Friday, May 30, 2008

A train journey into night

from w

I posted the first draft of this story on our Geelong Visual Diary blog, but here is an improved version telling what happened to Peceli and me two nights ago on a trip to Melbourne and back.

A train journey into night

‘You will be detrained,’ said the female conductor in a moderate voice that not everyone heard.

I had never heard that word before. Others like it ‘the train will terminate at Southern Cross station’ I’ve heard many times.

The train trip to Melbourne and back seemed like a good idea at the time. The day return off--peak pensioner tickets were only about $5 each and there wouldn't be the problem of searching for a car park in the city. Peceli and I left the car outside North Geelong station and caught the 12.35. The trip was uneventful and I read the Fiji Marama magazine. We are an ordinary couple - an Australian country woman who had married a Fijian Methodist minister over forty years ago - just ordinary commuters on a train as we usually drive up to Melbourne.

We reached the Uniting Church offices in Little Collins Street by 2.5, late because Peceli insisted on buying a bottle of water. The workshop was on migrant congregations especially Fijian and Indonesian. When we were given electronic tags to open a door, I held my peace except to say, ‘Don’t you trust God to look after you?’ as I breathed deeply, the low ceiling crowding me in. The ground floor of the Uniting Church Centre seemed like a rabbit warren and I felt like Alice going down the rabbit hole. At least we did not have to go up several floors in a lift.

In G3 we were a small group of eight but the conversations were lively, sometimes theoretical, but honest and as down to earth as we could make it. It was good to meet with Indonesian Uniting Church ministers and hear their stories. We didn't have a break but there was coffee on tap. I kept looking at the small windows and brick walls beyond. We finished early so at 5.40 we were given a delicious dinner before leaving, throwing our electronic tags into a box and going out via a secret passage.

Outside the darkness of the sky contrasted with the lit-up gloss of Collins street. Peceli and I strode along quickly to find a tram stop and a tram going towards the Southern Cross station. As it was still peak time the tram was crowded with city workers going home. We were in time for the 6.28 p.m. Warrnambool train which would reach North Geelong about forty-five minutes later. At the Southern Cross station I looked up at the iron structures of the roof and noticed blue stars. The shape of the roof resembled the picals of a gigantic turtle. I had never seen it like that before.

There were five carriages on the Warrnambool train for those who had reserved seats and the front carriage was particularly for Geelong commuters. With three minutes before departure it was almost full but we found two seats together when a cheery blonde woman moved seats to sit between two young men. They seemed to know one another anyway. My feet were sore and I really wanted to get home quickly to take my tight shoes off. The seats were arranged so that we faced three other travellers but we soon nuzzled into our books and magazines without speaking. I still had the Marama magazine from Fiji to read and my notes on the workshop to edit.

That was the default situation for commuters on a train - just as a computer goes back to Times Roman point 12 perhaps - we each were on a journey ‘alone’ without reference to people whose thighs touched yours and knees sometimes bumped. I was glad for the companionship of my husband.

The train left Southern Cross on time but about ten minutes later, after North Melbourne, the train stopped. Well, that happens often. Through the window I scrutinized graffiti squiggles on a wall so it seemed that we were in a narrow section of the tracks or under a bridge. Some kids had taken serious risk to spraypaint their art. No one talked and there was no music as we waited to move again.

Then a female conductor moved along the aisle, stopped and announced, 'We have to stay put for a while. There has been a trespasser on the railway line and we have to change drivers.'

What did that mean? The middle-aged woman with bright blonde hair rang her mobile, and then said to us, 'My ex. A policeman. He said something must have happened. The driver may be in shock for some reason.' She spoke animately to the young man with a cheery face, scruffled up hair, rings on his fingers and a purple T-shirt with a logo about ironing. The quieter young man wore a formal suit and white shirt. The young woman next to me was engrossed in her novel.

We waited again. The only sound was that of the heating system starting up again. It was probably about 10 degrees outside.

Another period of time elapsed and the conductor walked up the aisle and said calmly, ‘ A person is deceased and we will have to wait for the police and the coroner as this is now a crime scene. The train is not allowed to move.' Then she paused, and I wondered if she realised that she had told us too much. She went on, 'We might have to stay inside for three hours before being detrained.'

The darkness outside now seemed like a Henson photograph though our carriage was well lit up. The air seemed hot and dense, and the people grew larger, filling the carriage. My skin was clammy, but my throat dry, and I just looked at Peceli as he knew how I panicked easily. Lucky Peceli had bought that bottle of water in Collins Street so we each took a swig. I wanted to breathe clean air, step outside but we were not near a platform but somewhere between North Melbourne and South Kensington stations. All the trains would be diverted away from this area, though some will pass us for a short period, some official told us. I knew now that the train doors were all locked.

There was a shift from silence to murmuring. Though some travellers were still in their own world of reading, notebooks, or sleeping, five out of six of our little group engaged in conversation, particularly the guy holding a magazine of glamour women. He was a Deakin student in Public Relations and Journalism, the blonde woman was his mother, down from Queensland to catch up with family. She had only come on the train to talk with his son. The other young man was also a Deakin student and currently on workplace assignment with the Age. He had a cutting from today’s paper with his byline, with a photo of two laughing Aboriginal girls I had glanced at earlier at breakfast time. I now read it more carefully - a nice positive article on page 11.

‘Good for Reconciliation Week,’ I said.

About a school at Healesville re-opening. There was much talk about editing, taking photos, and I asked about copyright and downloading photos on the internet.

The photo guy said,’ I have my name embedded in my photos – not that anyone can see it, but Google can, so I ask Google to delete any of my pictures used without authorisation.’

Peceli started drawing the scene inside the train with a pen, using my A4 sketchbook, and then the book was passed around. Someone asked what my scribbly sketch of the bridge over Yarra St was and this let to a discussion about Westfield.

The guy said, ‘I did the PR writeup for the development.’

I said, ‘I was one of the protesters against Westfield bridge. I can’t stand huge super size developments.’

None of us were talking about the ‘thing’ on our mind. What had really happened? Who was killed? Did he or she jump, or just wander onto the tracks? Or was a graffiti artist talking risks? We were just guessing.

Announcements came over the speaker periodically and the conductor kept informing us, minimally, about how long to wait. ‘If you want to move back into another carriage because of the smoke, do so.’

Peceli said, ‘I thought smoking is banned on trains.’

The smokers had been sent right to the front of the train up the front of our carriage. 'I can smell pot,' said the garrulous guy and his mother gave him a gently slap. Apparently it was a compromise this time because some people were starting to panic without their nicotine fixes. The conductor said, ‘There is free coffee from the snack bar which is now open.' She must have been really stressed under her calm manner. Her brown hair was tied back but curly strands had escaped and hung down her forehead. Her hands were clasped tightly together as if in prayer.

I realized that many of the travellers would not have eaten dinner, though Peceli and I were okay. ‘Where is it?’

‘Back about four carriages.’

The panic was kicking in and Peceli talked about moving to a carriage where there might be a bit of space, but the three people in front of us were entertaining us with their chatter, the garrulous guy and his mother telling hilarious anecdotes. The girl beside me was onto her last forty odd pages of her book.

'Let's go for a walk and get some coffee,' suggested Peceli. Taking our bulky bags - mine a grubby shoulder bag made from tapa design, Peceli with his camera and stuff inside our son's travel bag. We traipsed through the carriages of the motionless train, past people sitting quietly without panic but a few were sitting on the floor in the in-between carriages areas one looking uneasy and scared. We met a couple of Geelong women we knew. Two older women had their knitting out and bundles of wool were flung on their laps. I joked with them, 'Well, at least you both came prepared!'The V-line coffee was sweet and hot. There was not the usual stumble along the aisle on a moving train with your coffee as this train was stationary, very much so.

Through the window I stared at the flickering scribbles and scrawls of graffiti on a cement wall. We were all ignoring the reality of what had happened at the front of the engine - police officers and forensic people with a body. Instead we chatted in a kind of desperate escapism, observed others with their various books – Anatomy of a Dog was one of them. The Da Vinci Code was put down after three pages. A man with a book with flowers on the back cover. Many city workers had their laptops open. Some academics perhaps were grading papers or editing their own. Not everyone had shifted like us into talking ten-to-the-dozen with strangers. Many were still ‘alone’ on an interior journey.

The girl next to me by the window closed her final page and sighed. She had dark hair and wore spectacles. I had not interrupted her at all, but now we started a conversation. The young guys of course asked her about her studies. Her answer raised more questions, but ait was a course to do with bones and muscles. She said she was originally from Canada so this fact elicited travel stories from the blonde.

After the first hour had gone by, I went through my eight pages of notes from the workshop adding words, making some sense of it, but I was really thinking about the ways a large group of people manage a situation where they have no control or means of escape. For now, there were 350 people trapped for perhaps another two hours yet most people I observed seemed to manage okay though some men were getting noisily drunk down at the end of the carriage. Peceli was quietly drawing another view of interior of the carriage but kept looking at his watch. I was now nearly 9 p.m. He rang our son on the mobile, just telling him we would be rather late home, but sparing the details.
The heroic conductor continued to update us but at no stage did she even ask to see our tickets. Some people would not have even purchased a ticket.

Then a voice came over the speaker. ‘Shortly the train will go to Footscray station and there will be buses waiting. If you would prefer to return to the city, there will also be a bus.'

The student in the suit rang his mobile, spoke for a while, then closed it, and told us. 'I'll go home though I'll have to get up about 6 a.m. tomorrow to come back for my work experience at the Age.'

The train slid into action ten minutes later and soon we reached the next main suburban station of Footscray. Passengers were standing about the platform there. The ripple effect of the incident meant that many trains were delayed for hours.

There were no buses waiting. we would have to wait for maybe forty-five minutes we were told. I remembered then that many of the travellers still have a journey of three or four hours to their destination at Warrnambool in the western district. The smokers leapt out onto the platform, Peceli and I after them, to get fresh air. I didn't care how cold it was. We talked with strangers, asked questions, gave answers. One V-line man in a fluoescent jacket told me that the train should have stayed put for five hours but V-line had argued with the police that you just can’t maintain order with 350 people locked in.

For one moment I wanted to look at the front of the engine, but dismissed the thought as bizarre like ambulance chasing.

An express bus to Warrnambool was the first to arrive and a bit later, the welcome news for us rose in the frosty air. 'Another bus is ready. Geelong Express. Go straight away if you want that bus.’

Many people went into cave-man default this time, rushing, running, pushing, shoving, ignoring the young, ignoring the elderly, to reach the welcoming door. Peceli and I ran also. Although we wanted to get to North Geelong, this was near enough. A $10 taxi ride would get us back to North station and our parked car. Half-way into the bus we found two empty seats together. It was a luxury bus, the kind for long tours. We left three hundred people behind, still waiting. We had quickly forgotten the garrulous talker, his mother, the other students who were going to small stations, small towns.

Cruising along the freeway, the driver welcomed us as if we were a pensioners' tour, then later he announced that we would be taken to Werribee station to catch the train to Geelong! What? We were on the freeway going home!

Some travellers were loudly talking into their mobiles, one guy abusing someone the other end about not wanting to meet him. A young woman was yelling loudly about her numerous bad relationships and abuse. We were in a different space now from the orderly discussions we had had in the front carriage. A talkative young woman, who seemed in need of her medication, who wouldn’t let up about there being three dead at the ‘incident’ as she had heard the police talking, she said. Now this gave me a really bad feeling of despair for the lives of people who see no other way but suicide. Was there one person or three? Our minds raced and speculated.

I remembered a Geelong woman, a writer of sweet poetry, her mental deterioration and the railway line near Lara. At that time 'railway lines' became encoded to me as associated with suicide. There is no heroism in such a death.

A young man across the aisle from me leant over and said something about it all being a tragedy. He was right. We had mostly been thinking of the inconvenience of the 'incident'.

Was a train really waiting there? This might mean another wait though. The bus driver changed his mind ten minutes later and took us straight down the highway and we would be home at last. Several people on the bus actually wanted to exit at North and the driver drove into the side lane and dropped about eight of us at the traffic alight opposite North Geelong station. We really thanked the driver.

We had forgotten to thank that female conductor who had looked after us for those awful two hours on the stationary train though I did pat her on the shoulder as a gesture of thanks'

Our old maroon car was still there with only two other vehicles left. Ws I glad to see the old car with the mismatched bumper and the broken tail-light.

What a relief it was to get home by 11 p.m. five hours after leaving Southern Cross Station in Melbourne. Our son was still up, watching TV. He said, 'Don't your remember the night I was four hours late coming back from Melbourne one night! Stuff like this happens.'

I switched on to the Geelong radio news and also the ABC news but there were no stories about the train accident or the death of a man with no name, though there were the usual stories of other tragedies.

Next morning I bought the Geelong Advertiser and read a small column headed ‘Rail commuters angry at delay‘ or words to that effect. Actually I don’t recall many people our end of the train shouting and abusing V-line staff, but someone on the bus had said it happened and the female conductor has been called some vile names. The heroes of the night certainly included that woman, the police, the coroner and then I thought of the traumatised train driver. There was mention in the paper of a man who had jumped in front of the train. A phone number was given for any passengers who had been inconvenienced.

Was there a phone call last night or a knock on a door by a police officer to inform relatives, his mother, father, sibling of the death? We will not know about the man with no name.

I made three cups of tea and noticed my favourite colourful mug was broken. Somehow it did not matter.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Marama magazine still going

from w
The Turaga and Marama magazines are still going and full of interesting photos and informative articles. I particularly like the ones about young people having a go and doing well in their careers or passions. The May Marama magazine has a good article about a dress designer, Adi Vuya Raratubu who makes fabulous wedding garments using masi, shells, and magimagi. She comes from Moturiki and her day job is at the Fiji National Provident Fund. The cover shows one of her designs.

The website for these magazines will provide more information.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Go Joni go!

from w
There are so many talented and well educated young people in Fiji who can speak up clearly without jargon and mixed metaphors. These young teachers, doctors, lawyers, IT experts are not usually in the councils that do all the current talking about 'moving forward' but often they know better than their elders what is needed in Fiji. Let's hear from them.

from the Fiji radio news:
Youths can help restore democracy
Thursday, May 29, 2008

Former Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi says young professionals in Fiji can help restore democracy by engaging into debates. However, Ratu Joni says the young professionals of Fiji in overseas are still maintaining strong ties with Fiji, and they are doing so just by participating in the debate and making contributions.

“I mean that is the most direct way that you can contribute, taking part just in the debate whether it is letters to the editors, or writing Fiji articles or whatever, but I think it is very important for us to have a debate in all these issues that people contribute so that you can have a variety of opinions so that you can have a variety of opinions so that it can generate discussion and after that discussion something useful can be developed.”

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The pearls of Raviravi

from w
The women of Raviravi in Macuata are working hard in their collective to grow black pearls. Way to go, ladies.
article from Fiji Times today:
The hand that rocks the oysterSunday, May 25, 2008

Black pearls and their potential have attracted the women of Raviravi Village in Macuata. Fringed on three sides by the third largest reef in the world and sheltered on the other by a pristine swathe of lush Macuata coastline lies a simple waterborne shed from which protrudes several yards of wooden gangway and a floating pontoon.

The blue iron-roofed structure opens on three sides and no more than 20-feet square has been built out of exterior ply and home-grown flooring timber, as with the gangway, visually seductive with their uneven saw tooth finishes. The local artisans have left their charming indelible marks and unique workmanship on this quaint four-year old example of marine architecture known as the 'seeding shed'.

The small buoys at the front, gently bobbing up and down on the cut glass water, seem innocuous enough until you look closely and realise they have been laid out in an organised and highly structured grid pattern. It is only then that it dawns on you that something else is, quite literally, under foot.

Silently lurking in the depths of this stupendously beautiful marine park are about 15,000 Pinctada Margaritifera in various stages of strictly monitored incubation in vertically closed square nets distributed over 20 hectares.

After two or four years depending on whether they have been gathered wild or farmed from the start, they are harvested and prised open by inserting a small wooden wedge and a mounted clamp keeps the bivalve open wide enough for technician, Dionani Salaivanua, to extract a single gem - a black pearl.

Navatudua Pearl Farm, floating a few hundred metres off the north western flank of Vanua Levu, is a small intimate operation owned and managed by a 39-member women's collective from Raviravi, a village about 70 kms from Labasa and accessed only by 4WD in dry weather and by boat from neighbouring Navidamu Village during the wet season. The farm is an outcome of a Fisheries Department drive in 2004 to encourage maritime communities to invest in pearl farming as a sustainable source of income. The department provided the initial seeding costs of the oysters and equipment and support at the outset.

Trainee technician Alacia Diana trained for six months in pearl farm management at the Government Pearl Oyster Demo Farm set up in Savusavu in 2004. Ongoing aquaculture support and guidance is being provided by marine biologist Dr Maraia Haws from the University of Hawaii.

Other women are being trained as technicians, those who plant a 'seed' into each oyster thereby kick starting the coating process which eventually produces a pearl.

"The success of the harvest depends on how good the technician is at seeding the oyster. If the technician is good, about 60% of the oysters which are seeded will produce saleable pearls of which 10 per cent will be A grade, 10 per cent B-grade and the rest C-grade and 'circles'. So a major factor is how good the technician is," Diana said.

"The best technicians, who are mostly Japanese, get paid between $1000 and $2000 a day, so we're training our own technicians," she said. The farm harvests between 1500 and 3000 oysters between the cooler months of May and October when the bacteria levels in the sea are at their lowest.

Each oyster is retained and can be re-seeded up to four times after which they are retired back to the sea to breed, restock the reef and help maintain a large gene pool. All Navatudua pearls, which range in colour from a dusty ivory to ash to slate grey (none are actually black), are sold to buyers in Suva and Nadi and the occasional tourist who visits,

Earnings have fluctuated from year to year and as the farm is still in its infancy it is difficult to predict a regular annual profit margin. Diana says a 5-15% return on turnover on a good harvest would be a good return as there were a lot of factors which influenced this - whether the harvest had been a good one, the quality and health of the shells, the quality of the pearls themselves, whether the technician had done a good job and lastly, the weather.

Their dreams of becoming successful business women have been tempered by the reality of the nature of the operation - it is a hard grind with a two to four year waiting period for harvests, the lack of technical expertise which would maximise their return, the absence of good technical equipment and last but not the least, the need for crucial ongoing investment funds to keep the business, quite literally, afloat.

There is also competition from larger farms, Tahitian pearls, Chinese freshwater pearls and cultured pearls farmed in other countries. They are trying to break into the US with the help of the Fiji's Trade Commissioner in Los Angeles, Ilisoni Vuidreketi.

So far most of the profits have gone back in the business. They've invested in two boats and equipment. The rest has gone into electrifying the village, rebuilding the hall, building a kindergarten (since collapsed) and setting up a scholarship fund. The women also run a shop.

Work on the farm itself is done by the women on an 8am-4pm shift rotating shift basis and between 7am-5pm during seeding season. The men are co-opted for the heavy building and maintenance work and any scuba diving required.

It is a fledgling business and after four years the women are still coming to grips with the complexities of running a complex and highly technical operation, not to mention having to grapple with the sales and marketing side.

Hard as it is the women are driven by the benefits their unstinting efforts so far have had on the upkeep of the village and the welfare of the villagers, especially the children. The business has catapulted them and Raviravi smack bang into the shrewd face of the global gem market and the often exasperating fluctuations in the US Dollar on which the price of black pearls is based.

It is a small cog in a very big wheel, but a cog nevertheless, and a very special cog at that.

Friday, May 23, 2008

John Wesley rode a horse

from w
In an article in a Fiji paper today is the line 'John Wesley rode a horse and started the Methodist Church.' Well, that is rather an over-simplification isn't it. Actually he never intended to start a new church as he was an Anglican clergyman, but something new eventuated. I am an apologist - some of the time - for the Methodist Church in Fiji - so here's one view about Wesley - from a website of a sermon in Ely and an Anglican at that. I have just copied bits of it. May 24th is the day celebrating the time when Wesley's 'heart was strangely warmed' which is a nice way of saying that religion became strong and personal instead of abstract. In Fiji Methodist schools yesterday they remembered this event from 270 years ago.

....Why did it take root? Was the movement the product of a visionary or of an eccentric?

On 24 May, and still depressed, he opened his bible at random and read ' Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.' Later that day he heard Luther's anthem 'Out of the Deep have I called unto thee, 0 Lord,' And during a society meeting in the evening, where Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans was being read, he records 'while he was describing the change in the heart through faith in Christ I felt my heart strangely warmed ... I felt an assurance was given to me that He had taken away my sins ... and saved me from the law of sin and death.'

In one sense, this 'conversion' experience was typical of the instant certainty that is found in Puritan spiritual experience. So with his personal convictions thus confirmed and with many churches closed to him, he started field-preaching. He set up his own organisation of lay-preachers from 1741 onwards. Here were the first of the people called Methodists. By 1751 he had covered the whole of the British Isles, travelling nearly a quarter of a million miles and preaching some 40,000 sermons. In 1744, he held a lay-preachers' conference which became an annual event.

He died in 1788, by which time there were 294 preachers and over 43,000 members of the movement now known as the Methodist Church....

We cannot mention the name 'Wesley' without thinking about music. It was John's younger brother, Charles, who was the main creative genius behind so many of the hymns that we sing today...

In what ways was Methodism an innovation? Why had it become necessary? Was John Wesley merely an awkward eccentric who wouldn't fit in to the Church of England? And why is music such an integral part of this story?

. Human beings need assurance in their lives, and the emphasis that John Wesley laid on the emotional aspect of personal experience helped to give this assurance... Hymns were generally absent in the churches of that time. There was only the chanting of metrical psalms, which may have been led by a choir. What the Wesleys did was to create a compendium of hymns which were simple and memorable. By the middle of the eighteenth century there were substantial outside musical influences:

The hymn is a powerful tool of communication. It appeals to our cognitive realm (i.e. ideas and understandings); it appeals to the affective realm (i.e. values and beliefs). And it engages our psycho-motor realm (i.e. the bodily control of producing sound). In no other part of worship are all three quite so simultaneously engaged. Combine a rhythm of words with a catchy tune and four different voices in harmony and one has a forceful instrument for effective teaching, reflection, illumination and exultation. It was doubtless the Wesleys' hymns, sung in churchyards and market places up and down the land as much as John Wesley's sermons that captivated the hearts and minds of those who felt a lack of warmth in -- or who felt excluded by -- the Church of England in those days...

Perhaps John Wesley may act as a model for us, as we travel our own journeys of faith. To what extent are our hearts 'strangely warmed' in our studies of scripture? For God speaks to us through our hearts as well as through our minds. To what extent may our hearts be 'strangely warmed' through our compassion for our neighbours in their distress? Or in their lack of faith? And to what extent may our hearts be 'strangely warmed' in our acts of worship, offering thanks and praise to our creator and redeemer? A living, vibrant faith is one that is more than a cerebral exercise...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recording studio in Labasa

from w
Another copy and paste job about Labasa - this time from today's Fiji Times.
Good move as there are some great singers and singing groups in Labasa who over the years have had to record their music in Suva. Qawali singers and string bands such as Vua ni masei from Mali Island.

New music studio opens
Thursday, May 22, 2008 Viliame Rabuka in his new studio in Labasa, the first ever for the town.

DESPITE gloomy economic conditions in Labasa, Viliame Rabuka has opened a recording studio. Originally of Namoli Village in Batinikama, outside Labasa, Mr Rabuka started his studio a month ago, pushing aside all fears of the poor economy. "For me it was about helping the people back home who have great singing and musical talent," he said. "It saddened me that most of these talents were not exposed because there is no recording studio in Labasa or any town in the north."

Most singers and musicians cannot afford to travel to Suva to record because it's too expensive.

Mr Rabuka left his studio at Kinoya in Nasinu and shifted his family and business to Labasa. "I operated this kind of business for the past five years in Kinoya so that experience is more then enough to start a studio in a rural area." Presently, Mr Rabuka is recording music groups for free to promote his studio and the talent up North.

Traveller's tale with Air Pacific

A traveller’s tale of Air Pacific

Reporting time was over and the check-in was completed two hours before the 6.30 p.m. take-off at Nadi airport. The traveller went into the waiting area inside with his very small piece of hand luggage. At 5 p.m. an announcement came over the speaker: ‘The plane will not leave for Australia until 9 p.m. Everyone can have a $20 voucher to buy food and drink.’ Well, this traveller bought a large heavy book to read and a snack. This is in the international area remember, not in the check-in area.

A few hours later another announcement came over the speaker. ‘The Air Pacific flight will not be going tonight but at 3 a.m. Those who would like to go to a nearby hotel for four hours may do so, complimentary.’ And another $20 each was distributed for more food and drinks. The traveller in the story, a young man who’s been at Nadi airport numerous times, did not want to go to a hotel. He found a comfortable nook with lounges and several other passengers were there, also intent upon some kind of sleep. Well, the plane eventually took off with tourists, business people, and the usual Fiji families going abroad. The plane arrived in Melbourne 20 minutes ahead of schedule at 6 a.m.Australian time. The waiting relatives had got up at 4 a.m. to get to the airport by 6.20 the (new) scheduled time.

At arrivals a scattering of people were there to meet the passengers – and there were arrivals from Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia etc. etc. I wonder how many Australian people did not phone Qantas early last night to check on arrival time and went out to the airport to discover the plane would be eight hours late! This delay meant driving in peak hour city traffic, and a one hour drive on the freeway to a foggy provincial city.

The traveller did not complain, but I am sure many other passengers on that flight would have been put out with people waiting for them, or their connections messed up. Why the delay? There was no announcement as to what had happened. Was it engine trouble? Not enough flight attendants and having to wait for someone to sleep eight hours first? Bag handlers on strike? No-one seemed to know.

Smarten up, Air Pacific as there are too many stories like this, especially of late departures and arrivals.

I wonder if that string band group that sings 'Isa Lei' to departing tourists sang for eight hours in the departure lounge on that night!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fijian artifacts in other countries?

from w
This picture is from the Fiji Times May 19 at the special Museum Day in Suva. The Fiji Museum is in Thurston Gardens and it houses many interesting items but it is extremely crowded.

This week museums celebrated a special Museum promotion so I was thinking about what has happened to Fijian art/artifacts/cultural items that were taken overseas into foreign museums, institutions and private homes. For example: the U.S. Exploring Expedition's collection of ethnographic and archaeological artifacts amassed during the four-year voyage was compiled in the 1840s by two members of the scientific corps, Titian Ramsay Peale and Charles Pickering. The original catalogue lists 2,487 artifacts for a total of 2,516 ethnological specimens including items from New Zealand, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji and numerous other Pacific island groups. The collection was exhibited in the Great Hall of the Patent Office until 1857 when it was transferred by order of the United States Congress to the Smithsonian Institution. One result of this transfer was the establishment of the United States National Museum.

I remember reading somewhere - though I've lost the link now - that there is a Fijian body - perhaps a warrior - in a Washington Museum.

Should some of these items be repatriated to Fiji? Who should possess cultural items? There is talk about England giving back the Elgin marbles which were part of the Parthenon so truly belong to Greece. Australian Aboriginal remains have been collected and exhbited in European museums and some have been sent back to Australia for proper burial. Missionaries, adventurers, colonials often collected significant items. I remember one time someone in a church office in Melbourne gave us some Fijian war clubs etc. to give back to Suva.

The argument for not repatriating cultural items is that they can be displayed elsewhere to educate the public, or to safely look after items that may not be cared for elsewhere, etc. Whether the cultural items were removed and taken away by trade, looting, of as gifts, the matter of returning cultural items that are significant to one country is up for debate.

Items from Fiji taken by the Wilkes expedition are listed in this website.
The official collections contain 120 Fijian skirts or broad belts woven from grasses, swamp sedge, hibiscus fibers, and strips of pandanus leaves (Clunie 1986:156), in addition to more than 150 examples of bark cloth used as clothing, covers, room dividers and, in its most finely beaten varieties, as turbans to protect the natives’ carefully coifed hair. The expedition managed to acquire rare carved wooden idols, large wooden kava bowls for the ritual drink of the same name, and a provision safe--a large wooden hook covered by a flat disk used for suspending food out of the reach of rodents. Fijians made highly individualistic glazed pottery in a large variety of unusual shapes, including drinking vessels that appear to represent outrigger canoes. The Ex. Ex. collected a large assortment of ornaments and jewelry made mostly of shell, although several necklaces are composed of individually strung human teeth. A huge drum (or slit gong) carved from a hollowed-out tree trunk was carried back to the United States on the Palestine, along with other musical instruments, including bamboo nose flutes.

Fijians took great care with their hair, and expedition members made a point of collecting combs, hair picks (some as long as 18 inches), feathered headbands, and even wigs. Titian Peale noted that when relatives died, Fijian mourners were required to cut off their hair, and at the end of mourning, theey wore wigs until the hair grew back. There are also two, rare, ceremonial masks, with faces made of coconut bast and tightly curled human hair. They collected woven palm-leaf mats, sun shades that look like oversized fans, and actual fans, along with about 45 flat, woven, wallet-like baskets used to carry tobacco leaves.

The previously listed items account for approximately two-thirds of the Expedition’s Fijian collection. The remaining third consists of some 450 weapons, many of which they presumably collected during several deadly battles with Fijian warriors. These include more than a hundred large, often intricately carved, war clubs, some of which may have been insignias of office or rank. In addition to those weapons captured in battle, Fijians presented some of the larger clubs to the Expedition’s officers as a initial gesture of friendship following the performance of a club dance in Vanua Levu (Kaeppler 1985:123-125). Peale lists an impressively large variety of more than two hundred iulas or throwing clubs; these weapons were called “handy billies” by Ex Ex crew members. Fijians used them in battle to stun their victims, moving in later for the kill with the larger, heavier war clubs. One musket was also collected at Mololo, where Charles Wilkes’s nephew, Wilkes Henry, and Lt. Joseph Underwood were killed; the musket’s stock is covered with the same intricate carving the clubs display. Sixty war spears, some as long as 18 feet, and about 130 bows and arrows fill out the impressive inventory of Fijian armaments. One of the final items listed in Titian Peale’s catalogue is a headdress that was presented to the expedition by the king of Somo Somo, a Fiji island state, in 1840.

Macuata's pragmatism

from w
Hmmm. Myopia or pragmatism?
Macuata accepts new-look GCCTuesday, May 20, 2008

Macuata has become the first province in Fiji to accept regulations gazetted by the interim Government to govern a new-look Great Council of Chiefs. The decision was made today at the Macuata Bose Vanua. Three chiefs - the Turaga Nai Sausauvou of Udu district Ratu Emori Waqanivalu, the Turaga Na Tui Macuata Ratu Aisea Katonivere and the Marama Na Tui Labasa Adi Salanieta Tui Lomaloma have been appointed Macuata’s representatives to the GCC.

GCC review team leader Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo says Macuata’s decision is good news. “This is very good news for us and its quite and achievement since there been a number of negative responses from certain province but we are sure and quite certain of the fact that most of the provinces that we have attended. “They are now seriously looking at complying with the regulations that we have and that they will within the next few weeks bring forward names for the GCC,” he said.

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation

(later - on Wednesday) However another newspaper item reports that Macuata Province does not agree to the Charter, which is a separate issue to that of the new-look Council of Chiefs. From Fiji radio I think.

Charter not accepted says Macuata
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Macuata has not accepted the proposed People’s Charter says the province’s new council chairman Isireli Leweniqila. Chiefs attending today’s Macuata Provincial Council meeting have appointed a committee to hold further consultations with villagers in the province. The committee will compile a report on the results of the consultation. The report will be presented before a special sitting of the Macuata Provincial Council.

“We have decided to form a committee and the committee to asses the position of the province, how it will view the charter. Consultation has been agreed to by the Tui Macuata for them to go down to the villages and get whatever they can, that’s the consultation but the position of the Macuata to the charter, no there is no decision. They haven’t decided anything yet,” he said.

When I thought things were going wrong today

from w
I've had such a messed up day today - mending going wrong by chopping off too much, porridge burnt, the builders next door making a racket with their concreting, a pleasant program cancelled. Thought I'd go to bed and start all over again, then when I read the latest Fiji news - well, here is some bright news at last. THEY ARE TALKING!
from Fiji Village:
Interim PM, Qarase Meet Publish date/time: 19/05/2008 [18:57]

Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase met for the first time today.

Also attending the meeting were the President of the Methodist Church Laisiasa Ratabacaca and Head of the Catholic Church Archbishop Petero Mataca.

The two church leaders have met several times over the past few weeks and together facilitated the meet.

The meeting today was marked by an informal exchange of views, with all leaders noting in particular the great importance of constructive dialogue not only among political leaders but also among Fiji's diverse communities and the leaders of religious and civil organisations.

The four leaders in a joint press statement said that genuine, trust-based dialogue is essential in order for real progress to be achieved in any national level efforts at healing and reconciliation.

The four leaders agreed to meet again in the near future.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Know history

from w
Dr. Brij Lal was one of the editors of a book launched this week, looking back 21 years to that momentous first coup in Fiji. He spoke of knowing your history, and that children in Fiji these days do not have extensive studies in local history. The title of the article is a bit misleading though.

Current situation saddening says Academic
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Academic Dr Brij Lal says it’s saddening to see that people nowadays have very little knowledge about the history and at the same time care less to know about it. He says history is only taught from form five so a whole generation grows up not knowing where they have come from. Dr Lal supported his statement highlighting the coverage by media of the coup and Girmit anniversary. “I picked up two dailies, newspapers not a single word, not a single word in either of them, either about Girmit or about the 21st anniversary of coup, what does that tell us about the kind of people; we are when momentous historic occasions like this we don’t remember except for doddering Historians like myself for digging up the past- the business of my life so that is saddening.

“I deeply believe that unless we know where we come from, we wont know where we going as the expression in Hindi is “bina pendhi ka lota” – a rolling stone”.
Yes, I am sure that Brij Lal is right. Even in Australia the study of history is almost defunct in schools these days, but it is important to know what happened before as it's the way to understand the reasons for the situation today. The 'why' behind the coups of recent years. The 'why' that some people are agitated about race, the 'why' some people hold onto customs that seem irrelevant in the modern world. I once taught history (and other subjects) in Fiji schools. Though I was extremely naive about local history I had a go at it and in those days the emphasis was colonial so I had to filter out the bias. Too much history is of course written by the strong, the top people, the winners, and mainly by men. I don't think that learning dates by rote and the order of kings and queens of England is that important. I mean social history, how all kinds of people lived so that we can appreciate the ease of living today - well for some people.

Early this year Peceli went to Cuvu for a church celebration which involved telling stories about the coming of the lotu to Sila and Nareba and other places in Nadroga. Peceli and others with interest in this place researched the early days of the Methodist missions there and the stories of the heroic men and women who were the lay preachers, teachers, and ministers there. The knowledge of the earlier times by the Cuvu people has stirred their hearts into a renewal in their Christian faith. Knowing your family stories, knowing the history of your clans and peoples and country is really important.

Gerda Lerner writes:
We can learn from history how past generations thought and acted, how they responded to the demands of their time and how they solved their problems. We can learn by analogy, not by example, for our circumstances will always be different than theirs were. The main thing history can teach us is that human actions have consequences and that certain choices, once made, cannot be undone. They foreclose the possibility of making other choices and thus they determine future events.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


from w.
It amazes me that hotels and resorts need to get their food and products from a distance instead of from the nearest source. Fruit and vegetables surely can be produced in Taveuni close to the Laucala resort. The soil is so rich that everything can grow quickly in Taveuni, yet cassava comes from far away in Naitisiri, according to our friend Romanu who now works at Laucala after being Fiji's top policeman.
The local farmers in Taveuni need to get moving and fill these nearby markets. That goes also of course for all hotels and resorts in Fiji to source their food as locally as possible. But I don't think farmers need to keep on asking for the State's help to organise a marketing scheme. Just make some phone calls themselves -just get moving - stop drinking kava, and just plant!

frm Fiji Times
Chiefs agree to seek State's help
Thursday, May 15, 2008

Update: 3:22PM Cakaudrove chiefs have agreed to make arrangements with State departments to help set up markets to supply food to the Laucala Island Resort in Taveuni.

This decision was made after the chiefs were told by the hotels head of security and former police commissioner Romanu Tikotikoca that most food were bought from Viti Levu.

Mr Tikotikoca told the chiefs cassava was purchased from Naitasiri and Joes Farm company supplied most of their vegetables.

He said pot plants had to be ordered from Viti Levu because the pot plants the hotel wanted was either not available in Taveuni and Savusavu or did not meet the demand.

Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu told his chiefs it was not too late for them to grab the opportunities already provided to markets outside Taveuni.

He told the chiefs they needed to work now with their villagers and distribute the responsibility of food supply to the hotel.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers Day dinner in Footscray

from w
I know there's a contradiction here from the last post about Burma but that's the nature of our lives, a bundle of contradictions knowing there is poverty and injustice but we still continue with our own celebrations such as Mothers Day.

Yesterday we had dinner with Sailosi Koto's family and Leba at the Hong Kong Barbecue Restaurant in Footscray. It was very crowded and the food was delicious. It was one of the few shops that had an English name as this part of Footscray in Melbourne is full of Chinese/Vietnamese shops. Usually for Mothers Day Fijian women dress in white and lead the Sunday worship but this year it was different in Altona Meadows as the Pentecost/Mothers Day worship was organised by the English speaking congregation. In the photos are Sailosi, Tau, Leba, Mere, Elizabeth, Peceli and me.

Friday, May 09, 2008

It's Mothers' Day tomorrow

from w
It's easy to get sentimental and soft about Mothers' Day which is tomorrow, but one story in today's Age reminds us of the shocking stories coming out of Burma after the cyclone of death, hunger, and ordinary people.
Born of tragedy, a baby clings to life
Jennifer Cavagnol
May 10, 2008
MA GAN survived cyclone Nargis. The storm tore the roof off the tiny brick house where the 22-year-old and her extended family live, 95 kilometres south-west of Rangoon. Two days later, she gave birth.

Now her baby girl is growing weaker by the day. Ma Gan is not producing breast milk, and almost a week after the storm blasted through, there is virtually no clean water in the town of Bogalay or the rest of the disaster zone.

There is no medical care and precious little food. A grandmother has taken charge of the infant and is trying to keep her alive by feeding her drops of water from a polluted canal.

"We have nothing. How do we go on?" lamented the family's patriarch, U Myint.

Burma's military regime said yesterday it was not ready to open the country's doors to foreign aid workers, rejecting international pressure to allow more experts into the isolated nation where disease and starvation stalk about 1.5 million cyclone survivors. The ruling generals said the country needed outside aid for those still alive but would deliver it themselves. A United Nations official said Burma's junta had seized all the food and equipment that the World Food Program had flown into the country for cyclone victims. He said the program had no choice but to suspend further aid shipments until the matter is resolved.

Speaking from Rangoon last night, World Vision chief Tim Costello said he was still no closer to negotiating the arrival of $3 million worth of emergency relief stranded in Dubai or visas for the 25 specialist workers needed to co-ordinate the aid response.

"We're feeling very frustrated," he said. "It's a real feeling of impotence, almost guilt that we know people are there but we can't get to them." He said international workers hoped they would be allowed entry into the country after today's referendum.

The generals' decision came as the UN warned another storm was headed in the direction of Burma. A UN spokesman said heavy rain was likely in the next week.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was due to fly to Burma this weekend after British and American envoys urged him to ask the generals to accept Western aid agencies.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described the Burmese stance as appalling. "The obscenity of this is that the people who pay the price are the poor Burmese people," he said. Mr Rudd said Australia was seeking to exert influence through parties such as Singapore, China and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Burmese Government has said the storm killed at least 22,000 people, with 40,000 missing. US diplomats suggest the toll could reach 100,000.

At Ma Gan's tiny plot, family members and friends had erected corrugated metal sheds. The survivors wore the same look of exhausted acceptance.

The baby was born in a small, low-roofed shack. Ma Gan's mother and other women in the family helped with the delivery and were taking care of the infant. Ma Gan, traumatised, was not joining in. U Myint went into Bogalay to try to get rice or water, but supplies in the ravaged town were limited. "They sent us away," he said. "We have no food, no water. The paddy is no good."

Rice from a recent harvest, now rotten, would normally be fed to animals, but it has become their only food. The rice provides no nutrients. They have no choice but to eat it.

With CHRIS HAMMER, DEWI COOKE and agencies

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A son of Bua talks about timber

from w
Furthermore to the last post, here are the views of a son of Bua province that was published in the Fiji Times.

Bua's green gold awaits axePAULA TAGIVETAUA
Sunday, April 27, 2008

IF you travel from Labasa to Nabouwalu one of the sights that will take your breath away is the acres of dark pine forests covering hill after hill. The pine and hardwood intermingled in the forests were planted 25 years ago and are in their prime. They are just waiting to be logged, sawn and exported. But the pine forests are still standing, beautiful.

They call it Bua's green gold but at the moment, they may never get to see any cent from all that gold.

I have been there in a pine forest and it was an experience. I once was "lost" and walked for three hours, one way, across a pine forest in Bua with an uncle, Ta Noke. It seemed I was taken for a stroll through a pine forest belonging to the Nabukewairua clan of my grandmother and thought it was huge.

Then I saw a map of the whole forest and they showed me where we had gone walkabout and it was just a tiny patch.

A new wharf was built at Wairiki near Nabouwalu for the specific purpose of transporting the timber or logs from the pine forests of Bua when they were cut but everything is at a standstill, it seems. Before that, they said the wharf would be built at Sasake in Lekutu near Nasarawaqa. But some politics shifted the wharf to Wairiki. I sensed something wrong because Lekutu has three quarters of all the pine in Bua province but on second thought, better to take the wharf away from the Lekutu qoliqoli for sustenance sake.

What I am talking about happened in the past three years.

I must tell you about an experience from my village, Nasarawaqa in the tikina of Lekutu, as an intro. I took my leave to the village and practically butuka na vanua, walking from place to place most of the time. Not that I wanted to walk, transport is scarce in Bua, but as they say, if you wanna see the place, walk it. It was a Sunday and the people from the Fiji Pine were coming for a meeting with landowners at Nasarawaqa. It was the best time to catch all the villagers at home.

An uncle told me to represent our mataqali and I went to see and learn in the hall under the new two-storey church. I sat at the back and watched the proceedings. Two men from the Fiji Pine, one from Tailevu and one from Nadroga, did their presentations. They had come to entice the landowners to give permission for pine on their land to be cut.

After the question and answer sessions, one of the Fiji Pine men dangled a carrot and tried to brainwash the minds of the simple village folk. They said Fiji Pine would increase dividends for landowners by "200 per cent" and I thought this must be big money. At last, Lekutu would have electricity, the road would be tarsealed and life for the landowners and families would receive a lift.

I told someone to ask how much was the new dividend and they said it would be increased from $3 to $7. I saw a rip-off straight away even though I was not educated on pine matters.

The Fiji Pine man sensed something and kept looking at me as if trying to remember my face.

One of my bro, a lawyer, drilled them with questions and the Fiji Pine men did not know what hit them.

Their mission failed.

Some time later, I heard that Fiji Pine had folded and Tropik Woods had taken over but the pine forests of Bua still stand.

There are 13,000 hectares of pine forests in Bua. Of that, the district of Lekutu has 8000 hectares. If converted to its monetary value, the total pine in Lekutu alone would bring between $400million and $500million. The other tikina in Bua "put in" for the remaining 5000 hectares of pine.

The question here is why has the pine not been logged?

The answer was told me last week by the man working for the Bua Landowners Association to clear some matters with the Native Land Trust Board.

He said landowners who had pine on their land had agreed to stop the logging of the forests until they were compensated. The main item of grievance is the overplanted areas. Apparently, when Fiji Pine led the pine-planting schemes in villages 25 years ago, some of the pine were planted on mataqali land without the consent and knowledge of the landowners. What those mataqali members wanted is to cut the pine which had "encroached on to their land" for themselves but Fiji Pine brought in the police and things were at a standstill.

The landowners approached the NLTB which said it had given permission for the land to revert to the mataqali and all things on the land.

It had been enacted and was law and that was the base the mataqali members were working from.

I understand that the promise made to the landowners 25 years ago was that Fiji Pine would plant the trees on their land but they would be paid when the trees were logged. The deal made to the villagers was that they would be paid 7 per cent of the net, for stumpage. Now, the catch here is that if there is a break even or no profit, the landowner will receive nothing.

This is one of the rip-offs Fiji Pine did to the landowners in Bua that time.

The impasse or deadlock at the moment is made complicated by the reluctance of the NLTB to press payment from Fiji Pine or its successor Tropic Wood for compensation due to landowners of Bua who have pine.

"It is a matter between the NLTB and Tropic Wood. We are out of it but they cannot do anything because of the state of things in the government," said Tevita Raiova of the Bua Landowners Associ-ation. We stand prepared to pay off the Fiji Pine debt of about $60-million if the government gives us a good deal and work for the pine forests to be logged and exported to a market which will bring benefits to the landowners," he said.

The NLTB issued a paper titled 'Bua's Green Gold' and listed the problems and how they could be solved but they are just that on paper.

Raiova has had meetings with the NLTB and the interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama who received a detailed bio data on pine which he said, he "had never heard from someone before", according to Raiova.

The way things are going, it will be a slow haul because of what has happened, from Fiji Pine's demise to the formation of its successor, Tropik Wood, and compensation for Bua landowners left in a lurch.

Really, it is a matter for the NLTB and Fiji Pine or Tropik Wood but now the landowners of Bua are being held to ransom, so to speak.

The deal was made, rather inconspicuously, in the last millennium when the people were not that educated and a lot of false promises made.

Now, when the sons of Bua have grown educated and wiser to the ways of the world, they realise how wronged their fathers and grandfathers had been by exploiters.

It is like a chapter from the pages of Fiji's history and if you happen to be affected as I am, then it is hard not to feel angry and want justice done.

I read last week how people were sacking the forests in Papua New Guinea in an illegal logging trade and selling shiploads of logs to overseas buyers.

If logs can go for sale on the blackmarket, it would be easy for Bua to sell its green gold to the highest bidder.

But such is the legacy of the Ulumatua, it is not a pressing worry.

But you know, if you are a kai Bua, you would feel cheated by the deal made 25 years ago. Why can't they simply give to Caesar what is Caesar's? It is called fair play and would conform to the ideals and practices of transparency being preached about by the interim regime. I tell you, if things work out right for the people of Bua, a lot of things will fall in line.

If you took history in school, you would read and learn about the sandalwood trade which flourished at one time in Fiji's history. The trade was in done Bua because the yasi is native to Bua but what did the people of Bua get out of it nothing and the yasi tree are not trees anymore in Bua now. Then there was a boom in beche-de-mer but what happened divers died.

This is the last chance for Bua to make something out of something they can call their own a gift, as Raiova says. "If we miss this, dravusa kece ga," he said.

But it should not be that way.

The province of the Ulumatua has endured being raped of its material wealth all these decades that at one stage in the cycle of life, the wrongs of the past must be put right. This is the time for it and the onus is on the powers that be to see things right. It goes beyond imagination and logic for people to do wrong to his fellowman.

Why not Labasa before Bua?

from w
In yesterday's Fiji Village there was an article about Wairiki in Bua (er..what?) being made an international port for Fiji. A port for a huge timber industry with woodchips to be sent to Japan? Hardly a place like Suva with lots of infrastructure. Some sort of favouritism there for a timber company? And what about the idea mooted that Labasa should be an international port - with its sugar and timber industries? And another grouch - why strip Vanua Levu of trees to send as woodchips to Japan. I'm not happy about that one. Who makes the profit - when just the day before there was an article in a Fiji paper about the members of some mataqalis not getting royalties for their timber as the timber grabbers muck up. (edited.)
Wairiki Declared International Port of Entry
Publish date/time: 06/05/2008 [16:42]

The Wairiki Port in Bua has been declared an international port of entry.

The Interim Minister for Primary Industries Joketani Cokanasiga while making submissions to Cabinet today highlighted that the port construction was completed in June with a total cost of $24.9 million.

However, he said installation of the port of entry requirements to enable the port to comply with the recently enforced International Maritime Organization is to be carried out by the port operator. He said upon completion, the port facility will be a major government capital investment in the forest sector to boost economic development in Vanua Levu.

Cokanasiga said the port will facilitate the direct exportation of pine chips from Wairiki to its market overseas, mainly to Japan. He said the current export is about $15 million annually which is now expected to increase to 250,000 tonnes compared to 200,000 once the port is fully operational.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Is kava good for you?

from w
Here in Australia many migrant Islanders continue to drink yaqona or kava as it is usually called, though these days I don't think it can be imported anymore. However passengers are still allowed to bring in about 2 kilos. Someone said it can be bought for $100 a kilo which is outrageous. It shouldn't be more than $30.

I found a website where the writer analysed the benefits etc. of drinking kava and here are the writer's conclusions.

Overall, Kava-Kava is harolded (sp)throughout the World Wide Web as a herbal remedy for anxiety and stress and a natural alternative to sedating prescriptions. However, consumers must scrutinize the claims made concerning Kava-Kava, considering the central purpose of the majority of the sites. Although a few sites are merely for informative purposes (;;, the other Kava sites mentioned above sell products through the online market. Profit possibly motivates exaggerated and unjustified claims concerning the benefits of Kava-Kava among many advertisers. Therefore, when considering the validity of Kava-Kava claims and the efficacy of Kava as the much-needed alternative to prescription psychiatric medications, the focus must be upon the medically documented reviews and clinical studies. However, in the case of Kava, studies, reviews, and meta-analysis confirm the most prevalently asserted benefits of kava extract treatment. By means of statistically sound methods including double-blinding and placebo-controlling, the studies unbiased demonstrate the effectiveness of Kava as an anti-anxiety treatment free from the adverse side effects of addiction and cognition impairment associated with other anxiolytic drugs. However, consumers must still scrutinize advertisements. Many of the more dramatic claims concerning emotional well-being and quality of life are most likely exaggerations and merely advertising enticements. Unlike anxiety which lends itself to testing due to well-developed and widely-accepted tools such as the Hamilton Scale, variables such as peacefulness and quality of life are difficult to accurately test in a scientific and medical setting and are therefore unsubstantiated claims. In addition, as with almost all medications, there are minor adverse side effects to Kava usage, such as skin irritations, rashes, and stomach irritation. Nonetheless, Kava-Kava appears to be a reliable herbal remedy that could be useful in the reduction of stress and anxiety. By providing a safer and beneficial alternative to prescription psychiatric medications, Kava-Kava could be the solution to today?s problems of stress and anxiety.

Friday, May 02, 2008

world Media Freedom Day

from w
Our prayers are with the men and women in the world who work in the news making industries, especially those with integrity and fearlessness to tell the truth. As we know much of the media is about transience, sensationalized stories, the ephemeral aspects of life, but there are other writers, editors, publishers who look at society and say it as they see it to inform the public of what is happening.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A sweet letter in the Fiji Times but......

from w
I enjoyed reading this letter in today's Fiji Times but....
Why I give thanks

I AM thankful for the wife who says it's hotdogs tonight because she is home with me, not with someone else.

For the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes, because it means she is at home and not on the streets.

For the tax I pay, because it means I am employed.

For the mess to clean after a party, because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutter that needs fixing, because it means I have a home.

For the woman behind me in church who sings off-key, because it means I can hear.

For the parking spot I find on the other side of town, because it means I am capable of walking.

For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means I am alive.

For all the complaining I read and hear about the government, because it means we have freedom of speech.

Now for the but......
The last line in the letter - well, it's not quite true after what happened last night to the publisher of the Fiji Times. Another one bites the dust it seems. First the publisher of the Fiji Sun, now another one. dissent, telling the news how they see it, just is not popular with the IG. Several stories about the incident can be found in today's Fiji papers.