It is a birthday present she is unlikely to forget in a long while—a return ticket to beautiful Samoa.
For Shemeah Poloai, whose New Zealand-born father has Samoan heritage, the trip to the island between New Zealand and Hawaii is a dream come true for her.
Shemeah, 12, lives in Brisbane, Australia with her parents and younger sister. But it is her love for water that is her greatest joy, which is why she has been spending most of her time on the beach and at waterfalls while in Samoa.
“I love the water so much as we’re also going snorkeling again this afternoon,” she said.
The hospitality of the Return to Paradise Resort has been second to none according to the young lass, hence she has already made new friends.
In a bid to get his daughter to connect with her Samoan roots, 52-year-old Henry decided that celebrating his daughter’s birthday in Samoa would be a memorable experience.
“Living in Australia, she’s not exposed to any of that so when she comes over here, never being to church service in Australia, never having to hear people speak her Samoan language on a constant basis, and also to meet some of her relatives that are here,” he told Samoa Observer.
The homecoming is good for Henry, but it is more of his daughter’s experience in Samoa in this trip that is of interest to him.
“It is so good to always come back and touch base with the culture because I myself think like, there’s not many Samoan people living in where we’re from so yeah.”
Henry visited two years ago with his mother and brother and lived at the Return to Paradise Resort. But this time he is doing it with his family and they choose to stay at the hotel, as his family home could get too crowded.
“We have been to Savai’i to the blowholes and did all the tourist things, and it was lovely and different and so many things to see.”
While Henry has Samoan heritage, he never thought he would come back with his palagi (non-Samoan) wife and children.
“It’s funny how I think about my great grandparents would have never thought that in a hundred years, their great grandkids would be coming here as tourists to the island.”
“Living in New Zealand, I had to understand what the Faasamoa is and it’s all about giving and my wife knows a little. But yes, it’s all about the family being first and we took that and live by it.”
“Regardless of where we are, it’s always at the heart of where we are and we are absolutely coming back and my daughters here love it so much,” he added.