After two months of time out from work, life and New Zealand, my sister and her family returned to Auckland yesterday morning. Arabella, my 3 year old niece who has been on planes more than me had a completely different agenda to her parents. She knew that after the beaches and nana's house, she would be in Auckland for school again.
She started crying before she left the house begging her parents to leave her in Samoa. This has been the pattern since she could make out paragraphs. Usually, children are excited to go 'on the plane' except this one. I guess because like me, she loves the hot weather and mangoes. She dislikes the cold and Auckland in general for some reason. Auckland represents winter clothes, changing weather, sleeping alone in her room and parental controls! It also means there are no cats, personal swings, four changes of dresses a day, shopping with grandma, running around outside with the dogs, dancing with her friends at Mrs Gabriel's or going to the market to help lift pumpkins.
When the time came for her to enter the Departure lounge, she ran to the top of the stairs at the airport and just stood there looking down. She just did not want to leave. There was a moment of deep agony, tears running down her pretty face which almost made me beg with her. I felt for her because I have felt like that many times when I was studying overseas. No matter how long or short the visit was, home is where the heart is. Arabella knows where her true home is and that is not in Auckland. I warned my sister that soon her child will belong truly to Samoa despite her skin colour or her secondary home.
The last time Arabella left Samoa which was only a few months ago, she sat on her personal couch and persistently said "I am not going anywhere, I am staying right here (pointing to the couch) right here with nana/papa and Jack (her cat)!" We had to bribe her to go on the plane. We told her she can go visit her baby sister as well as seeing all her other favourite people in Aotearoa. It also helped that her grandma was going with her.
There is a pattern with this longing to 'stay here forever' with our people who have been living overseas for decades. I know friends who are highly successful in their jobs, living a great life and making the most of overseas opportunities who have left their hearts in Samoa. They still have family here and long one day to return and retire. They have not been lured wholly by the lifestyle that they could live and enjoy overseas. Those things are immaterial compared to what home really means to them. It is somewhat bitter-sweet to know that they have broken their backs to give their all to other countries and at the end of the long journey they come home to rest and die.
It is evident that despite the changes, the call of Samoa is still loud and clear. It is hopeful to know that the younger generation of Samoans do not all want to move to the land of milk and honey. There are those that want to stay and work for Samoa. Arabella will come back in June, another few weeks away but I predict the same pattern will play out when she leaves Samoa again.