I am back home.
That’s what former Marist student, Brian Stephenson, would say about his visit to Samoa.
We always hear people say there is always a story behind a story. Well for this particular tourist there is a definitely a very interesting story behind his visits to Samoa almost every year.
Brian Stephenson is from Auckland New Zealand. Dear Tourist caught up with Mr. Stephenson at Amanaki Hotel yesterday afternoon, while he was enjoying his last day in Samoa.
Mr. Stephenson is a lawyer by profession.
He told the Dear Tourist that he attended Marist Brothers Mulivai in 1956 and even though he was only there for a couple of months, his experience from that short period of time have remained with him.
“I first came to Samoa at the age of 11 in 1956 and that was because my uncle came around that time to investigate the theft of the police payroll and it was a lot of money at that time,” he said.
“I was only here for a few months but in that short period of time it made a big impression on my life.
“It was a different experience and being my first experience of another country and being in a place with a language of a playground was not English and I knew nothing of Samoa before I came here.
“So in that time as a child you pick up quickly on words. So I picked up on some of the vocabulary but did not know anything about the structure of the language and how to put a sentence together.”
He recalls the struggle he had faced during those times.
“The teaching was of quite a high standard as they were using the Australian Syllabus and in some ways ahead of where New Zealand Primary pupils were up to for the same age group so I struggled to keep up,” he said.
“When it was time for me to leave Samoa, I was able to learn from the enrichment of experiencing another culture which was different from the one I came from.
“I learned as much in the afternoon when the school used to go from 8 o’clock in the morning till 1 o’clock in the afternoon. After lunch we lived at the old Casion Hotel, which is where the Tanoa Tusitala is at right now.
“I used to go for a walk around Sogi in the evening and often the adults living there in Sogi used to sit me down in the fale, cut a piece of sugar cane and I would chew on it while they talked to each other. I learnt a lot from them.”
When Mr. Stephenson left, he did not return until 2001, some 45 years after.
“It took me 45 years to come back again,” he said.
“I came back in 2001 and I felt that I liked it very much so I started coming back every year. That’s when I met some of Marist Brother’s Old Pupils during the Independence and then those boys got me into wearing a lavalava and a white shirt and ulafala and joined them in the Independence march for the next nine years.
“From 2008 till now, I have never missed an Independence Day march for the Marist Boys Old Pupils Association.
“So this is my 12th visit if I remember correctly and for this particular visit I got invited to speak to one of the old boys meeting down at Alafua.
“There we discuss the celebration of 130 years since the school established and in that celebration we talked about writing a book that will have the history of the school from when it first established.
“So that was the highlight this particular visit. I am glad that I am able to tell everybody that Samoa is my home away from home. Marist is where I learned to value every little thing in life and to respect one another.
“While I am leaving tonight, I am definitely looking forward to being part of the celebration next year in September.”