Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I Know A Beautiful Man

It was summertime in the year of 2005, and I had been 'hanging out' quite a bit over the past few weeks with a boy from Geelong, who had just returned from serving a mission for The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. This particular evening we had just come back from spending time at Jan Juc beach with friends at a Young Single Adult activity. We were in his family home, watching whatever was on television in his lounge. I remember my long black hair thick and frazzled from dried salt water. (I'm thinking I must've really felt comfortable with this boy from Geelong for my hair to be that way – if you know how conscious I am about my hair.) Someone had just walked into the door, and the boy introduced me to this lovely man. My first impression of this man, was his white grey fuzzy curly hair and a warm welcoming smile.

The boy's name is Campbell, and the name of the lovely man is his father, Bruce Walshe.

Campbell and I started going steady and we dated for nine months before we were married. During our courtship I got to know Campbell more, and it was the same with his family. It was a natural affection that I had grown to love them. And if you know the Walshe family, you will find it is easy for anybody to love them.

As a father in law along with his wife Jenny, I felt I had the greatest of in-laws. There are some who hold a negative connotation to parents in law - yet I had not experienced that, even a little. 

I thought Bruce had an infectious personality. Aside from spending time with you in making you feel loved and uplifted, you just wanted to be a little more like him.

Our children would love seeing their pop Bruce and nana Jenny. Pop was musical and animating, our children loved being entertained by him. A music lover myself, I loved to watch Bruce sing or perform. There was a brightness about him. My favourite song that he ever sang, was for our wedding, ‘Make It With You’ by Bread. His voice just as timeless as the chords he strummed.

Pop was never shy or ever seemed to miss a moment to tell those important to him that he loved them. He would greet or farewell with a hug and say "Irra, you're just awesome" or "Irra, you are just gorgeous". I felt a little embarrassed yet atop the world at his sweet boldness. He would do the same for his children and grandchildren. Irrelevant of what the world thought of you, it just seemed to matter when Bruce said it. You believe it.

My own parents were happy that I had not only married a wonderful guy in Campbell, but also married into a loving family that welcomed me openly with warmth.

In notes written by Campbell and his siblings to their parents for a gift at Christmas, Campbell wrote "thanks for loving Irra and Luaipou (our daughter) so much – and maybe even more than me”. It wasn’t a negative comment by Cam, but just beautifully highlighted a parent’s love for their son’s wife and child.

Bruce was an awesome example of many things, one in particular was caring for his health. One thing he inspired me with was practicing yoga. I enjoyed speaking about the benefits and tips he would give me to aid me in my personal yoga.

They say a love for grandchildren is quite special, perhaps different to that of one’s own children. My own mother and father love their grandchildren immaculately. It seemed no different for nana Jenny and pop Bruce. My children and their cousins loved their pop and nana dearly. A reflection of the love their pop and nana had for them.

My children love the famous Dr Seuss collection of children’s books. One book in particular titled “Hop On Pop” caught my children’s eye. Dr Seuss had his books illustrated quite literally to his ingenious rhymes. My children always laughed at the possibility of hopping on one leg, on top of their pop’s head. And as entertaining and fascinating as their pop was, he just might’ve let them if they could.

I was pregnant with our third child which we knew would be a boy. Cam and I was always fond of family names meaningfully passing them onto our children. The name Bruce was amongst the choices. 
To me it was a strong and very masculine name, I was a little unsure at the time if I could see that name on a tiny baby. But I loved Bruce, Cam's dad, so much and thought him the loveliest man that I hoped in naming my son after Bruce, he would always remember his beautiful pop and hopefully fashion his good ways. 

So it was, our son was named Bruce. Our now four-year-old son Bruce even has the curls, just like his pop. It was, and is, the perfect name.

To be loved by Bruce from the very beginning, is an empowering feeling. To have my children loved ever more by their grandparents - by their beloved pop – there is not more that I could ask for.

I anticipate the future moments when Cam and I will reminisce with our children about what it is like for them to be loved by the best 'pop' in their world.

I am blessed to know Bruce, and have him as a second father.
I consider his wise words, and our conversations not as a past tense, but very much in the present and future. There is much I will treasure of his legacy, in my life now and in the future.

I also smile to think, that he may have already had a hug and greet with my brother Donny.

To me, Bruce will always be amongst the most beautiful of men.
And I am most blessed to know, that I will simply see him again soon.

Pouey with her Pop

Monday, January 20, 2014

SAMOA 2014: To Sua Trench

To Sua Trench

As an island in the pacific, Samoa is as one big volcano as it’s lava fields form grounds for life for human, animal and plant. We visited To Sua (pr. Tor Sue-ah) that showed stunning blowholes with beautiful coral the colour of the fish is the most sharp that I have ever seen.

Atop a cliff

Coral (this photo does not do it's beauty justice!)

Out to sea
We swam in trench about 40 metres deep (so cool!) after we climbed down the ladder into it’s cave-like appearance. Submerging into the cave’s warm salt water, was as breathtaking as the life forms through out the colourful coral of the blowholes.


Swimming in the trench

Climbing up ladder (very, very carefully)
To Sua is also the final resting place of a very significant female figure who we were pleasantly surprised to learn of. Her gravestone reads;

This is the final resing place of
Masiofo Fuatino Fetauimalemau Mataafa Fiame Faumuina Mulinu’u II.
She was also Orator Chief Laulu.
the first First Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa.
A renowned woman leader in the fields of the Church, Education, the advancement of women and Diplomacy.  Born in 1928, her name FETAUIMALEMAU meaning to
“coincide with the MAU {independence movement}” commemorated a significant era in Samoa’s history.

She seems like one very cool lady.

Grave on the cliff top

Don't forget it!

SAMOA 2014: Walking in Villages

 Walking in the Villages

There are villages about a half hour stroll, either side of ‘Aga Reef resort. We went for a walk to one of these villages at about dusk. It would have to be my favourite part of a tropical day – the time the sun begins to set.

On the way to Saleapaga village

Typical colour brick church

On our way to the village, a truck sees us walking and kindly offers us a ride. If you come to Samoa, it is a must that you ride in the back of a truck or utility vehicle, being safety aware of course. It is legal to do so, although you are not allowed to stand upright or sit on the ledge of the tray.

Back of truck

On the contrast, we also went for morning runs along the side of the main road. This time of day is also beautiful. One particular morning it was overcast, and it seemed the silver lining of the clouds was just supreme.

A favourite shot

Beach fales

We also bumped into cousin Lene and his wife Magareta in the village and had a cool drink together.


On the contrast, we had been for morning runs, admiring the local wildlife at sunrise one particular overcast day. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

SAMOA 2014: Weaving Stories

Weaving Stories

‘Aga Resort provides a cultural tour, which is a demonstration of skills of the traditional Samoan way of life. Our tour guide, Ieremia (pr. Yeh-reh-mee-yah) a local resident and also employee of the resort showed us how to weave mats, baskets, even weave a hat from the leave of the coconut tree. He also demonstrates how to husk the coconut. I am so excited to learn mat weaving, that I have a go. He weaves half a mat and I complete the other half. I also had the chance to weave a full mat. Mats have a wide variety of use, sitting upon placed on the dirt ground to use in the Samoan house or fale (pronounced fah-leh). Quite proudly we take the woven mat back to our villa, and place it on our balcony. I’ve napped on it amongst the sound of the breaking waves.

Alesana & Ieremia
Ieremia also tells us the famous stories of how the coconut came to be, in the story of Sina and the Eel. We’ve heard it before yet enjoy it ever more as Ieremia relays the infamous myth. We also learn that Ieremia has a wife and five children and is of the same faith as we are.

I appreciate Ieremia for trying to preserve Samoan traditions and skills. Cam and I became fond of him – we won’t forget him.

Cutting stork in half with machete
Beginning of basket


Husking a coconut

Weaving a mat, or 'fala'

Finished product

SAMOA 2014: 'Aga Reef Resort

'Aga Reef Resort

Samoa is currently experiencing wet season, so with that come tropical rains, and cyclones that encompass the pacific. The Thursday we had arrived it was bucketing down, and for the previous three weeks. Some flashflooding had also occurred and sadly even some lives had been lost.  We had known this before coming so we weren’t expecting the best of Samoa’s weather. I was hopeful we might get at least one day of sun in our 18-day stay!

The Monday subsequent to our arrival we booked a five night stay at a beachfront resort called, ‘Aga Reef Resort in a village called Lalomanu, situated about an hour’s drive from Apia, the main town .
From what I have been told, the word ‘Aga represents ‘coral’.

We were driven to the resort, by a family friend who took us in his well-kept taxi.
We drove along a familiar main road and pass Piula cave pool (pronounced pee-you-lah).  I had last come to swim there with my two daughters, then aged six months  and two years of age. I feel a pang of missing my babies, but I smile at the fact that they had the chance this beautiful place. And hopefully many more chances.

It had been the first sunny day since arriving and the drive in the mountains on the way to the resort is breathtaking.

We arrive at ‘Aga Reef Resort. We had chosen to visit this resort over others, due to good reviews by friends and family, and it’s relatively recent opening in April 2013.

One of many dips in the pool

We’re blown away by it’s beauty and location. We are staying in a waterfront villa which is stunning. It is but a few metres, above the blue water, looking out onto the ocean in our own little villa. I’m in paradise. When we arrived at the resort, we also had a pleasant surprise as the lady at reception happened to be the wife of my cousin. It was a joy to be cared for by Margareta.


Relaxing in our Villa 
Balcony on the water
Our backyard, late afternoon 

Warm welcome

Contemporary local artwork

Bridge to the island of Villas

The service has been impeccable, we have gotten to know the staff, and owners and befriended some Australian tourists staying at ‘Aga. The food was amazing, which has typically incorporated local organic produce into it’s menu. You could taste the experience and precision of executive chef Kit Foe (click for his rave review). I salivate just thinking about it. 

Samoan "Avoca", avocado - best ever 

Ever since we have arrive at ‘Aga Reef Resort the weather has been perfect. Even in this rainy season. We seemed to have cast away the rains, so I like to think. We’ve been very blessed.

View of resort from island & rock pool 
Spotting the turtle

Pool deck

Being born and raised on the coast, Cam loves to sit and look at the sea and watch the waves as I try to learn how breaks occur, what is a good wave, and so forth.

We have even seen a turtle in the lagoon in front of our villa. We were swimming about five metres from it and watch it surface it’s cute little head. Turtles can live for decades, even for the average lifespan of a human and even longer. I thought, if turtles could talk, what would they tell me from what they have seen in their many years.

At the end of every day...