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Helen Tionisio
New Zealand

Dear Papa

Dear Papa,

Ea mai koe? Ko matou e lelei lava 1 ,

I just wanted tell you how things are. Things are still the same Papa.  Fast and Furious.
Thinking about it probably makes you want to sit down and catch your breathe.

Yeah it is different Grandad
Here in this urban steel fast food microwave
Espresso 3 sugars to go now please
Age that we live in.

I remember this guy, this friend of mine,
We met at the corner of Porirua and Petone Via internet
Through the phone No collect calls are made cos
We’ve moved on from that, but you can still call collect though, even though you won’t. We’ll call you.

We surfed the net, fishing information instead of food.
Like you do papa when you go to uta 2 or out to Moana 3 , ‘cept it we couldn’t eat it or do inati 4 with it. Not really the same ni papa?

Sorry papa I know you don’t know these things palagi
I know, I know “Te he haofia” 5

Everybody’s saying something papa about things to spend money on:
Fish and chips, Xbox, DVD, text message,
Phone now and receive this free
Cheque or credit card,
Kids ask your parents first,
The little girl waits
Big brother, survivor, super 12
Age that we live in.

Where everything happens in the fast lane
Where its still 2 fast and 2 furious
The kids are different these days
And parents still don’t understand what they’re going thru

But I know that you do Papa
I still hear you
Carving wood with your toki 6
Hear your footsteps on their way to church
Each morning
Hear you breathe as you lay asleep
During your afternoon rest
I know that you understood
The difference
Between you and me
Understood that love connects generations
That we were the same in spirit
Calm, Peaceful, Free

Though this internet accessed
Pin number secured area
Does not really protect
Our existence
But merely relieves it
User friendly and
User pay
It is still all the same. I wish you were haofia ki te internet papa.
We’d email each other everyday.
But hey I remember we started a revolution
And it was the same message
About the same power:
Ko matou e alolofa lahi atu
That’s all I really wanted to say
I was glad that we had the chance to show it.
Until next time Papa. Talohia ko tatou e tali fetaui, ni? 7
Love you.
I can smell the salty air from here. And that fresh northerly breeze
That comes from Tokelau. Eh, te fia fanatu 8


1. How are you? We are fine here.
2. The Outer Islands – from the village
3. The Ocean
4. Distribution of food amongst villagers
5. “I don’t understand
6. Adze, Stone axe
7. Hopefully we will meet again, aye?
8.I want to go over ( back to Tokelau)


Sinamoga Saanapu Leififi and Lelata
These are villages I can call my own

Many a times I walked amongst banana trees
And greenery with Papa Tioni
On the deep soft grass I felt under my dusty feet

Walked to that shop Lynn’s down the road
For sanity: icecream, donuts, apples, vaiola and oreos 

Had a 20 tala haircut from the New Zealand Samoan guy
Who moved from West Auckland to the great surf that is Samoa
Ah, samoa
12 tala burgers and churches next door
to housie and bingo and apa I’a galore

5 tala movies at magik cinemas
Yeah right magik,
So magik, that they don’t give refunds if the power goes off in the middle of movies
“ No, the power has to go off three times and then you can have your money back”

And if the power did go off
Someone has crashed into the power lines – again!
Was peeutiful
And those steps down to the cave pool were
Like Mt Fusi
Rocksteady and Big and Glorious
Viia le Atua mo Samoa e
(Sa’o lelei)

22009 - can I have a taxi to Lelata, fa’amolemole
Le fale o Maka?
Le Tala Fou with Verona Parker
Lunch at Gourmet Seafoods
Where Aunty Tia works with her daughter

And you can’t forget Otto/Auto Supacentre
Pat AhHim’s and the makeki
Chan Mow and the specials on apa supakeki
and the screams from the old plantation non stop
yeah kapisi – I thought of you on my way down from Faleolo

Walking the streets of Apia
Ignoring wolf whistles and car horns beeping – or trying to beep
The looks my palagi skin gets when I walk into chemists
“You’re not from here”
“You shouldn’t be here”
-if only you could read my mind…beep, beebeebeep beep beep

My name is Helen Tionisio
And I have palagi skin

I survived 2 months in samoa
With my palagi skin
Short black hair
No kids

4 and a half hours away
from Niu Sila
1 and a half days
by boat to Tokelau

Where I constantly thought
Of my faraway places

Constantly questioned my Samoa e
Refused to catch buses so waved down taxi’s to get around

Where taxi’s were flashy bombs
With the mirrors, eagles, flags and the radios on
Where taxi-drivers went out of their way
For their customers – for the 2 tala they pay
Playing dumb after hearing my palagi accent
Even if I was playing dumb when they were askin
“You kedda poyfren?”
If only you could read my mind (God get me outta here!)
If only this car door would open from the inside!
Fobby taxis and fobby taxi driver
Opens the door see, from the outsider
Apia to lelata in the taxi ka’a
Ahh, Samoa e
Where 2 tala takes you fa’a

Where I come from

Where I come from
You don’t have to worry about gang bangers
Or drive bys
Guns in schools or on the streets
Still, there’s just enough to get by
To put shoes on my feet
We don’t trip on getting mugged
But that don’t mean I can’t get drugged
Learnt a lot about that beyond school education
The parties we had – our family celebrations

Its all in the eyes
But the olds tried to hide
And they point the blame at others
For their kids getting high
They turn their kids loose to do as they please
Or strap them in too tight
Deny their release
Good intentions
Are not good enough
Results/ Consequence: a family that’s stuffed

But we all make mistakes
I forgot to mention
That though we’re located
In our South Pacific location,

It’s our pursuit of dreams
That matter but furthermore
The results of our lives and
The progress towards
The higher ground
The higher learning
Desire Determines Destiny
So its more I’m yearning

Don’t give a damn
About what people say
I’m on fire to win
And that’s what it takes

Even though where I come from
Ain’t no heavy discrimination
But I still feel the pressure
Against a coconut’s participation

In the game of life
In the quest I’ll die
To see that my dreams
Do come true
To see that I do live the life

(Where I come from)
(What matters)
(Is where I’m going)

A Day in the Village

The seas the sky
The birds that fly
The roosters that crow
The memories I sowed,
Have grown

And I ‘m blown away
By the images that pave
A way in my mind
That leaves me pining
In my heart I’m reminding
Myself to always remember…

And its abundance
Of neighbours,
And work
And the windows
That opened up your homes
To the hustle and bustle
Of Village life
To the serenity
Of Sunday afternoons
And daily siestas
To neighbouring ears
Listening in on your
Overseas calls
On every conversation
As their mouths drip
Hungry for something to say
As they make their way
To their cousins house
Or the newsroom

Where I learnt that
Sea toilets
Ain’t just a place
To do business
But talk business
Start revolutions?
More like verbal exchanges
Symbolic of
What came out the other end.
At least
Out of a good gossip session,
You could say,
The fish were fed
And eventually,
We’d be fed

Eating Ota (with uto)
As we swim in the Lagoon
Maneas’ radio blasting
Some of her favourite tunes
As boats go by
To feed their pigs
And we tried to figure out
Who it is
That passes by
As we float in our waters
In our cool, cool waters
On a late afternoon

Another day in the village
(And it’s Lotu time soon!)