Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Two Dancers in Fiji

Two Dancers in Fiji

Two figures on stage wait for the cue.
One with limbs shining with coconut oil,
and  his feet firmly anchored.
Fibre bands wrap his muscled arms,
he is bare-chested but with an ochre fibre skirt,
 And the musical beat is from a small Fijian drum.
The slender girl is bejewelled, wrapped in silks
with a sun-gold skirt like a bell,
as she lightly imitates a peacock stance,
then pauses holding the Indian pose.
When the slit drum starts up a regular beat
he leaps forward in a warlike challenge
the wooden club raised in defiance.
The dholak shifts to triplet beats,
she moves delicately, handed curved,
bending. Lifting her arms to the air
as the silks flutter and silver anklets shimmer.
With a shift in sound he prances forward,
threatening, the club swinging aloft,
then pauses watching for a reaction.
Her response is still a metaphor
of being feminine, softly inviting,
but confident of her own grace.
Then shift now is different, the club drops,
as he moves to stand behind the girl,
both now stepping to the same beat,
the lali and dhola drum in sync.
No more circling and disquiet,
difference is now a celebration.
The tourist audience clap like thunder
but the message does not reach
the local people, only invited visitors
at a cultural expo, only sunburnt foreigners.

Fijian Tourism Expo 2015 - Opening ceremony Indian versus Fijian dance!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Fijian boys perform Indian dance

Vinaka boys.  Good to have a go at Indian dancing.  Go to http://fijisun.com.fj/2017/01/30/kauwale-tui-wow-crowd/

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fiji exhibition in England to close in two weeks

Go to see the video http://scva.ac.uk/art-and-artists/exhibitions/fiji-art-and-life-in-the-pacific
The Queen visited the exhibition of Fiji Art and life in the Pacific this week.  In Norwich.  I still am puzzled by the sample of masi from Taveuni as it is unlike any other Fijian masi design I have ever seen. The note  says masi bolabola from Taveuni, 1870s.ong decorated
Cambridge / Trustees of the Fiji Museum

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Fijian language

fin a list compiled by Rd Ewins.
I like the tiny book by Paul Geraghty for anyone travelling to Fiji. And the third one listed here is by Gatty but I don't know what it's like.
The enormous research conducted by Paul Geraghty on the Fijian language and his work on Fijian to Fijian dictionary hasn't been published that I know if but I have it on USP sticks fortunately.  It is an amazing document but not for the ordinary reader.

Fijian language as fun I would recommend Prof. Paul Geraghty's engaging and surprisingly thorough little book "Say Bula!" which could be bought from Tappoo stores in Fiji, direct or by emailing http://www.tappoo.com.fj/index.php/contacts-us
Fijian language learn online This is included here not for its quality but because I have not found any other online program. The blogger warns that he has no training as either a teacher or a linguist, not a very promising introduction. http://learntospeakfijian.weebly.com/
Fijian-English Online Dictionary Free download

About the song 'Isa Lei'

Notes are from Rod Ewins.
(Fijian song of sad farewell)

Isa, isa, vulagi lasa dina

Nomu lako au na rarawa kina

Na cava beka ko a mai cakava

Nomu lako au na sega ni lasa.

Isa lei, na noqu rarawa

Ni ko sa na vodo e na mataka
Bau nanuma, na nodatou lasa

Mai Suva nanuma tiko ga.

Vanua rogo na nomuni vanua

Kena ca ni levu tu na ua

Lomaqu voli meu bau butuka

Tovolea ke balavu na bula


Domoni dina na nomu yanuyanu

Kena kau wale na salusalu

Moce lolo, bua, na kukuwalu

Lagakali, ma ba na rosi damu.

(Repeat last line slowly and with much feeling).
I have never seen published anything even approaching an accurate translation of these words — those in the famous Seekers recording are schmaltzy and inadequate.

Because I am frequently asked, while I make no great claims for it, what follows is my pretty literal translation (I make no attempt to turn it into rhyme):  

Alas, alas, most welcome guest, your going fills me with sorrow. Whatever the reason you came, I feel bereft at your leaving.


Oh, such sadness! I will feel so forlornwhen you sail away tomorrow.
 Please remember the joy we shared — In Suva [or wherever the song is being sung], you will always be remembered.
Your country is so well known, if the seas weren't so rough, I'd wish to brave them and live out a long life there.
Your island is indeed well known, garlanded with forests of mocelolo, bua, kukuwalu, the scented lagakali, and surrounding all, red roses.
A transcription and translation of this was published by C.J. Morey in 1933 under the title "A modern song of parting, Fiji", in the Journal of the Polynesian Society 42(166):106. He attempted to turn it into English poetry, which while an understandable ambition means that his translation is even looser than mine.
To anyone who speaks any Fijian it is painful to listen to the Seekers' mangling of the pronunciation and omission of "m"s and "n"s etc. from Fijian words, so I can't bring myself to include a link to this version on You-tube. You can find it there for yourself if you must.
It is hard to go past the beautiful male voices in this version, sung by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Band at the Edinburgh Tattoo in 1998. You can watch the whole thing of course, but for Isa Lei go scroll through to 3.57. You will have to put up with the unctuous announcer and his erroneous comments about the song, but it is worth just thinking of other things until they come into their own. Beautiful.

For one of the most authentic versions of it, that takes me right back to the way one usually heard it sung in villages etc., , I recommend the following recorded by Joan Herrington when she heard it Sung in 1957 .

And finally, a very polished version, beautifully sung by women only (the students of Adi Cakobau School), is, unfortunately, a bit too up-tempo for this sad song of farewell, but still worth a listen for the lovely voices and harmonies:

Now here's a book I would like

Rod Ewins, is an excellent writer on Fijian material culture and here's another book - that I would very much like! http://www.justpacific.com/fiji/mylatestbook/index.html
Latest book by Rod Ewins

[Best viewed at 1344 x 1840 or higher]
The most recent book on the material culture of Fiji,Traditional Fijian Artefacts, was published in July 2014 by Just Pacific in association with
the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Hobart, and the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, Launceston.
It was produced in a small run and anyone wishing to buy a copy is advised to purchase now, to avoid disappointment.
Those within Fiji are best advised to obtain the book from Suva. It is carried by The Methodist Bookstore (next to the Cathedral), The Fiji Museum Shop, or The USP Book Centre. I suggest you ring and enquire about retail pricing, because although the books are wholesaled to them at the same price, their markups vary.
Overseas buyers and ALL retailers should contact Just Pacific direct. A quote will be sent including postage from either Australia or Fiji, whichever is cheaper for the buyer.
Australian buyers may order from either of the following Museum Shops at a price of A$36.95 + p&p (Total approx. A$52)
Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, GPO Box 1164, Hobart TAS 7001, Attention: Bookshop,  Ph (03) 6211 4201
Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, PO Box 403, LauncestonTAS 7250 , Attention: Bookshop, (03) 6323 3777
If ANYONE experiences any difficulties with supply, please contact Just Pacific.

ISBN : 978-0-646-91698-9
The book is in paperback, viii + 212 pages, and measures 21 x 26 cm
llustrations include 2 cover photos and 370 illustrations, most in colour, including maps and original drawings. Very large bibliography and index.
Please click to see List of Contents


Back cover note:

Art has always been integral to the culture of the indigenous people of Fiji. Its quality was quickly recognised by the first Westerners to visit, who collected it avidly, and a quantity of material found its way to Tasmania. It came via seamen for whom the busy port of Hobart was a transit stop or a home port; from Wesleyan missionaries headquartered there for a time and then continued to support the Mission in Fiji; and from collectors who have either donated or sold their collections to public museums since the early 19th Century. This book brings together objects from all of these sources, illustrating them and providing contextual information in words and pictures of their physical qualities and historical social importance. Many have never been published previously. 01 primary importance are the collections of Tasmania's two principal museums, which have actively collaborated in and contributed to this book, Those items are supplemented with material from other smaller collections, including the author's own.
Rod Ewins was born and raised in Fiji as a fourth-generation member of an early settler family. Educated in Fiji, Australia and England, his formal qualifications are in art, education and sociology/anthropology. His professional career has been as a practising artist and art educator, primarily at the University of Tasmania. With extensive fieldwork throughout Fiji, he has published many papers and book chapters, and several books, on traditional art and society.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Promoting Fiji

Is this how you want to promote Fiji to tourists who may pay about $600 a night, when the girl who cleans your room gets $3 an hour?

Promoting the growing of sandalwood in Fiji

from Fiji Times:

At the heart of the matter

Matilda Simmons
Sunday, January 22, 2017
FOR A tree that was once heavily exploited in the 1800s by early Europeans in parts of Fiji, it's great to see the plant making a comeback.
The aromatic wood is highly prized even to this day for its rich oil base as many middlemen and overseas companies pay big dollars to have it.
We recently visited the Department of Forestry where they grow the sandalwood seedlings for distribution to villages that want to start a sandalwood plantation. This newspaper was told that the seedlings are given for free once proposals are submitted from communities around the country.
Sandalwood project officer Maika Lesubula said the demand for the seedlings had increased.
"The demand is not meeting the supply at the moment. We've received proposals requesting sandalwood seedlings for their plantation. It's great to see that locals now realise the value of these high-grade trees," said Mr Lesubula.
There are three species of sandalwood growing in Fiji — Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) the indigenous Fijian species or Santalum yasi, and the natural hybrid, a cross between the Santalum yasi and the Santalum album.
"We are taking stock of the sandalwood trees around the country," said Mr Lesubula.
"Recently, we went to Kadavu and Vanua Levu where the trees have grown in abundance. These places include Bua, Nawi in Cakaudrove, Nawailevu and so on. From the GPS study that we carried out, approximately 200 trees are planted by a family in these villages, so it's been going well. Our objective is to promote the planting of these trees in the rural areas and identify the market for these trees in the near future."
A day before the visit to the Department of Forestry, the group was told a farmer had just cashed his yasi plantation through a company identified by the department. The farmer received over $40,000.
"We want the resource owners to have the maximum benefit from their resources. There have been occasions where they've been duped by scrupulous dealers so our ministry has been working hard to find a solution to this.
"At the moment the industry is unregulated, there's so many middlemen in the country, Right now the Department of Forestry is trying put forward a regulation to protect the resource owners. Because the buyers who are coming in and did not give a fair price. The profits they make were much more."
The current price for the prized wood is $100 a kilo, said Lesubula. With at least 1kg per tree after 2-3 years of planting for $100 per kilogram could net one $26,000.
While the money sounds promising, one has to know the inctricacies of planting the tree.
Lesubula said: "You need to make sure that you have the correct seed stock. Also it is a hemiparasitic so it needs a host plant to latch on to underground by roots.
"Since sandalwood matures in 15-25 years, you can plant your sandalwood trees and hosts in large grids or rows and then intercrop with other spices or essential oil crops such as cardamon, ginger, chilli, cocoa, patchouli, these are all 1 or 2-year crops with some that are every 6 months," he added.
With a sad tale of exploitation in the 1800s after the American and English ships decimated yasi farms on Vanua Levu, particularly Bua (they even called Vanua Levu Sandalwood Island), it's encouraging to see the revitalisation of the highly-prized tree.
Mr Lesubula firmly believes the education of farmers and the development of the sandalwood industry is paramount for the benefit of Fijians.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When donating goods to Fiji

Something to think about when there's a crisis in Fiji and people in Australia want to help by donating goods.

In response to a link from a facebook friend about donations to the Pacific when disaster strikes, Red Cross has given some good advice via some articles and explanations. For example:
What are UBDs?
UBDs, also called Gifts in Kind (GIK) and unsolicited material
donations are goods that are spontaneously donated after a
disaster. They are often characterised by:
• They arrive unannounced or with very short notice
• Have incomplete or faulty paperwork
• Lack clearly defined consignee
• Are non-standard items
• Have incorrect packaging.
They are also items that may not have been requested by
responding organisations and usually (or frequently) do not
meet the needs of the affected populations.
While often donated by well-meaning people wishing to
assist in the response, UBDs create considerable issues for
governments and response agencies and put additional
pressure on an already stretched humanitarian supply
chain system. The costs of processing, transporting, sorting
and storing UBDs can place a significant financial burden
on receiving governments and response agencies, costing
much more than the donated goods,
Sorting and labelling is essential and to have a specific person at the other end for good quality items to get through to the needy. Fiji govt. has a list of items that still have customs duty even when second-hand. It's very tough to donate these days. It's best to go through a reliable, experienced group such as Donation in Kind (Rotary) or Red Cross.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Cockles and mussels

Cockles and Mussels alive alive O
. • As children I don’t remember us eating mussels and cockles except one year while holidaying in the Mornington Peninsular we used to dig up cockles in the sand at low tide, hidden amongst seaweed then Mum would cook them. 
• In Fiji we ate river mussels at Davuilevu and the theological students and Lelean students often dived for them in the Rewa River nearby to get protein for their meals. These were rounded mussels. We bought them also from Nausori market.
• Various cockles, mussels, spider shellfish, were sold in the Suva and other markets so we often bought a handful for a meal, to serve with chillies and lemon, or in coconut cream. Not expensive, but very tasty.
• When we lived at Nukutatava Beach I used to pick mangrove oysters with a knife with my sister-in-law Evia. We also had a trochus shell (sici) project with the young men diving for the shellfish, then we'd boil them up, and pack and send the shells on to Suva to on-sell them to Japan to make buttons, jewellry etc. but when we realised we were being ripped off we discontinued the project and also we got sick of eating sici.
• These days in Geelong we buy mussels from a little boat moored near one of the restaurants on the Waterfront or from a fish shop.
• I have never bought oysters or similar in a restaurant but they are served – one by one – at a degustation meal at Igni - $150 a meal apparently.
• Here is a website about harvesting oysters in Vanua Balavu, Lau, Fiji.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Tongan nose flute

Tongan nose flute - from the archives

A rare instrument in the South Pacific these days is the nose-flute. But once it was more common in several islands, especially Tonga, where it was played to awaken a member of the royal family. Some lullabies have similar melodies to that played on the Tongan nose-flute.
(from my old research papers) W.


Pandabonium said...
Very interesting.
Vakaivosavosa said...
Apparently the nose flute is also played in Fiji - now only old men in the hills of Ra and Navosa know how to make and play them though. Our culture department is undertaking a cultural mapping and inventory survey of the traditional knowledge of the different parts of Fiji and their unique or special cultural heritage, handicraft artifacts -

see 1. http://www.accu.or.jp/ich/pdf/c2005subreg_RP2.pdf#search=%22Fiji%20cultural%20mapping%22


Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...
Thank you Panda and thank you Vakaivosavosa for the two links which are very interesting. I heard they were going to do this. I wonder how many ethnomusicologists are involved. Of course the real experts are already there, some elderly men and women in the villages. A daunivucu I met at Nubunikavula village was a charming elderly man over ninety and he gave me some logging chants.
About the nose flute - I have never seen one in Fiji, but Chris Saumaiwai wrote something about it one time.
My MA thesis about the music of Labasa in in the Pacific Collection at USP - but as an 'outsider' I'm still a stranger to much of the cultural information.
Vakaivosavosa said...
Hi W. I heard about the nose flutes in the interior of Viti Levu about five years ago, but haven't seen one so far. I heard that it was part of an exhibition on a vucu and meke exhibition/competition held at the Dome two years ago, but it didn't make the papers.

Its early days on the cultural inventory project - I doubt there's any ethnomusicolo.. whatumacallits involved as the dept is very small and under-resourced. So far, the focus of the mapping is traditional mats which are specialised by different women in different provinces, not so much music and traditional instruments. Hopefully the old men who do play the nose flute in the hills are passing on the tradition to younger people and will not be dead by the time the mapping project gets to them!

Theres a few bands from Macuata doing well on the local scene - the harmonies are nice and the dialect is practically another language!

The roads in Fiji

And this says it all....

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Fijian nose-flute

When I was researching Fijian music I could never find even one person who played the nose-flute in Fiji though Chris Saumaiwai did. Now there's an article about one man who plays it.  It is more commonly played in Tonga, though even there it is uncommon.
from the Fiji Times:

Echoes from the past, an art almost lost

Matilda Simmons
Sunday, January 15, 2017
In the village of Nananu on the coast in the north of Tailevu, about one and a half hours drive from Suva, lives a man who has a special gift for playing the nose flute.
Kaveni Tamani of the Nabati clan is the only person who has kept alive the skill which dates back to the legendary days of an ancestral god.
The indigenous Fijian musical instrument called the nose flute is known in the iTaukei language as dulali or bitu ceguvi.
This form of music has disappeared altogether from Fiji except for Nananu. Nananu is made up of three clans — Korolevu, Sawatini and Nabati.
According to village records, Nananu had a different setup in the old days. Each clan dwelt on its hill fort during the tribal warring days before Christianity.
Kaveni's story has since been recorded by the iTaukei Institute of Language & Culture under the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs. Acting prinicipal administrative officer, Simione Sevudredre said this was made possible after a funding under UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre for the Asia Pacific (ICHCAP) in 2011 was provided.
The award was secured after two officers from the ministry, Kelera Adikakua and Mereoni Dikula, underwent training on Intangible Cultural Heritage documentary in Korea, and at the same time satisfied funding criteria for participants who wished make a documentary as part of their practical work back in their own country.
The funding was also in recognition of the institute's active role in safeguarding, and promoting iTaukei traditional knowledge and expressions of culture.
Mr Sevudredre said with the production of such documentaries, they hoped to revitalise and promote iTaukei culture.
"We'd also like readers to know that the documentaries can be viewed and downloaded on the youtube section of our website www.itaukeiaffairs.gov.fj," he said.
Back to Kaveni.
The gift of playing the nose flute was practised by Kaveni's father, Laisiasa Tauba but where he received the gift from or where he learnt it is lost to the mists of time as Kaveni liked to say.
When visited at his village, Kaveni was busy cutting bamboos on the shore. He said he wanted to make a bamboo raft so his family members could use it for fishing.
For a 78-year-old, he looked quite fit and had the gait of much younger man.
How it began
Jovial in nature and a bit of a ladies man, the nose flutist was quite open to sharing his story which was incidently passed down to him by accident, or so he says.
"I have been playing this instrument since my father passed away. None of us his children ever thought of learning it while he was still alive. When he died, I went to my parent's house and brought the bamboo flute home and kept it with me," he said as he stroked the bamboo which had light carvings on it.
To learn playing the nose flute surprisingly had never dawned on Kaveni. Growing up, he said, he only helped carve the bamboo head rest on which his father would lie on to play the flute.
"My father would play early in the morning from where he lay close to the hearth," he told this newspaper.
"In fact I only learnt how to play after a visit by the then Tailevu provincial administrator in 1973, Ratu Kitione Vesikula . He had wanted my father to go with a Fiji delegation overseas to perform overseas.
"We were gathered at the village headman's house and the provincial administrator asked: "Kaveni have you ever played this flute before your father died?
"I said 'not once ever sir'."
The PA said: "Alas, how shall this be done then?
"He then implored me to start learning it and if I was succesful, I would be be part of the country's delegation."
Kaveni said he started playing the flute like his breath depended on it.
"My upper lips had bruises as a result of pracitising every day," said the Nananu villager.
"To play the nose flute, I have only a cup of tea in the morning and I don't eat anything three hours before performing so I can sustain my breathing. It's a challenging art to learn."
Challenging yet rewarding. The traditional art has since brought Kaveni, regional and international recognition and accolades for his traditional performance.
In 1973, he was invited to perform at the opening of the Sydney Opera House. He was only 34 years old. He also performed at the 2006 Melanesian Arts Festival in Suva.
"I was sitting just across from Queen Elizabeth II who was a guest at the opening!" he said proudly.
"I have been asked whether the flute has aspects of charm to it, or whether I practise black magic but it's ridiculous to hear such sentiments from some people," Kaveni said with a touch of indignation.
Legends of old
While it's not known where the art of nose flute began or how Kaveni's father acquired the skill, traditional knowledge points to Fiji's pre-history era, to the time of Ramacake, Fiji's equivalent to Pan in Greek mythology (Pan was the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds and rustic music and is often associated with sexuality).
According to the head of the yavusa or clan of Sawatini — Filimoni Donu — in a documentary produced by the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs; Ramacake, a shape shifter hailed from Nanukuloa in Ra Province and was adept on the pan flute. The flute's melodious strains was an irresistible charm to maidens. However the elders were not amused and so they banished him.
"Ramacake left his home for Lovoni on another island and it was here the pan flute temporarily stayed. From Lovoni he then relocated to an island called Makodraga jutting out from Makogai. It was here he dwelt and played his pan flute," said Mr Donu in the iTaukei language.
"The lilting notes of the pipes had a bewitching effect on young maidens who were drawn to the seas around Makogai in the hope of finding a handsome prince, only to turn away upon meeting Ramacake who often disguised himself in the form of a leper."
According to the legend, Ramacake's flute roused and lulled the Ratu mai Verata every day.
The ancient Verata kingdom once spanned most of the northern Tailevu Province including islands such as Qoma, Naigani, Ovalau, Wakaya and Makogai, he said.
Ramacake would play his flute every morning and the echoes would go across the sea right to the Ratu mai Verata. Choreographers and maidens came from all over Fiji in search of the famed flutist but to no avail because Ramacake would spy their approaching canoes and direct the echo to another island. He would make the sound emanate from Koro Island, Wakaya or Ovalau.
This was why Makogai Island was always bypassed.
Myth or fact
Some legends may seem incredible to believe due to its fictious elements, however there is some underlying truth to it.
According to the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, which has recorded oral traditions from villages around the country, how the art moved from Lovoni to Nananu points to an ancient link between the people of the two tribes.
Ancient traditions tell of Rakavono, ancestral founder of the Lovoni tribe, having once dwelt at Nananu before settling at Lovoni.
"It may be perplexing to realise that the art was introduced to this village. If some people may doubt this gift and how it was introduced to this village, we must not be surprised," said Pio Manoa an iTaukei Fijian literature and culturalist in the documentary.
"Legends for that reason embed multi-layered analysis.
"One such analysis is to do with relationship. Legends have a significant role in our existence. There are numerous legends and they are human heritage. Not only legends, but dances, chants, poems, lullabies and the like.
"If we closely examine these genres, at one level they may be fictious or not entirely factual but they underpin truths between relationship or factual historical events.
"There is an element of truth that is mirrored as to how people are related etc. It is in this respect certain truths are coded in legends."
As to how it specifically came to the Nabati clan, some say the reason is because of their totem tree being the bamboo called bitu cebailagi as can be seen growing on their ancient village site, Korosomo
According to Kaveni, the bamboo grows atop of the hill fort belonging to the Nabati clan where their totem bamboo grows and was once the fame and pride of the Nabati clan in Nananu.
Keeping the tradition alive
For now Kaveni ekes out a simple living. Now and then he said a tourism company in Pacific Harbour engaged him for various cultural performances there. He makes about $40 for performing on a given day.
His other roles in the village involve tasks for the church, and traditional obligations. He also tends to his small farm for his subsistent existance. He has three daughters. As a sibling he has only one brother and three sisters.
"I want only my grandson to learn this craft," he said with a sense of possesiveness. "He has shown keeness in learning it and I hope when I pass on, he would pass it on. This skill must never die in Fiji.
"Ratu Vesikula (Tailevu provincial administrator) told me back in 1973 to look after my health and to learn the art, and one day it would serve me well and bring good fortune.
"It has served me well these past 40 years." He said with finality.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Vinaka Rob. Excellent idea.

What a pleasure to read that someone in Australia with Bua connections thinks of home as more than just a brief holiday. Rob Cromb has donated an ambulance to a hospital in Bua.  Lovely family and we remember his mother with great affection.
In the Fiji Times today:

Gift eases hardship faced by rural public

Luisa Qiolevu
Saturday, January 14, 2017
HAVING grown up in Bua and lived through the hardships faced by his relatives, Rob Cromb's Katalyst Foundation this week donated a new ambulance to the Nabouwalu Hospital.
Mr Cromb, whose mother hails from Nawaido Village in Solevu, Bua, has been a pillar of positive changes in giving back to the province.
The gift from his charitable organisation has been well received by the chiefs, who have labelled it a blessing.
Speaking on behalf of the bose vanua ko Bua, Tui Wainunu Ratu Orisi Baleitavea said the gift would mean a positive change for the people of Bua.
"It's very welcome news because the Nabouwalu Hospital is not fully equipped with vehicles to transport patients from one centre to another," he said.
Ratu Orisi said the health staff would find a huge improvement with their services in rural areas.
"The health staff will no longer find it hard to provide proper medical services to the rural areas now that they have a new ambulance."
The ambulance, worth $89,502.55 ($A57,000), has been labelled a way forward for the province in the health sector.
Ministry of Health and Medical Services national manager ambulance services Josefa Bolaqace said the new ambulance would develop the ambulance service in the province.
"For many decades, ambulance service has been a great issue and a major concern to our health and medical services in regards to the retrieval and transfer of patients from one health facility to the other and this new ambulance would help improve those issues," he said.
"The beginning of this year starts off with a tremendous step for Nabouwalu through the help of our donor partner — The Katalyst Foundation."
Mr Bolaqace said the ministry would remain firmly committed to saving lives.
He said the gift would allow the ministry to provide a quality standard of service to the community at large.

Propping up the sugar industry

Why is Fiji's government spending $9 million propping up the sugar industry with grants to farmers?  Surely a successful farmer can do his own work. Seems to me that they continually want the sugarcane farmers to keep on going even though their rewards are minimal in this kind of industry. You could make five times the profit just by planting watermelons I reckon.  One other thing I discovered by discussing the topic of cane farming is that if you have a cane lease you can get a loan, so that means some farmers just take advantage of this, and then they are continually indebted to the lender, and each year just get another loan etc. etc.  Not good business at all.
Here's the article in the Fiji Sun. http://fijisun.com.fj/2017/01/14/apply-now-for-re-planting-grant-farmers-urged/
And in the Fiji Times - which adds the bit about farmers effected by flooding etc.

$9m in new cane grant

Shayal Devi
Saturday, January 14, 2017
ABOUT $9 million has been made available to help farmers through a cane grant.
Ministry of Sugar permanent secretary Yogesh Karan said they were putting through an expression of interest for the assistance, which farmers could apply for. The grant is expected to primarily assist farmers who were affected by flooding last month.
Mr Karan said a report on the damage sustained had been completed.
"We'll be relooking at the farms which have been affected and they can apply for that, so that is the immediate assistance that will be given to them."
He said the criteria required for the grant would be highlighted through advertisements in the newspapers today.
"Next week, we will be using the radio so we are able to talk to farmers so that we have given enough information for them to be able to access and make use of that."

Thirty years ago at St Vincent's Hospital

It's Wendy Junior's 30th birthday today so here are some old photos:
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Wendy Ratawa Isa, little Wendy was born in the heart ward of St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne as her mother prepared for heart valve surgery. A little prem baby and she did very well and grew to be a lovely girl and woman.
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Ratawa Sarah Happy birthday wendy
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Wendy Ratawa Watimeli’s Baby

I am enjoying cotton-wool lazy days as my Fijian husband is overseas. Our three teenage sons are surfing at Torquay. It's 1987. The phone buzzes: a reverse charge call, international. ‘I’m coming back Tuesday. I’m bringing visitors.’
This isn’t unusual. Extras in the household are common; in the Shenton manse in Ryrie Street, Geelong, where we live, there is always room for the extended family or homeless people. The house which is a cheerful mess will have to be cleaned up.
On the Tuesday evening there is a call from Melbourne. ‘We’ve arrived safely. We’ve taken a sick girl to St. Vincents. I’m bringing her father, Bameti, home. He's from Wailevu. Dr. Schramm asked me to help this family. The sick girl had to be brought to Labasa hospital by boat in the middle of the cyclone. Heart surgery in Australia is the only way to save the girl’s life, the doctor said.'
Three nights later, a phone call at 1 a.m. comes from the hospital. Watimeli has gone into labour.
I am amazed. ‘I didn’t know she was pregnant!’
Peceli wakes Bameti to dress up immediately. They drive to Melbourne to comfort Watimeli during the birth process. The premature baby girl – born three months early- and in the Heart Ward of St Vincents is shunted immediately to the Mercy Hospital.
When I meet the patient, gaunt like a long distance runner drained after a marathon, I ask if the baby has been named yet
‘Yes,’ says the girl, who is about twenty years. ‘She’s named after you. Wendy!’
The naming gives a sense of alarm of an on-going relationship. I walk to the Mercy hospital a few blocks away. Though the nurse encourages me to touch the baby's arms and legs, I cannot.
A week later Watimeli comes down to Geelong to gain strength before the operation for a heart valve replacement. Now 100 K separate her from little Wendy. In visits to Melbourne, both Watimeli and I feel uncomfortable with the prem. baby attached to tubes.
A month later the baby is transferred to the Geelong Hospital. Her limbs are strong and she is going well. She is nearly five pounds in weight so soon is allowed to go ‘home’. Baby paraphernalia is given to me from friends or bought in op. Shops. Our sons complain about the crying - until they start to talk and play with the newcomer. The church folk make a tremendous fuss over the tiny brown baby with the strong dark eyes, lying happily in a basket.

The operation for heart valve replacement proceeds and Watimeli becomes well enough to join the household. Now bonded with the infant, I am unwilling to give the baby up but I obtain a birth certificate, a passport photo, then a Fijian passport from the Fiji Embassy in Canberra. The baby is not allowed to be an Australian citizen as the mother had come on an emergency medical visa. When Wendy Junior is twenty-one, maybe then she can.
Several hospital bills come our way even though we had been promised free treatment. Some are waived, some we have to pay.
Watimeli tells us about her boyfriend, a Part-European youth who lives in Nadi. Her parents would not allow them marry. She already has a son to him, staying with Bameti's family. I wonder what her future will be as a single mother, but with the Fijian extended family there will always be someone to help.
At Tullamarine airport, Watimeli looks so well and little Wendy, now strong but still small, is swaddled in a blanket. There’s a massive amount of overweight luggage and there are no concessions and no allowance for the baby paraphernalia. We have to pay up heaps.
I let them go, return to Geelong to my routine of easy-going family care but I miss little Wendy very much and cannot concentrate when I go back to Deakin studies. I am still soft, and floppy and maternal-minded, not in the mood for academic study at all.

Eight months later there’s a phone call from Labasa, Fiji. ‘Watimeli’s very ill. She’s bleeding and in Labasa hospital.’
‘What happened?’
‘She was playing volleyball. Something in her chest just fell down.’
I feel breathless but can only say, ‘Keep in touch.’
Next day there is another phone call. Watimeli has died at the Labasa hospital. There is no sophicated heart machines there. This is terrible news.
‘Who’ll look after her baby?’
‘Her grandparents. Bameti and his wife in Mataniwai village.’

A year later Peceli and I are in Fiji: partly for an assessment of the situation after the 1987 coups. We visit Mataniwai village during a drenching dowpour and present a whale’s tooth to Bameti in respect of Watimeli’s death. I want to meet the little girl. As the family push the little girl forward, her dark eyes fill with tears when confronted with me, the beige-coloured Australian woman who is now a stranger to her. Tentatively she sits on my knee, just for a minute. She has sores on her arms but she is surviving.
I walk alone in the rain to visit Watimeli’s grave near a stand of mango trees. The mound is covered by a colourless tapa cloth. I am distraught by the waste of a young life.
A week later we are back on the Ratawa sugar-cane farm. Bameti’s family arrive with the little girl and boxes of her clothes. They want to give her to the Ratawa family for an informal adoption. I whisper to Peceli, ‘We can’t take her to Australia – the trauma would be too much. She’s had too many care-givers and mothers.’
He suggests, ‘My sister Suliana can take her.’ In her household there are already four informally adopted children including a little girl of one. Evia, my other sister-in-law has had eight children so far so gives a little girl, Pinky, to Suliana.
Suliana agrees and Ateca will help care for the little girl.

That was a long time ago.
Small Wendy knows she has an Australian family though I was not courageous enough to take that child on full-time again. Suliana became her grandmother and Ateca her new mother. So that makes her our grand-daughter.
I email Wendy Junior these days. She has left the Friendly North sugar-cane community to study and now works in tourism in Nadi and has a delightful little girl. Mili. Wendy is a beautiful young woman, tall, smart and her eyes are bright and black like the eyes of her mother, Watimeli.

When I see young mothers today fussing over their babies, putting them on their backs to sleep - because of SIDS, I think of Wendy when she was a baby, and how she slept on her tummy, and looked like a turtle, and the song Peceli sang to her. Wedi na yalewa re, na yalewa duadua e vale. It was about a baby girl who lay down like a turtle.
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