Showing posts with label Samoa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Samoa. Show all posts

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pacific Skies

Participants for 59th ASPA General session (Photo by Leata Alaimoana)

Last week was a stimulating week, definitely to the aviation senses! I participated in the 59th ASPA GENERAL SESSION, 5-6 December, 2013 at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, Apia Samoa. Association of South Pacific Airlines (ASPA) was established at the directive of the South Pacific Civil Aviation Council which met in Apia on 22-23 June, 1978. The first meeting of regional airlines, held in Suva on 7-8 March 1979 formally agreed to launch the Association of South Pacific Airlines (ASPA). The inaugural meeting of ASPA took place in Suva on 30-31 May 1979, when the Articles of Association were adopted. ASPA is a trade association, representing the interests of member airlines, and is operated on a not-for-profit basis.

The main theme of this session was 'Business First, Safety Always'. There were important topics presented and discussed at the two day session. ASPA Secretary-General, George Faktaufon said the theme for this year’s meeting is Business First, Safety Always—shifting the focus to the bottom line of any business which is making money. “The reason we have this theme this year is that we have always been safety driven and dealing with someone else’s needs while our own needs, to make money, have been neglected,” he said. “We can be safe as part of our business but if we cannot make money, then we will not have a business to run. We will try to change the focus to making money with safety being an important part of that process.”

IATA presented a paper on the aviation and environment challenges and opportunities.  This was the first presentation about the role of the industry in addressing environmental issues such as gas emissions, carbon footprints and ways for airlines to look at some practical solutions. Then the state of the South Pacific industry was examined.  So far, our small and medium airlines are doing well regardless of the limited resources that we have.  Boeing of course came in with a positive outlook, everything is on the rise including South Pacific airlines looking to order new fleet,replacing old and dying aircraft. This also means there will be increasing upgrades to our current fleet as time goes by. Great for passengers and perhaps not so good for airlines as aircraft cost millions.  Several companies presented new technology that could be an advantage to airlines in the future such as ticketing systems and distribution models. Other presentations included those of air traffic services and the vision of uniting the whole South Pacific flight regions. This may look and sound brilliant however, there must be an incredible amount of dialogue as each island has sovereignty over their own airspace.  

Our South Pacific aviation industry is not independent, it heavily relies on other service providers for its continuous survival.  What I took away from this session is that no matter how expensive our aircraft is, how brilliant the customer service may be but if we do not put 'bums on plane seats' our airline business remains risky.  In addition, before we focus on controlling operations and adopting fancy safety management systems that will cost us time and money, we must know our standards first because we cannot improve on what we don't know.  Our quality assurance systems are never 100% full proof, they are unreliable as we do not have consistent auditing results.  Much work has to be done and this will not be done overnight.  We have to keep cooperating as small islands and learn in order to improve and keep our aviation industry afloat.  We may be small and isolated but together we are the South Pacific.  Together, we work for our people and this in itself should be a catapulting motivator to do better, to hope for the best.

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." ~ Unknown

Tuesday, December 3, 2013



     Today, I woke up feeling a bit better from last night. No, there was no hangover or panda eyes, just an appreciation for life and most importantly health, recovering well from a nasty flu bug that's been binging everyone on the nose.  I went to see the optometrist on Monday and my eyes are healthy, except that my left eye is slightly weaker than my right and my new specs will be adjusted accordingly.  While waiting for the optometrist to arrive, I sat in front of her office thinking how fortunate I am, to know about the health services offered at the Hospital including the Samoa Vision Services  and also the means to get there.  I have been in the hospital when the Emergency/Out Patient Unit with so many people waiting, babies crying, old men twitching nervously waiting for their daughters and very sick people complaining about the Health Services. Doctors receive the most complaints about how 'slow' and 'uncaring' they are towards their patients.  I have heard patients' complaints each time. I have heard people tell the doctor what they need because for some reason, the doctor was not smart enough to know their symptoms and appropriate medication?  Is the service slow? Yes, sometimes.  Are they uncaring? I think not.  Sure, health professionals take their time seeing patients and the outpatient probably receives more visits than any other section of the hospital on any given day.  They also receive the most complaints because of the number of beds available.  I have heard some rather absurd, funny stories while waiting in the same section.  Samoans love to exaggerate and are great storytellers.  One woman told me that she was dying and that she could hardly breath.  From what I could see, she was experiencing an allergic reaction to something she consumed or was close to.  With my Form 6 Biology class knowledge, I asked her several questions (playing the doctor), if she had eaten something she's never had before and if she was allergic to certain foods.  The poor woman did not know what 'allergic' meant and claimed she had eaten octopus in coconut cream. Bingo! Soon after, it was her turn to see the doctor and I was right, allergic reaction to octopus, she was not dying.
    November/December are thanksgiving months.  This is the time of year we reflect on the last ten months expressing thankful prayers for  God's protection and guidance in bringing us thus far.  For adding each new day to our lives despite the trials we go through and days where we just do not want to get out of bed, we are still here, air in and out of lungs, we are thankful. Today, I thank God for my health and even though I have been feeling under the weather these past few days, I am still here. I thank him for professionals such as doctors, optometrists, nutritionists, nurses and other health professionals that work in Samoa. 

Looking after peoples' health is not an easy job. I have five close friends who are doctors in different fields and I will never envy them.  Their job is hard, trying, challenging,sad and mostly rewarding. I have sat at dinner tables with them discussing the pressures of work.  I have listened to the horror stories about teenagers giving birth, patients' families telling them off, older nurses embarrassing them in front of patients and many dates we've missed due to their busy work schedules.  I have seen the toll that medicine life has taken on them.  These are the same friends I've had since primary school days, one I knew since I was 3.  I have one friend who was just ready to quit and change professions because of the pressures that our people exert on them.  They graduated young, only 23/24 and thrown into the Samoan arena without a life jacket.  They had to find their way and learning procedures fast including several defense mechanisms when people complain to them, about them and so forth. All these confirm that I should never be a doctor.  First, I do not have the patience and I don't have the stomach to cut people up. The only time I would want to be a doctor is when a close friend or family member is in pain.
    Doctors are some of the most hard working people.  They can work anywhere from 8 to 24 hours depending on the number of staff available.  If you are a student contemplating on being the cool doctor like the twitchy, old and limping guy in 'House', earning thousands of dollars, owning a brand new car/house after working for 3 years in Samoa, I promise you now that you will be sorely disappointed.  Then again, if you ask most doctors, they don't 'do it for the money'.  They do it for our people because we do not have a choice or the monetary power to attract first class medical professionals from overseas to look after our hospital all year round.  In addition, if you are a doctor you will be peed on, puked on,sworn at and at some point you will have all sorts of bodily fluids sprayed across your face. Let his blog be an encouragement and also an informative note to our people.

Samoans are people of courage and are very proud but somehow these attributes rarely drift to our health genes.  Most people wait until they think they are dying before going to the hospital.  Sometimes, they leave little infections long enough to develop into cancerous and elephant sized problems and by then it's too late.  Understandably, there are many contributing factors  such as poor diet, lack of exercise, bad habits that lead to poor health.  There are preventive measures we can take to be better at looking after ourselves.  We are hospitable people, we break out the fine china, the brand new sheets/towels when we have visitors while we use the broken dishes and the beat up towels with holes for our own use.  Why do we do these to ourselves? Why do we save the best for others? Today we should start using our brand new things for ourselves and our family.  Today we should look after ourselves better.  Today, we should be more patient with our doctors and health professionals just like they are with us.  Today, we should encourage those who have good hearts, healthy brains, who want to be health professionals in the future to do so.  People will always find something to complain about whether it's at the hospital or restaurant.  Today, we should be thankful that God exists and he is in control of everything regardless of what our mere opinions or lack thereof of him.  Take care of our bodies, it's the only place we have to live in and no wonder the bible says it's a temple. 

I leave you now with this beautiful quote;
'The thousand mysteries around us would not trouble but interest us, if only we had cheerful, healthy hearts.
~~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche~~

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Germany comes to Samoa

On a bright, full-house, pro-grandpa funeral Sunday, we just finished church and were getting ready to partake in the biggest meal of the week, when a car pulled up in front of our house. Out came a tall strawberry blonde woman, another blond man and my relative Rudy.Nauer. They chatted lightly with some of my uncles and aunts that were outside.

Usually, when we have visitors, they either come for the farm or  a talk with my papa.  I ran upstairs to change into toonai gear and grabbed a pen and paper.  During this time I overheard the relatives talking about our German family, how they came to Samoa, my grandpa Norman who had just been laid to rest and sleeping in the ground.  Quickly, I grabbed my camera because if my ears weren't fooling me, this was an opportunity not to be missed.  I had real-life German cousins coming to find us!

I came outside and introduced myself. This was the first time I introduced myself as my great-grand mothers child, usually we say our parents' names.  Kathrin Stalder, my third cousin was new to Samoa, who just happened to be on a family finding odyssey with her husband and had written out our family tree on a piece of paper.  

They were warm and excited.  My first question was : How did you find us? What made you get off your couch and come all the way to Samoa? She found us through the TV thank you note, that we sent out to thank all those who attended grandpa's funeral.  When they heard 'Nauer' on TV, they quickly switched on and went to find the Nauers.  They found Rudy and then Rudy brought them to us. I chuckled to myself and thought 
'This grandfather of mine is some kind of funny, he dies and then gets his family to come ask about him'. 
It was a walk down memory lane, talking about him and his brothers, his late mother Louisa.Pereira.Nauer to his niece and nephew from Germany.  Kathrin decided that it was her mission to find her family in Samoa and saw the need to establish a bond with us because we came from Nauers and we still have a lot of family back in Germany that want to know us.

Like any inquisitive person, I wanted to know if they were indeed family.  Kathrin's grandmother is my grandfather's first cousin. Our great-grand parents were siblings. She has family who are also named Adolf, Louisa,Hermine, Conrad,all good old traditional German names that go way back into our family history. We were all excited as my cousin Richard tried to do the same when he was playing rugby in the UK.  On his big Euro trip, he went to Germany, swam in the river and tried to find his Nauer side, too bad there was no thank you note on the TV to guide him to them. 

I was sad to discover that the girls were sent back to Germany because of the war and the boys stayed behind (Samoa) to preserve the family name? I don't know, whether their parents were wise in sending back the girls, I'm not sure. We had family that were in concentration camps and died during the holocaust.  The greatgrand uncles that were send out married women from different nationalities and alas, we are all fruit salads!

Family is not just an important thing in the Samoan culture, they are everything.  Whatever we do and wherever we are, if anyone in our family comes across a mishap or tragedy, there is an unbreakable bond that makes our eyes water.  There is an invisible rope that tightens around our hearts at the thought of them.  When they are excited, we laugh alongside them, when they cry we lament with them. 

From left-right: Peter, Kathrin Stalder (cousin), Conrad,Donna, Maria, Rosita,Cassandra , Richard, Enid (me), Rudy Nauer.

My family tree on paper

 Thank you Kathrin for coming to seek us out, we do hope we will have a great family get together in Germany in the near future. 

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.

Lao Tzu

Thursday, November 21, 2013

You coconut, me coconut, us coconut!

 As the clock strikes 4 and I'm about to fall asleep on my desk, shuffling through some beauty tips that I will never use because I don't wear makeup (only on special occasions and when I have time for some mascara) or blow dry my hair, or have blonde curls that need moisturizer every few hours, something odd strikes me, I am kokonut oil! Yes, like most Pacific girls who have chores, jobs, family obligation, who are too busy  sometimes that we wonder if we've brush our teeth or not, I feel sorry for all the women in the world spending thousands of dollars on beauty products each year. Ohh the insanity!

There is one and ONLY one common beauty product that our great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts have used since the beginning of infinity. COCONUT OIL.  We put it on our faces, hair, body and currently in our food, drinks etc.  This was our best kept secret until it was no longer a secret.  One day, a brilliant woman woke up from her slumber and decided to introduce the non-Pasifikans to our secret, COCONUT OIL.Coconut oil being used by celebrities like Miranda Kerr, Gisele Bundchen, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Anniston and others  have boosted the demand for coconut oil worldwide.  Whether women of the world are sucked in by the incredible marketing or affiliating the use of virgin coconut oil for their own skin with beauty, or both, this band wagon is full and more people are jumping on board.    .  Soon enough, they will come calling, asking, begging for more coconut oil.  They have discovered our secret and now want it for themselves.  For their skin, faces, lips, hips and so forth.  I am a coconut filled with coconut thoughts today.
Our virgin coconut oil has more than a hundred uses, and it's been flowing through our veins since the beginning of time.  The tree of life has been good to us, sheltering and protecting us.  Before the white man colonised us, coconuts was our faithful friend.  We used the trees to build houses, for clothing, utensils, medicine, tools and more uses than I can think of.

With so many companies asking for coconut oil, I wonder, how on earth will we be able to supply their demands continuously? We currently supply oil in large quantities because let's face it, Samoa has some of the best organic oil in the world.  Since these companies have increased the demand for coconut ant its by-products and with climate change, yes climate change ripples, our coconuts keep  falling over, maturing and dying. With Cyclone Evan, rushing and kicking over our coconuts at the beginning of this year, Samoa is slowly  recovering agriculturally and coconut-wise.

Is it wrong to sell our kokonuts for some paper-bag sealed nuts? No.  Nevertheless, it is a concern if everyone who didn't care about coconuts before suddenly steal from their neighbour because the cost has gone up.  In the past, you could find 20 coconuts for $5 or less, now the best deal you get is 6 for $5!Calculate the difference? This is because more demand, low supply, high cost: the basis of economics.  Coconuts are exported overseas, more and more people sell to companies instead of the local market. They get more money and soon enough our traditionals foods that are made magically from coconut cream (pe'epe'e) will dwindle and cease to exist.  Can you imagine our oka without real pe'epe'e? Our fa'alifu, palusami, vaisu, vaisalo, koko alaisa, faiai fe'e, pa'a (anything crawling/swimming in the sea) without our magic coconut cream ingredient? Ohhh the abomination!

While it's great that subsistence and semi-commercial farmers are earning money from the coconuts, I just hope that they are also growing more plants.  Coconut palms are grown in more than 80 countries of the world, with a total production of 61 million tonnes per year. The are very hard to establish in dry climates, and cannot grow there without frequent irrigation; in drought conditions (Wikipedia, 2013). They are also prone to diseases and it takes a while for them to mature.  Given the proper care and growing conditions, coconut palms produce their first fruit in 6 to 10 years, but takes 15 to 20 years to reach peak production(Leon,2013). That is a substantial amount of time to wait around for coconuts to be falling from the trees.

Our tree of life may cease to exist we keep giving it away.  If coconut oil is to be used in numerous products including filling up our car tanks, in beauty products,  this beautiful resource will no longer be found freely in our backyards. When the Middle East oil wells dry up, who will the world turn to next? Our coconuts may be the next source of renewable, cleaner, more affordable fuel.  Imagine the powerhouses sitting on the table with our future PM discussing ways to grow ONLY coconuts on our whole islands.  Imagine...

So my fellow coconuts, next time you enjoy a nice cold niu, think of the future. Think of our children and their children, will they ever taste what we've tasted? The beatiful, clear, clean, healthy taste of coconuti? 
An intriguing view of some coconuts hanging from a tree., 2013

I leave you now with a lovely, simple poem by Michael Flores Caasi

How beautiful to stare and to see,
Those palm ribs of my favorite coconut tree;
Where trunk is towering up and high.
Like birds soaring high in sky.
The fruits may be hard outside
but there's a clear and soft heart inside,
The juice within can make me strong
And make my joyful life so long.
My tree is always proud to stand
Where roots are tightly holding grounds;
At night when stars and moon are bright,
My tree smiles in perfect sight.
O dear O lovely coconut tree
Be still today, thanks for inspiring me.

Other interesting reads:
Mailelani Products
Samoa stories of families making a living from coconut oil
Body Shop Coconuts from Samoa
It is profitable (DME)
New Life with coconut life
Solomon Is "Coconut Technology Centre"
101 uses for coconut oil (Mama,2013) more benefits of coconut oil 
BODY SHOP products made from Samoa's very own Virgin Oil

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Forgiveness in the rain

Yesterday's blog for today.


As I was driving to work this morning, sheets of rain came down to engulf me, my baby (car) and a grey blanket of clouds loomed over me.  Living in paradise usually means a postcard of sun, sand and beach (skinny bikini model and abs guy) sorry to burst your holiday bubble if you are on your way to Samoa but November ushers in the rainy/cyclone season.  Like you, I enjoy the hot, clear blue sky days and I immensely dislike the rain.  While I was driving, I remember a particular conversation I had with one close family friend exactly five years ago. I was sitting in Aute's guesthouse at Saleimoa when it started to rain, lightly at first and then soundly. 
 "I hate the rain!" I lamented
"Why? You should love it! We are so used to the sun that we forget about the rain!What is the sun without the rain? I love the rain because it calms everything down.  It gives new life and changes the normal colour of our world.  The rain renews", Aute said.

It struck me that she was absolutely correct! We are so used to good things that we forget about the bad! The rain is not bad but it can represent all the small annoyances in life, pesky problems, small encounters that we replay over and over in our minds that could have had a better outcome.  Some of the things we say offhandedly that we wish we could take back.  After all, what is happiness without sadness? What is success without struggle? What is destination without the journey? Sometimes, it takes real problems to make us appreciate the solutions. Other times, it takes just one smile from a stranger to turn a rainy day into a sunny one.

Aute explained the usefulness and the many good faces of rain.  She reminded me about the villagers who needed  rain for their water supply as some of the rural villages can go weeks without clean, fresh water.  Then of course, my farming papa who needs the rain now and then to nourish his many lovers (pumpkins, water melons, cabbages, cows, broccoli, saladeer, pele leaves ...).  There are many uses of the rain like the little annoyances in life. Just as the plants need the rain to grow, we need the little annoyances of life to learn, to mature us, to test us so that we can become better christians, better people. Other annoyances can transform into huge bitter roots that will only bear terrible fruits if we don't snuff them out early enough.  For instance, if there is a particular person that you have "chosen" to dislike "just because", everything that person does will turn out wrong in your sight, the things they say will never make sense, the clothes they wear will never be fashion sense enough for you, the car they drive is just not cool enough and eventually even their life partner/husband/wife  and innocent children will be painted in the same dark ink that you have mixed for years!

That interesting conversation between Hibiscus and I, is still embedded in my memory.  It also struck me that I was a lover or rain I was a child. My older sister, Joanne and I used to get hidings from mother dearest because we would just fill a tub, gallon, basically anything that was knee-waist-neck high enough to hold water.  We would wait patiently until the tub/gallon is filled to the brim then we both jump in, pretending that we were either at the river or at the beach. We would spend enough time in there to wrinkle our skin plus the hiding if were were found out. If we couldn't find any of those, we would just go outside and wait for the rain to drown us. The best part is the warm bed after the cold showers.

Rain is renewal, rejuvenation, a new chapter.  Rain like Aute explained can be powerful enough to wash our insecurities, problems, fears away.  There is something magical about the rain, cleansing, a reconciliation between the old and new, giving enough warning before it comes.  Starting, softly, slowly at first then gradually beats down on us like a loving father.  There is forgiveness in the rain. I told someone once that forgiveness liberates the soul, the words of Nelson Mandela in the movie Invictus, when he was imprisoned for his beliefs.

"Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That's why it's such a powerful weapon."
The rain can also symbolize a path of reconciliation with others.  A choice to live in harmony. Wash away the old, dust and replace with the new.  Forgiveness frees us from many unpleasant things and is extremely difficult. I know because I am human.  If we were perfect, we would not need forgiveness, reconciliation or instruction.  Forgiveness is the product of humility. To put others before ourselves, instead of pointing to them we point to ourselves, we see our own imperfections and using the courage through humility to truly forgive someone regardless of who is right or wrong.  If we hold onto an unforgiving heart, we choose to be enslaved by our thoughts, to be unwilling to forgive is to actively add to a wound that is already infected, it will rot our bones from the core. Our lives will be forever hindered if we don't forgive.

Thank you God for the rain yesterday and for the sun today. Choose to live with a new pair of eyes today, so that we can see with a new vision and a new heart. It might rain in our lives now and then, but the sun will bring new hope and renewed energy.

Sunrise  at Maui

Note: Aute is a real person just with a different name, her grandchildren call her "Frangipani"

Monday, November 11, 2013

North Shore winter

come now with winter burdens
walking closets 32 hanging coats

when we are warm

Birkenhead College alleyway

A young stream flows at winter

Our breaths come out smoking

Goosebumps connect decorating our faces

Another cold day on the shore

Another away from home

They told me
this is where my dreams fly

School is good here

Mud stick to heavy clothes on higher ground

Can’t wait for summer

Can’t wait for that flight

I miss the brown faces, comrade,

friendship-island humor

Hesitation to say hello is deafening here

Copyright ©2010 Juliet Enid Westerlund

Ehhh..your grandmother was hot too!

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