Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The most painful thing.

Sina Ale kisses baby Jai Trafford on holiday at Taufua Beach Fales.
Taufua Beach Fales was started back in 1970 by the patriarch of the family, Taufua Leifi. His daughter Faafetai (better known as ‘Tai’) explained, “It started out as fales that our family used for resting on Sundays after lunch, we’d go to the beach and sleep there. Then we started having tourists come in asking if they could rent the fales for a day or two and we’d allow them.” And so it began, modestly, with a few huts on the white sand and over the years it grew. In 1999, Taufua Snr handed over the business to Tai and her husband Sili Apelu. Initially there was a temptation to completely change the look of the place, to do away with the beach fales and build a more Western style resort. “But we thought it would be very un-Samoan to do that. We decided to maintain the beach fales but to at least make them more comfortable for the tourists. Over ten years, we have built on slowly, adding new fales with the availability of funds…that has been a blessing in disguise because it has been a time for us to learn and to nurture our workers and that is where our strength is. I think what makes this place special is the atmosphere that we created. Guests always feel at home as if this is their home as well. We make them feel very welcome and we see that in the repeat guests. Many of them return, its like friends and family coming back. Of course, Lalomanu has its own beauty, like the sand and the clear blue lagoon and all those things, but service – quality service and the attitude towards the tourists is what makes it special.”

New Zealander Sara Trafford delighted in that family atmosphere. “What really stood out for me was how great everyone was with my son – from the ladies in the office, to the young men waiting tables – everyone helped to look after him and gave him loads of cuddles and hugs. They would often come and whisk him away from me for a walk so I could eat my dinner, go snorkeling or just have an hour by myself, it was wonderful! Even the night watchman would go and sit outside my fale in the evenings after I put Jai to sleep and then run to the restaurant to get me when he woke up for a feed. When I would get up in the night to soothe Jai, the night watchman would shine his torch in to make sure we were both okay.” Tai’s sister-in-law Sina helped in the business. She, had three little ones of her own, the youngest - Etimani Jnr, was the same age as Jai and the two babies would bathe in a plastic tub – one rosy-cheeked peaches and cream, the other sugary cinnamon and raisin cheerfulness.

On 29/09 fourteen members of the Taufua family were killed in the tsunami, including all three of Sina Ale's children.

Sili says of 29/09, “The loss of the children is the most painful thing. The elderly had lived their lives, but the young kids were so helpless, nobody could help them. Our nephews and nieces, even though they had their own parents they call us mum and dad because we look after some of them. They would get up early in the morning and come to our room, mum, mum, hungry, fia ai. The physical association with the kids, every morning, every evening, they would always be asking us for something…they would come looking for us. We’re missing them, because even though we believe in God and we are sure they are in a better place, sometimes there’s a feeling of emptiness, not being able to see them anymore.”

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