Fate lends a hand

Central Leader - - Front Page - By David Tau­ranga

A TWIST of fate may have saved the lives of a Hills­bor­ough man and his wife in the tsunami that has laid waste to Samoa.

New­ly­weds Opel­oge and Mar­got Ah Sam had planned to spend their hon­ey­moon in Mani­noa vil­lage on the south­ern coast of Upolu last week.

But the day be­fore they were to fly out Mr Ah Sam’s fa­ther was sud­denly taken to hospi­tal and the cou­ple post­poned their trip.

Three days later tow­er­ing tsunami waves thrown up by an 8.3 mag­ni­tude earth­quake smashed Upolu’s south­ern coast.

“We were go­ing to stay at the Co­conuts Beach Club Re­sort in Mani­noa,” Mr Ah Sam says.

“We’ve seen pic­tures on TV – the only thing left is the re­sort’s sign out the front. It’s been com­pletely wiped out.

“If it wasn’t for my fa­ther be­ing taken into hospi­tal, well, yeah.”

It’s a very sur­real time for the cou­ple who’re feel­ing a roller­coaster of emo­tions.

“I feel re­ally blessed my wife and I are still here but at the same time I’m hear­ing all th­ese sto­ries of the de­struc­tion and of the lost lives,” Mr Ah Sam says.

The to­tal death toll has risen to around 180 in Samoa, Amer­i­can Samoa and Tonga and is ex­pected to go higher with hun­dreds still miss­ing.

Among the dead are five New Zealan­ders in­clud­ing 84-year-old Otara grand­mother Tauaav­aga Tupuola.

Mr Ah Sam is thank­ful his fam­ily and friends live on the north­ern side of Upolu, un­harmed by the tsunami waves.

He’s also grate­ful that a class of Samoan stu­dents over there from Man­gere Col­lege, where he teaches, aren’t among those miss­ing, in­jured or killed.

Mr Ah Sam, head of the col­lege’s mu­sic depart­ment, says the 15 stu­dents aged 15 to 17 are on a cul­tural trip with seven staff mem­bers.

Col­lege staff were re­ally wor­ried be­cause the stu­dents had been given a cou­ple of days to catch up with their fam­i­lies and some were on the south­ern side of Upolu.

“I’ve heard from them since and they’re all okay,” he says.

“But one of the young la- dies has lost her grand­mother in the tsunami,” he says.

“From what I know most of them are holed up in a ho­tel some­where.

“The kids are quite shaken, scared and want­ing to come home.”

Mr Ah Sam, who’s also mu­sic con­sul­tant to the Samoan po­lice band and na­tional or­ches­tra, is con­sid­er­ing a trip to Samoa to help “wher­ever it is needed”.

Be­fore the tsunami he’d been busy or­gan­is­ing a con­cert at the Aotea Cen­tre in Novem­ber show­cas­ing 13 of his com­po­si­tions.

He now plans to do­nate a big por­tion of the pro­ceeds to the Samoan gov­ern­ment.

The show called State of Mind “pro­vides a mu­si­cal per­spec­tive on the way we love, hurt, live and die”, he says.

“Given ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pened I think the emo­tion of the pieces will have a par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance with peo­ple.

“When the money is put to­gether I will de­liver it per­son­ally to the Samoan gov­ern­ment and make sure the money is go­ing to the peo­ple who need it the most.”

State of Mind stars lyric tenor and Syd­ney Aria Com­pe­ti­tion win­ner Ben Mak­isi, the Masque Vo­cal En­sem­ble of which Mr Ah Sam is mu­sic di­rec­tor, Ex­ist­dance, and the Masque Jazz Quar­tet.

It’s on for one show only, Novem­ber 30, 7.30pm, at the Aotea Cen­tre.

For more about the show go to www.opel­o­geah­sam. com.

For tick­ets, see www.the -edge.co.nz or phone 0800289-842.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Fated: A last-minute fam­ily emer­gency may have saved Man­gere Col­lege teacher Opel­oge Ah Sam and wife Mar­got from Samoa’s tsunami.

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