Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Relationship between tourist and local in Fiji


from w
I want to write something about my thoughts and questions about the relationship between visitors and local people in Fiji because I do sense there are many confusing and contradictory positions. Sometimes there's a love of the 'exotic' by the visitor, a know-all attitude by visitors based on stereotyping. At other times there are misunderstandings by different ways of speaking or manners.

Sometimes there is exploitation - by either side. Theft of articles that belong to the tourist is one. Another is asking them for too much - gifts for the village, money, help with immigration matters. I've heard many stories of tourists from Australia developing a relationship with a village or family and they are asked to give outrageous sums of money in an on-going relationship. Opportunism works both ways.

Anyway, to start the ball rolling here is a picture of Apenisa, Tui Mali, receiving a gift of books for a primary school in Mali Island. It looks good, but I've been told that some visitors to Vorovoro -in the tribewanted scheme, and despite the positive media stories - do not always pay the locals adequately for their time and work. Also, are books for a school library more important than getting the electricity working? It's worth a look at the tribewanted website to the tribe blog link to read articles that have been published about the project. They are based on short visits to Vorovoro Island. It would be good to read an article written by a Mali Islander as well.

More to come later....

6 comments:

bengazi said...

Bula sia from Vorovoro.

I'm not sure where these 'rumours' are coming from, but they're certainly not coming from the workers on Vorovoro or the Tui Mali.

All those that work on Vorovoro are paid a slightly better than average wage on the advice of the Tui Mali. Local saw mill wages are anything between $16 and $18 a day. We pay on average $20 a day. We also provide local boat transport for the workers.

I am continually in conversation with the Tui Mali, Ulai, village elders and leaders about the workers experiences on Vorovoro and this includes pay. Nothing but postive responses have come back to date.

We have now employed over 100 different people on Vorovoro in the last 8 months with the aim, under Tui Mali's advice, to rotate the work between the villages so that everyone has the chance to work on Vorovoro, share experiences with visiting members and earn an income.

There have been 5 extremely positive reports in the Fiji times over the last 2 weeks about the Fijian perspective of what is happening on Vorovoro.
http://www.tribewanted.com/chiefs%2Dblog/?view=plink&id=223

I take on board what you are saying about more blogs coming from the locals. As you know this is hard and we still have a very slow internet connection on the island, but the members of the family and workers are beginning to write about their experiences.

The Babsiga blog is getting an excellent following from our tribe members and others following the story - its great to have a blogger in the north - but we need to be careful that the coconut wirelss doesn't take 'rumours' in the wrong direction.

What we (Tui Mali, Yavusa of Mali, Tribewanted and its members) are doing on Vorovoro is exciting and challenging for northern Fiji and, I believe, in tourism in general. We need the support of everyone on this and in return we will be transparant about our practises.

Ni sa moce

Ben

laminar_flow said...

I guess unions are out of the question.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thanks Ben for your quick response and clarification. Only one person told me of a complaint so perhaps I should not have passed it on. Everyone else seems happy. Okay, sorry.
Laminar, unions on a small island? I think the villagers already work things out by consensus.
In the hotel industry there are unions but I still am appalled at the disparity between local wages and the cost of rooms in the 5 star resorts around Nadi, Coral Coast etc. And why should those kind of tourists go to Fiji resorts at present and ignore the discomfort of so many local people, particularly those who are 'suspended' - hanging in fruit trees like beka?
w.

Anonymous said...

Bula Sia

I have been fortunant to be the recipient of some amazing hospitality warmth and freindship from freinds in several villages in the tikina of Tawake, Cakaudrove over the last twenty years. This has placed me in something of a quandry: how to 'repay'that hospitality in a meaningful manner that recognised the friendship of all the communities in a way that wouldn't alter the relationship I share with the people there.

In consultation with the turaga ni koro, the Vunivalu and the entire community I came up with a scholarship to assist with secondary school fees. Based on the results of the annual secondary entrance exam, each year one student recieves an annual grant towards their studies. This continues for the length of time that the student continues to attend secondary school.I have no role in choosing who gets the scholarship, indeed I have no interest in who the recipient may be nor do I make any stipulations except that the recipient continues to study. The Turaga ni koro distributes the money on my behalf should I not get to Fiji in any one year.

This has been running quite successfully for ten years now and while I feel a certain sense of pride that 'my'kids have gone onto persue a wide variety of careers, I am far more happy about the fact that the relaxed warm relationship that I first experienced over twenty years ago hasn't changed at all. Indeed I am happy to report that when I am in the village I sleep on a mat on the floor, assist with work up the gardens, fish (with mixed results), drink copious amounts of yaqona, am the butt of many jokes, join in the laughter and sometimes tears, sing in the church choir, play with the kids, speak appalling Fijian - much as has always has been the case.

I write this to make the point that if you ask people what they want, interfere as little as possible while being careful to ensure that what help you give is based on need or merit - not personal ties, then it is possible to make a difference to peoples lives without effecting the relationship you share with the people themselves.

I am heading over to Fiji in December and cannot wait.

Moce mada

Andrew

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Andrew, thanks for your comments. What a positive experience and your response sounds just about right - lots of respect as well as good humour, and of course, education is the key to the future for those lucky kids. Way to go!
w.
PS. When I was talking about expecting huge help from visitors I was thinking of a guy who rang us asking for financial help - should he give $3000 for a school extension as was requested...

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