There was quite a buzz in the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel lobby where a large party of family members who were clearly planning for a long day at the beach, were waiting for their taxi van.
Dear Tourist met Lee Tuia from Auckland who told us that they were all here to attend a wedding which was going to be held at Taumeasina Island Resort.
Lee and Alex Tuia are not your typical nuclear family seeing as they are officially not together anymore but it was clear that the bonds of the greater aiga were still very strong.
“We’re from Auckland and this is my ex-husband Alex,” says Lee as she introduces us to the gentleman sitting near her.
“And we are all here for a wedding on Alex’s side of the family, I’m Maori and he is Samoan.
He is definitely Samoan,” she reiterates jokingly and this is the first time we’ve been away as a family. We’ve been going around every day for the last four days, taking advantage of our time here and we’re just waiting for our taxi van to take us out to the beach.
We are here for a wedding which will be held at the Taumeasina.”
Dear Tourist asked Lee what her first impression was when she arrived in Samoa four days ago.
“I love it, I really love it,” she said.
“It’s been excellent, the people are beautiful. They are very friendly and humble. I am in awe of all the green colours, I love the environment. I had the opportunity to visit Taumeasina the other day, it’s really lovely but it doesn’t have the lush foliage and trees – I love this, it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a gorgeous tropical island.”
It’s apparent that Lee was more than happy with their choice of accommodation at the Tusitala Tanoa Hotel.
“I think it’s really important to hold on to your culture and hold on the environment because it’s so beautiful here and I really like the fact that this hotel is still holding on to the important natural tropical gardens. This is what I think of when I imagine a Pacific paradise.”
Lee Tuia is an educator back in New Zealand and she is also a bit of a creative soul who sees the world in shapes and colours.
As an indigenous woman of New Zealand who has an affinity and attachment to the land, environment is important to her and naturally she is one to zoom into the relationship between land and people in any setting.
“I am a teacher and I see the art and I see the carvings – very similar to Maori and here in Samoa, I see the environment is very important to the people. When I work among Samoan colleagues back in Auckland, they don’t have that love for the environment, they’ve lost that I think.
As a teacher, I can go back and say hey your culture is very similar to mine and we hold the environment dear to us because it’s important. I feel like they’ve forgotten it and become very westernized.”
Lee has been inspired by her time here in Samoa and is looking forward to putting pen to paper on her return to New Zealand.
“I’m so glad to be here and I’m going to reflect about my time here and I’m going to write about it and put it in our learning stories for our children, which is what I do back in New Zealand, I just really want them not to forget about their values.”