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Megan and Pita Alatini: ‘We had to come home’

Why the Alatinis are finally back together again.

Living in Japan for eight years in a shoebox-sized apartment means the Alatini family is used to having next to no space. It’s been three months since they moved back to New Zealand, but it’s clear they’ve still got a bit of adjusting to do – when the Weekly sat down to interview the gorgeous family they were squeezed together on the couch, resembling a can of sardines.

“Yeah, we do that!” laughs Megan, running a hand over her shorn blonde head that she recently shaved for the Child Cancer Foundation. “The first month back especially, you’d see all of us sitting in one corner of this big house. It’s like, ‘Hey guys, we have all this space now!’”

All that space has left room for the close-knit family to be reunited. Eldest daughter Tonica (17) had been at an Auckland boarding school while Megan, her husband Pita and Tiara (9) and Trey (7) were living in Japan, a situation Megan says became unbearable. “She was the major reason why we wanted to come back,” says Megan (35). 

“We’re all ecstatic to be home and I think going through traumatic experiences like the tsunami makes your emotions for each other that much deeper. After that, I wanted to be back with all of my family together.”

Tonica says it was becoming hard to be apart from her family, especially her mum. “Skype just wasn’t enough any more. I needed Mum here, for things like my school ball and my birthday. And I got my shopping partner back,” she says, grinning at Megan.

“It was Tonica’s decision to go to boarding school here after a few years in Japan,” adds Megan. “She wanted to learn in English at a New Zealand school, so we accepted that.  But I was secretly so glad when she decided, ‘Well no, I need you more!’”

Former All Black Pita (36) had to give up his lucrative rugby career in Japan in order to come back to New Zealand, but he says, in the end, it was a simple decision. “It’s family first,” he says firmly. “In terms of my career, I know it’s coming to an end anyway. It was a challenge coming back and figuring out what to do next, but I’ve got some good people around me. Bringing the kids back and seeing Tonica – it’s what was best for the family.”

However, Pita will still travel back to Japan to coach his old rugby team from time to time. Now living in south Auckland, all the kids are settling in to their new schools, including Tonica, who decided to switch schools to be closer to her family. But it’s been the hardest for Tiara and Trey, whose first language is Japanese.

“It’s weird, seeing these Kiwi kids going in to learn how to speak English! Trey was born in Japan and Tiara was one when we first moved over so Japanese is pretty much all they’ve known,” explains Megan. “English is a second language to them now,” she continues, as all three of her kids chat away in rapid-fire Japanese.

The family has thrown itself back into Kiwi culture, with Megan determined to show her youngest children what it’s like to be a Kiwi kid – fish and chips and Marmite included. “Trey’s just started playing rugby and Tiara’s learning how to play netball. It’s just awesome seeing them run around outside and kick a ball – you miss that in Japan,” she says. “But we don’t want them to lose their Japanese, it’s a huge part of them.”

Megan realises it’s going to be hard when Pita’s in Japan for up to six weeks at a time. But she knows the decision to come home was the right one. “Home is home. It’s where we need to be right now. I miss presenting, so I’m looking forward to taking on more,” she says. “Along with my personal hairstylist Allison, I’ve just opened my own hair and beauty studio in Papatoetoe.

“It’ll be good to release Pita a bit, he’s been working so hard for a long time. While I haven’t exactly been sitting on my booty, it’s time for me to get involved with some more projects. There’s an exciting music one coming up soon, so watch this space!”

In the meantime, the Alatinis are just enjoying being together, with Megan and Tonica looking forward to some long overdue retail therapy. “We’ve got a pretty similar style, so shopping’s always fun,” smiles Tonica. “Although, I don’t think I’m going to go blonde in a hurry!”

“Blondes with short hair have more fun!” replies Megan, with a playful grin. “But there’s only room for one blonde in this family!”

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