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Interview with Faamati Winey




Faamati Winey was born in Samoa in 1976. At the time of the interview she was the owner of four Snap Fitness franchises. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Early life and family - education - meeting her husband - her Snap Fitness franchises - coming to Minnesota - languages spoken at home and learning English - Samoan traditions and history - the village she grew up in - Samoan foods - life in Minnesota and life in Samoa - Samoans and rugby, and playing in Minnesota - Samoans and gambling - her passion for camping, mountaineering, and scuba diving and playing sports - her goals for the future climbing Mount Everest and starting a new business.





World Region



Asian American & Pacific Islander
Oral History Project
Narrator: Faamati Winey Interviewer: David Zander



Cover design: Kim Jackson Copyright © 2012 by Minnesota Historical Society All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy and recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Oral History Office, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102.

The Asian population of Minnesota has grown dramatically since 1980, and in particular during the period from 1990 to the present. The Asian community is one of the largest and most diverse in the state, and is particularly noteworthy because its growth has been spread across such a wide spectrum of ethnic groups. The Minnesota Historical Society and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans formed a partnership to create a series of projects of oral history interviews with Asian community leaders. The projects are intended to help chronicle the history, successes, challenges, and contributions of this diverse and highly important group of Minnesotans. During the past twenty years the Minnesota Historical Society has successfully worked with many immigrant communities in the state to ensure that the stories of their arrival, settlement, and adjustment to life in Minnesota becomes part of the historical record. While the Society has worked with the Asian Indian, Tibetan, Cambodian and Hmong communities in the recent past, the current project includes interviews with members of the Vietnamese, Filipino, Lao and Korean communities, with more planned for the future. These new projects have created an expanded record that that better represents the Asian community and its importance to the state. The project could not have succeeded without the efforts of a remarkable group of advisors who helped frame the topics for discussion, and the narrators who shared their inspiring stories in each interview. We are deeply grateful for their interest and their commitment to the cause of history.

James E. Fogerty Minnesota Historical Society

Kao Ly Ilean Her Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans


Faamati Winey showing off her Samoa flag.


Faamati and her sisters. From left to right: Uno Aumua Ah Keni, Faimafili Aumua Teve, Arbor Day Aumua Mataafa and Faamati Aumua Winey.


Faamati’s parents, father Tautua Filemoni Aumua, mother Lilia Falanaipupu Amisone Aumua, and their nephew Marti Aumua.



Faamati Winey at the top of Mount Elbert in Colorado.



Faamati and her husband Mark Winey in Samoa for vacation.



Faamati with Snap Fitness Founder and CEO Peter Taunton at a Snap fitness convention.




Faamati Winey Narrator David Zander Interviewer February 28, 2012 Vannelli’s by the Lake Restaurant Forest Lake, Minnesota

Faamati Winey David Zander


DZ: Here we are. Last day of February. February 28th at Vannelli’s in Forest Lake. My name is David, I am the interviewer. And so Faamati please tell me your full name. FW: My name is Faamati Winey. DZ: Thank you. And where and when were you born? FW: I was born in Ulotogia. Aleipata is the district, in Samoa. March 19, 1976. DZ: First, I would like you to think about your first memories. What comes to mind, first memories when you were very small? FW: Well, one of the greatest, fond memories that I still treasure these days is I helped deliver my youngest sister when I was nine years old. It was just my mom and I at the house. My dad, who was a school principal at that time, he was in a teacher’s meeting in the city, so he could not come home because we lived in the village. And I think I’ll always remember that. FW: That very early morning, a full moon. When my mom and I were. . . tried to get to a midwife’s house for her to come and help my mom. And by the time we walked back, we walked over a mile or so. By the time we went back home, my mom was ready to give birth. So I helped just in time when the midwife arrived. DZ: So the midwife came and then the baby was born, or did it so happen just before she came? FW: Yes. She came in later at the right time. When, she was not come out completely, which I think I would be more scared, too, if the midwife was not there because I wouldn’t know what to do. DZ: How many brothers and sisters do you have? Are you the oldest? 20

FW: I am the oldest, and I have three sisters and one brother. My brother lives in Australia. . . currently lives in Australia right now. He was raised by my step-grandmother. DZ: Your three sisters. Where do they live? FW: My brother is the second to oldest. My third sister, she lives in American Samoa with her husband. And they have four kids. Three boys, one girl. And they currently have a small business there, too. . . She works at the energy plant; it’s like the energy plant in American Samoa. And her husband is a mechanic and has a shop, a little shop. And my other sister, she is a pastor’s wife. There in a seminary school with her husband. And they have one daughter. And my youngest sister is living in Samoa, too. With her husband and she has three children. DZ: And your parents are still alive? FW: My parents are still alive. My mom just celebrated her sixtieth birthday last Sunday. Well, no, two Sundays ago. And they’re both retired right now. My dad was the principal for many, many years. Even before I was born. And then my mom was also a teacher. DZ: So do they still live in the village where you grew up? FW: Yes. For a while, then we went to live in town. For us, the kids, to go to a better school. But now they moved back to the village. My dad is the current mayor of the village. And also he’s involved in a lot of school projects like the PTA, the chair, the president of the PTA group. So he’s taking over a lot of the projects ever since he retired. DZ: What was the school system like for you in the islands? And where did you go to school? FW: Let’s see, we have primary school, which is where my dad and then my mom currently live now. It’s where my dad was the principal and my mom was a teacher at the same school. Didn’t have any choice. [Chuckles] FW: So I went there for a few years. Then we went to a school in town, which was one of the best schools. . . A public school in town. FW: So I was first at Apia Primary and then went to Leififi Intermediate. And then from there on I went to Samoa College, which is considered probably the best public college. . . They have a great school system there. DZ: The first school you were at is where your parents taught. FW: My parents were both teachers. [Chuckles] DZ: How many kids were in their school? FW: I would say probably two hundred. It was smaller. 21

DZ: Small, but a fair-sized elementary. FW: Yes. Well, it seems two hundred. . . [Chuckles] Maybe even smaller, too. At least a hundred for sure. DZ: I understand how important it is to go to a good school. Did you have to take exams to get to these top schools, like when you were eleven or twelve? FW: From our reports from the previous school that we went to. . . They would place you in a class accordingly to your grades. . . from your previous school reports. FW: So I was very fortunate to always end up being among the best students, one of the best classes. DZ: Would you say the school system was similar to British or Australian or American schools? What kind of influences were on the school? FW: Well, now that I am back as a student again (here in Minnesota) I would say the school system in Samoa is pretty. . . apathetic. It’s up to the student to see if you want to excel or not. FW: The way they do their classes depends on how you do the school. I’m not sure how the London school system works, but for Australia, New Zealand, since those were the scholarship opportunities after high school. . . Most of our. . . the students have opportunities to go study further in Australia or New Zealand. FW: So I assume they were more similar to Australia, New Zealand. But you are placed in your class based on your academics. You can do very well or you can choose not to do too well. DZ: Where did you graduate from? FW: I graduated from Samoa College. DZ: Was it an all-girls’ school, or it was it co-ed? FW: It was a co-ed. It was a co-ed school. And Samoa College is one of the schools where you have to do really well before in school to make it to Samoa College. FW: So even today, if you make it to Samoa College, then you are very good. DZ: So what happened after high school? What did you do then? FW: After high school because I had too much fun in my teenage days. . . [Chuckles] I messed up my opportunities to go for further studies overseas. In Australia and New Zealand. So I was 22

able just to enroll into the University of South Pacific. In Alafua. And my goal was. . . I’ve always wanted to own a business. DZ: And now you do. You own four Snap Fitness franchises! FW: I went to college to kind of start with the business management and focus in from there. I did that for one year, and then I think that’s about when I started to date. . . I met Mark and I started to move here. I had plans to move here. DZ: So you met your husband. Let’s reflect about your deep interest in having a business. . . Was there anybody in your relatives that owned a business or how do you think you got this interest? FW: I guess since I was young. As a child I grew up in a village, then going into town and going into the city to look at all those big shops. It was like a dream to have a store. So I’ve always had this interest. I would tell my dad. I’ve always wanted to have a shop. What I always wanted to have was like what I saw there in the city. And back then, too, I told my dad, I said, “I just want to be a shopkeeper!” [Chuckles] FW: So I guess the shops and the life. . . you know, it was the beginning. An interest . . . So then it’s like I wanted to do something like that. FW: Some of the family members have stores and businesses. But not my parents/.They were always into teaching. My parents, they were both teachers. Their whole life. DZ: Let’s continue with how you met your husband. What is his name? FW: Mark. DZ: Mark was a researcher. How did you meet? FW: [Chuckles] Ooh, that’s another story! It will need a whole other interview! Our friends are always, always wanting to hear our story. Mark would drive by our house. And this is the house where my great-grandfather is, in Samoa, most of us would like to move to American Samoa, I guess. I did too, . Once I messed up my opportunity to go overseas to study, I thought, okay, I’m going to go to American Samoa and look for a better job. So I ended up staying with my grandfather’s family. And so Mark would drive by our house. Because in American Samoa there is only one road. FW: You take that same road; you go back the same road. It’s only one road throughout the whole island. [Chuckles] So Mark would take that road, pass by my house twice a day. And he said towards the very last month of his eight-year contract, because you have a contract for four years. And then you can only renew for another four years. So he was on his last month of his eight-year contract. Driving to work with a friend of his. It was another Samoan friend, very good friends. And they were talking about. . . it was a Friday. . . And they were talking about 23

going out clubbing that night. So they were talking and Mark said, “Well, we should have some friends to go over.” And I was in front of our house raking leaves in the morning. You know, in Samoa there’s these huge leaves. And you know, leaves drops everywhere. [Laughs] So I was raking leaves that morning. And then they pulled aside and Sue was the name of Mark’s friend. And he said, “Hey, how about her? We can ask her if she wants to go with us.” DZ: [Laughs] Did the Samoan girl know you? FW: No, I never met her before. So they just pulled in the yard. And it just kind of started from there. Well, at the time, one of my relatives was the mayor; their house is right next to our house, with the mayor. So they pulled over and I said, “Are you guys looking for the mayor’s house?” Because everybody was always looking for the mayor’s house. “Are you guys looking for the mayor’s house?” And Sue, the Samoan woman, says “No, my friend here likes you! He wants to ask you something. . . I guess at that time they drove past our house, they stopped at the store in the next village. And they said, “No, we’re going to go back.” So they went to the store, bought a drink and chips. They drove by to our house, and then that’s when they handed me a drink and the chips. “Here, you look so hot, maybe you need this.” [Laughs] And I just said something like, “Oh, thank you. (Laughs) So then they started the conversation and he said “Can we go out?” I said “No,” “Can we come back for lunch together?” And I was just having all these questions for Mark. FW: He said, “How old are you?” I guess it’s just normal for a Samoan to ask what our age is . [Laughs] “Well, how old are you?” And at that time he was like thirty-something.” “Are you married?” “No.” “Have a girlfriend?” “No.” “Why not?” [Laughs] So that was just sort of. How we met... [Laughs] FW: At that time my grandfather’s brother was still alive. He was considered the elder of the family there. So they said, “Well we’ll call you and see if we can pick you up for lunch.” And so they called and my grandfather. . . my grand-uncle was at the house and I said, “Well, if they call for me, just tell them I’m not here.” And he did! [Laughs] So after that night they stopped by again. At this time I was living with my aunt and uncle. I considered them my guardians, and I called them my parents. So they stopped by again and my aunt said, “Who are those people?” I said, “Oh, just some couple. . . ” [Laughs] So then later on I told my aunt the truth “Oh, that guy, he likes me. He wants to talk to me.” [Chuckles] DZ: So he only had a month left on his contract. So was this a quick romance or did he stay on for a bit? FW: Well he stayed. He did not come back to the US right away. In fact, he did not want to come back here. He really got used to the life in Samoa, DZ: Was he from Minnesota? FW: He was born in Des Moines, Iowa. But he grew up here. He moved here. His parents moved here when he was one. 24

FW: So we stayed in Samoa. We moved back to Western Samoa. We stayed there, rented a house. Stayed there for another. Let’s see (two years)... He came back in 1999. DZ: So when did you come to live in Minnesota? FW: I came in 2000, October of 2000. DZ: And you had met Mark in 1997. So you were about twenty-one? FW: Yes. I’d just had my twenty-first birthday. DZ: So you’ve been here about eleven years. I’m really interested to know how you’ve managed to start in Snap Fitness. How and when did you start the Snap Fitness franchise business? When did you start as an owner? FW: We started working with a business broker I’d say two years before we bought the Snap Fitness. Since I’ve always had that dream, I wanted to own my business. So that was the goal. I had my first job here. I mean, at the same time we were still looking for something that would suit me and my personality of what I would like to do. So our business broker introduced us to Snap Fitness. We were a full franchisee that we signed with Snap Fitness then. DZ: How many years ago was this? FW: This started in March 2004. And then we opened our first location, which is Lino Lakes, in September 2004. DZ: I wouldn’t have a clue how to run a business... Was it challenging? Have you had a lot of challenges? FW: It was. Every day there is always a challenge, and every day is always exciting. It’s an adventure. I always try to learn something new every day. Because there’s always new challenges. . . Something that’ll be different every day to deal with. . . Now that we have five locations, we’re kind of familiar with a lot of situations what we might face in running the business. What helped me a lot was I’ve always liked to meet new people. And I’m not afraid of taking on new prospects, new adventures. And, I don’t know, I’ve always wanted to come here. And it’s a land of opportunity. That’s what I love about here. I can do something with my life. DZ: Did you have to develop a lot of capital to be able to get your first franchise? FW: Fortunately, my husband had equity - his dad started a loudspeaker manufacturing business. And so when he called my husband to come back here and run the family business, that’s why my husband ended up back here. So, fortunately, we have some capitals from then. And so we were always able to start our business with extra monies that we have. And so we never had to worry about doing a loan and stuff. 25

DZ: What did you do the first four years? You came here in 2000 and Snap Fitness was starting in 2004. FW: I got a job a few months after I got here, just before we left to Hawaii on our wedding, we got married on February 25, 2001.So before we left for our wedding we got a call. I got one of those marketing calls that they call you, because I was not working at that time. And she said, “Oh, you have won, you know, the five hundred dollar coupon book. Can we come and show you our products?” So I was really excited. Oh, we won a five hundred dollars coupon book, you know, at the grocery store! Five hundred dollars. So Mark came home that night and I said, “Oh, that’s schedule somebody to come over, we won five hundred dollars at the grocery store. Five hundred. . . ” And he asked what the deal was. “I don’t know, they told me they’ll come and show a product, at that time it was the Rainbow cleaning system. FW: It’s like a vacuum but what you use is water. So we got home, the lady came out that night. And my husband said, “We are not going to buy anything.” We’re at the end of the demo. We wanted to buy it. So we bought a Rainbow. And we still have it. And we bought two more after for our gyms. And so then she said, “Well, there is opportunity that if you sell three Rainbows then you get your Rainbow for free.” Because it’s two thousand dollars for a Rainbow. FW: So you buy it and you have a chance, an opportunity to get your money back. I can do this. And here I have never drove here. So that was another challenge! So I bought myself a map book. Got my driver’s license. And at that time I told work I can’t start until I get my papers submitted for the green card stuff. So after we got married, that’s how I got interested in selling. I said, “Oh, I can do this. I can sell this.” I really like the products. And it’s done great. And it looks great. So I said, “I’ll go do that. I want to get my money back,” And then I did that for over three years. So and I did that for over three years. I loved it. I was doing direct sales and I’d get to drive around a lot. [Chuckles] Because you’re going to in-home presentations. And I think I was happy that I got that first job here. Because it helped me with my confidence. And then also especially with the driving, because I didn’t know how to navigate. . . where I was going, but I was able to read the map book. And go. And I have no fear of going to people’s houses. And then talking to them. I enjoyed it. Since I enjoy meeting new people. . . And I didn’t care how far it was, I guess FW: I found out I was driving over an hour some places, too. Around the metro area. DZ: Let me ask you a basic question. In your home with your parents was English the language that you spoke? FW: Samoan is the language to speak in families. In school when I went to school in town and that’s where everything is done in English except for the Samoan class. FW: So we were bilingual DZ: And so in your family with your mother, father, you would speak Samoan? 26

FW: Speak Samoan, little English, Only if we have some English speaking guests. DZ: So you didn’t learn English until you went to elementary school? FW: Yes, in the school, down in the village school. . . FW: For English, most of the English speaking with my classmates happened when I went . . . In the city school. DZ: Samoan. There’s just one language, Samoan? Any dialects? FW: No. There’s no dialects. . . DZ: And people all over the islands can understand each other then? FW: Everybody. . . yes, it’s the same for. Everybody. . . Everybody understands. . . DZ: Now I don’t know much about the culture in the islands. FW: Yes. DZ: I understand people are very religious and that Easter is a big festival. FW: Yes. Easter is big. I see that in the statistics it says ninety-nine percent of the Samoans are Christian. That includes the Catholics, Methodists. . . other Christian groups. So Sunday is a very sacred day for Samoans. Most business is closed on Sunday. And they have services, they go to church. Observe Sundays as a holy day. Some of the villages. . . Samoa is known for tourist attraction places. . . Some of the cities will close. They’re not allowed to go swimming. Like where in the village I grew up, you’re not allowed to go swimming on Sunday in the ocean. . . So Sundays are very sacred. . . but it’s also like a feast day for families. [Chuckles] You have the best for Sunday. And feast and just go to church and relax. DZ: Is cooking done inside the home or is it done outside? I’ve been with Filipinos who have baked a fish slowly in banana leaves, buried, and covered over by sand in a fire pit. . . FW: Yes. They buried it in leaves too. Traditional, yes, we have a separate hut or fale we call it for preparing food. We call it an umu where you put the rocks and then you cover it with banana leaves. So we had that, and then most of the cooking is still done on an open fire, still the traditional way. And nowadays more families are moving into, you know, kitchens. But still, most of the time, it’s still done on an open fire. DZ: Are there things from the old, old traditional Samoan culture that you learned or any beliefs? 27

FW: Well, there. . . [Chuckles] There’s always a story that we’d always hear that the first king of Samoa was a cannibal. And they always said each family will take a turn for who is going to go as the feast for the king. So they will weave up that person in the coconut palm leaves. One day the king’s son said to weave him as the meal. So of course when the king saw that was his son that he was about to have for feast then he stopped. . . eating. People [Chuckles] DZ: Are there stories of how people got to the islands? FW: There were stories . . . that tell of the origins. There were even some stories that the Samoans actually settled the Hawaiian Islands. But it was a long story that some of them were first discovered by some of the French Polynesians. DZ: I took a course in anthropology. And they look at island population of birds, animals, plants, and use these as clues to trace. Migration routes. As you go east the next island might have fewer and fewer species, and the theory is there were waves and waves of migrations. But it’s fascinating, such vast areas. FW: They say first settlement was. . . one of the first settlers that settled in Samoa were. . . that we studied in school back in the days. [Chuckles] Maybe I can get you some of that. And then when their first missionaries discovered Samoa when they landed that was 1886. DZ: So how long do you think Samoans have been in the islands? FW: thousands of years. But some records say it started earlier. But some of the older generations still believes in some of the spirit, Ghost stuff that. . . Like one of the books that’s currently out right now by Lani Wendt [Young] it’s called the Telesa [Telesa – the Covenant Keeper] a goddess . . . Even some people still nowadays believe in the spirits. . . like if you do certain things, the spirits will harm you, so you can’t do certain things. Or you get harmed. That this goddess. . . So even though we’re known as a Christian country, there’s still some part of stories, some of the myths, legends that still resides in people’s hearts; that they will never go away, it will just get passed down through the generations. Generations to generations. . . DZ: I read a book about a district commissioner talking about how he would just break all the taboos unintentionally. . . He wouldn’t understand that when you were walking down the street, you had to greet everybody and ask permission from the ancestor spirits to pass and things like that. FW: In Samoa in some villages they still have customs kind of like that, too. Like, oh, you’ve got to wait, ask for permission for somebody who’s already passed away. Otherwise, if you just go on, you’ll end up dying and offending spirits. And so we have some of those legends there. FW: One of the stories I heard, was that back in the village where I am from, as far as I have heard, this was the only village that survived the influenza epidemic that happened in the 1930s, I think that was when that happened. And I guess it was one of the good things then. [Chuckles] 28

In other villages, the epidemic wiped out a lot of people. And my dad, my dad’s village where I grew up, I was born in Ulutogia, but I grew up in my dad’s village of Tiavea. It’s still in the same. . . in the Aleipata District. It’s kind of higher up in the mountains. And you can see the view of American Samoa on a clear day. So there was a lot of cultures and traditional stories in our village, too. [Chuckles] DZ: What about foods? Did people grow taro? What foods were there around your village? FW: Our main starch is taro. We have bananas, breadfruit. And people grow that. . . they have plantations. Still the same. . . and the main source of [unclear], and still also somewhat of the main revenue channel for some families, that they will have plantations and they will sell it at the market. FW: But taro is still the main. . . main starch for us. FW: We rely a lot on the ocean for food. Not so much these days. I guess we have. . . you know, now it’s easier in the grocery stores. You know, we’re kind of moving away from that, you know, from traditional food. But it’s very healthy. Even now, people will go into the fish market. We’ll just still go to the fish market to buy fish. DZ: Did people fish together? Did they share nets or was it solo fishermen? FW: That’s pretty much now it’s going solo. It used to be when I grew up in Ulotogia, it used to be a village event. A boy or a chief or mostly non-chief title holder. And one from each family will go to the island. . . on the next island to fish and whatever they’d gather, coconuts. . . FW: So it’s like a village event. You can go alone. . . but usually you go with somebody. DZ: Are there things that you miss from your early life as well? FW: I miss my family. I miss hugging my family every day. I talk to them probably four times a week. [Chuckles] I miss the food. The weather. Even though the weather it’s the same all the time, but I am enjoying the different weather seasons here now in Minnesota. FW: But I would say most I miss my family and the food. DZ: What foods do you miss? FW: I miss the taro palusami, taro and palusami: palusami is the very young leaf from the taro leaves. And then you cook it with the coconut cream. You cook it in the pot or in the umu style, like the Hawaii style. And that is, you know something that you cannot find here. [Chuckles] Taro, maybe, but not palusami, we miss having that. And the fresh from the sea food. And the fresh seafood from the ocean, where here it takes a while for something to get here, it takes two days for some fresh stuff to get here. We were so used to the boys in the immediate family or the extended family – they would just go down fishing and you have your fish for that same dinner, 29

that same day. Or when you go down to the street and buy fish that was caught on the same day. [Laughs] So those are some of the things we miss. DZ: Did you have lobster? FW: Yes, we have lobster. Yes. Lobster was always something special, not so often, and we don’t catch it so often. So lobster, we’ll usually we serve it for the elders. In this case, it would be my parents. [Chuckles] FW: It would be lucky if you would get a piece. [Chuckles] Fish, you might get every time, but not lobster. DZ: What do you like about life here that wasn’t in Samoa? FW: What I’m thankful for here is the opportunity. Doing several things that I would not have the access in the islands to do. There are so many job opportunities. I have my own business. But there’s so many avenues, so many choices for jobs here. In the islands, you know, we get very limited resources. And I love to travel. FW: So here it’s just so easy to just go into another state and another state. [Chuckles] I guess it was one of the things that I would look forward to; leaving the island for a better future. Because there’s so much here that you can’t do on the island. When you go overseas, and just hoping for a future (so) that you can help your family back home, and also hopefully bring some resources back there, too. FW: So it’s a great, great land of opportunities here. And I always see it. . . It’s only up to people if they don’t want to work too hard. And I would say everybody that has green cards and the opportunity to work here, I think it’s only choice if they don’t want to work why they are not working, why they don’t have a job. DZ: For the people reading these interviews, they might be college students, high school students. What do you want them to know about Samoa? FW: Well, Samoa is a very, very friendly country. I am very fortunate that I grew up on a peaceful island, beautiful island. We are called the jewel of the Pacific. And it’s a very safe country; if you are thinking about traveling, a very safe country. A very good place to visit, and very inexpensive, too. But we’re now trying to develop more higher education as you graduate, we now have graduate schools there, but school is not high level. . . that’s why a lot of the students go overseas for school. And they never go back to the island to give back to their country. But if you’re looking for a place to go and travel, Samoa, it’s the best. . . I would say that compared to Hawaii, Samoa offers the same stuff, except we don’t have a lot of the five stars hotels. It’s not as crowded. It’s very laid back, and very, very safe. You wouldn’t need any. . . guards to go with you. [Chuckles]


FW: Samoa is a very friendly island. And most of the people already speak English, too, so you wouldn’t have the need to learn the Samoan language. But I would encourage everyone to hopefully learn Samoan, especially a few words to greet people, talofa [hello] and tofa (goodbye). I think Samoa is going to be the next place of destination for tourists. [Chuckles] DZ: How long does it take to get there? How long a flight? FW: Well, from here to L.A. is four hours by plane. And then from L.A. a direct flight to Apia, Faleolo [the International Airport] is ten and a half hours. Eleven. DZ: I read that the International Date Line comes through the middle of Samoa and American Samoa. . . [Chuckles] So one part of Samoa is a day later than another part? FW: Yes! American Samoa. Last year in December that’s when they made the switch. Samoa went from December 29th to December 31st. We skipped the 30th. [Samoa shifted to west of the Date Line by skipping December 30, 2011.] And yes, it made the news, the national news. And [chuckles] as far as what I’ve read, the prime minister said the reason why we changed is based on business. We do a lot of business with New Zealand and Australia. So we want to be in the same time zone with them. FW: Because before the change, when it was Monday in New Zealand, it was Sunday in Samoa. So we couldn’t do business. And then if it was Friday for Samoa it was already Saturday in New Zealand. Stuff closed. So that’s where they wanted to make that move to be in the same time zone with New Zealand and Australia. FW: So at the same time, American Samoa is still a day behind. [Laughs] DZ: I read that and I thought there must be a lot of complications, to have one part a day behind.

FW: There was a Samoan here. . . or half-Samoan. She used to be a mayor of Burnsville. [Elizabeth] Kautz. And I don’t think she’s the mayor anymore. She was the mayor. Amata Coleman. . . DZ: How did you find other Samoans here? How do you find each other? For example how did you meet Salo? (Previous chair of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans and a lawyer) FW: I met Salo when the Republican Convention had their convention here. And I was contacted by Amata Coleman who was running for the Congress. And they were looking up the Samoan voters on the Internet for the South Pacific. FW: So they called Salo and I already had known Amata and her husband before that. I got Salo’s number. We exchanged information. And that’s when we planned that we were going to host the Samoan, bring Samoan group. . . He had met some other Samoans before. 31

FW: I met a Samoan couple at the Great Moon Buffet in Maplewood. [Chuckles] You know, we say if there is a buffet, you will see the Polynesians there. You’ll see Samoans there. (Chuckles) So Mark and I went to have lunch at the Great Moon Buffet, and there was another couple. It was like. . . oh, they look Samoan. And they have Samoan tee shirts on with the Samoan logo. So that’s how we got introduced. And then, all of a sudden, you know, you get invited to their party. And then you meet other Samoans. So now it’s just like one big family. [Chuckles] DZ: How many Samoans do you think are here? FW: Well, based on the statistics, maybe we’ve gotten more now, but based on that statistic, it’s about five hundred total Samoans. In the whole of Minnesota, throughout the whole state. And I’m not sure if it’s more or less than that. DZ: So is there any formal cultural association? Do you go to the Festival of Nations as a group or anything? FW: We have not.. We wanted to try the Festival of Nations. We didn’t do it. I called the Festival of Nations, the contact, to see what we can do. If we can do a dance or something to participate for our group. I never heard back from them. [Chuckles] DZ: I have a contact there now, a woman named Linda. I called her to see if she had any Pacific Islander organizations or performers in her database. Does she have Fiji or Guam? Sometimes they’ve been very hard for a new group to get into. Have a booth. But to be on the performance stage. Seems very competitive. But keep trying. FW: A booth, I’m not sure if we’re going to make some traditional crafts or some. And I don’t know if any designs. . . DZ: There’s a vendor section and then there’s a cultural section. A couple of years ago the theme was storytelling. So every group had a display of stories. I spoke with this wonderful Chinese man from Taiwan, he’s probably a professor of chemistry! But he was telling me the legends of how Taiwan was formed. FW: Right. We went to that one.

DZ: Tell me about Samoan dances, performing. Do you know of a group that get together to dance? FW: Yes. We can easily do that. We do that once in a while over here. We do it for our fundraising to help our local rugby boys. That’s coached by our Samoan friend. So we do fundraising. I am involved in that and we do some performances. Raise some funds for the boys. DZ: So you know the dances yourself and you danced them when you were a young girl? 32

FW: Yes, I participated in schools and villages. In Samoa we have festivals, a yearly festival. So each village can participate or a school can participate. This year, in June, we’ll be celebrating. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of Samoa since they became independent. In 1962, they became independent from the New Zealand government. We have. . . we have. . . DZ: Wow, that’s going to be big. So was that like villages competing? FW: Yes, you can enter. In certain categories. Like you could do a traditional dance. There are some categories; they even have a traditional boat race, like outrigger race. And you know, I think this year there is going to have a marching band girl’s competition. [Chuckles] There might be even be a bands competition. So they try and put on several activities so that, you know, most people can participate. And then there will be a pageant for the Miss Samoa, and then whoever wins will go on to the Miss South Pacific. So a lot of very interesting things that we have. . . DZ: We were talking earlier about rugby and the national team. You just mentioned a local rugby team, are Samoans playing rugby here in Minnesota? FW: There are a few, there’s not a lot of Samoans here, especially there’s not enough Samoan boys that play rugby here. So far now the team, the local team, we have two, two Samoan boys. On a Minnesota team that’s coached by our Samoan friend. Sam is the coach. DZ: I knew a woman here called Sam Sousa who was working on policy about casinos in Samoa. And I suggested if you have a casino, protect the local population from going every day. Restrict the casino gambling to tourists only. FW: They passed a casino in Samoa. And they passed a law that only the tourists will go into the casino. And you have to have your passport to get in. DZ: I might have influenced that. [Chuckles] From what I know about casino addiction, that is good. If you have to travel to Las Vegas, then you’re only gambling once a month, but if you can go every night, or every weekend. . . It’s addictive. FW: There was a lot of Samoans did not support the idea of the casino. Because if you look at Samoa as a third world country. . . we don’t have a lot of money, and families don’t have a lot of money, most of the families still rely on money sent from relatives overseas, too. So they are afraid that families would blow their money in the casinos. And not, you know, provide food or use it wisely. So it was an issue. But then they said if it draws tourists, they spend some money, create jobs. They will spend more money in the islands. So I guess there’s always a positive and a negative. In about everything. DZ: Yes. FW: Just like the change that we had, the change to drive on the left side [from] the right side. 33

DZ: Did you? [Chuckles] When did that happen? FW: That happened in 2009, I think. After the tsunami. And so after that. . . a little bit after we changed the driving side and then we changed the Date Line. [Chuckles] DZ: So you were driving on the same side as the US? FW: We used to drive on the right, the same side as here. And we changed to become compatible with New Zealand. DZ: Is that traumatic? One morning you wake up and you drive your car on the other side of the road. [Chuckles] FW: Yes. And they switched a lot of stuff. So I think people are still getting used to it now. But I suppose people were so afraid. Back then, when they made the change. DZ: Well, let’s close by telling me about your recent visit to Las Vegas and how this was a big rugby event. So I’ll ask you the question. Why did you go to Las Vegas? FW: Well, every year the Rugby Sevens. . . USA Sevens. . . for the last three years it’s been held in Vegas. Before that it was held in San Diego. So every year it’s a trip for me to meet friends and families from all over the States and also from Alaska, too. So we go each year. . . and support our international team, our main Samoa team from Samoa. And we have a chance to meet them and hang out with them, too. And so it was a big trip for me. So we go and. . . Hopefully like with this year, they won this year. They won the final against the New Zealand. So that was a bonus. [Chuckles] But it’s such an exciting time. DZ: Do you sometimes run into people that you didn’t know were here? FW: Yes, you run into people. All the same people. . . and in the United States, our players, the international players among the Samoa players, they said the USA fans are the best fans wherever they travel. They go to Dubai, New Zealand, Australia. Wherever they travel, those USA fans are the best. We bring out the full Samoan support. The flags and then everybody comes together. FW: And, you know, as soon as you see their blue Samoan shirt or flag, you just automatically feel like you’re all family. So the boys always feel like they’re playing at home. DZ: The energy must be incredible. [Chuckles] FW: And, you know, now that they have won twice in Vegas. They didn’t win last year, but 2010 and this year. And that’s what they always said. . . It’s the fans they boost up the energy. And like I said, rugby is a national sport when we grew up. . . we got rugby fever. [Chuckles]


DZ: When I think of Tonga chants, and Maori war songs. Do Samoans have strong chants at the rugby ventures? FW: Yes. We even our own haka too to perform. DZ: What is haka? FW: Well, it’s the warrior dance. We call it a warrior dance. We have that, too. The boys perform it after then receiving their cup. And so it was fun when you have the haka, too. And the Samoans, they don’t do that before the game. FW: But in the fifteen, they will get to perform that, the warrior dance. Before the game. DZ: I saw an anthropology film that showed what happened when cricket had been introduced into the Trobriand Islands. . . The whole cricket match had changed. [Chuckles] Teams were parading around and chanting, and it took all that old war-like energy and channeled it and the game helped people live peacefully. [Chuckles] FW: Yes, you’ve got to have events to bring the villages together. And the youth together. It’s a great release. . . that’s why, I guess, the Samoans, Polynesians are always great sports. Because that’s all we do. There is nothing. . . There’s no casinos, there’s no malls, there’s no. . . You know. . . People don’t have money to go shopping. So this is a way then to keep us occupied. You know, after school you go play rugby or go play netball. The girls play netball. Netball, volleyball. I, unfortunately, never picked up any of those talents. [Chuckles] I just played a little bit of sports at school. But speaking of education I’m now a student again. I have gone back to Minnesota School of Business. To finish my bachelor of business management. And now I’m marketing emphasis, too. And I enjoyed it. I made it to the final, one of the final.... DZ: Tell me if there are other things you like to do, like mountain climbing? FW: well, my husband and I, we like adventures. And I like mountaineering. But I’m not a rock climber. My husband is rock climber. Where you get the rope. . . I just tell him I’ll just meet you later. I’ll take the long route; he’ll take the short route. [Chuckles] And I love snowboarding. It always was one of my main goals. . . one of my main goals if I’m going to live in Minnesota, I am going to have to enjoy every season. And I have to take up a winter sport to make it through the winter. So I took. . . I went skiing and I took snowboarding. Now I love snowboarding and I took some ice skating, too. I like ice skating. So every season, I don’t get homesick. Keeps me busy. So I always had a sport for every season. And we love to go canoeing. In the fall. We can go down the Rum River. It depends, if you want to work so hard or not so much. [Laughs] FW: And we love camping. Oh, any outdoors activities. We do that. And as far as the ocean. . . it’s very bizarre. Growing up, being born and raised in the islands, I never know how to swim. FW: [Chuckles] I always have a fear I guess of sharks. And then every time the water comes up to my neck I am panicked and then I go to the shallow part. So I never learned how to swim back 35

in the islands. I took swimming lessons when I arrived here in 2000. [Laughs] And as odd as it sounds I got certified. . . as a scuba diver. And I still am not a very good swimmer. So I scuba dive. So I feel comfortable. . . and for some reason my. . . it was always a fear it will be under the feet. But then as for me, it’s going in scuba diving, since I’m down there. . . So I overcame that fear of getting into the water. It was like, well, I’m going be down here; there are some little cute fishes. I’m going to see you. But what would be under my feet. [Chuckles] DZ: How deep have you been? FW: Not more than thirty. DZ: First reef or so. It’s incredible, isn’t it? FW: Yes. It’s so calm and peaceful down there. It’s incredible. I mean, you. . . it can be so wavy up on the surface and once you get down. . . It was smooth. But I overcame that fear of the ocean by taking the scuba diving. FW: And I then also have a fear of heights. So that’s why I cannot do rock climbing. DZ: Yes. FW: My husband, he has a year-leave climbing trip to climb El Cap at Yosemite. So they will spend the night on the rock climb. DZ: Oh. Oh, no. I can visualize that. FW: But I had to overcome my fear of heights. So I took up some flying lessons. Pilot flying lessons. [Chuckles] So, hopefully someday. . . some private. Small aircraft. I will get a private license. I have not got my pilot license yet. But hopefully in the future. Right now I’m going to school. It’s too expensive to do both . . . I don’t want to spend the money to go get my private license yet. But I think that will be a goal someday to overcome that fear of heights. FW: And I was thinking up there when I was flying . . . [Chuckles] I thought okay, you’re in control now.

FW: So I have always come to enjoy and try new sports, new adventures, new events. I guess that’s why I was not afraid to go into a new business. I don’t know where I have that. . . courage. But I said, “Okay, I’m going to do it!” [Chuckles] I’m going to hopefully make something out. . . you know, from the island girl coming in America to live the dream and. . . Hopefully accomplish that goal that I have always wanted to have my own business. And that’s where the Snap Fitness came in. We purchased one which I now run and own five locations of Snap Fitness. And I could get more. . . like I could easily buy some more locations, but I think I have a good balance right now. I’m going to school. I am enjoying school right now. I guess I 36

was not paying attention when I was a teenager. Now I am really paying attention. Because I am really. . . I am paying for it! [Chuckles] FW: So and I’m enjoying school and you know, families, and I also like to travel, so. . . Getting some travel times. I have just got to find my balance. . . FW: And between five locations, I have great managers working for my locations, so I go out and visit them, the gyms, and I still do the big work. But I am very thankful for my managers in each of my locations. DZ: A closing question: is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to put in your story? Is there anything important that I hadn’t touched upon that should be in your story? FW: Well, I think far in the future, I have always had a dream of someday climbing Mount Everest. We have looked into the cost. I’m looking into the cost of that. And it’s very expensive. And I think it costs almost the same as to open up another new Snap. [Laughs] And it will be a very big time commitment, too, because then you have to have like a year, at least a year to train. But hopefully I still have and the strength and time and funds. And hopefully in the future I will get to do that. FW: I would like to get into another kind of business, too. Since I’m always enjoying meeting new people, traveling. . . it could be. . . bed and breakfasts, hotels. Something like that, that will coincide with my personal interests. I think that would be great. [Chuckles] DZ: Shall we close there? FW: Yes, [Chuckles] That was good. Oh, David, there is one other thing. When I next go to Samoa I will get a tattoo. My father is a chief and he has decided that I can carry the tribal tattoo. This traditionally went from the father to the son. But I am seen in our family as a leader. So I will get to inherit the family tattoo. DZ: That reminds me of the story of the girl in the film from New Zealand, about the girl whale rider and how the writer of the story only had a daughter to pass the traditions down to. That is a wonderful story to close with. Thank you. FW: You’re welcome.