One of the strengths of Pacific Islanders who migrate is to maintain our customs and networks. In our Geelong area there are about ten Fijian families who normally come to our Friday night functions for fellowship and food such as fish, tapioca, rice and curry.
Last night there were three young couples, a new baby, a little girl, an older couple, two other Fijian guys, Sione and Kesa, a Tongan couple over from Auckland for a wedding here. They were part of our parties and network last year. Sometimes we have a lovo, an underground oven, in the backyard. The young Fijians in our group met one another through rugby training with the Rams.
While sitting around the Kava bowl on pandanus mats, stories flow non-stop. These are about fishing, pig-hunting, a village funeral, the New Year celebration in a Nadroga village where the men wore women's clothes. I liked the pig-hunting story by a man from Nadroga and now his girl-friend is an Australian. We had a powerpoint picture show going of a trip to Fiji by a local woman and a tape of old Fijian music.
The difference in groups when Islanders migrate seems to be that that the network is broader. In Fiji we mostly sit with relatives or kin from our own province and talk in our own dialect. But when overseas, because there are fewer Fijians around, the network includes people from many different parts of Fiji and also other Pacific Islanders - often met through rugby or church functions. For example last night we had people from Ono-i-lau, Namosi, Nadroga, Labasa, Tailevu, Auckland and our own city in Australia. So there are no longer conversations in dialect and we converse in a mixture of English and Fijian. There still is a passion for news of the home country, for joking, laughing, and story-telling.
One of the weaknesses of such gatherings is that mainly men sit around the kava bowl and dominate the conversations and the women are left out, especially those who do not speak Fijian - the Australian wives and girlfriends. However it is a time for mutual support of one another and we all enjoy having children with us.