Monday, October 24, 2011

Fairy Tales vs. Legends

What do Cinderella, Snow White, and Ariel have in common? They have NOTHING on our Polynesian legends. Take for instance:

Ariel. Fish chick. Correction, fish princess. Defiant. Doesn't listen to her dad. Where's mom, by the way? Decides it's better for her to have legs to capture some hot guy on land. Disney version: She gets the guy and saves the sea (that SHE endangered). Hans Christian Andersen version: She saves the prince, he falls in love with another princess (whom he thought saved him), dances around with pain and bleeding in her feet, and evetually turns into sea foam because she doesn't get the guy to fall in love with her.

Samoa's "The Turtle and the Shark": Fonuea (Mom) and Salofa (Daughter)-(or the husband/wife version)-choose to become a turtle and shark (human to fish) to protect a village because that village took care of them in their time of need. Selfless love given of their own accord.

Snow White. Beautiful. Naive. Evil Step-Mother tries to kill her. Hangs out in the woods with the animals and 7 dwarves. Becomes a home body until evil step-mother finds her and poisons her. The prince's kiss revives her. Relies on a man (and some dwarves) to take care of her.

Hawai'i's Hi'iaka: Pele's favorite and most loyal sister. Is sent by Pele to retrieve her love. He's dead from longing and Hi'iaka revives him. Pele thinks she's tyring to steal him and kills him again. Hi'iaka revives him, again. Hugs him to make Pele jealous. Different endings including the guy hooking up with Pele, hooking up with Hi'iaka, hooking up with both, or going back to his island by himself. The women move on with their powers and pride.

Rumpelstiltskin. German tale retold by the Brothers Grimm. Crazy little guy. Spins wool into gold. Demands first born as payment. (Uh, get a girlfriend???) Lady becomes queen and refuses to give up first born. She has to guess his name. She sends spies and finally wins. He stomps (major hissy fit) and eventually stomps himself into oblivion.

Tonga's Maui: Trickster. In other versions has the ability to move the sun or god of the ocean. Wants a magic fishhook to pull up land out of the ocean. Is told he can IF he can pick the right hook. His wife cheats and finds out which hook is the real one, thus giving him the ability to pull up a coral island out of the ocean. At least he was smart (with the help of his wife) and doesn't go into a hissy fit.

Goldilocks. Breaking and entering. Basic stalker. Selfish. Breaks into a stranger's home, eats their food, breaks their chairs, messes up their beds. Gets caught and runs off. No apology, nothing.

Samoa's "Sina and the eel": Another stalker but begins as a cute little eel. Sina loves the little guy until he gets bigger. When he's full grown, she runs from village to village as he calls her name and follows her. She finally stops, he confronts her, dies, and he becomes a coconut tree. At least he apologized and left her with a timeless gift.

Polynesian legends are stories that reflect our culture, woven with truths and myths, gods and goddesses, and teaches us life lessons. Since the Polynesian languages were translated into written word, our story telling has diminished leaving us lacking in legends. How many Disney stories do our children know versus their own Polynesian legends? How many of us will begin telling the legends again and revive hundreds of years of culture?

Face of the eel in "Sina and the eel"

Sunday, October 23, 2011


My mind races as I think of all the possibilities. The kids are spending the night with their cousins and it's just the hubby and me. We could:
*Go out to a club or bar and pretend we're in college again
*Go watch a movie
*Talk a moonlit walk
*Drive around the city and park on a hill to watch the lights twinkle
*Go out for dinner and just TALK (no interruptions)
The possibilities are seemingly endless. But the reality?
Sitting in the kava room with a bunch of other people and calling it at night at midnight. So much for taking advantage of a rare, childless night. Maybe next time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Small town police with equally small brains

High school football. Losing team. Big game against area rivals. The team loses the game. Heartbroken, they begin walking off the field towards the locker room. The team's families are lined up against the fence forming a tunnel and showing their support, win or lose. A Polynesian family is at the end of the tunnel and begins performing a haka to show their love, respect, and support for their son/brother/nephew/cousin and his teammates. In their own way, telling the team, "No matter what, we love you. You've played a hard game and lost but it's okay! Chin up! Be proud of yourselves."

Then a couple of police officers ask the family to move and make room for the players to pass. The other families lining the fence tell the officers that it's okay and to let the family finish their haka. What happens? The police begin spraying pepper spray. Fathers, mothers, children, all sprayed directly in the face and people in the vicinity catching spatters. Eyes burning, people screaming, utter chaos ensuing. Now an investigation is in progress.

Really? Officers? Did you REALLY feel the need to spray pepper spray? Have you been living in a cave in the middle of the Sahara desert? Or living in an underwater community with no ties to the outside world? Have you never watched the All Blacks rugby team? You Tubed the many haka's performed on the football/rugby/playing field? Have you not been living in Utah, with one of the largest Polynesian populations in the United States? Did you think to take a step back and maybe ASK what they were doing if your caveman brain couldn't process the information? Really? I have two words for you: Cultural Competency.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Signs Everywhere!

We see signs everyday. Stop signs. Yield signs. Crosswalk signs. Advertisements. Railroad signs. What we don't see are those subtle signs. A curious glance. A smile. A wave. A knowing look.

I believe I've been given verbal signs about writing. It has become apparent, and possibly blatent, that I should be writing A LOT more. And even trying to publish. Something. Anything. When the conversation of my writing came up more than once today, I felt compelled to write. I have so many ideas floating in my head but I've let those ideas fade away. To the far recesses of my mind. Dormant. Waiting until a sudden inspiration wakes the sleeping giant and the words pour out like a cup of koko Samoa on a cold, winter's night.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Night In Hawai'i

Every Monday night, 9pm, our television is turned to Channel 2. Hawai'i Five 0 night! Beautiful images of clear, blue waters, sandy beaches, greenery EVERYWHERE, and the sight of local cuisine. I can feel the island breeze as I watch the leaves in the trees swaying. I can smell salt in the air and feel the warm sand in my toes. I can hear the waves as they crash onto shore. I never spent a lot of time in Hawai'i as we made our way through from American Samoa and back again but now that I've been away from the islands for WAY too long, Hawai'i seems like home. Oh how I miss green Christmases with trips to the beach. I miss the warm rain and the smell of flowers after a rainstorm. I miss looking around and seeing people who look like me, my husband, my kids. I love having people in the store ask if I'm a "local". I love the sense of belonging. Watching Hawai'i Five 0 once a week brings back memories of happy times and a place that one day, I would love to settle. And watching McGarrett is just the eye-candy-icing on the cake.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review: Telesa

At last! A young adult fiction book that is not only well written, but about us. "Us" meaning Polynesians and more specifically, Samoans. What an absolute pleasure to read about these two main characters, Leila and Daniel, and their developing relationship. It doesn't hurt that this tale also consists of the beauty of the Samoan culture, strength (most especially strong female characters whether they are evil or not), and a play on Polynesian legends. The dialogue is seamless, which is not an easy task as a writer well knows. And the relationship development between the many characters is well thought out, again, not an easy task. My favorite characters?
*Simone: A GORgeous fa'afafine who epitomizes the best of the third gender. (Can I get two snaps with a twist and a HEY!) I can think of several fa'afafine I knew growing up in American Samoa and I think most Samoans can reminisce about a "Simone" in their lives. A girls best friend and defender. Extremely graceful dancers. Trusted confidants. Our personal cheerleaders.
*Salamasina: Daniel's grandmother and a very strong female character. She's a hard woman but only because she is trying to take care of her family. Her knowledge of medicinal plants is something that should be studied in today's modern world of synthesized medication. I didn't know my grandmother very well, she died when I was 8, but I can see my grandmother in this woman.

I encourage everyone to read this book, whether you're Polynesian or not. It's a true modern love story with all of the twists and turns to keep you turning pages (paper or kindle).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Childhood memories, good and bad

Reconnecting with old friends on facebook has me reminiscing about growing up in the islands. No matter where we grew up, I'm sure we all have recollections of family, friends, frenemies, enemies, and all those in between. Who are some of the people you remember from your past?
-The next door neighbor who, while playing mud fight in the yard, was yelling and got a mouthfull of mud. And the rest of us trying to calm her down and wipe the mud out so we didn't get into trouble.
-The siblings/cousins who played in grandma's yard during a rainstorm and ruined the grass resulting in a well deserved spanking and immediate trip to the outdoor bath.
-The people you've known since elementary school and how everyone seemed to drift into their own groups during high school (yet remained friendly regardless).
-The special swimming place nicknamed "the rock" where the family would go and come home with many cuts but stories of the fish we saw while swimming.
-Delivering cookies, cakes, and pies to family and friends during the Christmas holiday; singing Christmas carols while driving down the road; counting all the houses/fale's that had Christmas trees; giving a plate of cookies to the police officers at the road blocks.
-Saying my tauloto in church during White Sunday and always being the narrator in the Sunday School plays.

I have so many memories of going to the beach during Christmas, running around in the mountains during summer vacation, climbing trees, playing homemade cricket in the yard, riding bikes down rocky hills,... What kinds of memories am I building with my own children? Especially since they are not able to grow up in the islands?
-Building an igloo during Christmas vacation
-Going to the zoo, aquarium, pool during summer breaks
-Playing homemade cricket in the driveway with boards and several tennis balls
-Family movie night on Friday nights watching and re-watching movies from the past and present

Making these lists have made me realize that memories are memories, no matter where they are made. As long as they are made.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I've always been comfortable doing oral presentations, whether I'm teaching a class, a workshop, or talking to a group about... well, just about anything. As long as I feel prepared and I have some knowledge about the subject, the butterflies in my stomach are kept to a minimum. Singing in front of people, now that's a whole other story and completely off topic.

To continue, my boss emails me a few weeks ago suggesting (telling) that I submit a proposal to present my scholarship essay workshop at a professional conference here in the state. The conference is for people who work in student services, mainly advisors, and they are always trying to find innovative ways of helping students be successful in college. So, I submit my proposal and last week, I get the email saying it's been accepted!

My confident side: Wow! Awesome! This is great for my career! I'm so excited!

My self-conscious side: (Well, first of all I had to google the word conscious to make sure I was spelling it correctly) Oh my goodness, what have I gotten myself into? What if people have too many questions? What if the presentation tanks?

I've been reading extensively about my topic and I'm able to put my writing skills to work since it's all about writing a scholarship essay so everything should be just fine. Yeah. Okay. Still nervous. And trying to stuff as much information into my already overloaded brain. But not to worry. I will survive. And hopefully get a raise.