Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Meanwhile back in the island

from w
While Suva is buzzing with news of the nurses' strike, the threatened teachers' strike and, lots of the civil service may be disrupted tomorrow, back in the island of Vorovoro, life goes on at its easy-going pace. Here is a picture, courtesy of tribewanted of Raijeli preparing the dinner. A peaceful scene.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A taxi driver in Suva

from Peceli
A taxi Driver told me his story as follows:

I was born on a remote island in Lau during the 1970's and when 11 years of age I was supposed to travel with my sister and family on the Uluilakeba ship but some how my father said to stay back that you can go on the next ship. The Uluilakeba ship capsized and sank in the sea and never reached Suva and four of my family members drowned in the sea.

When I reached Suva I went to School to Lomaivuna settlement and then to DAV College I reached Form 5 then I left School and worked in Suva for 2 years. I ended up in Naboro Jail for 2 years of being caught planting marijuana in my back yard. Being in Jail I changed my thinking into become Christian if god saved me from the Uluilakeba Ship sinking God will also save me from this Prison.

I am now a Taxi Driver and also I got Truck licence. My brother just died two months ago in Iraq. He was a Security Driver. The funeral was held in Valelevu Fiji.
Thanks for sharing the story of my life and may God Bless you.

from Wendy
The photo I added is a cropped version of a picture taken by Erica.

Pics of Peceli in Suva

from w
One picture shows Peceli on the computer - either writing sermons or perhaps emailing me! The other he is drawing one of our grandsons while a niece's kid watches TV I expect.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A critic of new technical school in Fiji

from w
In this afternoon's Fiji Times, there is an article about a critic of the new Australia Pacific Technical College. So where is the site? Where do the teachers come from? Overseas or local? Their website gives some information about fees, courses, etc. but no actual site.

New Aust institute a threat
1709 FJT
Monday, July 30, 2007

Update: 5.09pm A TEACHER advocate in Fiji says the new Australian-funded technical college could push some of the country's own training schools to the verge of collapse. The Australia-Pacific Technical College is taking its first enrolments this week, with the hope of helping to fill critical skill shortages in the region.

Its main training centre will be in Fiji, with satellite campuses in Vanuatu, Samoa and Papua New Guinea. The college will use Australian teachers (my italics) and offer training in areas including construction, manufacturing and hospitality.

Susana Tuisawau, a former head of the School of General Studies at the Fiji Institute of Technology, told Radio New Zealand Fiji already has a major institute of technology and more than 30 smaller vocational centres. She said if Australia really wanted to help Fiji, it should have put the money into existing schools. 'These are crying out for funds, they're badly resourced, and if you're going to bring another competitor amongst them, the much needed funds will of course be diverted to paying fees to the Australia educational provider.'

Ms Tuisawau said the Australia-Pacific Technical College will do little to provide work for the vast majority of unemployed people in the Pacific.

How many technical schools are in Fiji

from w
The way to go in any society is to have educational opportunities for 'real' courses such as in agricultual science, automotive studies, tourism instead of the straight academic subjects that often do not lead to employment. In Fiji, the Fiji Institute of Technology is the way to go (FIT) I read in today's news that there's a similiar college of advanced education funded from overseas, opening. Where is it located? How is it different from the FIT?

A few days ago I read a news article about an automotive course in Labasa, connected with one of the Sangam schools I think. Places like Labasa, Lautoka, Ba, Sigatoka, all need technical courses/colleges in my opinion.

A few weeks ago a group of FIT automotive students visited Melbourne and they came down to Geelong. For several years now this kind of educational tour has been a good opportunity for the young men to see how factories work in another country.

Aust college for Pacific opens1113 FJT
Monday, July 30, 2007

Update: 11.13am THE Australian-funded Australia Pacific Technical College, which will provide internationally-recognised courses at training centres in Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and Papua New Guinea, has been declared officially open, a Radio Australia report on Pacnews said.

Last year the Australian Government pledged $US128million or more than F$272million to set up and operate the college.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said the first student intake this month would offer training in tourism and hospitality to fill critical skill shortages and boost employment opportunities and economic growth in the region.

The college is targetting the industry sectors of automotive, construction, manufacturing and electrical trades, tourism and hospitality, health and community services.

Mr Downer said from 2008, scholarships would be available to enable students, especially those from smaller island states, to participate.
There is a website with fees, courses, etc. and an address for enquiries.

Australia-Pacific Technical College
PO Box 10885
Nadi Airport, FIJI

An excellent paper by Pam Nila, Paula Cavu, Emily Hazelman and Isimeli Tagicakiverata looks at aspirations of secondary students and their focus on a career path that may not be attainable. [PDF] White collar work: Career ambitions of Fiji final year school students File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
Trades and technical fields: automotive mechanic, mechanical or other ... Except at Labasa Sangam and Natabua Secondary where there were more occupations in ...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Travel options - Nadi to Suva

from Peceli
Transport from Nadi to Suva can be really good and cheap. I took the 7 30 a.m. PACIFIC bus which cost $11 Fijian to Suva following the Queen Road highway but you have to put up with noise of the engine and free air condition and it takes 3 hours.

The Sunbeam tourist bus leaves at 7 45 and you have to book at the Public Relations desk in the terminal and it cost $18 50. Return Taxes to Suva from Nadi Taxi stand cost 15 to 20 dollars. Tourists might get asked to pay $100 for the trip.

The cost of the Air flight from Nadi to Suva is $80. You pay as you arrive in Nadi in the counter. It only goes to Nausori so you need to get a taxi to Suva (half an hour's drive).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Levuka, my favourite place

from w
We were watching 'Number Two' about the Fijian grandmother from Levuka, and then I found this travel article about my favourite little Fiji town. Okay, it's not in babasiga land, but the people are tauvu.

backwater is friendly despite lawless past
Travel Features By Tom Koppel
Publish Date: July 19, 2007

Joseph Ramusu, a muscular, dark-skinned man, led us into the traditional Fijian thatched-roof building we had spotted while walking along the road. The impressive interior had massive log posts and beams and walls covered with beautifully woven matting. But renovations were under way; lumber and tools littered the dusty floor. "This is where the provincial chiefs meet," he explained, pointing to a decorative board listing all those of rank since 1874. "Are you a chief?" I asked. "Oh, no," he replied, "I'm only the carpenter." "Only?" I countered. "There have been some highly honoured carpenters in history named Joseph." He laughed and beamed. In Fiji, revering an ancestral lineage doesn't conflict with being a good Christian. And in the small town of Levuka, Fiji's first capital, people feel particular pride in their heritage and share their enthusiasm with visitors.

My wife and I had stayed at a couple of mainstream Fijian resorts and enjoyed the palm-fringed beaches, great snorkelling, and fine food. But those places were isolated from villages and towns. Surrounded by western tourists, we met Fijians only as employees who catered to our needs. We decided to take the two-hour ferry ride from the main island of Viti Levu to Levuka; with a population of 2,000, Levuka is the only sizable settlement on rugged Ovalau Island. Except for one German backpacker, the passengers were all locals. They were friendly, which seemed appropriate, as we were aboard a ship called Spirit of Harmony. English is Fiji's official language, and everyone wanted to know where we were from. "I have family who live near Vancouver myself," one man told my wife. An electrical engineer whose crew was working on Ovalau's power lines gave me his card and insisted that we phone him when we got back to Viti Levu, so that he could drive us around. "Bula!" said a couple of young men in baseball caps who were hanging loose on the sunny top deck, bidding us hello in Fijian dialect. They lived in Levuka but had made the ferry trip to bring back a casket for a family funeral. We had noticed it, gleaming white and bedecked with flowers, lying on the car deck below.

Arriving at dusk, we wheeled our suitcases up the main street and settled in at the slightly funky but enchanting Royal Hotel. At 15 rooms plus a few newer bungalows, it is the town's main lodging. There is no better place to get a whiff of colonial-era atmosphere. Built in the 1860s, the hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Pacific Islands, with lazily turning ceiling fans, rattan chairs, a billiards room, and the ambiance of a Joseph Conrad or Somerset Maugham novel. (Maugham actually stayed there.) Today, it is owned by a family that is part European, part Samoan, and part Japanese, typical of the island's melting pot.

We walked a couple of blocks to a simple Chinese restaurant where the staff appeared more Fijian than Asian. The walls were lined with framed photos of old ships and former chiefs wearing grass sulus, or wraparound skirts. (Two days later, we met three Methodist churchmen from Viti Levu decked out in gorgeous grey woollen sulus who were in Levuka for the funeral.) After dinner, we strolled along the sea wall. Clusters of young people gathered under the street lamps enjoying the cool breeze, playing music, and singing. "Bula!" they called out as we passed.

The next day, we started to explore. A small museum housed displays on Levuka's tumultuous history. European and American whalers, beachcombers, and sandalwood merchants arrived in force in the 1820s and '30s, followed by missionaries and traders in copra (dried coconut flesh from which oil can be extracted), sugar cane, sea cucumbers, and "blackbirded" (kidnapped) workers from western Melanesia, who were essentially slaves. For decades, it was a metropolis, a wild and lawless place where hotels and grog shops lined the shore. The island's mountain tribes repeatedly attacked Levuka and burned down its buildings, but the white people made alliances with selected chiefs, including those from neighbouring islands, and consolidated a series of makeshift governments. They built churches and schools, and established a Masonic lodge, and even, briefly, a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Ultimately they prevailed, but not before an allied chief, trying to collect taxes from hostile islanders, was killed and eaten.

Meanwhile, Britain and the United States engaged in gunboat diplomacy, jockeying for power in the Pacific. In 1874, the conflict ended with the cession of Fiji to the protection of Queen Victoria. Levuka became the seat of the British administration. But the town had been built against steep mountains and had little room to expand, and the harbour was too small for a rapidly growing colony. After seven years, the capital was moved to Suva on Viti Levu, and Levuka reverted to sleepy provincial outpost. Which is just as well. Unlike dirty, teeming Suva, it's a pleasant and welcoming place.

When we strolled through the tidy streets, people waved or stopped to talk. The Red Cross chapter was having an open-air reception, with speeches to honour its members. We were invited to join, and we gladly made a donation and partook of the sandwiches and refreshments. We entered a small general store to buy Band-Aids and found packed shelves, accessible by ladders, reaching to the ceiling. The store was owned by a third- or fourth-generation Indian family. (Indians came to Fiji to work the sugar plantations.)

Proprietor Bhupendra Kumar's eyes lit up when he heard I was a writer. "So am I," he said, and pulled out a paperback illustrated history of Levuka. He had written the chapter on business and trading, and had once served as the town's mayor. He signed the book for me and insisted on phoning the only local Canadian expats, hoping to introduce us, but they were away.

We met Akosita Likuca, who was sitting with her two young daughters selling homegrown fruit in the shade of a large tree. They posed for a snapshot, and I promised to mail them a print when we got home. Then we ran into one of the young men who had accompanied the coffin on the ferry. In the back of his pickup he had a huge pig that he was about to have butchered for the feast that would follow the funeral. "So it's the pig's funeral, too," he joked.

The slabs of pork would be cooked in the traditional way: simmered for hours in a pit using rocks heated by a wood fire. In Levuka, the old ways coexist easily with the new.

ACCESS: Part of the writer's flight and accommodation costs was paid by the Fiji Islands Visitors Bureau. For information on Fiji, and on Levuka Levuka can be reached by ferry, including bus connection from Suva, for $17 one way; flights with Air Fiji from the Suva airport cost $41 one way. For the Royal Hotel, where air-conditioned bungalows for two start at $56.
Other blog posts on babasiga we have made about Levuka are here
and here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bula sia from Suva

from Peceli
Bula sia.
In spite of the plane delay we managed to touch down at Nadi airport by 6 15 Fiji time. I had two spare seats in the middle so I managed to make these three seats as a bed to sleep in. The Captain was Turaganivalu Caniogo's relation and the plane's name the City of Kualaroo Qantas. I managed to see Siteri's son, Christine's brother as he is an immigration officer for the diplomats and he said to me 'My mother is in Boundary Road' so I was happy to meet him. I arrived at Namadi Heights at 11 30 am and am tired and I need a rest. I am in heaven as it is much warmer and comfortable.

from Wendy
I didn't know the plane was delayed! Sobosobo, Peceli had to wait an hour or more after we left the airport.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All Those Bright Crosses - a book set in Fiji

from w
An Australian book has just been published - Picador imprint - All Those Bright Crosses - by Ross Duncan. It's mainly set in Fiji so I might search in the book shops to buy it and later write a review. Here's some info so far.

All Those Bright CrossesDuncan, Ross
ISBN: 9780330423250 Subject: Modern & Contemporary Fiction
Stock: New, Available
Published: 01-07-2007 Binding: B-Format Paperback Pages: 348 page/s
Price: A$22.95 Imprint: Picador Australia

And a website by Pan Macmillan with a readers' guide includes the following:

Martin's arrival in Fiji heralds a new thread in the novel for we are immediately introduced to the differences but also the connections between Fiji and Australia . As he leaves the Fijian airport he says that, ‘the humidity hit me like an invisible wall. I had to remind myself constantly that this was what sapped the energy, the resolve, made easy things difficult.' (p 63) But later he remarks that seeing familiar sights such as Australian banks, reminds him ‘that I had perhaps not ventured very far from home at all.' (p 65) Martin grows to respect the ways in which Fijian culture differs to Australian. ‘That's how it is in Fiji. For a long time nothing happens. But everything gets done eventually.' (p 222) A Canadian journalist discusses the George Speight coup of 2000 (p 68) with Martin: ‘You'll get used to it,' he said. ‘Things being more or less true in this place.' (p 70) On his third day in Suva he moves to the Twilight Homestay and continues to discover the nature of this society in which ‘Cash is a much more valuable commodity than shoes in a place like Fiji.' (p 125) He sees the Statue of Cakobau chief of Bau, who ceded the Fiji Islands to Great Britain in 1874 (p 125), and a couple of Spanish silver dollars from the Eliza at the museum and observes that ‘tiny crosses of bright light glinted on their surface' (pp 125-6). Both events rekindle his interest in his research but he feels uncomfortably that it's ‘almost as if I was unwittingly acting out an intricate script that had been written by someone else' (p 126). When he visits the Grand Pacific Hotel he pays Rani a guard to see inside (p 127) and she tells him some of its history, of a female ghost living there, and insightfully observes that he's depressed, warning him that: ‘Without trust you are nothing inside'(p 130). Grainger, the hostel owner, shows up just before Martin's planned return to Australia , and offers him a part-time job so he decides to stay. He telephones Angelica, who is not impressed, and says he's ‘impossibly cruel' (p 154). But he settles in, supervising the guest house, researching, and sub-editing a local paper, including a gossip column. ‘Gossip is a favourite pastime in Suva . A fact that ought to make people act more discreetly than they do.' (p 157) Over the next few weeks he meets a twenty-five female escort named Tabua (pp 162-3), hears her story (which is typical of poorer Fijians and their lack of opportunity), and of her affair with a wealthy businessman named Chin, and during several meals together he begins to care for her. One night he meets her at a club, finds her drunk, tells her she doesn't have to prostitute herself (pp 228-230), and is later beaten up, possibly by her companions.

from w (later)
I've browsed through the novel - intriguing take on life in Suva which is so different to my own experience as I'm not a pub or nightclub attender. A blokey kind of book. There aren't any really sympathetic female characters. Nice cameos and sense of place. A few bungles - getting a boat from Levuka to visit Bau seems a stretch, and a half-hour ride to an international airport - or am I wrong about planes going from Nausori to USA, or Sydney, etc. The author could have made a lot more of his intriguing title too. I'll write more later.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A good Fiji people website

from w
Googling Fiji music I came across a very informative website.
It's a beautiful website about Fiji people – based in USA (?) and maybe Pauliasi is from Gau. That right, tauvu? Lots of links, photos, and downloads of Fijian music.

One of their pics makes the Nabukalou Creek actually look clean!

The Kava Petition

from w
Browsing on a link to an Australian Fiji site, I saw this piece about banning the importation of kava. Is that correct? I had heard a whisper about it, but did not hear the full story. So what's happening?

Sign the Fiji Kava petition

The new Australian government Kava import restrictions introduced on June 27th is a grevious unjustifiable wrong committed against Australian citizens of Pacific Island descent. It fails to recognise the central role Kava ceremonies play in Pacific Island cultures and traditions.

You dear website visitor, can make a difference for the good by signing our electronic Kava petition today. The objective of this petition is to bring to the attention of the authorities the legitimate concerns of the Pacific Island Communities in Australia in relation to the bans on Kava imports.

We can all quietly turn our backs and walk away or choose to take an ethical approach by working to overturn the ban. How can you help? Talk to friends about it, your work mates. Email contacts who may want to sign the petition. Talk to the media, to local MPs. Be pro-active in your own personal area. The goal should be to expand this petition so that it reflects a sizable number of objections in one centralised location that is accesible to all. Please support the petition.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Do Fijians speak up for themselves?

from w
An interesting point was raised at the Fiji Law Society's Annual Convention this week, (among other politically focussed matters) about consultations at the grass roots level with Fijian people about what they really experience and want for their futures. Often it is 'experts' or academics or paternalistic 'carers' or politicians or people with 'status' who speak on their behalf, the speaker implied.

A few decades ago it was considered proper and polite to be silent, not to question, not to argue a point. These days many young educated Fijians do speak up loud and clear - well, some are on blog sites, or forums, or write letters to the editor of the papers and do have their say. And there certainly is a variety of views. So the lawyers who put the case of not being consulted have over-stated the case.

However, Fijian people, especially men, are often meeting and discussing issues about their lives. The difficulty is whether anything ever get done! Another problem is that more often than not, the conservative voice gets heard loud and clear and the dissident or imaginative younger men's and women's views are dismissed.

Is that so, or have I misunderstood?
23-Jul-2007 10:31 AM

Fijian people must be heard: lawyer

THE Fijian people must be consulted if efforts to review the Fijian administration adversely affects them, says a prominent Fjian lawyer. Kitione Vuataki says any such review must also take into account the concerns of the indigenous population.Vuataki made the comments while speaking at the Fiji Law Society’s 51st Annual Convention in Nadi yesterday.

“Unilateral review is not the binding of us together under the law as stated by Cakobau on HMS Dido on September 25, 1874, or under Section 6(d) of the 1997 Constitution,” he added. “The task of Fijian administration to find out through its various councils what is best for the Fijian people is now overlaid with the constitutional role of the Great Council of Chiefs to know what is best for all people in Fiji with regard to the positions of president and vice president of Fiji .”

He added that although the country had come a long way from HMS Dido, hopefully binding the people together by law as hoped for by Ratu Seru Cakobau would continue.
“The canoe is sailing but he who takes the helm must always have this duty in mind whether a passer-by as spoken of by Ratu Cakobau or even from within,” Vuataki stressed.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi echoed similar sentiments saying that he could uphold what Vuataki said about the need to have an enagagement with the Fijian people at all levels particularly at the village and in the urban and peri-urban areas.

“The ordinary Fijians’ whose voices in all of this is often lost because other people speak on their behalf whether its chiefs, their ministers, their mataqali or yavusa leaders and their voices don’t often get heard in this discord,” Ratu Joni said. “And there is a very real need to hear what they actually think but it will be a difficult process because it will also depend on how you both phrase the debate and shape it.

“Often it is very difficult to get the sense of what people really think unless you have them on their own and you are having a very frank and open discussion and lets you actually know what they want to say and not just what you want to hear.”


Fiji and tourists - will brochures do the job?

from w
The Fiji Visitors Bureau and hoteliers are concerned at the downturn in tourists going to Fiji during the past six months. Well, the travel advisories are a bit negative and the newspaper stories, but people are still going and coming back with good stories.

However one problem is the high cost of fares. When enquiring about Melbourne-Nadi fares at a travel agency we were quoted at a fare for over $1000A - well that is fare too much. Eventually we found a fare on the internet for $900A but that is still very high.
In today's news there's talk about only 50% occupancy rates and the need for brochures and advertising campaigns but I don't think brochures will really work. Also I think Bernadette and co going to Dubai was hardly necessary - I don't think our tourist market is in the Middle East!

Of course it is very disappointing that many people in the west of Viti Levu - and other places of course - have lost jobs or are on half-pay, etc. Tourism is a flighty business (ha ha) and should not be depended upon as a main source of income for Fiji. More intensive food production surely is the way to go I reckon.

More job loses expected within tourism industry
By fijivillage
Jul 23, 2007, 08:20

More job losses are expected within the tourism industry as there are no signs of recovery. Interim Labour Minister Bernadette Ganilau told Village news that hotels and resorts are struggling to keep people employed as occupancy rates remain below 50%.

According to Ganilau lack of funds has decreased their advertising drastically and they desperately need the $2 million allocated by the Finance Ministry for printing of brochures and restarting various advertising campaigns which has seized at the moment.

Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry who returned from Brussels yesterday afternoon is yet to comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Employers Federation said it is yet to acquire the relevant information to determine how many people have lost their jobs over the last seven months due to the decline in the tourism sector.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Music in a Fijian home

from w
This guitar gets played often - not always in tune, but when we have visitors it becomes the focal point for lots of sentimetal string band songs from the islands. It was a gift from a Geelong family when one of the sons died after a motorbike accident when Peceli had been a pastor to the family, so it's a special gift. We've had other guitars, ukeleles, even a drum kit in our household, but the precious one for me is a Beale piano. We had a piano when we lived in Rakiraki and even at Dilkusha when we lived at Shantiniwas but we left it behind in Dilkusha when we moved to Labasa to live on the cane farm. I wonder where it is now?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Books for Fiji schools

from w
Many schools in Fiji receive donated books from overseas organisations and concerned tourists who develop a relationship with a school. Okay, that's fine, but it is hard to know what kind of books are suitable. Every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings a few of us in Geelong sort out piles of boxes of books donated from schools when they upgrade their libraries. These go into containers bound for the South Pacific or Asia. We look through the books and decide which ones might be of use. It's hard to know sometimes - the reading level, the accessability of the material, the relevance, the hundreds of senior level maths and science books but may not be suitable. So unfortunately many of the books go to the tip. Even the organizers of monster book sales don't want them. I retrieved a few interesting ones the other day - the life of John Wesley, a history of sculpture, stained glass windows, a high school art book, even an old Reader from the 50s which was nostalgic for me but so unattractive in print style, etc. I sort the primary and secondary fiction mainly and leave the hard choices to others. Here's an example of the difference between a school text of the 50s and the 2000s.

Some websites of interest on this topic are

Living by the book – a peace corp volunteer’s adventures with books in a Fijian village

An academic at the USP writes about school libraries and book resources in schools in the South Pacific

books for sale for primary children in Fiji – on a New Zealand website

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reef Roosters and the Fiji People

from w
Instead of crying into my breakfast cereal milk about the sad things happening in Fiji, I will instead post an article from today's Fiji Times about a book recently published and launched this week in Fiji. Good news. Way to go. Sharon Light's website includes dozens of samples of her paintings on masi - bright, romanticized, positive aspects of Fiji's flowers, animals, birds, fish, shells and people.

Artist releases first children's book
Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sharon Light and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi during the book launch in Suva yesterday
CHILDREN now have the opportunity to read about one of the favourite legends of Fiji after the launch of a children's book by local artist, Sharon Light.

The Reef Roosters and the Fiji People was launched by former Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi at the Hilton Special School in Suva yesterday.

Ms Light said the book was a vibrantly colourful interpretation of one of Fiji's favourite legends.

"I grew up listening to these tales and legends about our reefs, but I noticed that there is no resource for today's children to enjoy these stories, so I decided to write a book," she said.

Ms Light said the book would bring Fiji's coastal reefs alive with local dialogue and exciting, colourful pictures that children around the world were sure to enjoy.

She said the book told the story of why Fiji Roosters had the unique habit of crowing whenever the tide was rising when the elsewhere in the world, roosters crowed only as dawn approached.

"This is the first in a series and I have already started work on the second which should be out in a couple of months," she said.

"What makes me happy is knowing that these tales are now able to be enjoyed and appreciated by a new generation, and are much less likely to be forgotten."

Ms Light donated 10 books to the Hilton Special School library yesterday.

The book is available for sale at the University of the South Pacific bookstore and Bookmasters on Victoria Parade, in central Suva.

Some of the characters introduced by Ms Light include Star-fish Diva', the Sea-Snake Band' (made up of a trio of banded sea snakes) that perform at Sand-Crab's Disco' and the Roosters.

"The Reef People And The Fiji Roosters is a traditional Fijian folktale brought to life by Ms Light," Ratu Joni said.

He said it was a story about reef creatures whose lives were made miserable by three roosters, and how they got their own back and lived happily ever after.

"Sharon Light is not only a talented and well-known artist in Fiji and the Pacific. She is now venturing into writing and illustrating story books for children.

"This is her first creation and it is a delightful one.

"The illustrations are a riot of colour and will appeal to the target audience.

"The tale itself is an enchanting one. As we are an island people, our young will relate readily to the creatures that inhabit our seas close to shore," he said.

"We do not have to go to other countries to learn about what is around us."

Can turmeric cure dementia?

from w
Turmeric is the English name but it Fiji it's usually called Haldi. I've seen it growing near the road to Nukutatava. Maybe - if the following news article is correct - then Fiji has the potential for a new industry associated with medical science. The botanical name is Curcuma longa and turmeric is from the ginger family. Now read something I didn't think of before today!

from w

From Washington USA
Curry diet may beat dementia

An ingredient in curry may help stimulate immune system cells that gobble up the brain-clogging proteins that mark Alzheimer's disease. US researchers say hey have isolated a compound in turmeric, a yellow spice that gives Indian curry powder its distinctive colour, that appears to stimulate a specific response against Alzheimer's symptoms. It may be possible to infuse this compound into patients and treat the incurable and fatal rain condition. Dr Milan Fiala of the University of California and colleagues said.

Other research has shown that curcumin, an anti-oxidant found in turmeric, can help prevent tumours from forming in the laboratory and in rats.
Okay, do you know any baini who has dementia? No, I don't think so.

How many times would I have to eat curry each week to stave off the memory loss?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Timothy and the Navua Methodist Church

from w
I was interested to read several items in the Fiji papers this week concerning a celebration at Navua at the Timothy Methodist Church named after a blind pastor. Peceli and I were involved for several years in the Indian Division of the Methodist Church in Fiji, particularly in Lautoka, Rakiraki and Dilkusha. In my early years in Fiji I was a member of the Dudley church in Suva and sometimes visited Navua to the homes of Dudley High School students.

We knew Timothy well and at one stage he lived with us in Rakiraki, sang and played his music and showed us how he read in Braille. He was such a lovely man, gentle and peaceful. Though Navua is a small town, several church leaders have emerged from this little Methodist Church near the Navua River, such as the Lucas family of course.

I read that our friend Daniel Mastapha and other former Fiji residents have gone back to Fiji for a reunion. The photo is of James Bhagwan and Daniel Mastapha. Many ex-Dudley, Dilkusha, and Lautoka Fiji-Indian Christians have moved overseas to Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Just this weekend I talked with a Fijian friend Loloma Tukei Tali who once worked as a deaconess in the Methodist Church in Fiji and also had stayed with us in Rakiraki one time, working alongside Peceli in visiting the cane-farming families. Loloma and Tom (who is from Vanuatu) now live in Geelong so it is a wonderful friendship renewed.

Timothy Methodist Church in Navua Declared a Circuit
Saturday, July 14, 2007
After 101 years the Timothy Methodist Church in Navua, is to be declared a circuit that will no longer operate under the Dudley Methodist Church, in Suva .

The church part of Methodist Church’s Indian Division, gets its independence tomorrow in a special ceremony and church service led by former church president Reverend Dr Daniel Mustapha, now a resident of Australia. Divisional Superintendent Reverend William Lucas said that it will be a truly great occasion for the church.

Pictures of Labasa

Here are some pictures of Labasa, cane trucks going along the main street, a Chinese restaurant, the Labasa river, and a railway bridge across the Labasa river.
They were taken by travellers to Vanua Levu, three of them by Michael Katzko whose description of a trip to Vanua Levu is described here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Trojan Horse in reference to Chinese 'soft loans'

from w
I think it is naive to think that 'soft loans' come easily and without a great cost. There's an advertisement on the TVs at present about the wooden horse at the Greek city gates and the men inside don't see the warriors hidden inside so they haul the wooden horse inside the city. This legend/historical story should be kept in mind I reckon.

International aid in the form of loans is not a free ride, but there's a trade-off. Perhaps the engineers and experts will all be from China and not locals so most of the 'soft loan' money will actually pay expatriates. The roads and water problem may be fixed but at what a cost?
China loan 'won't be easy'
Saturday July 14, 2007

Fiji's bid for the $600 million dollar loan facility offered by China won't be easy, said the former envoy to the republic, Jeremaia Waqanisau. Waqanisau said in a television interview that he had encountered a lot of difficulties in China and expected his replacement, businessman Sir James Ah Koy, to face the same. "He will be frustrated by China bureaucracy. It is not that easy. There are a lot of obstacles. That was what I faced. It is easier said than done."

Ah Koy said this week that he will be going to get a share of the $600m on offer to the Pacific. "It is like a smorgasbord. Whoever gets their first gets the biggest serve," said Ah Koy. Ah Koy was nominated to be Fiji's High Commissioner to China after the interim Government recalled Waqanisau.

The Chinese Premier, HE Wen Jiabao, during his visit to Fiji in April last year, announced that China has set aside US$600 million to be extended to Pacific Island Countries in the form of soft loans for various types of projects.

The interim Government says the China Soft Loan Facility is good news for Fiji and it intends to use for the benefit of the nation.

"It is good news, because we have never come across that large amount of money before and we would put it to good use," said interim Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama. "If they do approve our loan request then we will use it on things like building roads and fixing water."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bougainville and Mister Pip

from w
I read a strange but compelling novel this week - 'Mister Pip' by Lloyd Jones, a New Zealand writer. Our book club meets once a month and this is the book I chose for ten of us to read for our next meet at the GPAC Cafe. The story is set in the 1990s in Bougainville during the blockage by Papua New Guinea with the 'redskins' fighting the 'rambos' rebels after the trouble with the mine. The point of view is a thirteen year old Melanesian girl named Matilda, and the narrative is told in quirky but often matter-of-fact manner, even though later in the book there is dreadful violence.

When I started reading it I was puzzled by the focus on Charles Dickin's 'Great Expectations' but there are certainly resonances between the real life of villagers and a fictional boy in England a couple of centuries ago. An odd white man, nick-named Pop-eye, becomes the village teacher and he has only one book, 'Great Expectations'. As Helen Garner remarks, the book is 'as compelling as a fairytale-beautiful, shocking and profound'.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Labasa market and other Fiji markets

The Labasa market is really overcrowded and it is long overdue to change location. Because it is near the bus station and the taxi ranks the area is really noisy and polluted. Of course people want to shop then not have to walk far to catch a bus or taxi. Perhaps it should be moved to higher ground the other side of the river. The sellers come from long distances such as Nabuwalu and Savusavu to sell their goods, often by bus, and even from Taveuni Island. Others buy wholesale and resell at the market. One of the women from our Vatuadova village does this. About six years they were thinking about moving the market and the bus shelter but it hasn’t happened yet. Why not?

One day we were strolling along a road in the Tuatua suburb of Labasa and an Indian man called us in to have a cup of tea. His house looked very ordinary from outside but inside he had everything he needed. He was a bean-seller from the market. From little things big things grow - as the song goes.

The markets are usually open six days a week but are busiest on Fridays and Saturdays. Cassava and dalo are getting very expensive these days. Peceli went shopping in Suva market not long ago with his grandson – their task to buy dalo and octopus – both already cooked. The octopus was smoked, the dalo was cooked and sold for $1.50 each which was quite good. Then my daughter-in-law added coconut cream and onions to make the octopus tastier.

Whether in Suva, Sigatoka, Lautoka, Rakiraki or Labasa there is always an outdoor/indoor market where you can find all sorts of vegetables and fruits, fish, crabs, delicacies. A good website of pictures is by a Suva photographer. Start here.

I like to buy vakalolo and bila at the Suva market. Valalolo is made from pounded dalo with sugar and coconut cream and sold wrapped in banana leaves. Bila is fermented scraped cassava, smells bad, but it's chewy. It's sold wrapped in leaves and can easily be identified by the long thin shape. They sell for $1 or $2 dollars each.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My visit to Vorovoro Island

from Peceli,
My visit to Vorovoro

Ratu Beni I met Ben Keene the founder of the Tribewanted when I was in Labasa a few weeks ago. I felt so warm and happy to see the members of the tribes and also my blood relations on the Island of Vorovoro. I was there the night of the farewell to Raina, one of the girls. On that night I did not sleep till 3 in the morning at Tui Mali’s house after drinking kava and sharing stories.

The School Projects
Thanks to the Tribewanted members for looking after the School library and their interest in the communities in the Island of Mali. The current project is to make better use of the generator at the school and teachers’ quarters by wiring the whole system. This generator was given by the Commissioner Northern and computers were given by Donation in Kind in Geelong. It is the responsibility of the Mali people to look after the maintenance and organize the wiring.

Methodist Conference
While I was with Tui Mali we talked about the plans for the Methodist Conference in Macuata 27 August to 2 Spetember 2007. Mali Island people will be helping with hospitality for the coming Methodist Conference in Macuata. They will look after delegates from Namoli Division in Lautoka and others. The Mali Talatala lives in Ligaulevu village close to the Mali District School . The nearby village of Nakawaga is known for the special skills for fishermen. This village is close to the chiefly island of Vorovoro Island.

Nakawaga will be used to house the Methodist conference members. More likely the visitors to Mali in the Conference will leave early at 6 30 am every morning by an outboard to Malau Port and then go by bus to Naduri village for the Conference, an hour away. I suppose their menu will be fish.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Going Home and Pacific Identity

from w

Quite often we meet young people who say they are Fijian or Islander but they have never been to 'home'. They were born in other countries and maybe one parent is not from the South Pacific. These young people have sometimes said, 'I really want to know the identity of my father.' Or, mother.

Going Home and Identity

Yesterday I was watching a TV Message Stick program called 'The Coming of the Light' about a celebration in a Torres Strait island about the arrival of the first missionaries to them on 1 July 1871, who happened to include pastors from the South Pacific. When I heard their music, saw their dance, their dress, it seemed that the connection with places like Tonga and Samoa had made a lasting impact.

The early LMS teachers, led by British missionaries the Rev. Samuel McFarlane and the Rev. AW Murray, were from Lifu and Mare in the Loyalty Islands, and, later, from Aitutaki, Rarotonga and Manihiki in the Cook Islands, and from Samoa and Niue.

The Torres Strait Islands are part of Australia but the Islanders are different from Australian Aboriginal people and even Papua New Guinea people. They seem to be much more like South Pacific Islanders. Christine Anu, the singer of 'My Island Home' about the 'salt-water people' comes from this area. A TV series 'Remote Area Nurse' is about life on one of the islands there.

The main point of the TV program was the 'going back' of a young man, Marcus Smith, who was raised in the West Indies where he was associated with the Rastafarians. His father's mother was from the Torres Strait islands. This man is now living in Cairns, Australia and he made the trip to the Torres Strait for the 'Coming of the Light' celebration at Erub Island. He was very weepy when he approached a particular 'sacred ground' and felt at last he knew his identity. This 'going home' can be an emotional and even a spiritual experience for the person.

I am sure there are some interesting stories out there of young people in places like New Zealand, Australia, and USA who make the trip to Fiji or some other Pacific Island for the first time to make that connection with their heritage.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Land in Fiji

Land in Fiji
from w
When Peceli was going from Suva to Navua a couple of weeks ago and passed Kalokolevu village he looked up the valleys and hills. They were so green and fertile, but empty of houses and development. He told me - surely this land could be used to accommodate thousands of people. The land could be subdivided and the unusued land planted in vegetables and fruit.

There is always talk about Fijian land, leases, ownership, disputes, concerns about the land-less. Also the discussion about unused land. One Interim Minister has large ideas - such as - let's invite the Indian sugarcane farmers back - those who lost their small piece of land when their leases expired. However, they have relocated elsewhere and may be doing very well. Why would they want to work at sugar again when its future is undecided?

The same Interim Minister speaks about 30,000 Fijians who are landless and 'the 'will be provided with appropriate land'. (Fiji Times report) Where from and who will pay? Hmmm. I have observed that Fijians who do not get lease money are often very hard-working because they have to be to survive!

He also said (reported in the Fiji Sun) that the Go Farm Fiji (GFF) Project is about 700 acres of unused land at Namelimeli village in Namosi to be developed by a Chinese man.

I'm a 'greenie' and I don't panic if I see a mountainside of trees or grass or bamboo. I don't really like to see whole valleys of sugar-cane when I know that this industry replaced medicine trees, fruit trees, pandanus and sometimes forests.

However when you drive around or across the islands you see so much fertile land that you can see its potential to feed even a million more people if areas are planted down in vegetables and fruit. Each place could be self-sufficient without needing to import (often) junk-food from overseas. There is potential for more timber planting, kura, sandalwood also.

So both at the local level and at government level there needs to be action concerning the use of land whether it is freehold, or leasehold - residential, agricultural or development and there is always the consideration that Fijians think of the future in keeping some land for their children and their grandchildren.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fijians are dancing in Dubai!

from w
Okay, this is not about 'babasiga' and Macuata, but this news item does seem quirky - that anyone in Dubai would possibly want to go to the South Pacific for a holiday or buy Fiji bottled water for that matter! Dubai is a great shopping place and people want to go there! Hmmm. And who paid the fares of the Fiji dancers who will perform at the Heritage Surprises event?

Fiji takes Dubai Summer Surprises route to boost trade links

04 July 2007
Fiji is hoping to use a series of programmes at Dubai Summer Surprises to forge trade links with the UAE. A delegation led by the South Pacific republic's ministers of Commerce and Tourism will meet Dubai's business community at the Heritage Surprises event.

"Dubai is a magic word around the world, so being invited to take part in this promotion is a big boost for us," said Tourism Minister Bernadette Ganilau. "We are coming over with a dynamic group of young people to entertain shoppers and that should be an excellent start to spread awareness about Fiji in Dubai. The travel industry is excited about any potential link with Dubai and the UAE, so this trip means a lot to us.

"We're building bridges here, apart from marketing Fiji. We need new allies. We hope people in this part of the world will gain an insight into who we are and where we come from." Ganilau was in Dubai earlier this year to meet high-level travel industry officials.

"Our Minister of Commerce and Investment, Taito Waradi, is also coming over with a delegation for talks with investors and other interested parties," she added.

The visitors will meet representatives of the travel and tourism industry and Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

There will be meetings with bottled water distributors.

Also on the agenda are talks with stakeholders in the region's film community to discuss collaboration on staging a film festival in Fiji.

A troupe of 10 dancers will perform for a week at Dubai Festival City's Waterfront Centre from Thursday, while live demonstrations of the country's arts and crafts will be held at BurJuman during the same period.

By Keith J. Fernandez © Emirates Today 2007
Article originally published by Emirates Today 04-Jul-07

Monday, July 02, 2007

How to get to Labasa

from w
If you want to fly from Nadi or Suva this is quite a good deal.

Marama and Turaga magazines

from w
Peceli brought back the June editions of both Marama and Turaga magazines. They are glossy, about eighty pages, and full of great stories and pictures. Cost $3.95 each which is good value. Mainly inspirational stories of people doing well, often going through a difficult journey on the way. A few ads and government handouts too and some good health articles. Both magazines are published and edited by the same team, the managing director, Ishwar Narayan and they have a website