Monday, June 29, 2015

Ehhh..your grandmother was hot too!

My vision fulfilled

When Dr A (fiancee) proposed 2 new years ago, I suggested a photo shoot of some sort. Of course being shy with a busy life style does not help matters much.  Dr A strongly opposed the idea. Camera. Lights.Action. were better saved for the operating theater. His patients need him more than some photographer  and a nagging fiancee.  It was just a no fly zone.

He opposed even more when my imaginative script was explained to him. "Why would we want to do that? The photographer wants to take a photo of you in your wedding dress! That is crazy!"  
My script was easy, he is a Dr and I'm a pilot.  The two can work together, it will be a win-win situation. I wanted to include my red leather bag, his diamond and some aviators.  Easy.  The man did not see it this way.   For all he knows, I'm a consultant of some sort and yes I used to fly planes but that does not necessarily mean jack.  A pilot who is a highly paid driver (batman) versus a doctor who saves lives (superman) , we know who the superhuman is. Then again when it comes to war of wills, the woman should always have the last say? Ok, maybe not.

While Dr A was busy with his overseas training and saving lives, I was busy conjuring up the inner Director in me. JK (photographer) and I were discussing all sorts of plots and  props for this photo shoot.  He wanted aviators, white park chair and a wedding dress, I wanted my red leather bag and a plane. JK was very particular about what he wanted and I too was fixated on the red.  

Samoa Faleolo International Airport will be undergoing major construction work over the next year, our runway will never look the same again.  The terminal will look flasher than before I'm sure. Being an airport fanatic, my love for the air transport system has grown  as big as my love for farming/sleeping.  I don't think anyone has done an airport/hangar/engagement photo shoot in Samoa before thus I thought it a brilliant idea.

The poor doctor did not know what he was in for.  I updated him continuously about the planning progress.  He still did not see the point.  At one stage I said "Well...I want to do it, one day we will be wrinkly and saggy! When I'm old and grey, when I'm a fat grandma, I want to point to those photos and say to my grandson "ehhhhhhhhhh your grandmother was hot too". 

Ok. enough said, we did it. The 5 am wakeup call was worth it.  Smiling for the camera is hard work. JK and his brother were more excited about the planes than us.  Thanks to a great team, we pulled it off. So, for anyone who is hesitant to do a creative photo shoot, just do it! You too can say "Ehhhh your grandmother was hot too!"

JK's pick of the day

Dr A and I

Monday, March 9, 2015

My journey

 As shared on Massey University's Alunmi Feature in 2011

I am a School of Aviation Management Graduate and I'd like to share my story since graduation.

I was a young 18 yr old aviation enthusiast when I got selected into the Air Transport Pilot Program at Massey Aviation in 2002 and studied until the end of 2004 when I had to pull out of the program due to a family tragedy. I took a year off from Massey and returned to Samoa to help my family.

Upon my return in 2006, I changed majors to Aviation Management without knowing the roller coaster ride this qualification will take me.  I graduated in Nov 2008 with the Bachelors of Aviation Management and about 100 flying hours from the ATP Program.  At the same time, Massey University launched my poetry book (the majority of which i wrote at Massey Palmerston North) which they published at Massey titled 'Raw Edges' .  The launch was held in Palmerston North a few days before my graduation.  Raw Edges was also launched in Samoan upon my return in December 2008, which was also presented to our Head of State (King) 'Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi' and commended by the Prime Minister (Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi) and Deputy Prime Minister (Misa Telefoni Retzlaff). see link below

I was initially employed as the Samoa Airport Authority's first 'Research & Training Officer' responsible for managing training programs and seeking training opportunities for its 200 employees, a year later I was to work for the Ministry of Works, Transport & Infrastructure under the Civil Aviation Division as their Aviation Licensing Officer responsible for the issuance and monitoring of all air transport/aviation licenses including pilots,engineers, airports, airlines, etc...Last year 2010, I was awarded a full scholarship to study the Graduate Diploma in Aviation at the Singapore Aviation Academy in partnership with the National University of Singapore. I completed the Program in 11 weeks and was award a 4.67GPA. 

Early this year, I was up for a promotion and now been made the first Aviation Principal Licensing & Certification Officer overseeing and spearheading a big project which will see the direct issuance of Samoa's first very own Commercial /ATPL licenses since we have only been validating NZ and Australian Licenses as well as Air Traffic Control and engineer licenses.

At the same time, I have been awarded a FULL Scholarship to take up the Masters Degree (MSc Air Transport Planning & Management) in London, University of Westminster UK in October this year. see link below
and will be graduating with that in Oct 2012 (God willing).

The Bachelor of Aviation Management from Massey University has helped me launch an exciting career and the aviation industry has never ceases to amaze me. It is still dynamic, inspirational and never boring! I'd like to thank all my instructors,lecturers, Wendy Wilson (i see she's no longer with the Aviation school) and anyone who has been of help to me during my time at Massey.  Upon the completion of my Masters degree, I wish to study at Massey again, perhaps a PhD!!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Business Focus

Top 10 Ways to Capture Attention

Top 10 Ways to Capture Attention

You probably deal with attention issues every day. How do I get the attention of new customers? How do I retain the attention of existing clients? How do I captivate my boss or my upcoming date? It’s a hard problem to solve, especially since very few people understand how attention fundamentally works. Writing my new book Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, I combed through more than a thousand research studies and interviewed dozens of scientists, PhDs, business leaders, and luminaries to understand why we pay attention to certain people and ideas and not others. For my friend Guy Kawasaki, I’ve cherry-picked ten ways to capture attention, based on my research. While they won’t make you a superstar, they will help you capture more attention for your ideas:

  1. Give people a hot coffee. Studies show that we associate the physical sensation of warmth with interpersonal feelings of warmth. In other words, if you give somebody a hot cup of coffee or tea, they are more likely to have positive feelings towards you.
  1. Put a red border around your profile picture. Want to win at Tinder and online dating? One study found that just putting a thick red border around a person’s face increased how attracted a stranger found that person. Red is your friend in the dating world.
  1. Use contrasting colors for Buy” buttons. is filled with orange and yellow “Buy” buttons for a reason: they have clear contrasts against the site’s white and grey backgrounds which means a higher click-through rate.
  1. Make what you’re offering scarce. Our frame of reference shifts when we think something is scarce. Gmail and Medium got tons of attention by limiting who could join through controlled invite systems. Slow rollouts and limiting access is often a powerful way to capture attention.
  1. Give a gift at the most surprising time. Our brains are tuned to pay attention to surprises that violate our expectations. Next time you give a gift, do something different such as wrapping it in custom paper, giving it when people least expect it, or adding your own unexpected flair. Make sure you’re doing something unique and creative!
  1. Provide a visual of any prize or reward you offer. Multiple studies show that we are motivated when we can see the reward we want to achieve or see the prospective fruits of our labor. So don’t just tell your audience about a reward, show it to them!
  2. Harness experts. Our attention is incredibly deferential to experts, and experts are consistently rated as the top spokespeople a company can utilize. So try using a credible expert in your industry to provide a recommendation or to speak in your favor.
  1. Harness the crowd. We trust the wisdom of the crowd–without that trust, sites like Yelp would have no users. The crowd also gravitates towards places where it can participate and have a direct impact (like Indiegogo and Kickstarter).
  1. End with a cliffhanger. We have a compulsion for completion– an innate, insatiable need for closure–because we are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to end your stories or campaigns with a cliffhanger because your audience will want to come back for the sequel! Remember how Steve Jobs ended his keynotes with “One more thing”?
  1. Validate what makes your audience special. We have an innate need for validation from others and to feel like we belong. The greatest projects, startups, and brands build lasting communities around them. More than anything, let your audience know it is appreciated, respected, and cherished.
 This is a guest post by Ben Parr, the author of Captivology. (from Kawasaki website)
If you embrace these ten recommendations, you’ll be sure to capture more attention, and as anyone with real-world experience knows, you can’t do much until you have people’s attention.
Ben Parr is the co-founder of DominateFund, former Co-Editor of Mashable, and the author of Captivology.
By |March 2nd, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Some great advice : The One Crucial Trait All Incredibly Successful People Possess

Sharing this today..Do you?

Published on: Feb 10, 2015 on

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Keep your love letters.

At this age of technology and fast wagging tongues, our houses are overflowing with old (real) stuff that we used to love and now neglect.  That old grandma-ish shoe box, the lace curtain which can be turned into a wedding dress (God forbid), the seashell necklaces that line our walls, framing our photos and dozens of hard cover books that our children do not read anymore.

I am as old fashioned as hard cover books and hand written letters.  There is that old paper smell that makes the senses come alive. Earthy, ancient, old money scent. I used to love reading books more than sleeping.  The faster I read, the more I learn. The hand written letters from mother dearest and siblings are priceless and I still have my love suitcase full of letters. The anticipation for a post office letter with stamps and all just warms the heart, especially when you are far away from home.  When you open the mail box and a letter with your name on it stares back at you, it's a cause for celebration.  It means, someone, somewhere is not only thinking of you but you are important enough for them to put those thoughts on paper!

I've coveted hand written letters since I could hop on a plane by myself.  I was 9 years old when I went on my first un-accompanied minor journey.  An old past time was to go through mother dearest's ancient letters from her own grand mother.  In those letters were stories of a time that is long gone,  when flights between Samoa and New Zealand were few and far in between, the letters which are dated and fragile. Paper might be  meaningless but the words describing of life in downtown Auckland in the 60s and just the thought of this old lady slouching over the table as she wrote holds a very high sentimental value.

In continuing tradition, mother dearest used to write me several letters a month throughout highschool and university life.  They usually started with " Faafetai i le Atua ua tatou aulia mai lenei aso fou" (Thank you Lord for bringing us into this new day), followed by the usual lecture parents give their children when they leave the nest.  

"Try hard in school, say your prayers every morning, look after your younger siblings, set an example for other children, here is the money and here is a list of things to spend it on and lastly, be safe and make us proud".

She wrote to me until my third degree.  I guess she figured I was old enough and that studying in London was not too big a deal like studying in Auckland, Australia or Singapore.  I've received so many letters from people, even those I did not know well.   These pieces of paper still hold meaning and were a comfort in times of loneliness and struggle.  The writers are people that have enriched my life with their encouragements. One common denominator in most of my letters is God and my family's faith in me.  In particular, I have an older sister whose faith in my academic abilities is still unfounded.  I've been a thorn in her side since I laid eyes on her.  It's probably that blind faith that helped me achieve exceptionally well in school.  At the end of one letter she wrote:

Try hard in school, I know you can do it.  I love you heaps.  Your victory, your success is mine.  So go to the top of the world. Never forget to pray and never forget God is there for you when you feel lonely  

In continuing the old tradition, I told my special friend at the time to send me hand written letters when I was away at University of Westminster, London . Emails are rather impersonal and can be easily deleted but a love letter is something one can cherish and reread. I know of many mothers who still write to their children regardless of technology.  Please continue to write.  If your child is anything like me, they might act tough on the surface when they board the plane back to university or college but when they are homesick, they will slowly unfold your letter and read it again.  Letter writing not only improves your cursive writing, it also tells your mother/child how well you write, your sentence structure, your very thoughts.  My mother is much nicer on paper as there is no volume although the words still hold much power. So continue to write and wait for a reply. Keep your letters close and love letters closer.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Let's sell our airport and that darn passenger!
Image from
There has been a feather ruffling debate whether Samoa is selling its airport to China.  As I said to a friend earlier, for Samoa to sell its airport to the Chinese, one is willing to sell the door to her house! Imagine the consequences if we were to do that.   Is this the way forward? For the doors (airports) to be sold to the Chinese? Perhaps not, we must understand our air transport and airport system well before we make any rash decisions. This blog is not to discuss whether we sell or not, we are not (not now).  That thought should have been extinguished before it even developed into an inkling idea.  What with every Pacific government depending on tourism and air transport, we'd be silly to even entertain the idea.  The air transport system has been instrumental in pulling not just islands but economies together for decades and with the population numbers, cultural diversity such as ours, the region may not afford to sell their doors to anyone. Imagine Pacific airports changing their names to 'Tao' "Ching Mao" "Keng King do"! The gateways must remain in the hands of government or entities willing to facilitate the best interest of the people if we are to call our gateway our own.  If it's not due to national pride then it should be about retaining complete sovereignty of a state over its own airspace, airport and legal obligations to its people.

We have already opened our doors to the Chinese so why not sell our gateway too?  But before we do that, let’s sell the road to our houses too (runway).  Many aviation studies depict that  valuable assets for an airport is either human resources or airport facilities.  I believe there is one asset that might surpass the value of all these in Samoa’s case.  Let’s determine the most important factor in a thriving airport.  Our aeronautical revenue is still the biggest earner for our airport with 70% of our revenue collected from landing fees and departure tax.  The trend for most successful airports is 50/50 aeronautical and non aeronautical. This means that without airlines flying to our airport, our airport will forever remain a liability.  The accumulated losses for the airport will still pile up until the second coming.  For a small airport, we need airlines to pay the bills.  We need passengers to use our facilities.  So I say, sell our airport and if you are smart investor you will not invest your money in a sinking boat.  It might be a good looking boat but if it has holes, it will still sink to the bottom of the ocean like Titanic.  If we must sell our airport, let’s sell Samoa as a destination first and do it well.  We’ve been rolling about with destination marketing and tourism as our biggest GDP contributor so instead of jump starting drama about selling off our gateway, let’s sell Samoa first.  This will result to more people wanting to reach our shores and more flights which will have catalytic effect, making our airport some money.  Lets not forget that the airport is a second home to 250+ employees.  You might not know that because you rarely see the firefighters, air traffic controllers, works and maintenance staff, all aviation security, corporate service, cleaners and gardeners.  Are we ready to sell our most valuable asset? First the runway, then the gateway (terminal).  Perhaps not.

The pacific air transport like most Pacific islands, is but a dot in the the aviation industry. Our total traffic numbers barely make a dent with some of the village airports in Asia.  It consists mainly of small to medium sized fleets and its future might lie with more small to medium regional airlines.  These airlines can be utilized to feed the thicker traffic routes from the major markets such as New Zealand, Australia and U.S.   Instead of trying to fly outdated high maintenance cost aircraft, the smaller islands can do with more energy efficient and newer aircraft.  For major players flying bigger aircraft into our airports, maintaining the right standard for a B777 or fully loaded B747-800 puts substantial amount of  pressure on the meager existing facilities.  The maintenance costs to small airports is rather high.  The operational costs alone to a small airport can cripple and bankrupt any medium sized business.  It runs in the millions and there are only a few millions that our airport generates a year which is why it’s been in the red zone for well over 30 years.  Have you considered the cost of one rescue  fire truck? The cost of navigational aids and specialized training of air traffic controllers to manage it? Have you considered the security requirements and costs? How about the electrical and technical side of things? Also don’t forget the cost of electricity that it takes to keep our runway lights running! That’s already 80% of our total revenue per annum flowing towards expenses already.  So when someone claims that we are selling our airport, they’d better be well informed with accompanying costs of not only selling but running an airport for 24 hours, 7 days a week.  In saying that, we must still encourage bigger players to fly to our airports so we get the best deal for our people.

The question remains :  If our traffic numbers is not exponentially growing, do we really need a bigger airport? The simple answer is - yes, definitely we do..
The survival of the fittest remains true to this day.  Faleolo International Airport has been in the headlines for failing to make profit, scrambling to be at a standard acceptable to the darn passenger and for accumulating huge financial losses since its establishment.  Simply put, the airport needs to survive and make money just like any other Business body.  A bigger terminal would mean more spaces for businesses to come to the airport.  This will hopefully result to more tenants and some money for the airport to invest in other developments or spare change for maintenance/ operational costs as it is not a cheap task.  A bigger terminal  means a higher chance for the airport to bank in more non-aeronautical revenues rather than relying solely on landing fees and departure taxes.  These two charges cannot keep on rising to infinity.  So the airport can be a place where people come to shop and spend quality time instead of throwing their rubbish and scratching the advertisements. Some may argue that people do not go to the airports for recreational activities but this is the trend that is becoming more and more popular with other airports.

Do we need a more expensive airport? Perhaps not as we need one that functions like a well oiled machine.  Any refurbishment or new terminal will still mean spending huge sums of money.  This cannot be avoided.  Airports are not regular businesses where if one fails then another can rise up and be more successful in a short period of time.  The airport machine does not work like that.  As an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) member state, our international obligations are no less easier or lighter than the developed countries.  When we became a party to the Convention,  we are audited against the same obligations and standards. This is what we do not understand most, the underlying costs of safety and security measurements.  The passenger experience has become so dynamic and rather demanding that people are expecting more and more from airports.  Behind the scenes are rescue fire, security, air traffic control, environmental and social costs that add up.  Airports that were previously used as bus stops are now expected to cater to every need of the passenger.  For instance, more if not most passengers expect free wifi/internet at any airport, there are also high expectations regarding amazing shopping experience, top notch facilities, eateries to cater to more people, duty free to offer luxury brands and car park facilities to look after their vehicles.  

Have I missed anything? This is the steak  of the passenger experience so to speak.  Updating Fretbook (Facebook) status at every airport is a must these days, otherwise your 2000+ friends will not know if you've made it on time or if your husband finally bought that Louis Vuitton bag.  You get the idea.   Not only do passengers expect to be provided and cared for by airports, their travel experience should be seamless and effortless.  The passenger travels in a bubble until a suitcase is lost or connecting flight missed, then all hell will break lose.  Losing a luggage is not just that, the passenger sees this as a failure of the airport system even though there are several agencies responsible for getting the luggage from A to B.  In most cases this does not even involve the airport.  First and foremost, the passenger is responsible for check in and uplifting luggage, the airlines ensure the bag is actually on board with the passenger and when the destination is reached, the ground handler should bring the bag to the conveyor belt, customs, quarantine and so forth.  To successfully reunite the passenger with his/her luggage means the end of this transaction.  Sometimes the only role that an airport plays in this exchange is to provide the necessary facilities.

This kerfuffle about two airlines marrying is not a new phenomena.  Monopolies have existed since the beginning of time, which is why governments need to monitor ventures and partnerships to ensure that it is in the best interest of the people rather than filling up already overflowing pockets.  Times are changing and perhaps government might one day consider selling our airport but for now, we must first understand how an airport runs before claiming otherwise.  No businessman in their right mind will invest millions on just infrastructure alone unless they see profit falling from the sky.  Airport is big business if you have 10-20 airlines flying in and out daily, if you have the numbers and bums on plane seats but if you have only two or three airline servicing a consistent traffic route, it doesn’t hold much coins. Most airlines will tell you that.  

Finally, let's be kinder to our airport facilities and if all else fails, there is nothing new under the sun! Sell or not sell, make use of the time while the airport remains ours.

Some useful reading:

All about ICAONotes on aeronautical vs non-aeronautical revenue 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Bite me!

Cracking open a coconut.
Photo: Pacific Love
If you know me well, well enough to laugh at my bad jokes, you would know that there are several things that I love more than life (almost).

 Historically correct ~ family, God, aviation, Areta.  Ok, maybe not that focused, it's too early in the year to be serious.  Apart from those four, I enjoy sleeping (no joke), reading (serious issue), Japanese food, the odd Oyster Bay vino (usually around November on the beach with crazy friends), planning long haul trips involving several flights and above all~ eating, did I mention the Japanese food? 

My papa is a foodie like me.  Food is his life, farming to produce fresh vegetables and beautiful juicy steak can do that to a man.  He enjoys his steak, nothing says 'amazing' like a colossal piece of meat.  Samoans are not known for holding back when it comes to food especially their meat. Sunday + food prolongs your life. Samoan mixed with Chinese blood makes it a bigger celebration.  Immediately health freaks will shut their eyes and blow their ears at this post.  Let's forget about the bad and focus on the yummcho factor here.  If you are on your new year resolutions about losing 30kg to fit a certain dress, running 20 marathons, eating pa-auke (salads) for 12 months then this post is not for you. 

There is a buzzling around the islands that is undeniably loud.  There is a freshness that is absolutely inspiring and a promise that will awaken your taste buds.  Samoa is almost ready to open its culinary doors to the world.  We are on the verge of surprising ourselves with our own locally grown, locally produced food.  A decade ago, from a local perspective, I can honestly say that the food offered at our restaurants was nothing to call home for if you were a tourist.  It was not because the food was bad (maybe a little) but because our hospitality industry was trying too hard to imitate the Western food experience.  Menus were filled with fries, burgers and deep fried garbage drowned in oil and gooey mayonnaise. 

Ten years later, town is bustling with restaurants that are not afraid to experiment with new/local menus.  Restaurants with returning residents who were educated in the arts of wielding a spatula and flipping the fluffy pancakes on a flat surface.  Those who were willing to leave the comfort of their new found overseas exposure and saw the potential of our local market.  This willingness is not limited to returning residents, our locally bred, weaned men and women who have been cooking in their kitchens since they came out of the delivery room are going back to school to earn their credentials, formally.  I believe this mix of overseas experience and traditional local chefs will take the Samoan eating experience beyond tantalizing your taste buds.  They will infect you with their love of food to return time and time again.

A foodie is not afraid to indulge in different cuisine.  I've often said that eating is one of the top pleasures in life.  Eating with your hands is much more personal than using a fork and probably much safer in some cases.  If you have dined with me, you'd often hear me say "man, this is the best cheesecake I've ever tasted", "aren't we blessed that there is so much food here", 'amuia tatou ia i Samoa'.  Whether it be fine dining at Scalinis (lobster salmon ravioli is to die for), enjoying the Korean BBQ at Orator Hotel, inhaling the best poke on island at Amanaki Hotel, fresh fish and chips at Return to Paradise Resort, driving to Seabreeze Resort for spicy beef Thai salad, surviving on a hot cuppa from Home Cafe or having fried fish, pork buns, faausi at the local market with hot breadfruit, the fact is, Samoa is awake!  Gone are the days when you had to second guess if the food is right in this place.  Samoa has brought their home kitchens to the restaurants. 

Let's not forget the amazing coffee that is now being served (deserves a whole other blog).  I for one, appreciate the little pleasures in life and show love through food.  There is something deeply satisfying about cutting into a richly marbled steak or diving into a neat stack of  fa'apapa fai! You can tell, this blog will be an encyclopedia if I keep talking about food.  So go out, be merry, have a koko Samoa at the local market and taste what is out there.  The waist line will be richer for it!  Whatever you do, take someone with you because food is so much better with great company.  Next time, you are sitting there wondering if the eating experience in Samoa is worth it, the fish says "BITE ME".

I leave you now with a few websites that will help whet your appetite!
Polynesian kitchen
Samoan recipes
More recipes
Top 10 food to enjoy in Samoa, by Smarter Travel

Mea'ai Samoa
Polynesian Cook book by Robert Olive
Samoan meal
A Samoan meal by Jamie Fouss

Ehhh..your grandmother was hot too!

My vision fulfilled When Dr A (fiancee) proposed 2 new years ago, I suggested a photo shoot of some sort. Of course being shy with ...