (yes including cacti, the type that survive the Sahara, but apparently not my black thumb), Lagi is a healthy, hearty, happy baby, already raising one eyebrow inquiringly, in that very Samoan way.

What has suprised me most about parenting is how utterly primal it feels. I lie next to my baby at night, and listen to him breathe, and feel so innately protective I could almost growl (or rip out someone's throat). As you can imagine my poor partner has to approach the bed very very carefully.

I am surprised at how much I love the way he smells. And how much I hate it when I can smell other people, particularly females, on him. No matter how good they smell. No matter if the person I can smell on him is my darling mum, who has taken him, to try to give me some much needed sleep. I can't explain it. I figure it's some throwback to that animal ancestry.

Sometimes when he has had tears streaming down his face, I hold him in my arms, and I almost feel like licking him. Like a cat. I would like to state categorically that I have never done so. I restrain myself by kissing away his tears.

I love his smile. He's too young to know any artifice, his smile lights up his whole face. When he smiles up like that at me, his whole face glowing because he sees mine, I know he loves me and my heart feels like its going to burst out of my chest. I couldn't have imagined love so elemental. It's no wonder that in creation stories, people are said to be born of the earth. That's how this love feels, like the earth- deep and old, though he's just six-months-old.

When we have been away from each other, we collapse into each others arms in mutual need. My breasts hard with susu, he seeks out hungrily until he latches on, and we both sigh with relief and happiness.

I expected that I would find motherhood difficult. And it is sometimes. But I have never felt so in touch with myself. It's so basic this need to look after this baby, to love him, to do anything for him. Maybe Darwin didn't need to do that whole study of finches. The survival of the species must be based on mums' (and perhaps even dads') feeling this way.

Long Distance Love

Despite having determined almost a decade ago that long-distance relationships sucked were very difficult, and I would never ever enter into, or entertain one ever again (never ever ever), I somehow find myself in a relationship where my partner works overseas. I would blame the baby (refer to previous post) but unfortunately this is not a chicken and egg situation. This particular chicken (and yes I am referring to my relationship as a chicken… I am going there) had to precede the egg- that's just biology or perhaps if you're more romantic... chemistry.

Not only is my partner always ‘leaving on a jet plane’, he is flying the bloody thing. Which means unless I crush all his childhood dreams that he has worked damned hard to attain he independently decides to changes careers, this long distance thing is going to be pretty much a permanent fixture in our lives. Let’s not go into how I obviously shouldn’t have fallen in love with someone in his profession. I have heard all about ‘AIDS’ i.e. ‘Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome’. I have sneakily avoiding that by not getting married (yet). I am pretty sure that particular solution won't work indefinitely.

I don’t think it’s insecurity. I’ve always been a confident person. This is the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. You know how when you’re really young, you don’t realise your parents lie. You think they are like God. Literally. That their word is gospel. Well my parents would constantly tell me- ‘you’re so intelligent, you’re so beautiful’ AND. I. TOTALLY. BELIEVED. IT. WAS. THE. GOD. HONEST. TRUTH. I didn’t know they were capable of telling anything other than the truth. You’d think that reality would have struck when I started school and had to socialise. But apparently I take things on face value (especially when that face is telling me I look good). I don’t remember which kid tried to shake this notion, or what they said, but I do distinctly remember reporting it to my parents. They were dismissive, ‘Princess, they’re just jealous.’ You may have picked up that we weren’t big on humility in my home. Yes this could have turned me into a narcissistic precocious brat. But hey, my parents reckon that never happened! And I TOTALLY believe them! Instead I developed what I consider a distinctly male trait- the ability to back myself (without any reasonable basis). So I really don’t think it’s insecurity.

It’s just reality. My love and I fitted easily together. I was delighted to discover how easily. We grew up on the same small island, and while we didn’t know each other then, it seemed to result in us having many of the same values. As the child of a palagi mum and a Samoan dad, I am all for inter-racial relations, but I know first-hand the cross-cultural miscommunication that can occur. Of course I dated non-Samoans, but being with my love was like coming home. We didn’t have to explain things to each other. So many things were just understood. But though we fitted easily together, the reality is, ALL relationships require work. ALL relationships are hard. And it’s a lot bloody harder when you’re away from each other half of the time.

Especially if you’re from a country that is rather laissez-faire when it comes to relationships (or at least faithfulness in those relationships). I was genuinely surprised by the outroar over Tiger Wood’s infidelity. Every magazine in the western world seemed to puzzle over this behaviour. The analysis seemed to be that the only answer could be that he was a sex addict! Meanwhile all the Samoans I knew were universal in their conclusion… he was... wait for it... a man. No other explanation was needed and a number of us asked ourselves, ‘Are we truly sure he’s not at least part Samoan?’. More about this phenomena has been rather wittily related in Coconut Girl's "The state of affairs in this country founded on God". As if that post needed more publicity!

I trust my partner even though he is Samoan with all the charm, charisma and greater likelihood of cheating that that entails. I really do. But I’m not na├»ve. I don’t really believe distance make the heart grow fonder. Ha! More like, distance makes the eye wander. And I don’t mind as long as it’s just the eyes (see I’m realistic and reasonable like that). I appreciate that my partner may actually be attracted to other women. Even though I would never ever ever be attracted to any other man (particularly not the men that regularly feature on Sleepless’ page). However I truly believe he loves me, and that he would chose me, yes even over Beyonce (my parents confirm that I am, in fact, more attractive than her).I believe that he respects me like I respect him. That he wouldn’t act on any such attraction. But it is still hard being apart where I can’t monitor his ass despite that belief.

Of course it’s not just the increased likelihood of infidelity (at this point I should admit that I haven’t done actual polls or statistics on this). It’s also just not having him here. I mean it’s pretty simple- I miss him. I am in love with the guy. I want to share my life with him. I want him to see our son grow. Every day. I want to share my days and my nights with him. Most All of my days and nights. And of course I need him to take out the rubbish (and oh he’s also pretty good at cooking).

Long distance relationships really are hard. And here’s my little piece of wisdom. Yes finally, what passes for some wisdom in this long-winded piece. You have to be absolutely sure that the person you are in that relationship with is the right person. You don’t want to waste time or effort or, most importantly, your heart. Life is difficult, and you can’t always choose your circumstances. But you can choose how you deal with them. So I’m choosing to work damned hard! Because he is worth it. And so am I.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Fever and finances

Things I have learnt in the past couple of days.

1. I should never try and blog (or do anything else) while I have the flu. This will not lead to anything good. It will lead to me staring at one sentence in a fever-induced haze while my eyesight deteriorates for no good reason (as opposed to when I can write more than one sentence, and you all benefit from reading it- yes I am sacrificing my eyesight for YOU dear reader... I want to make some analogy to Beethoven and his deafness here (oh my God... maybe I still have that fever))

2. I should never ever ever think about finances. Especially while on maternity leave. One of my brothers actually read my blog once (I am not sure whether to attribute this to our family penchant for pocrastination or my incessant enquiring 'so have you read my blog? have you read my blog? you know what you should do, read my blog' etc etc. What can I say, I wanted to share the Beethoven-like brilliance. Anyway he was like 'you blame everything on the bub'. Well, OBVIOUSLY! As you can tell he is yet to become a parent. Otherwise he would know that that is one of the major reasons to procreate. People say you have to get more responsible once you have a baby. Not so! You instantly have a ready made excuse for pretty much everything. House is a mess- well I have a baby. Bringing fat back ('sexy' is so last year!)- well I have a baby. Getting in late to work (I am even projecting my excuses ahead of time)- yes you guessed it- I have a baby. Why take any responsibility when your unsuspecting bub can be heaped with the blame. Especially as he has limited means to counter the slander (at least for now) and limitless means of looking gorgeous so that nothing ever sticks to him anyway. So I am definitely blaming the baby for the finances (which I am still refusing to look at). It certainly wasn't the fact that I have champagne habits on a beer salary (though I LOVE that Eric Bibb song). It has nothing to do with my inability to save or complete incomprehension of the word 'budget' or more accurately how that word (one hardly likes to say it more than once) might apply to me. It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that when asked to list my personal (as in totally frivilous and funded by myself) travel the other day I noticed I had more than 20 trips outside Australia in the past five years alone. What can I say- travelling is addictive and I have an addictive personality. Anyway, we are blaming the baby.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Oh those helycon University days!

Oh those helycon University days! I had a close group of girlfriends. We were all pretty innocent. We were all from one island or another (well actually, one was Maori, and was actually male, but still). This wasn't planned, we just all somehow gravitated towards each other, finding a similar sense of humour and a deep unspoken understanding. I don't make friends that easily. This always seems to surprise people. I'm not one for false modesty. I know that I'm outgoing and I talk a hundred miles per hour (the latter being no cause for boasting in any event). I'm a daughter of a diplomat, a social butterfly, flitting and flirting through any social occasion, confident in any company. Still I don't make friends easily. I'm always happiest with a few close, long-held, dear friends.

But these girls quickly inveigled their ways into my heart. I have so many stories for each one. But in consideration of your time and busy schedules will only retell a couple. When I got off the plane, bright in a puletasi (because that's what you dress your 17-year-old in when she's going off on scholarship, the brightest blue and red puletasi you can find so noone can miss her- or the fact that she got a scholarship). Yes I was a FOB- 'fresh off da blane', literally, and about to struggle with my suitcases (bursting with more bright puletasis). There were no trolleys to be had for love or money. Obviously they had been snapped up by those on earlier and bigger flights. I was wrestling with my luggage while looking around dispairingly for a trolley (or a hunky man with big muscles- at that stage of my life I was very used to men coming to the rescue- this is not a testament to my good looks, but rather to the fact I have three brothers). Soon a gorgeous athletic girl zipped up next to me, grinned and slung my suitcases up on her trolley. I looked on in awe as she pushed the precariously balanced load. Our hostel rooms only contained a single bed, a huge desk and a cupboard, with very little space for anything else. But my dad was going to be stopping over for a couple of days. Another girl turned up at my hostel room door armed with blankets, canned tuna and tupperware full of mixed lollies. How could I harden my heart to girls like these?

We shared what little money we had. Some of us were on scholarship and some on NZ student allowance. It was fortunate that these two sources of income came in on alternate weeks. It meant one of us was sure to have some funds by Thursday of each week. This bounty normally lasted till about Saturday. We were young and we were away from our parents for the first time. Drinking and dancing to that song 'Freeeedoooom, freeeedom, he' was not unheard of.

Yes inevitably we spent an inordinate amount of time at the university pub. We played a game called 'I never' sometimes, because it was a little bit naughty and a little bit fun. To play each person got to make a statement-'I never cheated on an exam','I never ate a packet of tim tams in one go', 'I never kissed four people in one night', and if you had, if the statement was true for you, you acknowledged it by skulling. Then we would all accuse each other of cheating and collapse lauging. The questions would quickly turn to relationships and sex. Especially if we played with boys. It was like the uni 'spin the bottle' (which I was always a bit too goody-two-shoes to play in school). I especially loved this game because, as a virgin, I was at a distinct advantage. I could sip sensibly and make outraegous 'I never' statements secure in the knowledge I wouldn't have to skull.

So it was one of those evenings when we were in the pub rather than studying. There was a group of boys there. A group of boys that several of us liked to flirt with. Naturally we started playing 'I never'. 'I never imagined Maria naked' I announced grinning cheekily at my friend Maria. All the boys skulled. And on it went. We were all getting sloshed. 'I never masturbated' slurred one of the boys. And all the boys skulled. Of course. And one of my girlfriends. Probably the most innocent amongst us. We all collapsed laughing again. More merriment ensued. It was a great night. The next day my lovely innocent friend said to all of us, 'I can't believe none of you have ever...'. I laughed, 'Of course we have hon, we just didn't admit it'. More collapsing laughing. My innocent lovely friend was outraged at our deception.

I recount this story because I have watched in horror from afar, as a girl, younger even than what we were then, a child, made a silly mistake. When I say silly mistake I don't mean masturbating. That's only natural, at least for 99.99% of us (even if only 10% of us, maybe less, ever innocently admit it). But capturing it and sending it to a creep, was obviously a mistake. I'm sure that poor kid knows that now. I realise enough has been writen about this. So I recount my own story of youth. Of inebriation and innocence. My own story of friendship, foolishness and fun (where all names have been changed to protect those likely to hunt me down and kill me otherwise). To put forward a personal perspective.

As a postnote, I am horrified that this child pornography has been posted, forwarded and watched. My personal perspective is that each of these actions should be prosecutable. There should be laws to protect children (even from themselves) and to make people think twice (whatever the motivation) before pressing play.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Travelling and coming home

I may have a slight tendancy to blog on others pages in the guise of 'commenting'. I did not technically blog yesterday... because I have been too busy 'commenting'. I blame all you great bloggers. Why do you write so damn well?!? Why do your blogs make me laugh and have my fingers hovering over the keypad.

I keep on trying to keep my word to keep comments short. But then someone blogs about a topic close to my heart, and everyone who knows me knows self-restraint is not my strong point. I had been holding myself back (yes all those comments were my version of holding myself back) but then Sleepless asked about something I a passionate about. I love Tattoos. And it's not just because they are so damn hot!

When I was 27 I broke up with fiance #2 (fiance #1 had resulted in an ill-fated and short-lived marriage when I was 22 and I was not keen to repeat the experience). Taking stock after the break up I realised that (1) I should try not to get engaged after going out with someone for four months (because I couldn't wiggle out of it after he did a massive production proposal complete with bling bling ring that he had designed and the whole remote luxury island thing, rather than because I was in love), and (2) that I hadn't taken any major holidays by myself. Ever. I was 27 and photos of me in England, France, backpacking around New Zealand and Australia, always had the flame of that moment with his arm slung around me. Obviously it was time for this independent woman to get on a plane.

One of my close friends was getting married in France later that year and that seemed the perfect jumping off point. My parents were not keen. I tried to remind them I was planning on going to Europe, tried and tested by teenage tourists for many years (ie. harldly dangerous travel). My mum started to launch a campaign against me going which largely consisted of her warning me about the white slave trade (as previously discussed Europe is not known as a dangerous travel destination and I think my darling mum was just trying to point to a logical reason why she didn't want her only daughter touring solo). No matter how I tried to convince her that I was not 18, not a virgin and not even white, thus not fitting any of the target critiria, my mum refused to be reassured. But I was determined. So for the same reason they tried to stop me in the first place, when the parentals realised I was really going, they gave me money to help make the trip happen (and possibly to keep me out of the hands of white slave traders). I will never forget that amazing trip. From touring vineyards in Alsace to the strains of Samoan hip-hop to the stunning scenery of Slovenia, and the romance of Rome. It was a coming of age. I returned to Australia supremely happy and extremely BROKE!

One month later my cousin called and told me my cousins were getting their pea done. Despite being totally broke and totally out of holiday time, I knew I had to get on the plane home. I had wanted a malu since I was 16. Oh yes that's right, that's what this blog is supposed to be about- tattoos. Though I loved the pea, I didn't think the malu were particularly beautiful. But I loved how they were an intrinsic part of Samoan culture, I loved how our tradition of tattooing endured through colonisation and church disapproval, and I loved that they announced permanently and indelibly that you were Samoan. When I was 16 my parents weren't so keen on the idea. They muttered about how I would change my mind when I wanted to wear short skirts (my mum) or when I was practicing law overseas where tattoos were associated with gangsters (my dad). But I was determined.

I remember reading the poem 'Wild Dogs under my Skirt' and feeling it so completely. I was 27, living in a Western society, practicing in a conservative profession, and still determined to get a malu. So when my cousin called, I knew I was getting on that plane home. My dad, now proud at this choice I was making as an adult (as opposed to an impulsive 16 year old), was on that plane with me. At my behest, my mum tediously photocopied a reference book on Samoan tattooing (the kind you are not allowed to take out of the library because they are too precious) and faxed it to me in Samoa so I could look at the designs and tell the tufuga what I wanted (oh the naivete). I was summarily informed that the tufuga would be doing it his way or not at all. I was tattooed with 10 of my cousins. My dad sat there and held my hand and stroked my temple, as the chisel bit into my legs. We had a sama with the full Faasamoa. Oil and tumeric were rubbed over me. An egg was cracked over my head. Ie toga, clothes, pusa apa and money were presented. It was an amazing experience. It was a coming of age.

So my malu is about travelling and about coming home. It's about staying true, being who you are, no matter where you are. About family who don't necessarily agree with you, but then support you anyway. About not letting wrong choices (fiance #1 and fiance #2 and all holiday snaps containing them) define you.

There are some things that change and some things that stay the same. Always. My malu is permanent and indelibe, like my love for my family, my aiga, my country. And it reminds me of my dad, with a look of pride, holding my hand, and wiping my brow.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A fairy godmother

Methodists don't do Godparents. Not that I'm a particularly good Methodist in any event. I am the granddaughter of a Methodist Minister. His wife, my grandma, was also the daughter of a Methodist minister. My uncle is also a Methodist minister and we have ministers in each generation dating back to the missionaries. So I am Methodist. It's something I identify with deep in my bones. However with a divorce, a much loved baby out-of-wedlock, and a much loved fiance who I haven't got round to marrying yet, I am far from the 'no playing cards as it is too close to gambling' religion I was brought up in. I was at church the other day and had to laugh as a 70-year-old stood up and was talking about the 'old' church 'where you knew someone had slid back because she was wearing lipstick'. Now that's more like the church I grew up in.

The truth is, prior to my baby being born, I hadn't been to church in forever. You know we are all super church going when we are in Samoa because that's what we do on Sundays. But overseas, some of us, how did that old man put it, 'slide back'. I remember a few years ago going to church with a very good friend in Canberra and feeling so happy. The beautiful hymns had tears streaming down my face. I thought then, why don't I go to church more when it makes me feel this good. I'm not sure what it was. Maybe just the fact that I love to sleep in on Sunday (and laziness wins again). But when Lagi was born it was such a miracle. I hadn't even had a boyfriend a year before (yes a scandalous and long promised blog about that is still to come). I had realised that I would rather not have children, than have children with the wrong person. I had resigned myself to the fact that this might mean I wouldn't have kids. That I would be a childless but eccentric and well-travelled divorce. Then in quick succesion I met my love and had Lagi, my little miracle (although actually he is not that little- being a hefty sturdy 5 month old who is way off those palagi charts- I refer to him as island sized). And I knew I had to start to go to church again. Not just because that's how I want to bring up my child. And not because I think church is in any way necessary for being Christian. Rather because my beautiful baby boy, made me so grateful, I wanted to celebrate and praise and thank God for him (and the many other blessings in my life but mainly him).

The church nowadays (both the Uniting Church in Sydney and the Ekalesia Metotisi Samoa) has welcomed both me and my baby into its folds. Never were there people more welcoming and less judgemental. Lagi was baptised at Matafele by my beloved Uncle and it was one of the most moving experiences in my life.

But Methodists don't do Godparents. But I do. Blame it on Disney but I have a romanticised notion. I don't want the wand or the pumpkin carriage. But I want someone my child can go to, depend on, divulge his innermost feelings to (especially as he grows up and he realises he is not happy with his mummy), someone who will love him and guide him outside the family. My best friend is not Methodist. I don't even know if she's Christian. But she is one of the most beautiful, wonderful, generous people I know. There is noone I know more sensible, noone I know who has a bigger heart, and noone I would rather have to guide my child spriritually. Because when it comes down to it, whether or not she has faith, she has LOVE, and to me, that's really what God is all about.

Big blog love

Just when self-congratulation wasn't enough anymore, I got nominated for my first ever blog award. Woooohoooo! By coconut girl who really needs no introduction from me, but I am going to go ahead and introduce her anyway. Now a lot of people may think I love CG's blog because of it's sometimes salacious and scandalous nature. Being Samoan, how could I resist that combination. But it's simply not true. I love CG's blog because she is the bravest blogger I know. She tells it like it is. And it rips your heart out. And the way she writes, can have you laughing and crying in the same post. She has a gift. Now let's all hope her controversial blogging doesn't get her stalked and killed as we need that talent amongst us!

SO back to the award- it recognizes awesome fun "new and upcoming blogs with less than 200 followers". By the way coconut, there is no way you have less than 200 followers, it's just that they aren't 'official'!!!!

The rules of the award are:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun.

I am very rle-oriented but here's where things get a little tricky. First of all many of the blogs I would have picked (like Sleepless, Swiss Hamo, Rock Fob , libertine and of course CG herself) have already been nominated because they are just awesome like that (man, I better hurry up and finish writing this before every blog I stalk is nominated) Secondly I don't actually know how to put up a picture or link back because I am new to this whole blogger thing. I will give it the good ol' college try, as the Americans say in their movies (I have yet to hear someone say that in real life but I don't live in the States, I live in Sydney, and I believe movies are directly reflective of that society as a whole).

So here's my top 5 picks
1. Kuaback's blahblahblah - Kuaback often has me laughing and in furious agreement all at the same time.

2. Tamaooo- This guy's writing is raw and real and has you looking at yourself. It can be confronting, when someone writes like that, straight from the soul, without self-cesure. It makes for compelling reading.

3.the bloggess - I admit I have only read one of her posts but it was hilarious and come to think of it she may have more than 200 followers but pugi I'm trying to show I'm widely read (as opposed to just stalking other crazy islander bloggers)

4. Faikakala- for the title of the blog alone- it is so damn smart! Fotu writes beautifully of new motherhood. I read her writing and feel we are experiencing the same funny, crazy, lovely moments of new motherhood.

5. Sleepless - Ok I realised you've been nominated before but I can't help it. If I left out your blog it just wouldn't be a true reflection of how often I click on your page (both my laptop and my iphone automatically bring up your blog when I type in 'S'. I love your insightful blog and it inspired me to start my own (slightly less insightful) one.

Happy blog reading and remember, when you're feeling the blog, comment on it. Feedback is always interesting. As CG can attest.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A little bit of of home (whereever you are)

Recently my dad, who's based in Japan, and my cousins, who are based in Hawaii, crossed paths here in Sydney. Obviously we celebrated this fortuitous occasion in the way Samoans always do. By eating. A lot. In any event it got me thinking about how one of the awesome things about being Samoan, is all the other Samoans, all over the world. Yes the Samoan diaspora, it's a wonderful thing. My work has taken me around half the world. My own personal tafao vale-ing has taken me around the other half. And I have found Samoans from Sri Lanka to the Solomon Islands. Samoans who will come up to you at the airport when you are waiting for luggage at the carousel and say 'hey are you Samoan?'. Once this is confirmed they will give you their number, deliver food to your hotel and even take you to dinner.

There are only 180,000 people in Samoa. But those of us Samoans outside Samoa, well expand those numbers exponentially and then multiply some more. You trip over Samoans in the most unexpected places. From Tokyo to Turkey (I haven't actually been to Turkey yet but as anyone who reads my blog knows I am a big fan of alliteration). And somehow it's instant friends and virtual family (and then you talk for two minutes, and realise you are actually related). It seems like you wouldn't get along on ethnicity alone. But (not to sound totally self-congratulatory) can we help it if we are such a charming and open-hearted lot?

I love that Samoans are succesful all over the world. That we who come from this very small place, a paradise in the middle of the Pacific ocean, hold our own in mega-cities in a diverse range of fields. I can name succesful Samoans in art, sports, engineering, law, politics, government, music and the list goes on. We can't be doing so well on charm alone! When I was working in Samoa, my brother encouraged me to get some overseas experience; "It's easy to be the big fish in the small pond" (even though to be honest I was a very small fish in the small pond but he IS my brother, he is obviously going to interpret things in my favour). So, ever swayed by my brother, I tried out a bigger pond, and (more self-congratulation to follow) I've been pretty succesful relative to my peers. Small pond, or slightly bigger pond, it seems we Samoans, kick ass.

I love that Samoans world wide (even those rare virtually non-existent times where you are unable to find a family connection) open up their hearts and homes to you. Even those who don't have much will take you in and treat you like a queen. We are notoriously fiercely proud as a people, and that is never more evident than when you are given the best of everything by Samoans overseas struggling to make ends meet.

I love that, when my partner, my love (who is Samoan)is in PNG, I know that there are Samoans there who will look after him (and let him jump the line at their doctors offices and talk with him there for hours while other patients pull out their hair in the waiting room). I love that if the plane goes down (please God, never let the plane go down), I will have people to contact, and cry to, through the ever reliable coconut wireless.

I love that no matter where I travel to, when I meet a Samoan, in those far-flung and foreign lands, it is a little bit of home. And like home, that small dot in that wide wide ocean- it is warm, welcoming and truly beautiful.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Love takes time

Love takes time. I don't mean that to fall in love takes time. I couldn't make that statement with any credibility, given that I fell (first in love and then pregnant) in the first few months of meeting the love of my life (but that, my dear readers is for another blog- scintillating isn't it- you'll just have to start following the blog to get all those juicy details). I am talking about the time that disappears when you are fully and sickeningly in love.

I have noticed the amount of time I have free while my love is away. When he is here we are ALWAYS busy. Busy playing scrabble and chess (as if our lives depended on it as we are both competitive like that), busy watching re-runs of 'The Office', which I introduced him to, or 'Bros and Hoes', which he introduced me to (and I ridiculed until I also became addicted). Busy snuggling, picnic-ing in the park, shopping (mostly for food- that's as glamarous as it gets when you have a five month old) cooking and (more importantly) eating, busy just doing nothing together.

I should have started with a disclaimer that all those sick of love or just sick of me going on about it should avoid this post.

When he's not here I bake, I put photos in albums, I start a blog. I get so many things done. When he's not here I become super woman. All the things I can't do for myself when he's here (like take out the garbage, change light bulbs, move furniture) I can do in a single bound (I would like to stipulate that that energy is put to much better use when he is here... awola!!!)

When he's not here I just wish (hard) that he was- here, home,and happily taking up all my time!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Confessions and Kindles

I'm going to make a confession. Though to be honest it's not much of a secret. I'm a bookworm- a voracious consumer of books, a worshipper of the written word, a passionate lover of stories. I've had a life long love affair with books- they have been my steady companion, my fast friend, my ardent flame.

Yes I have flirted with movies and television shows on occasion. But it is books-the way you can curl up with them, the way they spark imagination and inspire introspection (and to be honest, the way they are exclusive, a true personal experience)- that have my heart.

I was the kid that chose to spend lunchtimes in the library. No, it was not because I didn't have any friends! I also maintain it was not just because I sucked at skipping (I'd trip before teddy bear even climbed those stairs) and elastics (I could do M.I.SS.I.SS.I.PP.I at knee level...maybe). Books were the doorways to other worlds, other universes, and I loved immersing myself in them in the cool darkness of the library in the middle of a sunny Samoan day.

Of course in every love affair there are issues. One of the very things I love about books, their textile nature, their weight and bulk, have weighed down my bags, bent my back, overflown from my shelves. And then there's the problem that they say is the number one cause of relationship breakdown- finances. Books are expensive. Here in Australia you can easily pay $25-$35 for a book. Now conservatively I can go through several books. Not a week, a day! That's a pretty costly habit (and somehow I always seem to be severely skint so cost is an issue for me).

So my love got me a kindle for my birthday (and when I say he got me a kindle, I mean I ordered it, and told him that's what he got me... and my understanding darling dutifully paid for it (refer to previous posts about his perfectness for me)). I am officially in love. Yes with him, but also with my kindle. It is AWESOME! I can cart around hundreds (maybe even thousands) of books. It slips sexily into my handbag and sits there, reasuring me when I'm on a 3 hour flight that even if my beloved baby deigns to sleep, I will not be bored. It is AWESOME! The kindle is so thin and lightweight, I can flick through those books with one hand while susu-ing Lagi with the other. It is AWESOME! I can download books for a fraction of the price. It really is AWESOME! I was sure to outline all of these benefits of my birthday present to my love. He was especially pleased about my cost benefit analysis as like all young(ish) couples we are on a budget.

I still love browsing bookstores, I still buy books there too (Amazon doesn't carry a full range of Australian and New Zealand literature and of course one of the greatest joys of my life is buying books for Lagi and introducing him to the joys of reading), trips to the library are still one of my greatest pleasures, but I love this new technology that gives us yet another way to enjoy reading. Life is just a little bit better with my kindle.

Even though I have discovered that when you can shop for books from the luxury of your bed, and they are delivered a few seconds later to your kindle, even the 'fraction of a price' e-books can really add up. So much for cost benefit. Oh well it's still definitely lighter.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Samoa, susu and subtext

I look kind of palagi. This was pretty easy to figure out as a kid growing up in Samoa, because kids would follow you around saying 'palagi, palagi'. I may be somewhat obtuse sometimes, but even I can pick up on that level of subtlety. I was a kid who longed to be browner. I spent endless time in the sun determined to get a shade or two darker. At Uni, despite sun smart warnings and that "wear sunscreen' song, I was slathering on the oil, and obviously I blame this destructive behaviour on that early trauma (everyone knows all destructive behaviour should immediately be blamed on either childhood trauma, or those solely responsible for all childhood traumas ie. parents). I look so palagi that people often talk about me, in Samoan, right in front of me. I can't complain about this, as it really has given me a great insight into a number of things (like the stupid things guys say when they think you can't understand them) and endless amusement (same example as above).

It also means that people express surprise at how 'Samoan' I really am (even though you look so WHITE). So when I was in Samoa recently I wasn't surprised to gain a bit more insight. A couple of girls (who knew I spoke Samoan but were commenting on me in front of me, as we Samoans do) said "E, ga faapea a'u aga e palagi, e susu lana pepe i se apa, ae lae susu lana tama i lona tino'. The subtext seemed to be that formula was more desirable but it was expensive. And that everyone knew that palagi's (a) had more money (b) were going to take the convenient option or (c) wouldn't pull out their breast faster than the speed of light or all of the above.

Ok I admit it- I lured you in with my innocuous little tale about Samoan childhood, but (as you may have figured out by now) this is actually going to be a rant about... breastfeeding. Oh the CONTROVERSY! Few topics are more controversial or more sensitive to new mothers than breastfeeding. This is probably because it is so bloody hard. But and I'm going to just be frank here, breastfeeding is irrefutably better for the baby. People tiptoe around saying this for fear of being viciously viscerated. Generally don't mess with someone who has just popped out a child. They have just realised exactly what they are capable of.

And I get it. I really do. To say breastfeeding has been a struggle for me would be the understatement of the century. My nipples both cracked and wouldn't heal, for four months. For those (obviously not mothers) who are like 'pfffttt, just four months', let me translate- it was at least 16 weeks of excruciating agony. And yes, my baby screamed unexplainedly both day and night. Many people suggested supplementing with formula. My exhausted partner was imploring for formula (at that stage it was ANYTHING to keep that baby quiet). But I had a few things on my side. A mother (who breastfed all of her four children for over two years each and is a staunch advocate of breastfeeding) who was an unbelievable support, and my own fierce determination that my baby would have the best. My baby is 5 months old, and while no longer excruciating, breastfeeding for me is still along way from comfortable. I can't go anywhere or do anything without my baby. It's not exactly convenient. There's no zumba or salsa classes for me (so that's why I'm so chubby just in case you were wondering). I'm not saying this makes me better than anyone and I'm not judging. I'm just saying I really do get it.

But we shouldn't be scared to say 'breastfeeding is best'. It's just the truth. I'm not disrespecting or dismissing those (very few) mothers who really can't breastfeed. I'm saying that mothers should be encouraged. Here in Australia, the midwives have specific conversations with you about the importance of breastfeeding. There are posters, leaflets and books which tell you about the innumerable health benefits, the fact that you have the right to breastfeed in public, and encouraging you breastfeed for at least 6 months. Now I am no public health policy expert but I really think this message could go along way in Samoa. Especially as some of the very important benefits of breastfeeding are that it lessens the chance of both childhood obesity and diabetes. Obesity and diabetes people! These are the major health issues for us Samoans.

I just don't think the subtext in Samoa should be formula is fantastic. I don't think the subtext should be the only reason not to be on formula is the expense. It's important that everyone understands the full health benefits of breastfeeding, whether in Australia, or Samoa, or any other country and then make an informed choice.