Saturday, June 23, 2007

A visit to Mali by Alumeci Nakeke

from w
Bula si'a! I laughed when I read this story from today's Fiji Sun about so much fish for meals in Mali Island because I remember one time when we gave the Mali people three aluminium punts to go fishing and they sold what they caught and bought boxes of tinned fish to take back home! The second thing I thought about was the idea of conservation of the reef because there has been a tabu on the Great Sea Reef of Macuata but I guess subsistence fishing to feed the kids is okay. The third thing I thought about was that over a year ago Lusiana Speight wrote an article about Mali and Vorovoro and said she had never heard of the place! Well, Mali and Vorovoro are well and truly on the map these days mainly because of the tribewanted project and the relationship between the visitors and the local people. Vina'a va'alevu Alumeci for writing up this 'alanoa about Labasa and our relatives in Mali Island.

Fish for breakfast,
Last updated 6/24/2007 10:37:26 AM

Memories of a first time visit to any place will always linger on for many years.
Last week FijiSUN feature writer Alumeci Nakeke visited Mali Island.Mali Island is in the province of Macuata and is close to the port of Malau where the sugar boats come and go. This is an island that is known for its rich seafood resources.

My trip to Mali Island begins with a 45-minute flight from Nausori to Waiqele Airport in Labasa. This was followed by a 10-minute taxi ride to Labasa and a 30-minute boat ride to the lovely island.

I was not a stranger to Vanua Levu as I was born and brought up at Natewa village.
However, I was a stranger to Nakawaga village one of the three villages on Mali Island. I went to Mali Island on the invitation of World Wide Fund (WWF) for nature. All that I know of Mali Island is that it has an abundant supply of fish. I met with Vasemaca Rarabici who was a former workmate.

We arrived at Labasa town and went straight to a tearoom and tasted the babasiga buns. We had to wait for the WWF team that was arriving on the next plane so I roamed around town while my friend had a rest at one of our friend’s house in town. At the market, what caught my eye was an unfamiliar sight because just beside it clothes were hung neatly from lines and they included children and adults’ clothes as if they were hung at home - and very colourful! Upon my own inquiry I found out these clothes belonged to some of the market vendors who were living in the market in the weekdays and went home on the weekends. Children also live there and they sleep, shower and went to the schools in town from the market and if one was to come to the market at night they would see mosquito nets being hung as if they were sleeping in their own homes. So the market was their home during week days. These vendors had to ask permission from the market master.

When the WWF team finally arrived we boarded two boats from the small jetty just beside the market to Mali. It was raining and we had to duck under the tarpaulin for cover and took more than 30 minutes to arrive on Mali Island. We got off at Nakawaga village and had to get off about 100 metres from the seashore, as it was low tide.
We were greeted by a few villagers as the women were preparing the food and some of the men were still fishing.

Soon lunch was served and it was boiled fish, which had just been caught - very fresh (it was what most people from the islands who now live in urban areas dream of and I was one of them) and served with cassava with lemons. Supper it was fish again and cassava and tea and bread to top it off. Breakfast it was fish again and this time it was curried with rice, which our Indian sister who we went with commented on its taste with all the spices added. Having fish in all the three meals proves that Mali Island has an abundant supply of fish.

Left over fish was fed to the pigs - which is a real waste but what could they do - it is fish galore!

For the people Nakawaga fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner was a daily routine. When you question the children as to what they eat everyday it is - “ ‘eimami ‘ana qoli veisiga” (we eat fish everyday). And I have never seen in my life such an abundance of fish only in Mali Island. I would not mind getting another invite to go back to Mali Island.

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