“We must go on because we can’t turn back.” Robert Louis Stevenson
I grew up at Vaitele, a village close to the town area of Apia. In my family, there are six members. All my life I was only familiar with members of my dad’s family. Often Mum talks about her family in Savaii. I listened a lot to her many stories about her family but I had no idea which part of Savai’i she comes from. Until one school holiday, my parents decided to take us to see my mum’s parents and family in Savai’i.
It was a trip to look forward to when Dad said that if we did better in school with our report cards, we would go to Savaii for the first time to see my mother’s family members. To me, it changed who I am. I mean the effort I put into my homework and schoolwork was worthwhile. I put pressure on my time at school as well as my time at home with my homework, with one dream and goal to make this trip happen soon.
Once the day of our school prize giving arrived … Oh! I could not sit still when our principal called out the prizes and places for our class. I prayed to all the saints and Mother Mary and Jesus, to at least give me one prize, so the trip to Savai’i would come as a best reward ever. When I hear my name with the award for Religion, my heart sings and I thank God my trip to Savai’i will not be a joke any more but it will happen in the next two days.
After the prize giving, my dad gave me a smile and said, “Well you’ve done it. Congratulations! And we are going to Savai’i tomorrow.” I hugged him and said, “Anytime Boss. I am ready.”
Our family trip puts a thousand smiles on my mum’s face. She often mentioned that her parents are the most important people in her life but most of us are so young she could not just leave us and go to see them.
To me, to sit on the Lady Samoa for the first time was the best experience for me. I often heard people talk about Manono and Apolima, but to see these islands in real life was amazing! When the ferry got closer to the wharf, I could see the shape of the big island. The more I saw the shape of Savai’i the more excited I became. The arrival at the wharf was packed and busy. When we passed a traffic light, I laughed aloud when Dad mentioned that this was the only traffic light for the whole island. The drive was beautiful until we reached my Mum’s family. It was a big Wow when I arrived and saw my grandparents for the first time. They touched my head and cheeks and gave me the best hug ever for the first time.
I met other cousins and swimming in the village pool was one of the activities for our trip that I enjoyed a lot. During our stay, Grandpa wanted to tell us the fagogo, he said that his parents told him those stories when he was young. We laughed because parts of his stories were not true. He just added those parts in order to bring out how lazy we are sometimes. Grandma with her weaving fine mats and fan skills is still going strong. It was nice to see people of the village still come and buy Samoan fans from her. I can still see how Mum works hard to earn money for our family as well.
The collecting of firewood and coconuts from the plantation was another activity I enjoyed the most. The life of my cousins there was different from my life in Apia. They worked hard to help their parents as well as my grandparents. The way my young cousin sat down and served the food and did the apafafano for my grandparents was another important lesson for me from our trip. I never experienced that before. Grandpa said that it is important to serve others first, rather than think of ourselves only when it comes to food. I can tell my grandparents are poor but the life lessons they gave for us children are worthwhile to keep and remember.
For Grandpa to still believe that at least planting three or four banana trees a day is much better than spending three or four hours scrolling on our phones – the phone culture we young people are now falling into – is still remembered in my heart.
When it came to the farewell that was the hardest moment for me. A few days away from home and the pressure I had in order to achieve the reward of a trip to Savaii was the best Christmas gift for 2022.
I cried as I saw my elderly grandparents waving their goodbyes to us. Grandma, on the other hand, she wiped her tears. In my mind, if my dad says that he will reward me with another trip again in the coming year, I will work extra hard to do better with my school work. I feel the many life-giving lessons I learnt in those few days gave me many opportunities to see how true the saying we studied in our Gagana Samoa this term from President Keneti, “Aua e te fesili poo le a se mea a lou atunuu e fai moe oe, ae ia e fesili po le a sau mea e fai i lou atunuu.”
My journey to Savai’i was not an adventure, it was the best decision of a lifetime. I chose to work hard in my school work in order to be rewarded with another trip to Savai’i. Being there and experiencing my grandparents and my family gives me the chance to think about what I should contribute to my family in the future when I become a leader of my family.
• Epenesa Tasesa is a Year 6 student at the Divine Mercy School and came 1st in the 2023 Samoa Observer Short Story Competition with this literary piece.
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