Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Congratulations Tui Macuata

Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Katonivere has been appointed as a Senator to represent Macuata. He is a conservationist, involved in the preservation of the reefs along the Macuata coastline. Here is an article written about him from Ocean Voices.

Conservation Convert" Crusades for Marine Protections in Fiji

Ratu Aisea Katonivere, a self-described “conservation convert,” is the paramount chief of the province of Macuata on Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu. He is also the Roko Tui Macuata (Roko Tui signifying a government position), responsible for Fijian administration in the province. His ‘kingdom’ comprises 110,000 people living in 117 coastal and inland villages, including Labasa, one of the largest towns in Fiji.

At first glance, it seems there is nothing significant about the province; like many others in western Fiji, its urban inhabitants rely heavily on the sugar and forestry industries while most indigenous peoples still rely on subsistence farming and fishing to get by. The pride and joy of the Macuata province is the Great Sea Reef, locally known as Cakaulevu, which provides fishing grounds for the roughly 10,000 indigenous people who live in villages scattered along the coastline.

Ratu Aisea tells us that his “conversion” came about three years ago, when he heard that the Great Sea Reef, covering an area of 78,242 square miles, is the third largest barrier reef in the world. Meeting with SeaWeb staff in Fiji, he said, “For us it was just the Cakaulevu – a reef where our ancestors fished and where people from all over Fiji now fish. Knowing that it was the third largest barrier reef changed all that – something had to be done to protect this great gift from God.”

“At district and provincial meetings, I heard stories from my people about the difficulties of catching fish – how the fish are getting smaller, how they have to travel long distances to get a good catch and how fishermen from as far away as Viti Levu were fishing illegally in our traditional fishing grounds,” Ratu Aisea explains. Direct threats to the Great Sea Reef include overfishing, poaching by illegal fishers, use of small mesh fishing nets and use of the coastal duva plant as a fish poison. Sedimentation in near-shore areas resulting from erosion and upland activities, dredging of sand for construction, drainage of ballast waters near the reef and untreated waste water discharge from facilities in and near Labasa are also endangering Macuata’s most precious ocean resource.

To address the problems, Ratu Aisea approached the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA) and the Word Wildlife Fund’s Fiji program office seeking advice on protecting the Great Sea Reef. With their support he called a meeting in the district of Macuata. “At this meeting, my district chiefs and I realized that we would have to take the first steps towards conservation in our district,” explains Ratu Aisea. “The meeting was good because we were able to discuss the activities that were threatening our fishing grounds and reefs, and what we could do about them.” As a result of the meeting, four other chiefs joined with him to establish the 32-square mile Macuata Marine Protected Area Network.

Ratu Aisea, his four allies and their people developed a management plan for the MPA and decided to use an old war cry, Siga Damu a Vanua, to garner support for their conservation network. “We use the war cry to rally us in our fight to look after what God has given us – so that we have something to give to the future generations of Macuata,” said Ratu Aisea, kicking off a conservation crusade in his province and greater Fiji….

In a region where marine resources are constantly under pressure, hope remains in the province of Macuata and other provinces like it, hope that someday Pacific peoples will realize that their “only chance for the future is through conservation.”

Thanks to Amelia (Mia) Makutu, Asia Pacfic Program Associate, for her contributions to this Ocean Voices piece.

Solomons Islanders in Labasa

from Peceli

Some men and women from the Solomons Islands were brought to Fiji by the sugarcane planters in the 1890s.

Jale Marata came to Fiji during the Indentured Labour years. When he retired from working at the Labasa sugar mill in 1950 he built a house in Mali Island and named the house MARATA from the Solomon Island of Malaita. So it wasn't only Indians who came to Fiji to work in the sugar industry.

Some of the descendants of these Solomon Islanders live in the villages of Cawaira and Vanuavou in the Labasa area.

Girmit means an agreement and was an arrangement to work on certain conditions for 5 years and then go back to where they come from. But no-one every went back as far as I know.

Jale told me of his first experiences in the sugar industry. He said he had to walk four miles every morning, rain or shine, from Vanuavou to start a 7 am and finished at 4 30 pm then returned home. His job was in the cane field or fixing the drainage with group of men and a white boss they called a Sirdar. On Friday afternoons they stood outside the paymaster;s office and Jale called out, 'Sam Sir au sata ata saib mai noku silini au lako simete.' CSR workers were given 5 to 10 lb of sugar for a weekly ration and Thursday they distributed this to the workers.

Jale told me this story.

At 15 years of age I came from Solomon Islands with group of men of my Island Marata (Malaita). A trader ship was on the shore. All men were called in the ship to come to get tinned corned beef and biscuits the palagi food. I happened to go with them so as we were inside the ship in the first deck eating and drinking then the top of the deck was closed by the palagi. And they said this was because it was raining. Then the ship turned around and sailed to Sydney and then to Fiji.

Those who fought against this were roped and a sugar bag was put over their heads and many died on the way to Fiji they were thrown aboard the ship. They told us that
you going to Fiji to work for 5 years and then you can come back to your islands.

I got along with the master so I got the job as a garden boy in CSR Company in Labasa and later I became a Provincial Police Officer for my people in Cawaira Community.

There is a song about the Solomon Islanders who were brought to Fiji in those early days.
Laki tei dalo ko tamaqu
Laki qoliqoli ko tinagu
Au gade ki sereka au gade ki sereka
Votu mai na sitima ni meli
Sa qai voce mai na pelopelo

Tauri au na kai palagi
Au sa vesu ena dali
Sa qai bi noqu tagi
Au sa kau dina ga ki viti
Na yacaqu dina ga ko Bili

This song tells the story about a Solomon island boy who goes to the plantation with his father or fishing with his mother when a steamer comes nearby and takes them on board, tricks them. Despite their crying they are taken to Fiji and he is told his name is now Bill.

A Fijian work team from Navosa to Taveuni

Fijians did not at that stage work in the sugar industry, but workgroups went to coconut plantations at times, such as to Waimaqera in Taveuni Island. A group of men from Navosa in the inland hills of Viti Levu were signed up for three years to work in a Coconut Plantation. The group of men lived in the allocated barracks and they started work at 6 am in the morning with a roll call so that nobody missed out.

Samu told me this story and said 'I still not forget what the white man who did to me. That night I was not feeling well. I had I running stomach and I said to our leader that I am sick and want to stay in bed. This white man had four German shepherd dogs and he always took them with him. The roll call time came and when they called my name someone said, "Tamaya, he is sick Sir. " "Where is he?" "In the main quarter Sir. " Then from the distance I saw him coming to fetch me with his big dogs. I jumped through the window and ran for my life. He could not catch me that day. And also it was a good medicine for my running stomach.

I said to the storyteller, 'No wonder you could escape. You came from Navosa you know how to run to catch wild pigs.'

from Wendy
Some of the descendants of Solomon Islanders who were 'blackbirded' to Fiji over a hundred years ago live in a settlement in Wailoku, in a deep valley in the mountains behind Suva. They are severely disadvantaged and neglected (apart from care from the Anglican church)as shown in 'Living on the Fringe: Melanesians in Fiji' by Winston Halapua. They came to Fiji between 1865 and 1911 from the Solomons and Vanuatu as well. Jane Resture writes about the 'kanakas' who went to Australia and Fiji.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Young People Today?

from Peceli

Young People Today?

Watching the youth running wild and burning shops and looting in East Timor in the TV last night, this poses a very good question to us as TV watchers. It happened twice in Fiji. Are we just watching the news and doing nothing or are we going to do something for our own youth in the community we live in?

In my book young people are the precious investments for the country as they grown to manhood. In the Rotary Club we are trying to help young people by providing them with scholarships for leadership. And also we help the street kids in Suva in the form of Donation in Kind.

Youths needs to be recognised and wanted, and there are people in Suva who are helping youth quietly and they makes a difference in the society.
We do worry about the youth of Fiji. Can you do something about them, rather than just be like spectators sitting on a fence, criticizing but not helping. We just watch the world go by. At times the subject is in the public attention and street kids are criticized. But it is more than just the youths who we notice in Suva’s streets. What are the hopes and what are the opportunities for the young people in the rural areas, the farms and the villages?

Help by taking notice.

Here are some stories of youths being giving opportunities. There are hundreds of stories like this. The potential is there in each person, but sometimes needs to be noticed.

Sevati Tuwere, a boy in Bagata village was noticed and given the chance for further education.

Romanu informally adopted an Indian boy in Suva, took him into his own household and through ups and downs now that lad is grown up, working, and has his own family.
Sikeli Tawake was a lad that Mr Northcott noticed was bright and the boy went on to study to be an engineer with Qantas.

Lead by example
Follow the leader

There’s an old saying in Fiji - ona muria ga nai qasiqasi ira qari. This means – the little crab follows the bigger crab, crawling sideways. The young crab only sees that as the way to go, walks sideways too.

In Fiji today, many of the adults seem to be going sideways, instead of straight ahead so no wonder the youth sometimes feel angry, don’t know where to go, how to live decently. When the parents do good things, the youth will see that and follow. Our youth in Fiji today, partly because of the Western style of education - think that American music, videos, sports, are the best and neglect their traditional vanua ties with the emphasis on respect.

There are also many youths with an unfortunate upbringing and we can’t blame them for bad behaviour. Street kids have many stories, some of neglect, and some just their own choice to be free of parents advice.

So what are you doing to take notice of the hundreds or thousands of young people in Fiji who need a sense of worth and hope and a job?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Fiji farm workers in Australia

from Peceli

One of the few examples of temporary work visas to Australia is through the tobacco industry. Groups of Fiji people come to places like Myrtleford to pick tobacco and then return to Fiji after four months. This is a successful project so far.

However there are hundreds of fruitgrowers in Australia that really want Pacific workers for grapes, oranges, soft fruits etc. Unfortunately the immigration system does not encourage, in fact refuses these farmers, access to labourers from the Pacific for short term work. The subject has been raised time and time again and the Australian government does not like the idea of bringing in many unskilled labourers from the South Pacific but only encourage skilled migration. This is a great pity.

The money raised by Fiji people overseas is usually sent back to Fiji and totals millions of dollars - military, rugby, other sports, security, and other jobs. Those who migrate also send money back. These remittances are worth more than even Fiji tourism!

in Fijilive today:

According to the Anarkismo newspaper farmers in Australia demands for Fiji farmers far exceed all other countries.

A middle man for the British American Tobacco Company who employs 10 Fijian farmers says that Fijians are very reliable and is very disappointed that the farmers have to fly home after every 4 months due to their contract.

According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Multi-Cultural Affairs, Australian farmers are pushing for easier and more accessible entry for Fiji farmers to Australia.

A survey conducted showed that the flow of temporary workers to Australia has tripled in a decade, taking in 50,000 skilled foreigners annually.

Meanwhile a report also showed that Fiji citizens working overseas send home more than $262 million more than what the Tourism Industry in Fiji earn.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Fijians and playing cards

Skip-Bo Card Game

From Wendy
Fiji people are enthusiastic card players but I am not and always excuse myself to do something else. Anyway, that has changed! We discovered Skip-Bo!

Peceli and I had never played this card game before, though members of our family like playing 500 and games like that. We were introduced to Skip-Bo by two Tongan ladies who invited us to visit them at the Mecure hotel as they were leaving Geelong the day after. They had been to our city for a church conference and stayed on to explore our part of the world. I had met them when I joined a music elective at the conference.

Out of a 162-card deck, two to six players are each dealt 20-card "stockpiles"; the first one to deplete their pile wins. Numbers 1 to 12 but no Jacks, Queens, Kings. Players draw from a central pile and stack their cards sequentially onto one of four "build" piles (for example, an eight onto a seven, a three onto a two), using plentiful Skip-Bo wild cards to break up static situations.

I won four out of four games! I hadn’t played any sort of card game for at least ten years so I was rather proud. Then they gave me their pack of cards as the winner! It looks like a good game for families because even six year olds could join in. Like our grandsons in Suva!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day

Every year in Fiji there is a special holiday to remember the great Fijian statesman Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna. There is a high school named after him, and also a park in Suva city area. He was the designer of the complex land leasing organisation, the Native Land Trust Board which was set up in the 1940s after extensive visits by Ratu Sukuna and his team throughout the whole of Fiji.

The following notes are adapted from the NLTB website:
In 1933, Ratu Sukuna told the Council of Chiefs: "We regard the Indian desire for more permanent tenancy as a natural and legitimate consequence of an agricultural community settling in any country. But how was this desire to be reconciled with the need to protect the interests of present and future Fijian landowners?"

The Native Land Trust Board scheme emerged as an answer – one that imaginative and practical as well as being, as Ratu Sukuna was later to say, unique in the history of British Crown colony government. But its uniqueness was a problem. The idea of asking landowners to surrender forever the control of their land and to entrust its administration, in the national as well as the owners’ interest, to a central body – even of the highest standing, as was proposed – was so novel and it took some understanding and explanation before being accepted.

Ratu Sukuna took upon himself the formidable task of making that explanation to every mataqali in Fiji and seeking their acceptance. The way he did it is a model in political and social persuasion. He did not rely on printed pamphlets or newspaper advertisements or radio broadcasts [which were pretty scanty in those days anyhow].
He visited village after village and attended districts and provincial councils one after the other, unhurriedly but carefully and patiently explaining the details and purpose of the scheme.

Then came the moment of decision by the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs) and after long and earnest discussion the scheme was accepted and approved.

The decision of the chiefs had to be translated into law and in a speech during the Legislative Council debate on the Native Land Trust bill, Ratu Sukuna said: "When passed the legislation will be a monument of trust in British rule, of confidence in its honesty, and of hopes for the future – hopes that the seeds of disruption will disappear and the Europeans, Indians and Fijians will settle down to labour and if need be sacrificing if need be community interests for the benefit of the whole."

The Board would collect and distribute rent on behalf of the landowner. Ratu Sukuna and his assistants had only just started the massive job of defining reserves when World War II spread to the Pacific creating more urgent needs. For many months, Ratu Sukuna gave most of his time recruiting Fijian men for the armed forces and a Labour Corp and it was not until the end of the war that he was able to continue with the work of demarcating land reserves.

Once again, he travelled throughout Fiji – wherever possible by road vehicle or ship but more often walking over hills tracking from village to village. Towards the end of his work, he discovered in himself another talent, and he began to illustrate his reports with sketches of geographical features and drawings of landscapes to amplify his findings and decisions.

Travel is easier now but it is doubtful if anyone will ever match the detailed first-hand knowledge of Fiji and its people that Ratu Sukuna gained, first in the years as a Native Lands Commissioner than as he accumulated and recorded the facts and made the decisions which are the foundation of the unique system of land administration which he helped in a great measure to create for his fellow Fijians.

The pictures are of Ratu Sukuna, receiving a tabua, and his residence in Lau. He died on May 30th 1958.

The Tippett Collection

Research in Fiji anthropology – the Tippett Collection

From Wendy
In Canberra, Australia there is an excellent but less known resource for students who are researching Fijian history, anthropology, and missiology.

This is at the St Mark's National Theological Centre Library. Alan Tippett was Peceli’s lecturer in Davuilevu. We visited Alan Tippett one time I was researching on Labasa and the vanua. He had offered his library to Geelong, but alas, the locals here said they didn't have a good location for it! This was before Deakin University was established in Geelong. He had lived in Geelong as a child, in fact in the manse we lived in for nine years many years later!

Here are some notes adapted from the website about the Tippett Collection.

Alan Tippett was a Methodist minister and missionary, anthropologist and missiologist of international repute, a visionary Christian scholar, and an inspiring teacher. Dr Tippett presented his library and manuscript collection to St Mark's Library in 1984. Dr Tippett and his wife Edna, began their work for the Methodist overseas missionary service in wartime Fiji in 1941. He developed a collection of notes on Fiji custom, culture and folklore."I had not been very long on the mission field before I saw that colonialism, over-intellectualised religion and historical denominationalism all had to go. They had to permit an indigenous Christianity to emerge." (Dr Tippett: 1984)

Alan Tippett's library includes: ".... many kinds of raw material, documented papers, reports of critical debates which become components of what is now called Missiology." It is a comprehensive collection of books, reports and journals, files of professional articles, letters, card systems, cassettes, microfilm and microfiche, field notebooks, transcripts, MA theses and PhD dissertations.

Alan Tippett intended his library to be used as a research source. "Thus it should be possible for the researcher either to probe into the past or to look into the future, to evaluate that which is behind or to anticipate dimensions of the Post-Colonial missiology. Once we have eliminated matters that stem from colonial presuppositions and historical denominationalism, and the missionary task ceases to be one of civilizing and sectarian extension, a completely different set of questions arises. e.g. How may our missionary effort or support from home be relevant in a third world community without intruding, dominating or foreignizing?"

The Tippett Collection is available for research on site at St Mark's Library.

A 39 page article about Dr. Tippett was written by Colin Dundon in 2001.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ministers in Qarase cabinet so far

from Peceli
I listened to the Fiji radio and heard the list first on the Hindi program, then opened Fijilive. Not many surprises for me. What do you think? Also, Krishna Dutt had earlier commented that Labour would join the multi-party cabinet. He said that even the mountain is high, we can reach there. I guess that by next week it be settled.

No surprises in Cabinet line-up

Tuesday May 23, 2006

There have been no major surprises in the Cabinet line-up sworn in at Government House this morning by the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

Despite a few reshuffles in ministerial appointments, the most surprising appointment has been the retention of Kaliopate Tavola as Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade.

Tavola did not contest the recent election, choosing to step down before the polls. It is most likely that he will be appointed to Senate alongside Qoriniasi Bale, who is back as Attorney-General and Justice Minister.

As the swearing in took place, Fiji Labour Party MPs boycotted by holding a caucus meeting in Parliament to decide the party's next step.

It is understood FLP MPs were unhappy with Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's decision to rejig the line-up handed to him by Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry.

Minister sworn in this morning were
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice: Qoriniasi Bale,
Finance: Ratu Jone Kubuabola,
Education: Ro Teimumu Kepa,
Tourism and Transport: Tomasi Vuetilovoni,
Fijian Affairs, Lands and Provincial Development: Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu,
Fisheries and Forests: Ilaitia Tuisese,
Home Affairs and Immigration: Josefa Vosanibola,
Information and Communications: Isireli Leweniqila,
Public Utilities and Reforms: Savenaca Draunidalo,
Women: George Shiu Raj,
Multi-Ethnic Affairs: Ratu Meli Saukuru and Tavola.

Qarase also named 12 ministers of State to help the line ministers with their portfolios.


The Labour party ministers have been okayed now also and will probably be sworn in this afternoon.
Labour MPs named in the Cabinet are: Minister of Environment: Poseci Bune, Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations: Krishna Datt, Minister for Curative Health Services: Dr Gunasagaran Gounder, Minister for Agriculture: Gyani Nand, Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources: Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, Minister for Primary and Preventative Health Services: Udit Narayan, Minister for Local Government and Urban Development: Chaitanya Lakshman, Minister for Employment Opportunities and Productivity: Felix Anthony and Minister for Commerce and Industry: Adi Sivia Tora.

from Wendy

And there's more! Now they have cut up the pieces of the cake and all of these guys have a kind of status, (nice cheques and cars perhaps) let us pray with a sigh that each one will become passionate and committed to their field.

Fiji Village has now filled in a few gaps that Fijilive this morning didn't get to. Perhaps Peceli and I can get back to 'babasiga' news and away from the topic of politics!
From Fiji Village

The SDL ministers were sworn in this morning at Government House. They are:

Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar Reform: Laisenia Qarase

Attorney General and Minister for Justice: Qoriniasi Bale

Minister for Finance and National Planning: Ratu Jone Kubuabola

Minister for Education, Youth and Sports: Ro Teimumu Kepa

Minister for Fijian Affairs, Lands and Provincial Development: Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu

Minister for Fisheries and Forests: Ilaitia Tuisese

Minister for Information and Communications: Sireli Leweniqila

Minister for Public Sector Reform: Savenaca Draunidalo

Minister for Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation: George Shiu Raj

Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade: Kaliopate Tavola through Senate

Minister for Tourism and Transport: Tomasi Vuetilovoni

Minister for Multi Ethnic Affairs and National Reconciliation and Unity: Ratu Meli Saukuru

Minister for Infrastructure and Public Utilities: Robin Irwin

Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration: Josefa Vosanibola

12 Ministers of State
Minister of State for Housing: Adi Asenaca Caucau

Minister of State for Youth and Sports: Rajesh Singh

Minister of State for Provincial Development: Ted Young

Minister of State Public Utilities and Reforms: Samisoni Tikoinasau

Minister of State PM's Office: Losena Salabula

Minister of State Fijian Affairs: Ratu Suliano Matanitobua

Minister of State Agriculture, Alternative Livelihood and Outer Island Development: Ratu Josefa Dimuri

Minister of State Immigration and Ex Servicemen: George Konrote

Minister of State National Planning: Ratu Jone Navakamocea

Minister of State Small Micro Enterprise and IT Industries: Pio Tabaiwalu.

Minister of State, Prison and Correction service: Inoke Luveni.

Minister of State Education, Technical and Vocational and Special Education: Paulo Ralulu.

Another memo: Vakaivosavosa's post informs us that Felix Anthony prefers to support Mahendra Chaudhry in the Opposition benches and that Ragho Nand will look after Employment Opportunities and Productivity. I hope I don't have to edit this post any more times before the swearing in tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. of the Labour men and women!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thoughts and a mobile phone

Thoughts and a mobile phone

Bula vinaka!
Oh I don't think so.
Too thin, too fat,
too tall, too talkative.
No, I don't think so.
No comment.
Okay, I'll think about it.

Once strangers, now friends

From Wendy

I have been thinking about communication and language after attending part of a conference at the weekend, the difficulties of communication between two people, one who is fluent in English and the other a person from NESB - Non English Speaking Background. How can the second person be empowered rather than be shy, silent, puzzled. There is a tendency for the first person to speak fast, repeat him or her self, even SHOUT and then speak in a deliberate S L O W A N D L O U D voice which is really offensive.

In a book called Snapshots of Multicultural Ministry a Sydney writer asked - How can I approach them (the culturally different) in a way that is friendly and authentic? Then I think of Fiji and the multitude of languages and how people speak to one another in Fijian, dialect Fijian, Hindi, English or other languages. And what of tourists and their way of speaking with local people? They may reiterate a point with repetition, loudness, etc. I am sure that some vavalagis sometimes come across as bossy, loud and aggressive when they speak with Fiji people.

Here are some tips in Cross Cultural Communication summarised from Neil Payne's paper, Director of a London based consultancy. It can apply to a fluent English speaker with a NESB person, or to an encounter between two people from other language backgrounds where one is a confident speaker and the other not so. Too often in mixed groups, a few people are left right out of the conversation and stories and they become like wallpaper.

1. Slow Down rather than speak quickly. Speak clearly.
2. Separate questions rather than ask two or three at a time. Let your listener answer one at a time.
3. Avoid negative questions because in some languages, someone might say, Yes I am not going.
4. Take turns talking and listen to the response rather than butt in again and again.
5. Write something down if you are unsure whether something has been understood.
6. Be supportive and encourage the other person who might have weak English.
7. Check meanings are understood rather than keep going and the other person nods vaguely.
8. Avoid slang, idioms and sayings as they may be misunderstood and the meaning missed.
9. Watch the use of humour because in some cultures protocol is constantly observed and perhaps people should not joke in a formal context.
10. Maintain etiquette. Learn the manners of another culture.

A different perception of history of Australia

We spent Saturday afternoon at Narana, a Geelong Aboriginal venue for education, art sales, indigenous garden, training, worship, meeting halls. It made me think more about point of view and I found this website of an alternative history of Australia from the viewpoint of the 'First Nation' of Australia. So much of the history of the world is written from the point of view of the vavalagi (European) settler rather than from the point of view of the indigenous people. Has a history of Fiji been written yet from a point of view other than the vavalagi academics or journalists?

The Aboriginal flag is pictured here and in recent years has been very prominent in meetings, not just protests, as other Australians, some of us, make an attempt at saying 'sorry' and forming bonds of friendship. The Aboriginal flag flies in Geelong down at the waterfront as our city is committed to respect and that we are on Aboriginal land.

Our program on Saturday was a visit to Narana by 150 or more delegates to a National Conference of the Uniting Church with a Multicultural and Cross Cultural focus.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A brave man in Labasa

from Fiji Times
Naivalu: I had no time to grieve
Thursday, May 18, 2006

A KEY election official told yesterday of how he had no time to grieve for his wife who died the day after polling began because he was committed to his job.

Misieli Naivalu, the Commissioner Northern and returning officer for the Northern Division said his national duties and responsibilities were more important.

He said his wife died while he was at work on Sunday evening waiting for feedbacks from polling stations on the first day of voting.

Mr Naivalu said the writ to conduct the elections in the division was signed by the President, Ratu Josefa Iliolo and there was no way in which he could walk away.

He paid tribute to his senior officers saying the election in the division would have collapsed had he not received their support.

Divisional secretary Vishwa Deo was the Electoral Officer although the post required a senior administration officer.

Mr Naivalu said Ilisapeci Natau, a trainer from the Elections Office, also stood by his side and took over a lot of responsibilities.

He said while Mr Deo looked after all the operations and logistics, Mrs Natau streamlined the administration work and continuously liaised with the Elections Office.

During the counting process Mr Deo and Mrs Natau were seen in a lot of rooms where the process was a bit slow or there were a lot of voters.

They stepped in to start the process and when the counting picked momentum they returned to the operations room.

Mr Naivalu said seeing Mr Deos initiative he had recommended that he be given the acting senior administration officers post so that he could be the Electoral Officer for the division.

He said without Mrs Nataus experience, there would have been a lot of hiccups and counting would have dragged onto Wednesday morning.

Mr Naivalu said while the credit goes to all the presiding officers, their assistants and the officials, he had to mention names and give credit where it was due.

He said Mr Deo and Mrs Natau worked around the clock with him only going home to either shower or to see family members.

The nurses pulled me out on Monday and told me to rest in the room they were using, he said.

My blood pressure was normal but they said I was very exhausted and needed to sleep for an hour.

I think this is the only rest I received and the same goes for the other two officials.

Their presence was needed around the clock and they understood their responsibility.

He said polling and counting in the division was a team effort and a learning experience for everyone.

Mr Naivalu said his relatives had slowly started gathering at his home for the funeral on Saturday.

He said life had to move on and when there was a calling by the nation to serve there should be no excuses.

Divisional police commander, Superintendent Anand Narayan said 250 officers were involved in polling and counting.

He said they did 12 hour shifts to ensure the process was trouble-free.

SP Narayan thanked the officers saying some of them had spent days away from home.

He said support from members of the public, village heads and chiefs helped see through a smooth election process.

Final results of Fiji Election

Party Abbreviation Seats

Soqosoqo Duavata Ni Lewenivanua SDL 36

Fiji Labour Party FLP 31
Independents IND 2
United People's Party UPP 2

Presumably the two Independents will go with SDL and perhaps the United People's Party will go with Labour.

SDL finishes on top with 36 seats

Thursday May 18, 2006
Counting of ballot papers of all 71 constituencies in Fiji has ended with the final seat - Serua Navosa Open constituency going to SDL's Jone Navakamocea who won on the seventh count with 10,143 votes. In second was FLP's Peniasi Dakua who managed to scope 7,638 votes.

The SDL finishes the general elections on top with 36 seats while the FLP comes in at a close second with 31 seats.

The other four seats went to the Independents and the UPP at two a piece.

Now the election is over, have a peaceful evening

a fragment from a story - a bit like a trip we once took to Mali Island and spent the night at Sigawe.

The blue outboard at the jetty is causing Mesake, the boatboy, to lose his temper and he swears in a peculiarly honest Anglo-Saxon. Each time he pulls the starter of the 18 HP Evinrude there is a brief burst of power, a splutter, then silence. We wait on the beach for forty minutes wondering if we will get to the small island across the bay. Eventually the engine sounds more hopeful so we clamber on board the rocking long boat to speed off, fifteen on board.

For twenty minutes the engine works fine and the Fijians on board sit contented. Another splutter, frantic activity on the part of Mesake, some expletives, a shrug and silence. The boat drifts westwards as Mesake tries again and again to revive the engine.

Inside the boat is a long bamboo pole so Eroni thrusts it out into the water but it cannot touch bottom. My mind rushes through images of newspaper story about a boat from Gau Island drifting all the way to the Solomon Islands but my companions have no such qualms. A young mother unbuttons her dress to quieten her crying baby and furious sucking replaces the grizzles. I am also concerned about my video camera that may get wet if we drift into rougher seas.

Again testing the depth, Eroni realises we will have to drift a further four k before hope of touching bottom. There is a mutter of conversation that I cannot understand but no one complains.

Someone says, 'Don't worry. We'll head for a small farm instead of the village.'
Darkness is spreading over as Eroni methodically tests the depth and at last uses the bamboo pole effectively to direct us towards a grey sandy beach and silhouetted houses amidst the coconut palms. There is no sign of light or indication of habitation. We clamber into shallow water, almost trip over mangrove roots. The women gather mats, babies and youngsters and I hold my precious video equipment tightly.

A loud hail brings no reply. Mere airily suggests the owner may be away at a choir competition. 'We can stay the night as he is a third cousin or something.' She pushes in the stout wooden door, rummages for a kerosene light, finds matches and we are in business.

I wonder about this kind of help yourself. Fijians call it 'kerekere' - what's yours si mine, particularly sharing with close or distant kin. Eroni lights the primus, puts on a kettle and the women move quietly about, finding places on the mats to put their sleeping babies and children. Four loaves of bread are found, tucked up in the rafters, and butter, jam and tinned milk in a fly-proof safe. These become our supper.

The floor of the main bure is soft, yielding, pandanus matting over coconut fronds, a layer of pebbles and coral. My video pak is rather incongruous in this setting. Mosquito nets, blankets and pillows are found and we bed down in close proximity.
The moon rises over the mangroves, shining on the sea, the silver picture framed by the open doorway.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Fiji Election results in the North

from Peceli
It's about 4 p.m. Australian time and so far the votes in the Fiji election are about half-way. Anyone interested will be looking up on-going results in Fijilive, Fijivillage, FijiTV or Fiji Times. The results so far have been predictable in the communal seats.

I am putting some of the seats relevant to Labasa and the North here.

Macuata Fijian Communal Seat # 5Winner Seat Number 5

SDL = Isireli Lewaniqila = 7075
NFP = Wasasala Samuela = 215
Indpt = Savenaca Lario Damudamu = 103
FLP = Samuela Nakete = 459
Indpt = Erami Biaunisala = 295

Bua/Macuata West Open Seat # 67

Winner Seat Number 67
SDL = Josefa Dimuri = 8307
NFP = Josefa Rusaqoli = 565
Indpt =Suiliasi Saraqia = 528
FLP = Lemeki Qalibua = 4618
NAP = Josefa Cavu = 939
NAP = Hazrat Ali = 48
NAP = Vitori Cavalevu = 30
Indpt = Tuvuki Isireli B = 235

Labasa Rural Indian Communal Seat#44

Winner for Seat Number 44
Labasa Rural Indian Communal Seat#44
FLP = Mohammed Tahir = 5279
NAP = Satya Deo =139
NFP = Mohammed Rafiq = 930

North Eastern General Communal Seat # 25

Winner Seat Number 25
Indpt = Irwin Robin = 2014
SDL = David Christopher = 1639
UPP = Harry Arthur Robinson = 941

North East Fijian Urban Communal
Registered Voters 14560
Total Votes Cast 13654
Invalid Votes 906
Nanise Vunisere Kasami Nagusuca SDL 11545
Manasa Tugia IND 353
Sainiana Rokovucago FLP 1357
Saimoni Raikuna NAP 338
Bogivitu Lotawa IND 61


Nagusuca wins North East for SDL
May 17, 2006, 02:15 AM

Sitting member Nanise Nagusuca of SDL has won the North East Fijian Urban Communal on the first count, with 11545 votes. Other included the FLP's Sainiana Rokovucago with 1357 votes, former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives Manasa Tugia (Independent) with 353 votes, NAPF's Saimoni Raikuna with 338 votes and Independent Bogivitu Lotawa with 61 votes. There were 13654 valid votes cast and 906 invalid votes.

from Wendy
And as expected, Posece Bune won the Labasa Open seat for the Labour Party.

The results show that very few people are interested in the New Alliance or even Federation Party and just block-voted. It's about 7.30 p.m. Australian time and it looks like SDL will win at this stage, but it still could be close. It depends upon the Open seats now.

The Suva seat - Samabula/Tamavua Open where Peni Baba is standing for SDL is interesting and has not yet been won in the first round so goes to preferences.

updated Wednesday afternoon

Well it's all over bar the shouting and it has been so predictable, though I would have thought a few moderates would have got in.

Samabula/Tamavua went to the wire with a young Labour lass winning, so good luck to her. Peni Baba might be given a Senate seat now. There are not many women elected and I think ethnicity has been so much in the forefront that another kind of categorisation - men and women - has been neglected.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Grand Eastern Hotel Labasa

There's very little about the Grand Eastern Hotel via Google so they need to get more publicity out there! My pics are -1. from a pamphlet when we visited there. 2. an artist's view of the same hotel!
Some of our relatives have stayed there and been happy with the facilities.

Advertisements about hotels in Fiji can be deceptive though. Perhaps the swimming pool is smaller than indicated. Perhaps the river is not pristine. But the mountains are grand, and the people are friendly. It's 2 minutes walk to the main shopping street. Once owned by the Gibsons when it was a quaint colonial style hotel, our eldest sister-in-law worked there in the 40s, a niece in the 80s. Today it's used mainly by visiting professionals and businessmen I reckon.

Advertised as follows:
Per person/per night based on twin share - PRICE CATEGORY
Grand Eastern Hotel Vanua Levu, Labasa Fiji Islands US$50-$100
A 24-room hotel with modern facilities, situated on the banks of the Labasa River. Spectacular backdrop of mountain ranges. Air-conditioned rooms, swimming pool, TV, internet facilities.

Mother's Day

From Wendy I make a cup of tea and in the dark nearly trip over the neighbour’s cat who has sneaked into our house when the back door was left wide open. The orange cat does that in its night roaming. It’s about 8 degrees. Decide to delete two items on one of our blogs – one too pessimistic, the other a silly comment. Hoorah for the delete buttons! Find music for church, old and new songs, including ‘Al Shaddai’.
Listen to ‘Hymns Old and New’ on 3MBS radio. I think about my own Mum who has been gone now for two years.

7.30 a.m. Peceli wakes up and I chip him. ‘Hey, it’s Mother’s Day, where is my breakfast?’ He rushes around and makes tea and giant size pieces of toast in the griller. He picks a pink rose, yellow daises, a red geranium, silver leaves, wraps them in A4 notepaper, and says, ‘Happy Mother’s Day.’ Junior is sleeping in the lounge, the gas heater full on. He came back from Fiji Friday night and finds it cold.

8.30 a.m. Go to the nearby Uniting Church where I play the organ and sometimes piano. The men sing ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’ as a kind of choir, a custom in this church for twenty years on Mother’s Day. Depleted in numbers - we have many elderly people these days. Cuppa with people there and meet Latu and Susana from Sydney, down again to see their Tongan relatives, still here after the bereavement a few week’s ago.

10.45 a.m. Back at home the kitchen smells of cooked prawns, Peceli’s contribution to the shared lunch later. We leave for Melbourne, an hour’s drive on the freeway, no lights for 50 minutes until Pascoe Vale Road. It's dull, raining and even foggy on the Western Ring Road. My white clothes are in a bag to wear if the Fijian women wear white/cream as they did last year. I wear my usual black and pearls. Stop at a Macdonalds for a 5 minutes breather.

12.15 p.m. One of the ladies doesn’t come because she’s grieving the loss of her mother, who died only three weeks ago so there’s some adjustments about who does what in the service. As is the Fijian custom, women lead the Mother’s Day service. Leba looks beautiful in white and a red blazer and flowers, a ladylike Lauan woman. Tau from Gau will preach. She’s in bright pink. I don’t have to wear white [ hoorah! I’ve been given the final prayer and that will be in English, the rest of the service in Fijian, except for April’s reading. A few hugs, kisses and tears as we meet people we haven’t seen for ages. It’s a nice service and my prayer is fine after all.

1.30 p.m. The meeting room is quickly transformed to become a dining-room. The men have done the cooking as usual for Mother’s Day – prawns, mussels, dalo, cassava, crabmeat salad, stew, pork etc. Delicious. Then there’s the clean up by the young women and some of the men. Some of them just don’t get it do they – about giving women a break? Lots of discussion about the problem of relocation as the current building is going to be sold in a few months. The parish council have decided that repairs are just too costly for two small congregations. There is much fuss about insurance these days. A national church conference is on next weekend in Geelong on multicultural aspects in the Uniting Church, one session on property and the difficulty ethnic communities have in finding a ‘home’ for their church groups. Is there still an attitude of ‘them’ and ‘us’?

4 p.m. We return to Geelong and on the way Peceli sings, and then he says, ‘When you speak you sometimes are brilliant, but when you are impulsive, you go wild!’ He’s talking first about my prayer in the church, then he’s referring I guess to my comments about Benny Hinn the other night in a household where the couple admire BH very much. Hmmm. While drinking kava, they had put on a video of the meetings in Suva. Honestly, the Fiji people love crowds and the lotu, but these overseas guys take advantage of them. And the style – well, I am comfortable with Iona kind of songs and liturgies, real stuff.

5 p.m. We find a visitor already in the lounge-room yarning with Junior so kava is mixed. A lovely girl with a Fiji boyfriend who can’t get a visa. I sleep for two hours then say, ‘Okay it’s Mother’s Day, what about some tea?” ‘Oh, the sun has gone down. It’s over!’ Peceli says and I lurch out to the kitchen to find left-overs.

7.15 p.m. I ring my precious eldest son in Suva and we talk politics and the election. Happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Night Phone Calls

from Peceli

Night phone calls

Awakened from sleep
It is 11.30 p.m.
Mike from Melbourne says
How are you? What?
Can you give me a phone number?
A phone number in Fiji?
The top police man in Fiji. What?
They’ll all be asleep in Fiji now.
It’s 1.30 a.m. over there.
Mike sounds a bit drunk.
Please, give me the Suva number.
You can only ring in the daytime.
What’s the problem anyway?
I have a friend sitting here
who wants to talk with him.
Then I heard the word, ‘Taki!’
Anyway, I scrabble around to find the book
In the dark, the light won’t work
I open the book, without my glasses.
Find the number after a few minutes.
Hello Mike. No answer.
Mike has gone.

The phone rings loudly
I am awakened suddenly, worried
As it is 4.30 a.m. only!
A woman’s voice.
Hello, how are you?
She’s bright, it’s 6.30 a.m. to her in Suva.
A long distant call.
She said she tried to contact us
Many times. Oh, the dial-up!
We were on the internet.
She’s from Nabalebale village.
She tells me her father has had a stroke,
Is in Suva hospital
Brought down from Labasa.
She talks of other things
And the suitcase we sent
By the Captain Cook three months ago.
Where is it?
I search for another phone number in Suva,
Find it, while she waits.
I read out the number,
Goodbye, and good luck.

Crossing rivers to vote

from Peceli
They are crossing rivers, riding on horses, walking over mountains in the countrysides of Fiji to vote in the election. It is interesting to see that ordinary people are making a big effort to put in their votes.
Have the politicians really come down to the people this time? Sometimes this is the only time the parliamentarians go near the country people.
The voting system here in Australia is only for one day, and transport is so easy to get about.
We hope that good people will be elected and that the best people will be chosen to lead Fiji into the future.
One of the pictures is at Nagigi Indian school in Labasa area. The top picture was published in the Melbourne Age today, a tired three-year-old waiting for her Mum to vote. Perhaps they are in a school classroom with the anatomy pic on the wall behind them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Our Fiji family network

Nadogo Mataqali – Fijian family network

Nadogo means a mangrove tree. Veidogodogo means a mangrove forest and Dogo vere refers to the complicated thick intertwined mangroves. This is a metaphor for the way Fijian families create a large network through marriage with each new generation.

For example my mataqali (clan) is called Nadogo and my father’s relatives are from Naseakula (Labasa) Wailevu, Matana, and Mouta, all in the Macuata province. My mother’s relatives were from Mali Island, Cikobia Is and Taveuni Is. The map on the central part of Vanua Levu has a mistake. Naseakula is marked where Walevu village is.

In the next generation of my sisters and brothers the network grew through marriage to the people of Gau Is in Lomaiviti, Tavea Is in Bua, Swan Hill town in Australia, Qeleni village in Taveuni, Nokonoko village in Ra, Mali Is., and Nakama near Labasa. In the map of Fiji you can see that the family is extending to a wider geographical area such as places in Viti Levu.

In the next generation – our children and their cousins – the family widened the network even further and included Savusavu, Sasa (Naduri) Wailevu in Cakaudrove, Mali Is. Kadavu, Savusavu, Taveuni, Bua, Navuso village in Naitisiri, Moala Is. In Lau, Yacata. Lau, Gau Is. Somosomo, Taveuni, and Nawaka village near Nadi.

This view of Fijian family networks mean responsibility such as assistance in times of need as with a funeral, helping with school fees, informally adopting children, hospitality, and there are huge responsibilities involved in being part of such a wide extended family. With a money economy and a trend towards individualism this network is challenged very much.

Pio Manoa, a Fiji poet wrote about the Fiji connections in this way:

My home, it’s not just this house we live in. It’s that house next door and the next and the next. My home is this entire village and not this village. It’s also the next one and the next, and even those other ones across the sea. Home can be a spread of islands.

The land’s bounty and human toil, the fruits of earth, the gifts of earth, we bring our gifts of time and labour. We work together to secure a place in the life cycle. The energies of the community meet and blend and are renewed in ceremony and ritual. Each one knows his place and function. The forms, the gifts of age, the collective wisdom of the old, the calm, the dignity, the depth, touch the living chord of our history.

The life chord is woven into this piece of earth. It is part of us as we are part of it. Touch this common pulse in us. Touch our living history. We will change as time directs the river to carry these hills down to the sea.
This was written maybe over twenty years ago and is true about the inter-relationships of Fijians, like the metaphor I used above about the intertwining of the mangrove trees and roots. We need to preserve this view of Fijian networks but today we need to apply this also to include the stranger, visitor, people from other ethnic groups because our world is much more complex and is multiracial, multicultural.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Longest Shift - fourteen days overtime

From Peceli and Wendy

The awesome story of the mine disaster on Anzac Day in Tasmania has been on our minds now for two weeks.

We woke up at 4.45 am this morning, turned on the radio and heard the wonderful news that the two miners trapped underground in a cage for 14 days have been rescued. We watched the TV program intently as several station journalists were on the spot at Beaconsfield Tasmania, a small town focussed on a gold mine.

By 6 a.m. the two miners both walked from the mine, clocked off, hung up their name-tags, and greeted the miner workers and their families. It has been a remarkable story. The two men look fit and were able to walk.

Today, the funeral of the third miner is being held at Launceston at 1 p.m. so it is a day of jubilation for rescue and a day of mourning for one family. Many people say it has been a miracle to rescue the men trapped under rock almost a kilometre underground.

From ABC news

Russell, Webb walk from gold mine
Miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb have reached the surface of the Beaconsfield Gold mine, 14 days after being trapped by a rock fall.
The "great escape" is how the Australian Workers Union has described the survival of the two men.
Rescuers reached the men, who were nearly one kilometre underground, just before 5:00am AEST.
They were taken to a special crib room before being brought to the surface.
Mr Russell and Mr Webb raised their arms in triumph as they stepped out into the fresh air.
They hugged family and friends and thanked their rescuers and many supporters before getting into waiting ambulances.
The ambulances drove out of the mine gates with their doors open, so the crowds outside could see the miners for themselves.
The Australian Workers Union's Bill Shorten says the men will be taken to hospital for full medical check-ups.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Votes are being counted? Not.....yet.....

We rang up our son in Suva late Saturday night and asked if there was a trend in the votes being counted. 'Oh Mum! I haven't even voted yet! It's all happening over a week, and then they start counting.' 'What? It's all over in a few hours over here!
Ah... Fiji.
Meanwhile taki!

The pics of Mahend and Lai were taken earlier of course beside a yellow bucket of kava - certainly not taken in a formal situation with a real tanoa, one at a time! Pics from Yellow Bucket, Fiji Village.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Prediction Fiji Election 2006 Results

From Peceli

I want to comment on the coming Fiji election. I looked through the Fiji Village predictions today and their summary. Their predictions seem to be very realistic, only there are several hurdles such as the army, the new parties and many independents. So in some seats, it can go various ways.

Last week, I thought the New Alliance would win many seats, but now I don’t think so. It will fall in the predictable pattern of racial lines and only two real contenders, SDL and Labour.

I have copied and pasted the Yellow Bucket of Fiji Village predictions.


The Yellow Bucket formula

After much thought and consideration we have worked on a formula that breaks down support from the major races as follows:
Fijian SDL 75%
Labour 10%
Nationalists 5%
National Alliance and various independents the remaining 10%
Indian FLP 65%
NFP 20%
SDL 10%
Independents 5%

Proportions will vary according to area and in some cases strong independents could throw this basic formula out quite considerably. We have tried to take account of this in our analysis on a seat by seat basis.

Our formula is based on public polling prior to the election, history and our general view of performance during the campaign. We expect much debate over the Fijian numbers in particular but in the end despite the apparent abundance of independents in a number of seats, Fijian voters don't have a significant alternative party to choose that comes anywhere close to the SDL in size, branding and infrastructure. There is no CAMV this time around and while we are forecasting record Fijian support for Labour we can't see it climbing beyond 10%.

On the Indian proportions if anything we suspect we may have been too generous to the NFP but if they dip below 20% support will split evenly between those choosing to go to the SDL and those sticking with Labour.

We expect many will be surprised at our final numbers certainly they don't reflect the common view point around town that suggests a stronger Labour result but we have a history of making bold calls around the Yellow Bucket so here goes another one !!
2006 General Elections

Fijian Communal all 23 to the SDL and if that doesn't happen to "wanna be" SDL candidates
Indian Communal all 19 to Labour no questions asked !!!!!
General communal United Peoples Party 1, Ken Zinck 1 and Robin Irwin 1
Rotuma communal George Konrote Independent.
Open Seats SDL 14 FLP 11
The final result:
SDL 37
FLP 31 (we have added UPP to Labour)
Independents 3

* We add a footnote here three seats Nausori/Naitasiri, Nasinu/ Rewa and Suva City Open we have given to SDL but they could swing the other way raising an interesting scenario 34/ 34 with independents holding the balance of power. Now wouldn't that be fun!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Breakfast with Qarase and Chaudhry

From Peceli and Wendy

We woke up at 6 am and for two hours we listened to the Fiji Village audio of questions given to Mr Qarase and Mr Chaudhry, on Radio Fiji FM. Our old computer couldn't get audio so it has been great lately to listen to voices from Fiji.

It was an interesting experience as we drank our coffee and ate our vegemite toast near the computer in our house in Geelong. We are distant from Fiji but certainly it sounded like they were actually in our room.

Both speakers were polite and careful in their responses to questions about issues large and small, some sensitive, some ordinary. ‘What do you think of Alta and Nalta?’ that sort of tricky question and both answered well. It was like a game of cricket, fielding the ball, trying to catch it, missing sometimes. And if they were batting, well I think it was an LBW when Chaudhry lost his cool when asked about money going into his personal account re house renovations. An old story, but a sore one.

Our score is 4 points for Qarase, 3 points for Chaudhry, and 5 points for the moderator of the discussion, Vijay.

Some critical issues were about land, the role of the army, and race, as usual. The danger point is that they both seem to emphasise the economy and really there are more things to life than money-making, though of course we don’t want a poor economy in Fiji. Appropriate development, that’s what Fiji needs.

We are pleased that people are asking questions, men and women, and are vocal and coming out strongly in their questions. A few years ago, it was customary to be silent and very polite towards leaders.

May the best men and women be elected, and of course it is up to the voters next week.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A flight to Labasa

From Wendy

excerpt from a travel diary

We have a long wait at Nausori airport as we arrive before 9 am. The plane has been delayed until 10 45 a.m. though it was meant to leave at 10. It's a twelve seater and I have a panic attack when we are allocated two small seats right at the back. I rave on a bit. Peceli puts his arm around me and three Indian men seem very concerned and talk incessantly with Peceli because they can't understand my claustrophobia. They lean over me, making it even worse. I belt up. One says to pray to God but he doesn't belt up or shut up. One offers me some Wrigley's chewing gum and I attack that with gusto.

Two pilots are there so my discomfort eases. The noisy plane fires up along the runway and takes off. I can get out soon. Underneath us are small farms and the Rewa River delta curling itself towards the sea and islands emerge and then clouds for fifteen minutes then it is a total fog/whiteout.

My ears are hurting as the plane bobs and rises and descends. The cloud cover clears and I see hills, cane fields farm houses, a saw mill, Vorovoro and Mali Islands then the Labasa river delta. The plan turns right around and we fly back over the coast. Peceli points out a strip that is Nukutatava beach so we know we are home, soon see the airport and the small plane bumps a little on the runway before jamming on the brakes.

It is a safe landing and I can breathe fresh air. We grab our numerous bags and a taxi takes us for a ride to Tuatua housing and to my sister-in-law's house, passing goats and one white woolly sheep grazing beside the road.

It is still Sunday and there will be a church service at Vatuadova village later on. We had a little family worship back at our eldest son's flat in Suva, so I feel that I've done by bit for Sunday! My sister-in-law cries and cries as she hugs me. We are home, or at least, at one of our homes.