Day 5: Connection

In May of this year, I was able to attend the first ever Sword Family Reunion for my great-grandparents Jock & Agnes Sword’s descendants held in Levuka, Fiji. The four photos I have chosen above from the reunion represent the word “connection” in different ways to me.

  1. Photo 1: painting my ancestors graves gave provided a way for me to give back to my great-grandparents, Papa’s siblings and their families. This activity connected me to a past I never knew.
  2. Photo 2: the Sword family crest/coat of arms. This connects me to my Scottish heritage.
  3. Photo 3: This is less than a third of my great-grandparents descendants. The reunion connected me to my Pacific region family.
  4. Photo 4: I jumped off that bridge in Levuka regardless of sea snake stories. I wanted to have a story to connect to my Papa and my dad who both jumped off that bridge during their childhood years. This bridge doesn’t just provide a physical connection between separated land masses. It connected me to my dad and my Papa’s experiences.

I chose to write about my experience in Levuka because I have finally made a connection to my Fijian ancestry.

I never had a real connection to my Papa’s side of the family because I grew up in American Samoa and his family is from Fiji. I’ve always had questions about his parents, his siblings, his hometown of Levuka and what life was like for him being born and raised in Fiji. My dad has told me stories of trips they’ve taken to Fiji with my Papa (his dad), but I never felt a connection.

Going to Levuka connected me to my Papa’s family in more ways than one. I saw how different yet similar many of us are. I experienced a very unique combination of cultures seeing as my Papa’s siblings settled in various places around the Pacific region. I learned to value my Fijian heritage as my dad always has. I heard stories of joys and heartaches that made the Swords who they are from different branches of his family, my family. I cultivated a love for people, my family, whom I never would have met if not for this reunion. I witnessed a wonderful connection between the children of the Fijian Sword siblings, which has been passed on to my generation of cousins.

I can now cross Levuka off my bucket list of places to travel to. I am thrilled with what I have learned about my connection to Fiji. Next stop is the origin of the Sword name, where my great-grandfather is from, SCOTLAND.

Smells Like…

Today’s writing prompt is entitled “Nosey Delights”. There’s nothing more delightful to me than the smell of a fresh blooming pua or plumeria.

Plumerias or as we call it in Samoa, Puas, outside of my uncle's house in Gataivai

Plumerias or as we call it in Samoa, Puas, outside of my uncle’s house in Gataivai

When I was living in America, the number one scent I would miss is the smell of fresh puas outside of my home. I actually didn’t learn the English term for pua, which is plumeria, until I visited Australia in 2005.

Every morning, I go to visit the pua tree outside of my house and there never fails to be newly blooming puas on the tree. In some seasons, there are really big ones and in other seasons they bloom a lot smaller.

The beautiful aroma remains the same. The scent takes me back to my younger years when we use to climb the pua trees outside of my old church and play tag. Sometimes we would take sticks and poke at the branches until the flower fell so we could wear them as seis.

I love wearing them as seis (flower worn on the ear or placed in the hair). They add to the natural beauty of any Samoan or Pacific Island lady. Puas are just as much of a nosey delight as they are pleasing to the eyes. Don’t you agree?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/nosey-delights/

Life Investments – Thank You Moms

Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful women in the world, specifically to the ladies that have invested in my life since the day I came out of my mom’s womb. Sorry I can’t name everyone because I’m a Samoan, which means I’m blessed with a huge family.

I have been blessed by God to have Proverbs 31 women in my family and close circle. As I reflected on Mother’s Day and how grateful I am for all the wonderful women in my life, I thought of the sermon preached in church this morning. “How do you measure a life?” is the question that was asked. The title of the sermon was a quote “The measure of a life is not in its duration, but in its donation.” by Corrie Ten Boom. The donation these ladies have made into my life have been tremendous and I thank the Lord for His never failing love that is constantly shown through these women especially my grandmas and my mom. These are my testimonies of these ladies and the investments they have donated to my life.

Nana – The woman I am truly honored to be named after, Anneliese “Annie” T. Haleck Sword. She is beautiful and the definition of classy. She always made sure our family was bound in love and unity. She could bring any party to life the moment she walks into the room. She’s the reason I had a strong bond with my Sword cousins and considered them as my second set of siblings. She invested beauty, grace, a love for living life, a love for dance (specifically Samoan & Polynesian dancing), forgiveness, culture and the value of family in my life.” by Corrie Ten Boom

Grandma Vai, Grandma Eseta, Grandma Lafo & Grandma Fou – my Aua grandmas who have loved, nurtured and spoiled me since I was a day old. My parents could tell so many stories of my infant & toddler years and how they “fa’apele” me to the point I couldn’t go to sleep until we go to Aua to see my grandmas. Although one is my biological grandma, they have all taken care of me as if I was their own. In my life, they have invested love, peace, strong relationships with my brothers, a love for my church and a love and reverence for God and His will for me.

All my Aunties – From my Sword side to my Fale/Ponausuia side to my “aunties” from Cornerstone AOG, these lovely ladies have all played a part in giving me love and affection. They all make me feel beautiful and never cease to tell me straight when I’m doing wrong especially when I’m getting fat. They have invested confidence, affection and a love for all things beautiful in my life.

My Cousins, Sister in laws & My Bestest – The beautiful ladies who made me “Aunty Lisi” are definitely in need of mention. They are the reasons I have so many beautiful nieces and handsome nephews and no need for my own kids. They have invested joy and fun into my life.

Spiritual Mom – The one woman (besides my mom) who isn’t afraid to fuki my hair & tell me straight when it comes to my spiritual walk with God. Aunty Hope is definitely a one of a kind woman who constantly checks up on me to make sure I’m walking strong. She has invested in my love for God, spirit and creativity.

Last but not least, My Mom – Lori Fale. She is the reason I chose to move back home and I have not regretted it. Just being me and my mom at home has been a challenge and a definite growing process. I miss my brothers, but I have seen my love and relationship with my mom grow. She is the strongest woman I know. I have seen her at her worst and at her best. Through it all, she remains steadfast in her faith in God. The Lord has definitely blessed her with grace, strength, dignity and many of what Proverbs 31 entails. She raised my handsome brothers Gary, Curtis & Emmanuel to be wonderful husbands/boyfriends to their wives/girlfriends, which I absolutely love to brag about and gives me a picture of what my future husband better be like (L0L). She taught me so much about loving God and building a strong relationship with Him. She has a BIG heart for ministry and continues to pursue God’s calling on her life with the radio ministry He entrusted to my family. She has invested in my love for God & His ministry and my relationship with God. She invested into my life strength, faith, love, patience, honor, fear of the Lord and strong Godly values.

With My Mama && My Nephew

With My Mama && My Nephew

So Happy Mother’s Day to all the heroes out there we call “Mom”.

Happy 114th Flag Day my Amerika Samoa

For over a century, my beautiful island home has been under the protection and generous hand of America.

We have experienced many blessings and benefits from being “an unincorporated and unorganized territory” of the wonderful U.S. of A. It may not seem like its a good thing being “unincorporated and unorganized”, but as a Samoan I count this as a blessing.

Taupou Manaia performing their siva ava at the opening of the Flag Day celebrations.

Taupou Manaia performing their siva ava at the opening of the Flag Day celebrations.

In the Samoan culture, land plays a very important part. The ability to keep our land even if we give up a few constitutional rights (like the right to vote for president or become a US citizen) is more valuable than being an American citizen. Why? We don’t have to struggle looking for land to build our houses or have to answer to any one else in regards to the land of our family. It’s more than just land. It holds generations and generations of family connections.

Even though we are under the United States, we have been self-governing since 1967. This gives the Samoan people the power to continue practicing our traditional values and culture. The “Faasamoa” and “Faamatai” is still very strong within American Samoa even though it is slowly adapting to the modernized Western world. We are able to hold true to our core as Samoans, which consists of God, family and respect.

My ancestors were smart when they chose to cede to America during World War I with certain limitations, which I believe was to preserve the culture, language and identity of the Samoan people.

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie said it best when made this statement,

“This day holds special meaning and significance because it honors the wisdom of our forefathers when they entrusted, the hopes and dreams of our people to the greatest country the world, the United States of America.”

Cheers my Amerika Samoa. Manuia le Aso o le Fu’a. 

Fale Samoa with the American Samoa flag

American Samoa Flag and Fale Samoa

Day 2: Standing Strong (Inspired by Fatu ma Futi)

Fatu ma Futi. The legendary inspiration.  (Ignore the blurry coconut trees and moving grass. I was passing by in my car, but this proves how majestic and strong these rocks are.)

Fatu ma Futi. The legendary inspiration.
Fatu is in the back and Futi is closer to shore.(Ignore the blurry coconut trees and moving grass. I was passing by in my car, but this proves how majestic and strong these rocks are.)

 

Driving down Tutuila’s coast
You’ll find two big seastacks
Amongst the coral
Surrounded by the ocean

Standing strong

Unmovable and beautiful
These two lovers
Fatu and Futi
Magnificent in their own way

Standing strong

Some say they were sailing
from Samoa i Sisifo for days
Nearly at the shores of Tutuila
They died and turned to rock

Standing strong

Another legend
Tells of Fatu going fishing
And a shark about to attack
Until Futi came to seek her love

Standing strong

She distracted the shark
To save her lover
In their places
They turned to rock

Standing strong

A legend this might be
But it is a story of love
A story of sacrifice
A story of conquering fear while

Standing strong

We Built This Island…

Ironically enough, I just had a conversation with a friend about why I’d choose the island life over the city life any day. I’m not a city girl. I never was nor will I think I ever will be. Some say it’s because I lived in the wrong cities, which I disagree with because I loved the places I lived. It just wasn’t enough for me to call home. I had all my wants taken care of but not all of my needs.

My island home where I lack nothing is American Samoa found in the South Pacific region. It’s small, extremely small. I love it. There are so many beautiful things about where I live. If you came to visit my little rock, you would understand why I love it so much. Unless you’re big on shopping then you would probably complain all the time because shopping here totally blows. Then again, what do you expect from island living?

Even when it's stormy, it's still a beautiful day.

Even when it’s stormy, it’s still a beautiful day.

Yes. I live in a modernized society, but my culture is still very rich and strong. Although there are many advances happening in our island, I am proud that my people still strive to hold true to the three key values of the Samoan culture: God, family, respect. These three values are my culture’s driving force. These three values are what my island, my home, my life is built on.

Bi-polar weather is not my friend here on the islands. It could be extremely sunny in the morning and totally stormy in the afternoon. You never know what you’re going to get throughout the day. I give props to our meteorologists for trying to predict our crazy weather.

One of the worst parts of island life is the craters on our roads we call "potholes"

One of the worst parts of island life is the craters on our roads we call “potholes”

 

Another part of island life I have issues with is fa’alavelaves. I applaud Samoans for always wanting to give a helping hand, but requiring so much from those who have so little is ridiculous. Sometimes I feel as if some of our people give big amounts because of pride in their family and they want to look better than others.

Don’t get me wrong, I love giving to others and helping out my family. My grandma has always told us to make sure we always take care of our family no matter what. If you know Samoan families, that doesn’t mean it stops at your siblings. Samoan families include up to third sometimes even farther generations. Anyways, my point is I feel the system is being abused and taken advantage of. It either needs to go back to what it was intended to be or taken out all together because all these faalavelaves are putting Samoans in debt.

Other than that, I love my simple island life. I may not look like an island girl, but I was born a Samoan island girl and I will most likely leave this earth as a Samoan island girl. I love my Amerika Samoa.

Props go to my cousin Jenny for taking this photo of me and my Polynesian bush hair. Check out more of her work on her Facebook page - Maniā Photography

Props go to my cousin Jenny for taking this photo of me and my Polynesian bush hair. Check out more of her work on her Facebook page – Maniā Photography

*exits singing* We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/prompt-built-city/

Old Car Problems

I don’t take too well to car problems. Why? I don’t have a clue as to what I’m doing in terms of trying to fix it. I like to do things on my own so I like to be able to fix things myself. I have plenty of clues on how to fix everything else, but ask me anything about cars and I will politely say, “that’s a good question” and walk away. Lucky for me I’m Samoan and live in American Samoa and come from a big family so I can pick and choose who to call in times of need for free. (There’s something to smile about)

There are not a whole lot of people I can trust or turn to when I need help. Why? I am a type of person that gives my all to those I care for. I learned the hard way not everyone is going to be 100% on your side even when you’re 100% for them.

Back to my car, he really isn’t too old. Ten years isn’t too old to a human. I’m not too sure how old 10 years is in car years but I’m guessing pretty old since my car is constantly breaking down on me. I love my car. I have so many memories with him, but lately he’s been acting up. I’d understand if something went wrong every couple of months or so, but for the past three weeks something has gone wrong. Now I have to wait for who knows how long before it’s fixed. I’m praying really hard it’ll be no longer than a week.

Since I live on an island, there aren’t many options either for car parts, which means waiting for a part. Before that, I need really good, reliable mechanic to tell me what I need to get because I’m not trying to waste money and being fiapoko (translation: smart a**). All the really good mechanics are always extremely busy and take forever and a day. All the not so good ones aren’t even worth wasting time going to because I’ll end up just taking it to one of the really good ones in the end and complain of how much time I had wasted.

I’m really hoping and praying it doesn’t take another 3-6 months to get my car fixed again.

Get well soon my big green baby !