Thursday, April 17, 2014

Juicing, Raw, Vegan - A Samoan Story, tuff!!

If you are, or know Pacific people, you will also know we love our meat a little too much, too often. 
Our waistlines and our lifestyle related problems mirror this. 
Then I came across a Samoan in Sydney making the changes we so so need. And I have had the pleasure of asking the beautiful Ymania a few questions. 
Thank you for sharing your amazing story and arduous journey as a girl, a former boy, an intellect, a mother, a Diva, a Lau (above all else) and so on and so forth. Ua lava ga! 
I hope that more Pacific people will rethink their unhealthy choices and be inspired to change!

Je me prĂ©sente Tuisina Lealaitagomoa Muliagatele Ymania Brown-Gabriel: 


Born Peter Brown of Mulinuu (oka se fia keige sole hahahahaha ish)
Transitioned at 13 (yes my mum took me to the Psychiatric Nurse in Apia and got prescribed female hormones hahaha lol)
Gender marker reassigned in Sydney to plastic female (so my laus keep telling me, the bitches) hahahaha at 23 - still the youngest Samoan I think to go through Gender reassignment.


Born in Mulinuu, my Mum's dad, Luafatasaga Kalapu (the first speaker of the independent state of Samoa)  is from Tuana'i and some city in the Black Forest region of Germany (the Cordtz family at Maagiagi are relatives apparently), I hold the tulafale title of Tuisina from Tuana'i which incidentally is my legal name because I always thought it was a beautiful name and the story behind it....and also I saw myself as the White King bwahahahahaha (jokes don't print that))(TOO LATE - PRINTED LOL), Falelatai (I hold the Lealaitagomoa title there), my mum's adopted mother is from Saanapu (she is a Leaana there and I hold the Muliagatele title) birth father, the late Joseph Kuka Brown was from Fagaloa and Taufusi. His mother was from Vailoa Aleipata (Toomalatai family), and my stepfather, Phillip Conrad Gabriel who is actually my dad because he raised me, is from the village of Lepea

Why did you start juicing in the first place?

June 2012 - I went to get my son from Samoa and saw the pics. OMG. FAT. From being a healthy model size to a supermodel supersize. Leai la Malia. February 2013 - went interstate for work, came back and was sick all weekend - bleeding in my stools, bleeding from the nose, I was a not happy. I went looking for answers and found a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Downloaded, watched and cried like a baby. 
First time ever food was depicted the way it was. And how I saw myself dying if I didn't change. And I started that day. 
My first ever Juice (attached) was my Sunshine Juice (ingredients are in the pic). 
And my first ever smoothie had Tahini (attached)
- 1 handful of parsley
- 2 handfuls of spinach & rocket
- one small lebanese cucumber
- 1 green apple
- juice of 1 green lime
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of Mayvers Tahini
- 2 pinches of pink Himalayan rock salt
- Filtered water to suit

What are your biggest challenges?

Not finding raw turmeric root - its VERY hard to find in Sydney, but in Samoa, its easy - its called ago and grows wild by the streams and river banks..
Not being able to have too many substitutes for my Samoans in Samoa - if I decide to use Chia Seeds, they are not readily available in Samoa!
Not knowing (people lie all the time) if my "organic" products really are organic - I use a vegie wash to wash all produce to remove any traces of bacteria and chemicals
Not being able to tell my viewers that there there are NO shortcuts - it took years to put on the weight and just because you drink one apple and carrot doesnt make it skinny! Persistence in fruit and vegetable juices, diet high in plants and some movement (20 minute walk a 3 or more days a week) is all you need.

When you're feeling down and feeling like sinking your teeth into a pork bun, what so you do to distract yourself?
I watch videos of chemo patients.
Then I let my Mum tell me about how my hair fell out!
Sobering thoughts, activate! Lol

I read somewhere that certain greens increases one's libido, is this myth or fagogo I made up?
My top 4 are:
Olives (hey the Italians and Greeks eat a lot of this fruit - when in Rome!!), avocados (high in folic acid, vitamin b6 and potassium - great for the female libido), asparagus (rich in vitamin E so great for sex hormones), and celery (for men mostly, contains an androsterone, an odourless male hormone released during perspiration that turns women on) -

I have only met 1 Samoan who was a full on vegetarian, what do you think - what would it take for more Samoans to eat food that wasn't a pig, chicken or cow before?

Its a change of mindset, a change of culture. If we knew how dangerous the pa'umu and the imported vaemoa and mamoe and soda drinks are for our health, trust me we would all run back to fresh nius, Koko Samoa, limu and laupele.
The thing is, the danger at the moment appears passive - a few hundred or thousand  people contract diabetes, cancer, heart disease and we just write it off as lack of exercise. But the Ministry of Health and WHO can in no uncertain terms now say that we have an epidemic on our hands. And would it kill us to try something different? The anecdotal evidence is, plant eaters live longer. I was a big meat eater as well being Samoan born and bred. But for me, the only thing was making sure that my stomach was full, or that I was ma'ona.
And filling it up with juices and smoothies and salads, what harm am I doing to myself? other than having fabulous skin at 50yo, and no heart medication, cancer abated, how can I NOT keep eating plants?

In Samoa, every now and then, I get sick and vow to eat healthy, but when I go into the market to buy veges/fruit, it is bloody expensive, what do you recommend that should help people? 

Very expensive in NZ and of course in Samoa, we don't have the variety that overseas based Samoans have (so no excuse you guys) 
In Sydney, I go weekly to the Flemington Markets. 
My tips are:
1. Buy in season - in season = cheapest = savings - don't eat an avocado when they are $3.98 each - wait until they are $2 a kilo (in season) 
2. If in season, buy in bulk, clean and freeze. For smoothies - especially bananas and avocados and mangoes - you save a fortune - at one time, bananas in Sydney were over $10 a kilo
3. When you go to your local Fruit and Vegie shop, I head straight to the bargain bin - still alot of fresh produce that they get rid off because its disposable, but I can stretch that produce a few days with my juices, my smoothies. Greens a usually good for that. $0.50 for a bunch of silverbeet? Yes please.
4. Buy local - go to your farmers markets - for NZ, go here to check them out: Grow your own, if you have time!

Many of our beloved family members have died of diabetes and other lifestyle related illnesses, does this worry you? 

Of course it does. My mum is diabetic. She has stopped her medication based on regularly juicing ginger, bitter melon, and red cabbage - she mixes them with green apples, lemons and oranges to palatise the taste, she loves it.
Heart disease is something I know about - I was born with 2 holes in my heart - and I continue to love mulipipi throughout my teens and twenties....what an idiot I was!
Cancer. Been there, I swear never ever to go there.
Plus hypertension, high blood pressure, stress, smoking (the disease of the stupid - "for more information on Cancer, please keep smoking"), and so many more.

Can you give 3 of your favourite juicing combinations? (Ps, I hate beetroot, celery and ginger. but everything else, ok:)  

1. Juice - Apple, Carrot, Cucumber + 1 lemon or lime (without the skin)
2. Smoothie - Niu (water and aano or flesh), green leaves, banana - top it off with some Koko Samoa
3. Smoothie - Blend bananas, Koko Samoa, any nut you are not allergic to - use less liquid so its thicker!
4. Juice - Cabbage, Apples, + Lemon

Any parting comments you wish to make? 
Go the Aivao Community and Juice On! 

Faafetai lava Ymania, Love your work! Tuff!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Universities are not delivering - for everyone, but that's fine, others are.

On Friday last week, I dropped it at the Directors Fono for PILOT (Pacific Island leaders of tomorrow),  which supports and promotes education to young Pacific students, from Year 10- Year 13.

 The programme is offered by tertiary providers, CareersNZ and is mainly in the Auckland region.

Last year, we took this to Waikato for the first time. Yay!

Anyhow, fantastic programme and its the place where students feel comfortable and are celebrated.

They also do a comprehensive job of following up, right through to calls to students at end of year 13 - checking that they are progressing into whatever institution or appenticeship etc...if they are not, or are unsure, we refer them to the right person/group/CareersNZ and the aim is that we can direct them to their desired pathway.
No one gets left behind.

In a perfect world, ALL students of Pacific descent would be doing PILOT for one day of the year, and then attend the Family evening with their family or influencers.....that is the solution to underachievement and lack of engagement today.

The Fono was hosted by NZMA (New Zealand Management Academy) at their state of the arts facilities at Sylvia Park.

I come from a University background, and in my time with PILOT - I have come to appreciate and value the work, blended learning and tailored approach that private training establishments offer to students in New Zealand. Places like BEST Training where my friend Li Ilolahia works. He knows his students. Places like Martin Hautus at Onehunga and most recently in Samoa - where they will continue their wonderful work getting students into quals. Again, Pulotu Selio and his family take a very very keen interest in ensuring their students succeed. They are passionate about their learning. And hey, its not everyday that you sit down for a coffee and the founder of the Institute rocks up and asks how you are. 

Being around colleagues who work in PTE space make me envious at the adaptable nature of their organisations. They matter. They influence. Their students are truly their focus.

This was clear in my mind as I drove into NZMA and someone walked out to specifically tell me where to park, and walk me (and the other attendees into the building).
Now, the building.
Once again, unlike most Universities, this building is alive and reflective of the users. There are no sculptures and large pillars depicting an artistic ra ra ra....this is a building that is utilized, lived in and functional.

The classrooms are not closed in, there is noise, interaction and learning is visible.
We walked past rooms in the hospitality section and students, all in their respective uniforms/gear are working, a tutor is at a 'bar' judging a student's work, while others prepare their turn in groups. There is so much activity and my mind is stimulated - I feel like I am missing out in all this interactive learning.

It makes me think of Universities' bland offer - beckoning students to come sit in their stark dull classrooms, or to be among 300 other students - facing a lecturer who will drone for 2 hours about regression analysis and qualitative research. You sit and write, take notes and try to stay awake.

My point is this, ....many of the parents and people I meet, are thinking about getting their sons and daughters into University to get a degree. That is their ultimate goal. (And not neccesarily that of the student's).

And I have seen so so so many Pacific students go into that pathway, without the required skill or interest to succeed. Yet - we continue to push push push Pacific students to do this.

University is not for everyone.
We are sometimes so busy promoting Universities, even to those who would have found joy in a qualification from a PTE or Polytechnic or in an apprenticeship. Today, Universities are striving to address these gaps with promises of 'practical learning experience' but really? And what percentage of the course is actually practical?
More so, when they do get into the workforce, do they have the desired skills to do the work?

I have come across so many University students who are struggling to find jobs, but have ZERO work  experience, or their CVs are so badly written, couldn't draft a letter or lack communication skills in the, what's my point?


-Continue to encourage parents and students to understand ALL their options, be it Universities, PTEs, Polytechnics, apprenticeships, internships, cadetships etc.

I have other points, but this isn't the forum for it, hah (:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Manuia lau malaga i le lagi

My thoughts, prayers and love are with my beloved family in Sydney, for the passing of our uncle, Tuisafua Alaimoana Afoa.
We love you!

Uncle Alaimoana at Lagipoiva's wedding, 2011. Photo credit: Stuart Chape

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

But why did you get beaten up? A? Kaukalaikiki?

I remember clearly, standing by the fallen branch of the tamaligi, waiting my turn patiently, to hop on and join the fun. The morning was still new, hibiscus flowers were still half asleep, not yet ravaged by the tropical heat.
Makagaga was at the highest branch, swinging happily, singing even when Vasa, the rascal boy from Fusi ran towards us and shook it so hard that it threw the preschoolers onto the soft wet grass. 
"Aikae!" and several other insults where cautiously thrown at Vasa, in slightly hushed tones away from the teacher's attentive ears. 
Phew - thankfully, she was busy smoking and talking across the fence at Kilipa. Apparently, the bus driver on the Aiaiava got yet another Year 13 girl pregnant. Blasphemous! Whore! Daughter of a peacher whore, she puffed with disdain.
In the midst of the branch onslaught, a wee voice cried out. High pitched. Distressed. 
Emergency! Makagaga is crying! 
Fear spreads across the school yard. 
We run as far away from Makagaga as we could, knowing full well the wrath of her mother.
Surely enough, at interval, all of her scary self came storming up the dirt path in her clothes that were still damp from digging pipis in the lagoon.
"Faakali mai oe e!" 
She pulled Vasa by the ear and whacked him with her shoe. Hard. Bam!
Because Nobody, and I mean, nobody touches Makagaga. 
The violator gets a hiding every time.
In front of the teachers.
Today, we are reminded this very loudly, "I will tear your mouth if you touch my daughter again, ua maua mai,? Sasae lou guku!" 
Vasa cries, Makagaga cries and we cower towards the mat in the classroom, scared and trying hard not to be looked at.
Scared of this evil mother. 
The teacher walked over to Makagaga's mother and told her loudly "Makuai leai a se faiai o kama ia, makuai sasa lava" (That kid (Vasa) has absolutely no brain, beat him hard).
After he is beaten, the angry mother cuddles her Makagaga to her heart and they walk down the dirt path, to their evil house by the breadfruit tree.
Evil breadfruit tree.
Vasa was angry the rest of the day, and he sulked. Sr Laso got angry then. 
Vasa got angrier too and yelled out "Kefe!"
Sr Laso whacked him with her shoe, and despite her small frame, lifted Vasa by the arm and leg.
Like a pig about to be rubbed on umu rocks, and then, in almost slow motion, she tossed him outside. 
Vasa's mother did not come to save her son. She does not live here. He lives with his step mother across the road, in her shiny house, where she applies her bright red lipstick daily and chews bubblegum all day.
Vasa is the least of her worries. When she found out he was beaten up again, she asked calmly 
"Eh, A'o lea foi lau mea ga fai ua fasi ai oe?" 
(Eh, But what did you do to deserve that beating?).
Then she proceeded to beat him too. Until her eye shadow ran and her lipstick faded.
Because that's what a loving mother does, beat her child until he behaves.

This little fagogo is not a fagogo at all. It is a true sad story. Something I plucked out of my memory from a morning long long ago. Of a child that was considered a bad child. Nothing he did was ever good enough. Even we, his classmates thought this, Vasa is a bad kid because he swore at the kaupousa (nun) and he is ulavale. That is what we were told to believe. How very very sad.

Now that I have children of my own, what I have learnt as a Samoan growing up, guides, moulds but also repels me. I do not want to be the angry violent mother than cottonwools her child when she falls off a branch. Nor do I was to be the nonchalant careless mother who believes others and punishes her son because someone said he did this and that.
I am trying to be the mother that communicates and cares for my offsprings, show them the way and talk to others if they are playing up.
Violence is not culture. Violence is not the answer. And it never will be.


Going going gone ):