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New links formed on Samoa visit


The trip began when the group met early in the morning at Auckland Airport. The group consisted of seventeen students accompanied by Mrs Amber Stevens, Mr Ben Bacon and Mr Omar Tamayo. Each one of them yearning to get out of the cold winter of Auckland to the eternally warm summer paradise that is Samoa. As the flight neared its end, with child-like wonder in their eyes, the students peeped out to find angelic blue waters sprinkled with lush green islands. All the burdens, stress and worries accumulated from the past term began to melt away as Samoa unveiled itself and wrapped them in a blanket of warmth. Nothing could prepare the group for the remarkable things they were about to witness.

Upon their arrival in Apia, Samoa – they met the kind, warm-hearted Winston Tufuga from Misileti Transport who was to be their escort for the rest of the trip.

Winston delivered them to Hotel Millenia, one of the three places they stayed on this trip. It was here where the nightly UBE (Ultimate Bonding Experience) spawned. These nights consisted of games hatched from the creativity of Mr Tamayo as well as time to reflect. The reflection was led by Mr Tamayo, who never failed to jolt the group with riveting ways to look back on each day and express their gratitude.

After one night’s sleep in Samoa, the group kicked off their day with their sister school, Chanel College – a Catholic co-educational college in Moamoa. The students of Chanel College returned during the holidays specifically to spend time with our Sancta Maria visitors. This allowed Sancta Maria to extend its outreach programme and gift Chanel College items our school community hadkindly donated.

Two days were spent with these students and already strong bonds formed. Overwhelming warmth and friendliness beamed from the Chanel College students. This made it very easy for quick friendships to form.

The first day was led by Mr Omar Tamayo, where students developed their leadership and gained an understanding of God’s love. This was done in the form of fun, engaging games with lessons which were initially latent. Mr Tamayo introduced to us a Filipino game “Patintero”; retold the story of Sampson and Delilah and then used the characters of Sampson, Delilah and the lion to play paper, scissors, rock; and passing down a bible verse from one end of a human chain to the other.

The second day began when the students of Chanel College surprised our students with a Samoan Umu. The Kiwis had the chance to help prepare the Umu. Everyone got stuck in; pouring coconut cream into taro leaves molded into a cone (Palusami -luau), seasoning the chicken, peeling the skin from the bananas and cooking the taro. Meanwhile, some others learnt how to manoeuvre the flax so that pieces could be made as gifts to give one another. The food was then left to cook over the rocks as Mr Bacon lead the group in team building activities. In typical Sancta Maria P.E style, the games played involved throwing rubber chickens, running around a human circle and catching water balloons in a bowl. Eyes sparkling, the students then returned in time for the Umu, lovingly prepared by their own hands. The consensus was that the meal was delightful. The meal ended with some dancing and a display of our singing talents. It then became pictures galore as everyone scurried around to get their final photos with each other. Despite only getting to know each other for two days, the bonds made are unbreakable and everyone involved will cherish these memories for as long as life goes on.

Numerous cultural sites were visited. This includes the majestic Robert Louis Stevenson Museum – once upon a time the home of the famous Scottish poet and author. The group was able to live in Stevenson’s time as they were guided through the house. The tour ended with the informative tour guide singing one of Stevenson’s poems.

The students attended Mass at the Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral, where they saw the intricate designs of the stained-glass windows and ceiling frescoes. Apart from the serenely stunning architecture and impressive elegance of the Cathedral, the Mass itself was one to be reckoned with because of the beautiful singing and thought-provoking messages.

The team also got to enjoy the cultural experience of the markets, honing their bargaining skills and getting their fill of the crispy, soft banana bread. As the South Pacific Games were also on, the group was fortunate enough to watch a few hours of Rugby 7s from teams across the Pacific.

The team visited many natural sites including Mount Vaea, where the group climbed to the top of the mountain; Papaseea Sliding Rocks where the students slid down the natural 5-metre rock slide into a crystal clear, cool pool; Palolo Deep Marine Reserve where the students had the exquisite experience of flying over the coral as they snorkeled through the reserve after which they could relax in the picturesque fales on the beach; Piula Caves where the students swam through an underwater cave to

reach a lovely clean swimming hole; the Togitogiga Waterfall was also paid a visit by the students. It was a refreshing, rejuvenating swim in freshwater, cleansing everyone after a night at Jane’s Beach Fales. And just when students thought they couldn’t be blessed with even more alluring paradises, Namu’a Island emerged before them. A 10-minute boat ride from Upolu before they spotted the island surrounded by tropical blue waters. The day on the island was spent snorkeling, climbing coconut trees, eating a delicious barbeque meal and lying in the snug fales.

The students’ next accommodation was Litia Sini Beach Fales, Lalomanu – very much a slice of heaven. Located on the white sand beach and complimented by a lagoon right outside their doorstep – it was life like no other. Members would casually hop into the water to splash around and play games. The games room left space to play table tennis, pool and card games. Not to mention, the tasty dinners prepared by the staff of this family-owned business. Lydia, the owner of the Beach Fales, took time out to discuss with the students how the 2009 Tsunami impacted her people, business and Samoa. It was an eye-opening experience as we learnt how genuinely unforgettable such an experience is and the strength required to keep going. This strong will was displayed in Lydia as she was brave enough to return, build the Fales and support her Samoan family.

As days went by, the deeper into Samoa the students ventured. They ferried to Salelologa on the island of Savai’i and enjoyed a stay at Jane’s Beach Fales. Here, the students marveled at sunset too beautiful to be true and kayaked on the gentle waters. Their day here ended with a magical night – Fare Fare night. They watched the performers dance and perform with fire with the night sky as a background. The best part was when students got up and danced with the Samoan people. Feet frolicking in the sand, the almost inaudible brushing of the breeze against the palm trees, a clear starry night, sensational music and carefree dancing – the perfect ingredients for a night so pure.

After that night, which seemed like a scene straight out of a movie, they returned to Hotel Millenia, which was extremely luxurious after a night at Jane’s Beach Fales. It was now time to tickle their fancies as they dress up for the FiaFia Buffet Dinner Night at the Sheraton Hotel. They were blessed with the incredible food, refreshing drinks and dessert you couldn’t help but go back for seconds and thirds and fourths. They enjoyed more dancing from the performers. Some students were even picked to go up on stage to dance with them. The crowd were then directed to the hotel pools where fire jugglers surrounded the pools and gave dazzling life to the night sky.

With a heart full of undying gratitude, we thank the three teachers for being the driving force behind this unforgettable experience.

Mr Tamayo, for planting the seeds of God’s love in every feature of the trip. This experience would not be as enriching as it was if it wasn’t for the time set aside to reflect on each and every day. Students came away realising just how blessed they were and an endless list of things they were grateful for was stored in their minds.

Mr Bacon, the reason every member of the party has returned in one piece. He has been the one testing the waters, selflessly making sure everything was safe. Without him, the group would not have been able to immerse themselves so fully in the beauty of Samoa.

As for Mrs Stevens, this trip quite literally wouldn’t be possible without her never-ending efforts to make this trip perfect – and perfect it was. All the work done to maximise this experience for all has not gone unnoticed.

Katrina Chan