Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year on a Pacific Island

from w.
When I think back to how Christmas/New Year used to be spent for us who have been passionate about the Christian church. Once upon a time, as soon as the flurry of Christmas Day was over, we would pack up and go to a church camp, sometimes called Summer School, sometimes at a school campus but more often near a beach such as Ocean Grove. This was decades ago when youth and young adults were immersed in a different culture, where church-going was the norm for many of us, where youth clubs flourished, where Sunday schools had hundreds of children of various ages. The summer schools went over the New Year with a Methodist Covenant Service part of the ritual before the turning of the year. We were passionate about being religious and also of telling the world the good news. This was the early 60s. Today there are no summer schools, very few youth camps, Sunday schools (at least in the Uniting Church) have small numbers. Young adults go elsewhere for the New Year celebration.

Okay, enough with nostalgia.

This morning our minister told us a story about the time he went to a Pacific Island with a work camp just after Christmas. About fifteen of them from Geelong. A three hour church service welcomed them to the main town on the island. They were told to get up at 5 a.m. the next morning for church. Three hours, then breakfast after 8 a.m. This went on for a week, so in the heat and humidity of tropical summer they still managed to do some ‘work’ at the boys’ college and girls’ college in repairs and building.

Anyway, the story went on. Midway through the first service suddenly everyone (5000 of them – except for the papalagis who didn’t know what was happening) bent their faces into the pew in front and started talking – all at once. The visitors were puzzled. Then suddenly Whack, whack, poke, whack! A large gentleman with a stick was hitting them on the back. Pray! He demanded they follow the others. Okay, they did so. After about ten minutes there was some instruction up the front and the place quietened down a bit. Then whack, whack, poke, whack, etc. again on the backs of the papalagis. What have they done wrong this time? Stop praying! Oh, that’s it, they realized.

I guess the point of the story was just to show how different cultures celebrate the New Year in, and how church worship is taken very seriously in some places, rather than a mere one hour a week.

Okay, where was this? You have surely guessed that it was in Tonga in the town of Nukualofa and at the big Methodist Church there.

Anyway there are still some youth camps - and youth exchanges to Pacific Islands occasionally in the Uniting Church of Australia and also with Catholic youth as in this picture where a group from Port Macquarie visited Tonga earlier this year. Way to go!

One view of Air Fiji

from w
I found these comments from a blogger who writes about the flights to Vanua Levu. I read recently that the Savusavu airfield will be closed for a while to upgrade? So, what's happening there? Have they started yet?

Air Fiji
It's hard to feel dread boarding an Air Fiji flight considering that they spend so much time decorating their aircraft with the most beautiful murals and designs. Yet on some of the inter-island jumps between Vanua Levu, Viti Levu, and Taveuni I've found myself dwelling on how these pretty planes might look strewn across verdant rainforest or cerulean ocean surface.

Truth be told, it's not the Air Fiji planes that scare me. They're mostly new and appear well maintained. What is frightening are the air strips used for takeoff and landings. They are often unimproved fields or loosely packed gravel runways that always appear too short. It's not uncommon to spot pigs or other "wildlife" scurrying near the airfield. Couple this with the often steep and erratic approaches needed for landings (particularly in Savusavu) and you begin to understand why a lot of people prefer the rusty, leaky inter-island ferry over flying.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Samu lives at the Labasa market

In the picture Samuela Waka sits at his makeshift home under the market table.
from w
I saw this article in the Fiji Times and thought it strange - with all that land around Labasa this family live in the unhealthy environment of a food market! Does the Labasa Council allow this? What is being done by the Labasa Council to house poor people? Any Hart homes or places like the village established by Rotary out of Lautoka and known as Koroipeta? Where is the sense of community, hospitality, that this family cannot live with relatives?

My market homeTuesday, December 25, 2007

IN order to make ends meet, a grandfather and his grandson have lived in a market the past year. Samuela Waka is 55 years old. For the last 10 years the Labasa market has been his home, literally. It is where he sleeps, eats and sells from. For the last year though life has become even harder as he has had to look after his grandson, Wili Tarika.

Wili goes to school from the market where he sleeps, studies and eats .

"He is in Form 4 and since last year, we have lived together in this market where we sleep, eat and do all our work from. We also use the public toilet to bath and change from," said Mr Waka. Space under a high-table from which market produce is sold serves as their room. Mr Waka says it is comfortable enough to sleep.

"We buy food from the women who sell in the market or eat from cafes everyday and there is no other way we can buy food and cook it in the market because we are both busy and it's too much work for me especially when I am old," he explained.

Under that table, Sam built boards around it and left a space at one end that acts as a door. "My grandson wears his uniform from our small room, under the table where we also sleep. We are fortunate that the electricity supply continues throughout the night which allows the lights to stay on at night so my grandson makes good use of it to do his studies," Sam said.

From their market home, they also wash their clothes and hang in the back area of the market by the Labasa riverside. Living in such habitat is simply because Mr Waka cannot afford to travel home because it is too expensive. He says it chews up his profit from his sale.

"So I order vegetables and rootcrops from farmers around the area and buy from them so I can sell to earn money."

Originally of Naviavia village in Wailevu, Cakaudrove, Sam 55, is the sole bread winner of the family supporting his two daughters and grandchildren.

His wife, Laisana Waqamairabe died 22 years ago in 1985, leaving him behind to solely support their four children who were in school then.

"I remained in the village with my children until they completed their education and at the village school and went onto secondary school in Labasa then to finding jobs where they could support themselves," he said. "My two younger daughters got married but due to marriage breakdown they returned home with their children, they had one each and lived with me in the village," Mr Waka said. That happened 10 years ago and as a result, he decided to become a full time market vendor to help support his two grandchildren and his unemployed daughters.

In January 1997, Sam arrived at the Labasa market with his first lot of dalo, yaqona and vegetables to sell in which he received about $100 within the few days of complete sale.

"I sent some money home to my daughters so they could buy food for their children and buy baby milk also," he said. "I felt it's my duty to help look after my children and grandchildren after their marriage broke down and since taking upon myself that responsibility, I have remained in this market with that in mind."

He has singlehandedly put his two grandchildren two school, from primary to secondary. While his grandson lives with him in the market, his granddaughter, Laisana Waqamairabe boards at the Saint Mary's Hostel and attends Gurunanak secondary school as a Form 6 student. He pays for her board and her food. Mr Waka says it makes more sense to sacrifice rented board so that he can pay for his grandchildren's education. "It's not an easy life but from the money I earn which can be about $50 a day I use to pay for the expenses.

"While I still have the energy to do it and still fit to look after my grandchildren and pay for their education, I will do it, even if I have to sleep from the market area. He said after 10 years he has grown use to his market home'.

"(I) have enjoyed it, really," he assures.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas by the sea

from w
After a delicious seafood lunch on Christmas Day prepared by my daughter-in-law, we drove to Queenscliff and took the 40 minute ferry to the other side of Port Phillip Bay to have a picnic afternoon tea on Sorrento Beach, a place where I holidayed as an eleven-year-old. The beach is the same, narrow strip of sand, very clean water, a wide stretch of grass and pine trees. It was cool at first then the sun warmed us up but few went into the water. Mostly Asian migrant famlies with their picnics, including a Punjabi group playing cricket. Two more pictures on Geelong Visual Diary.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

All I want for Christmas is...

from w.
This is really true of people who live in Suva. - a cartoon from the Fiji Times.

Kava ban for Labasa Methodists

from w
Well, well, that's something! The Methodists of Labasa town (but maybe not countryside) are on a kava ban for the Christmas season. Okay, too much kava is unhealthy but after all it is holiday time and hospitality requires - or does it - having a bowl of grog with visitors? I'm of the opinion that too much social kava drinking isn't good on work days but it is holiday time now. It has been suggested that a ban on kava might solve some social problems? Which problems? About parents neglecting children because they are grog-doped? Okay, fair enough. One week, then in January it's back to 'normal'!

Kava ban for the flockMERESEINI MARAU
Sunday, December 23, 2007

MEMBERS of the Labasa Methodist Church circuit are on a kava and smoking ban throughout the festive season. Circuit minister Samisoni Daunivala said the ban had been effective from the second week of November. Mr Daunivala said the ban would go on until the end of this year. Speaking in Fijian, he said that would be subject to review.

Mr Daunivala said that the ban was part of their cleansing process within the circuit as well as the vanua. He said there were social issues which had affected not only the vanua but the church members as well. While he did not wish to dwell much on the ban and the reasons behind it, he said that they were praying and hoping that the ban would serve its purpose.

He felt that the ban was the best thing to do to solve the social problems that had affected the people. He said the ban started with the people of Naseakula, the home of the Tui Labasa and where the circuit headquarters was based. Mr Daunivala said the ban was spearheaded by the church and was totally supported by the vanua. He said the people had supported the idea and abided by the wishes of their church leaders and the vanua.

He hoped that this festive season would be a meaningful one to all the members of his congregation and 2008 would be a prosperous one. Labasa circuit is part of the Macuata Methodist division.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Humpback whales are safe - for now

from w
from The Scotsman newspaper;
Japan suspends hunt for humpback whalesERIC TALMADGE in TOKYO
ANTARCTICA is safe for humpback whales – for now.

Following worldwide criticism, Japan's government announced yesterday that a whaling fleet currently in the Southern Ocean for its annual hunt will not kill the rare species as originally planned. The fleet will, however, kill some 935 minke whales, a smaller, more plentiful species, and 50 fin whales.

Japan dispatched the fleet last month to the southern Pacific off Antarctica in the first major hunt of humpback whales since the 1960s. Commercial hunts of humpbacks have been banned worldwide since 1966 and commercial whaling overall since 1986. The fleet was to kill 50 humpbacks. However, the plan drew criticism from environmental groups, which had opposed the hunt in general but were outraged by the inclusion of humpbacks due to their rarity.

Nobutaka Machimura, the Japanese government's chief spokesman, said: "We hope that the discussion (on hunting] will (now] be carried out calmly on the basis of scientific evidence."

Tokyo has staunchly defended its annual kill of more than 1,000 whales as crucial for research purposes. Japan's whaling fleet is run by a government-backed research institute and operates under a clause in International Whaling Commission (IWC) rules that allow the killing of whales for scientific purposes.

The US, which is currently the IWC chair nation, recently held talks with Japan to seek a one or two-year suspension of the humpback hunt.

Carlos Gutierrez, US commerce secretary, said: "We applaud Japan's decision as an act of goodwill toward the IWC."

Earlier this week, Australia announced a new campaign to stop Japan's annual whale hunt, including sending surveillance planes and a ship to gather evidence for a possible international legal challenge. Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said yesterday's move was welcome, but added there was "no credible justification for hunting whales".

The Scotsman newspaper.Last Updated: 21 December 2007 10:31 PM

$2 shops and family businesses

from w
When an out-of-town group come in and offer their wares, the local family businesses probably suffer. The competition may be good for the buyers but the local shops are emptied. It happens in Australia so much now with super-super-size supermarkets as well as numerous $2 shops selling cheap products keeping customers away from locally owned businesses. It's a free market so they say, so there!

It's happening in Labasa in Fiji also when a group from India set up shop in competition with the family businesses in Labasa.

So should we buy from these out-of-towners or maintain loyalty to local people?

Indian fair lures Christmas shoppers
Thursday, December 20, 2007

Labasa town came alive as crowds flocked to the civic auditorium to take advantage of the sales at the Indian Village Craft Mela. The sale of Indian hand-made items by merchants from India have angered local businessmen who claim that it is affecting their business. A thousand people had already passed through the stalls by yesterday.

Organiser Manish Jain said they decided to set up stalls in Labasa after they met many people during the Nadi Bula festival who urged them to visit the northern town. He said group members made their own items such as shoes, rugs, clothes, bed sheets, curtains and jewellery. "That's the special part about this business and that's what makes it unique so when we come out and sell in countries like Fiji, we are proud to sell it because it's something that we made," he said.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'break loose the string and escape'

from w
A fishermen from Navua, Chandrika Prasad, put his line in on Sunday evening and a few hours later pulled in a 300 pound kavu (groper). He said he thought the fish would 'break loose the string and escape'. Some kind of string! I read this in the Fiji Sun yesterday and didn't believe such a fish would dwell in the Navua River, but when I told Peceli he said, yes, those kind of fish are in the rivers near Labasa and his relatives have caught one or two. The kavu open their mouths wide and everything goes inside. Then Peceli told me the story of finding a rugby match in full play inside a groper, and an Indian man selling tobacco! It sure beats the story of Jonah and the whale! Well I looked up kavu and groper on google and came up with a few stories and pictures. A few other stories came up on 'groper' too of course! Here's another fish story from Fiji.

Monday, December 17, 2007

When a stranger knocks

from w

Two nights ago Peceli and I were still up at 11.30 pm just yarning, when there was a tap tap tapping outside for about fifteen minutes. We dismissed it as something going on in the street, fire-crackers or something, then when it came again Peceli opened to front door to find a very thin young woman standing there. She said she was cold, couldn’t find her brother and wanted to have a drink of tea. Well, Peceli being who he is, said to come in. He turned on the heater, I made the tea, and the girl told us about herself. She lived about 2 k away in a flat by herself with a carer in the daytime as she can’t cook or read, but was looking for a brother who she hadn’t seen for ten years! Very strange. We realized she was intellectually handicapped but she did have a card that showed her address. Okay, we drove her home so she was safe from roaming the street. Well, I hope that was her current address!

We had been reading Psalm 146 as a devotion with our family visitors a bit earlier so realized that welcoming a stranger was part of that Psalm. Okay, we’ve done this lots of times over the years: a boy running from the police one Christmas and his name was Noel, a disorientated woman walking home after leaving a mental hospital, (she came six months later to thank us and she was beautifully dressed and alert) a boy who’d argued with his mother, a bleeding man who’d been in a fight – and the list goes on. The last one was handled by our eldest son (we were away) who gave the man coffee and an offer to phone the police but the man did not want the police to find his attacker. Etc.

Anyway back to this week’s story. Yesterday afternoon about 4 p.m. there was a knock on the door. The thin girl again. She wanted to visit us. Well, this time I wasn’t so hospitable. Peceli was resting after golf and our Fiji visitors were around. It was daytime not nearing midnight. I said to the girl, we are busy with visitors, come again another time. Well, the girl crossed the road, lay down on the grass and kicked her feet in the air, pulled half her clothing off. After her tantrum, she stood up and went on her way.

Now I’m not scared of most situations but I am wary of people who behave in unexpected ways. I have friends who have mental illnesses and they are on medication. Okay. We have members of our church with varying disabilities and that is the way to go – to be inclusive. But there are times when I have to say no to strangers knocking on the door because that girl might come time and time again and I could not handle that pressure.

I know that there have been times my life when I have imposed upon the kindness of friends, knocked on their doors and anticipated a welcome and hospitality. Certainly in Fiji I took it for granted that people would welcome me. Maybe they just had to put up with the jolly woman who took up their time. I have regrets now for being so selfish and inconsiderate. So, what is the right thing to do?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Returning to Cikobia Island

from Peceli
Many young people who come from Cikobia do very well. Perhaps those who start off in a difficult environment know how to cope with the various circumstances of life espeically the hard times. Here is a story from the Fiji Times about a young man, now a soldier, who went back to the island with the relief team after the damage by Cyclone Daman. His name is Lieutenant Taniela Dolodai.

Bittersweet homecomingFREDERICA ELBOURNE
Monday, December 17, 2007

LIEUTENANT Taniela Dolodai never dreamed he would be a military officer some day. And after deviating from his parents wish for him to become a school teacher, it never dawned on him that he would climb up the military career ladder to become an officer at an early age.

Thats why most of us on the trip to Cikobia had great difficulty believing the 27-year-old army engineer was in charge of the nine RFMF engineers on board, most of them much older than the Cikobia lad. However, they treated each other with the same degree of respect and it was difficult at times to differentiate who was boss and who was not.

Last week, he returned to his village on Cikobia more than 12 years after he left to pursue his education on the mainland. Admittedly, only duty prompted him to return to Cikobia as part of a government relief team sent to the island following Cyclone Daman. Had it not been for Cyclone Daman, he may never have returned to his village for a long time.

The trip back home brought back many fond memories. He recalls how he would often raise his late grandmothers ire. 'My job every Saturday was to collect coconuts for our Sunday feast. Naturally, Id forget to do it and spend all day swimming and after that Id get a hiding,' Lt Dolodai said. The first 10-odd years of his life was spent with his grandparents in Cikobia.

He had the best of both worlds his grandmother lived at Vuninuku Village by the coast, while his grandfather lived in Vatulele Village in the interior of the island.

The eldest of five siblings, he was raised for the most part of childhood by his late grandmother. And he didnt make her work any easier, he says with a boyish grin and a wicked glimmer in his eyes.

'I used to get a hiding from my grandmother all the time. Thats how I remember it. But I always had fun. I got the hiding for stepping household duties. When I wasnt well and didnt go to school, my grandmother would insist complete bed rest for me. But the minute she turned her back and walked into the kitchen outside, Id be playing outside with the other children,' he said.

What I remember the most is how I always got it (hiding) after swimming. Id signal to the children in the village for us to go swimming even after we were told not to. Wed come back and Id get to pay the price of disobedience. I must have been quite a handful for her. Rebellious, I suppose. Once, my cousin now living in the United States hid our clothes while we went swimming. You know how it is as children when you go swimming with only your underwear on and leave other dry clothes on the beach.

'I ran and hid in the plantation (200 metres away) that day when my grandmother was ready to give me a hiding. This same cousin of mine had to chase after me when I ran to hide,' Lt Dolodai recalls laughing.

He pursued tertiary education through the University of the South Pacifics extension centre in Labasa. It was at the Labasa Town library while he was doing research for his studies that his mother suggested he attend an army interview at Nabouwalu on the other side of Vanua Levu.

'Imagine, I left Labasa at 8am on the bus and got to Nabouwalu at 4pm. By then the interview was over,' Lt Dolodai said. He said army officers who were there to conduct the interview were having tea when he arrived.

'I arrived in a T-shirt and shorts. When they agreed to have the interview, I dashed back to the police station where I had left my knapsack with my clothes. After changing into decent attire, I caught a cab and went up for the interview. The officers took into account the fact that I had travelled around the island just for the interview,' Lt Dolodai said.

As it turned out, his interview was held in the kitchen by Lieutenant-Colonel Tuitubou, who was a captain then. 'I was the last of the 300 applicants to be interviewed and I got through,' he said. A week later he was accepted for training by the army and at this point all dreams of becoming a school teacher faded into oblivion, he said.

Physical training was intense and half way through, Lt Dolodai was ready to throw the towel in when it dawned on him how far he had travelled at his familys expense.

'From that moment, as unfit as I was, I knew I didnt want to be a disappointment to my family. I didnt want to give anyone a chance to lose faith in me. In the end I made it,' he said.

Just before passing out in 2000, the coup took place. For Lt Dolodai and his peers, theirs was the task of manning checkpoints. 'Before we had officially qualified, we were manning checkpoints. It took about a year for the events of the coup to settle down, so along the way, we passed out,' he said.

But by then Lt Dolodai had his mind set on advancing his military career. While he remained a sapper in the engineer corp for five years, he twice applied for an officers course and got rejected. Finally on May 16, 2006 he was commissioned as a lieutenant.'The role I play now is different from what I did as a sapper. Now I am a leader. No disrespect to anyone, but I lead the sappers,' he said.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Brij Lal, a son of Labasa

An inspiring man, a writer, an intellectual, Brij Lal is a son of Labasa who lived as a child a few k from the present-day Vatuadova village. Here is an interview from today's Fiji Times with Professor Lal.

Fiji, a home like no otherVERENAISI RAICOLA
Thursday, December 13, 2007

Times: What inspired you to write about issues regarding Fiji Indians?

Professor Lal: I wish I knew; for the creative process is mad, full of inexplicable twists and turns. Mysterious even. I suppose it is a desire to make sense of things. I don't quite know what I think, what I have experienced unless I imagine it in words. I feel unfulfilled if I don't write. I feel something vital is missing from my life if I don't read and write. It is an addiction.

But there is another reason. The world which formed me, the self-contained, self-sufficient rural lifestyle, is slowly disappearing as people leave the village and as modernity laps its outer-edges.

I want to be a witness to that world which was once so important for me but of which I am no longer a part. There is very little written about the village world; the fears and hopes of the rural folks, so you have to recreate that vanishing world through imaginative reconstruction.

We hear a lot about the movers and shakers of the world, the politicians and the bureaucrats, but little about 'little people' who lie beyond the range of official statistics, beyond official recognition: the housewives, the lovers, the workers and primary school teachers; those who have lost out on life. I want to capture some of the inner lived experience of their lives.

Times: What are some of the difficulties faced by Fiji Indians in terms of identity here, in their motherland (India) or when they migrate to other parts of the world?

Prof. Lal: I think you become conscious of your unique identity when you step outside your own cultural world. You realise how Fijian you really are when you live in another culture, among other people. Your language, your sense of humour, your food, as well as habits are different, unique. As the years advance, you suddenly realise how important your place is in your life, how deep childhood memories are. I cannot make sense of my life without my Fijian identity.

Times: How is that a problem?

Prof. Lal: In this country, we are called Indians, but when you meet the real Indians, you suddenly realise how un-Indian you really are in your habits of thought and behaviour. The Indian world of horoscope and hierarchy, the obsession with protocol and ritual, of one's proper place in the order of things, means very little to you.

Self-made that we are, we are impatient with things set in concrete, with restrictive tradition.

I have met Indians from the Caribbean, Mauritius, South Africa, Kenya, Singapore and Malaysia. One thing we all have in common is our unique identity. We have an affinity for the 'cultural India', not the 'political India'. We have more in common with each other than with Indians from India. In fact, there is a kind of tension which animates our relationship.

I don't have any of that with people from the Pacific Islands.

Times: Have attachments to Fiji changed?

Prof. Lal: Our attachment to Fiji is a function of generational change. I was born and educated here. I am a part of its history and culture. Its landscape moves me: the feel of warm rain on freshly mowed lawn, the smell of burning cane, and the swollen brown rivers.

Fiji will always remain my spiritual and emotional home.

I am not sure that it will be so for my children who have been formed by other influences and who have spent virtually all their lives in other cultures. They don't necessarily share my passion or obsession with Fiji though they honour it. They are, in a sense, citizens of the world.

Times: What feelings do Indians have when they are forced to leave because of political upheavals and land lease expiry?

Prof. Lal: People leave Fiji for a variety of reasons. Many feel uprooted and unwanted, trapped and terrorised. Many leave because they are fed up with uncertainty and diminishing opportunities for themselves and their children.

But the emotional bonds linger, especially for the first generation; the umbilical chord is impossible to break. They keep in touch with developments in Fiji through a variety of ways. Travel and technology have revolutionised notions of attachment and citizenship. It is no longer a case of either/or; attachment to a country cannot be measured by a piece of paper. It is a commitment of the heart and the mind that matters.

Times: You grew up in the village but people like you managed to be immensely knowledgeable about the wider world probably more than most children today.

Tell me a little about that life that you exposed in the book Turnings Fiji Factions.

Prof. Lal: The world which formed me has vanished. I grew up without paved roads, and running water, without electricity. Both my parents were illiterate. I was the first one in my family ever to complete high school and go on to university. There was no counselling about careers. There was no television, radio was new, there was no Internet, no iPods, and no mobile phones.

It was, in some ways, the dark ages. Yet, people of my generation from that kind of background have travelled places, made something of themselves. We were from the village but were immensely knowledgeable about the world. There was a hunger to know more. I really am not sure if that is the case today.

We had teachers who took their profession seriously, not as a stepping stone to another career. Our pursuit for excellence was driven by desperation. There was nothing to return to if we failed. There was no safety net, no one to lean on for assistance. So we strove hard and burned the midnight lamp to be successful today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Keeping Christmas simple

from w
I did a google search for 'keep Christmas simple' and came up with a few preachy articles and I summarized this one which is useful and not just selling goods.
40 ways to keep Christmas simple and meaningful – adapted from an article by
Victor M. Parachin

In the Christmas race - there is shopping, baking, wrapping, mailing. Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, peace and goodwill. But on the other hand, the planning and preparation can be intimidating and overwhelming. For too many people, Christmas becomes a burden and not a blessing. so....

1. Remind yourself of the reason for the season. It is the birth of Christ which must be the central focus and foundation for all activities in December.
2. Plan ahead. Rather than operate on automatic, doing the same thing year after year, be intentional. Spend five minutes daily in silence. Claim the spirit of the innkeeper. Be inspired by the one who opened his heart and stable.
3. Feed your mind. Check into the background of some Christmas symbols - candles, evergreens, poinsettia, mistletoe, the advent wreath.
4. Rethink your habits. Is it really necessary for you to mail out 350 holiday cards?
5. Organize yourself. Make a list of all the things you need to do
6. Cultivate courtesy. Be especially kind and courteous to sales personnel..
7. Extend compassion to a stranger.
8. Memorize some Scripture.
9. Just say ‘no’. Decide it’s okay to say ‘no’. You don’t have to accept every invitation.
10. Exercise.
11. Don’t become a slave. Ask for some help. Don’t do it all alone. By allowing others to pitch in and help, you make the family celebration fun and relaxing for everyone.
12. Try new ways of sending Christmas greetings. E-mail to your family and friends who are hooked up to the internet.
13. Send a card to someone incarcerated. “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners,” is the reminder of Scripture.
14. Drink more water.
15. Light a prayer candle every day.
16. Skip a meal.
17. Be considerate toward young children. Consider donating baby food, diapers, clothing to a local organization which serves children and families in need.
18. Go vegetarian for one meal.
19. Give thanks. Everything you have is a gift from God - your life, your family, your job, your faith.
20. Practice patience.
21. Make amends. Reach out to someone who’s wronged you or someone you have offended. Forgive and let yourself be forgiven. The chances are good that both of you will feel much, much better.
22. Broaden your concept of ‘family’. Be extremely inclusive at Christmas.
23. Sing.
24. Cultivate joy.
25. Be cheerful.
26. Help fight world hunger. During the holiday season when most of us tend to overeat, consider giving away ten percent of your holiday party budget to an agency which fights world hunger.
27. Pray for each person who sends you a card. Christmas cards often contain news about the senders. That information is good material for the basis of prayer.
Remember that Christmas is not only a date but a state of mind. Add meaning to your holiday celebration by keeping the spirit of Christmas alive all year long.

Pragmatism comes first it seems

from w
Although some groups in Macuata said clearly that they do not want to support the proposed charter (I guess to replace the Constitution) the province of Macuata has now submitted to the process of discussion. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - I suppose. Pragmatism may be the way to go when it's an uphill battle to question and if you argue you maybe won't get grants etc. Life is often a compromise eh! However it surely means to allow the process, but not necessarily agree to the final outcome.

from Fiji Times:
North province supports charterSERAFINA SILAITOGA
Monday, December 10, 2007

MACUATA province has agreed to support the People's Charter, citing the need to work with the interim regime to take the country forward. At the provincial meeting yesterday, chiefs and district representatives agreed to support the charter as initially agreed at the bose ni vanua in June. The agreement was reached after debate.

Labasa district representative Paula Maleyau said while he respected the decision of the chiefs to support the charter, they must remember that some issues included in the document might not work with the decision to be made at traditional level.

Macuata district representative Vereti Veisama told the meeting that the chiefs had decided to accept the charter and no one could object. However, Mr Maleyau said it was important to highlight and make known the issues in the charter to prevent confusion in the future. A member representing Macuata people living in the Western Division, Samuela Nakete, said it was no use rejecting the charter because it would go ahead.

Last week, the districts of Seaqaqa, Dogotuki and Dreketi refused to support the charter and called for clarification on a number of issues in the document. But at yesterday's meeting the three districts agreed to work with the chiefs and the vanua to support the charter.

Roko Tui Macuata Ratu Jone Matanababa said the chiefs agreed to support the charter so the province would abide by their decision.

We want water - in Cikobia - and in Suva

from w
While we feel sympathy for the people on Cikobia Island because their water supply is contaminated with salt water, we also know that the people in Suva suffer the cutting off of their water supplies day in, day out. Taps are often dry with some excuse or other from the government departments. It is so unhealthy to have a house full of visitors and the taps are dry. Bottled water has been sent to Cikobia plus forty officials to a population of about 70 people. Good. I hope the houses can be rebuilt quickly, etc. But remember the long-suffering residents in Cunningham, Tamavua,and other suburbs that live day by day with sudden cut-offs.
I found an old cartoon from the Fiji Times.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Daman moved eastwards

from w
Seems that the brunt of the hurricane has skirted the coastline of Macuata and by now has passed the small rocky island of Cikobia north of Udu Point the eastern tip of Vanua Levu. This has been fortunate for the people in Labasa and along the coast although everyone copped very heavy rain and wind I expect. Some of the islands in Lau are now in danger.

From Fiji Times: Evacuees return home
0646 FJT
Saturday, December 08, 2007

Update: 6.46am PEOPLE who had sought shelter at evacuation centres in Labasa are expected to return to their homes this morning, says Labasa DISMAC officer, Vili Ravai. Mr Ravai said the weather in Labasa had improved since last night after Daman passed Cikobia this morning. ''The weather is fine with no rain and no strong winds,'' he said. A figure could not be placed on the number of people that stayed overnight at the two evacuation centres - Naduna College and the Civic Centre.
Yesterday, Labasa town had to close around midday as Daman threatened to strike Vanua Levu.

and tribewanted on Vorovoro Island

from their chief's blogsite:
Posted by Aaron Wheeler 6 hours ago
Island manager Kimbo sent this update:

hi guys,

unfortunately it looks like Vorovoro is going to take another battering in the next 48 hours. tropical cyclone Damon is heading straight for Labasa, after spinning around and gaining intensity about 350km off the NW coast of fiji.

The team on the island have shifted everything they can into tui malis house to try and protect it. over the last few weeks we have worked hard on making preparations and emergency procedures for the next cyclone, so this weekend will prove if again, vorovoro can stand up to mother nature and not be defeated.

myself, craig and anna are currently in nadi, (due to head back on tuesday). we are getting regular updates from the guys on the island. they are all ok. they know whats coming and its just a matter of sitting it out, and then a huge clear up operation afterwards if we take a direct hit……the front of the storm is on the island now, with the centre to hit around 8pm tonight. ..with nadi taking a smaller hit overnight.

duncan, julia, carol, chief alisi, tribe member jon depa and gilo, and the vorovoro family are all together and safe. we wish them well, im sure they will be!

will keep you updated…


Posted by Ben 22 minutes ago
I spoke with Giles on Vorovoro earlier today (Friday) and they were well prepared.

Unfortunately it does look like the eye of the storm, which has now been upgraded to a hurricane in some reports, will be hitting Labasa pretty much as I write.

This could have significant damage to the island villages. We’ll just have to hope that it isn’t as bad as it is forecast. I have no doubt that the tribe members, team and family, however, will all be safe.

We’ll keep you posted.


and tribewanted on Vorovoro Island

from their chief's blogsite:
Posted by Aaron Wheeler 6 hours ago
Island manager Kimbo sent this update:

hi guys,

unfortunately it looks like Vorovoro is going to take another battering in the next 48 hours. tropical cyclone Damon is heading straight for Labasa, after spinning around and gaining intensity about 350km off the NW coast of fiji.

The team on the island have shifted everything they can into tui malis house to try and protect it. over the last few weeks we have worked hard on making preparations and emergency procedures for the next cyclone, so this weekend will prove if again, vorovoro can stand up to mother nature and not be defeated.

myself, craig and anna are currently in nadi, (due to head back on tuesday). we are getting regular updates from the guys on the island. they are all ok. they know whats coming and its just a matter of sitting it out, and then a huge clear up operation afterwards if we take a direct hit……the front of the storm is on the island now, with the centre to hit around 8pm tonight. ..with nadi taking a smaller hit overnight.

duncan, julia, carol, chief alisi, tribe member jon depa and gilo, and the vorovoro family are all together and safe. we wish them well, im sure they will be!

will keep you updated…


Posted by Ben 22 minutes ago
I spoke with Giles on Vorovoro earlier today (Friday) and they were well prepared.

Unfortunately it does look like the eye of the storm, which has now been upgraded to a hurricane in some reports, will be hitting Labasa pretty much as I write.

This could have significant damage to the island villages. We’ll just have to hope that it isn’t as bad as it is forecast. I have no doubt that the tribe members, team and family, however, will all be safe.

We’ll keep you posted.

and posted on 8th November:
On the morning of the 8th, Cyclone Damone has been downgraded and is now barely on the threshold of hurricane force winds, about 120 kmph. Vorovoro has clearing skys this morning with minimal cleanup to do. Not only have all of the structures survived, but the gardens have not washed away!
Very good news.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

update on hurricane warning

from w
The latest is that the path of the hurricane has changed and it now heads for the middle of Vanua Levu so Labasa people are waiting for that terrible wind and rain to intensify. Isa lei, they suffer so much with flood damage and now this. We pray that they will be safe. Buses are not running, everyone is battening down in their homes, planes are grounded and all boats, we hope, have found a safe harbour.
A news item from 3 p.m. is here.

later 2.45 p.m. East Australian time.
I rang Labasa a few minutes ago and the phones are still working. I talked to one of our girls at Tuatua housing and she said she worked for a halfday then they were sent home. She said the hurricane is raging there now and all the shutters were up. She said it will intensify and be worse later on in the afternoon. A comment I posted before was premature - it is still going on in Labasa at present.

Cyclone Daman

from w
The warnings are mainly for the small islands in the west of Fiji such as Yasawa, Mamanucas but also Viti Levu and Vanua Levu as Cyclone Daman moves south east. Tourists have been sent from the small islands to Nadi I expect and everyone is battening down in case it is a real blow. There is often so much damage from the wind and the rain but it's part of nature during this season of the year. We've been through about eight hurricanes I guess, some more frightening than others.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Go girls go

from w
It's good to hear that the women in rural areas such as Labasa are having a chance to workshop about the welfare of women. Some of the young women in our extended family are involved in advocacy for women, especially those who are not treated well by society or their relatives. Go girls go!

Blue Ribbon day
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Women’s NGO femLINKPACIFIC is undertaking a Blue Ribbon Women's Community Media Exchange (dialogue) session in Labasa today. This is the first of such series that will target four rural communities, focusing on the theme “my life, my issue, and my peace”. Coordinator Sharon Baghwan Rolls said this media initiative will bring together 30 local women leaders drawn from the networks of the National Council of Women in the North.

“Part of our work for the last year has been advocating for women’s participation in the formal processes of political transformation in this country.

“And we are very concerned that women have been sidelined. We are going to be informed by the women who come together today to give us their piece, share their experiences what their lives have been like since December 5, 2006.

“What are their issues as local women leaders and what are their visions for peace as women leaders of Fiji,” said Baghwan-Rolls.

The dialogue session is also part of the 16 days of activism under the UN banner observed by femLINKPACIFIC.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Buy your own Permanent Residency?

from w
I was amazed to read this item from tonight's Fiji TVs. I find it had to believe this story - so what does that mean? Is it something like what has happened in Tonga with the sale of citizenship to Chinese nationals who want to live on a Pacific Island? Very strange...
One National News

Permanent Residency up for sale 4 Dec 2007 00:55:47

The interim government has announced a bold initiative that deals with immigration..
Immigration director Viliame Naupoto has told the Fiji Australia Business Council meeting in Nadi this afternoon that from January 1st next year foreigners will be able to purchase a permanent residency status in the country.

He says it will cost three thousand dollars per person to buy the P-R... Naupoto says details on how this will work will be announced soon.. He adds major changes to our work permit regulations will also be announced soon.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Chasing a book about Fiji - as usual

from w
A book we really wanted to read is at the local Deakin library so I waited until the due date (about Nov 23) for someone to put it back, then lo and behold, someone has taken it out again until January 7th! Sobosobo! It's too expensive to buy - about $70.It's By Andrew Thornley and translated by Tauga Vulaono. Exodus of the i taukei: The Wesleyan Church in Fiji 1848-74. and written in English and Fijian. Monash Uni has a copy but that's a bit of a hike from Geelong. It's probably a more developed discussion than the Mai kea ki vei based on a church history conference in Davuilevu which we have been able to read locally.

Peceli and I were talking this morning about the fact that to understand the Fiji Methodist Church of today, we do need to know the story of 19th and 20th century church history in Fiji and the way the vanua, protocol, customs became an integral part of the lotu of today.

Gurbachan Singh was a Labasa identity

from Peceli,
I knew him well when I was young.
from Fiji Times feature article today:
Dad's early struggles shape his characterSunday, December 02, 2007

SACRIFICES and struggles endured by Gurbachan Singh in the 1940s after arriving in Fiji from India definitely shaped and moulded the character of his youngest son Charan Jeath Singh, who clearly remembers his dad as a committed and honest businessman. Such childhood exposure taught Mr Singh to be honest and dedicated to achieve goals put down by one. "My dad did not come with the indentured labourers but arrived later to look for better jobs and better pay in Fiji," he said. "One of the first jobs he got was at Suva where he worked for a cocoa and copra manufacturing company known as Brown and Joskey"After working in Suva for about three years, he moved to Labasa and became a salesman and later started his clothing company as a hawker and that's where I saw how dedicated my dad was to his business," Mr Singh said. "At the time, there were no vehicles, so people had to walk if they wanted to visit other places away from their homes and do business.

"My dad was one of those people who walked with baskets of clothes to sell house to house beginning from Wainikoro to Dreketi (Macuata) braving the hot sun and heavy rain. "And he did this for us, his children and how I admired him so much because my mum was not working and she stayed home to be with the children."

He clearly remembers the young days of helping his mum at home and in running their small grocery store that they had opened. The earnings from his dad's small business put the 11 siblings through the education system.

"I take my hat off to my dad and just respect him and love him so much for all the dedication and sacrifices he put up for his children to get a successful future like where I am today.

"Without the hard work of my dad, I don't think I would have reached this far because after all, he sent me to the New Zealand College of Aviation in Auckland, costing him $15,000 in fees to pay, which was so much money those days," Mr Singh said.

"My dad managed to take us as far as tertiary education, including the pilot school and that's from selling clothes, imagine that?

"That is why I just use that as an encouragement and guidance to help me through business and more importantly it teaches me to be committed no matter what the circumstance," Mr Singh said.

He attended the aviation college in 1980 after completing primary and secondary education at the Saint Mary's Primary School, All Saints Secondary School and Labasa College from 1968 to 1979. After completing his secondary education, Mr Singh went straight into flying school and graduated in 1982 with a private and commercial piloting license. "I worked for Air Fiji and Air Pacific, which included flying international routes.

"It was a good experience for me before leaving for the business arena.

"And I used to share with my dad about being a pilot and how it can make you nervous when there is bad weather but he always advised me to not give up anytime, even if it's a stormy weather because sooner or later the situation will calm down and I use this saying a lot in making decisions for my business," Mr Singh said. "He suggested that if I wanted to be a millionaire then I needed to leave my flying career and look at seriously doing business and he was not wrong," he said.
And a second article by Serafina, the Labasa journalist:
A millionaire who walks around town in shorts
Sunday, December 02, 2007

With a personal worth of $30-million, no one can tell that as Charan Jeath Singh goes on his daily walk through the streets of Labasa Town.

With a plain white Tee-shirt that he labels as a favourite, and a pair of shorts and slippers on his feet, any first timer to Labasa can never tell that the man who walks in town every morning and evening is worth more than a million dollars.

Born in Suva but raised in Labasa, his parents mum Raj Kaur and dad Gurbachan Singh came from India in 1935 from Gosal, in Punjab.

Mr Singh is the youngest and twin brother of a sister of 11 children, most of whom are business people. But although the youngest, Mr Singh has never depended on advice from his siblings as he believes determination and commitment towards a goal always sees one through.

This is how he started his business ventures in 1989 after being a domestic pilot of five years, flying for Air Pacific and Air Fiji.

The vision of becoming business leader took root amid the political turmoil of 1987.

It was a time when many Fiji-Indians were worried about their future here, selling their properties cheaply to migrate.

"There was such a big panic that everyone wanted to leave and go away from Fiji, even selling their properties at low price and moving out of the country," Mr Singh said.

"At the piece of land the Countdown Supermarket sits on used to have a Government building, including the Commissioner Northern's office and that same year, government advertised that it wanted to lease the land.

"I had a vision that despite the coup, things would get better, there will always be sunshine after the rain and so I got a business partner, the late Ratu Soso Katonivere, the father of the Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Katonivere."

Mr Singh said they initiated a joint venture they called the Charan Katonivere business' and developed the area.

"We borrowed from FDB and basically this is how my interest started in business and when things were finalised in 1989, I resigned from flying.

"But things were not easy in the beginning because when news broke out that I and the chief were doing a joint venture there were a lot of objections and jealousy from other business community," Mr Singh said.

He said they battled the obstacles and went ahead with the joint venture.

"We crossed the hurdle of the business community and there was another one which was a department belonging to the military that refused to move out of this building.

"So it took us a long time to get them out but we managed and we started operations from the building" Mr Singh said.

Business went well for the company which opened a supermarket.

But in 1995, Mr Singh's business partner, Ratu Soso, preferred to pull out of business as he had commitments to the vanua and preferred to spend more time in such area with the family.

"Old age was catching up with Ratu Soso and we had a good discussion where he told me that he preferred to have cash in his hand rather then having shares so we both agreed and all dues were paid to the chief and that's when I started venturing into the business world alone.

"Then I built a new building, changing it to a concrete one and started first with the supermarket, then the extension to house another three shops, then we built a milk bar in the supermarket and a restaurant upstairs," Mr Singh said.

The Oriental restaurant, is well known to many in Labasa and is considered a posh eatery in the town where many cocktail parties and functions have been held. Mr Singh said being a businessman was not difficult except that one needed to be committed and dedicated to the running of the business.