Saturday, February 28, 2009

Behind the Fijian smile

from w
We are all familiar with the wide smile of Fijian men and women and children, an openess of greeting, eye contact. So there's the idea that life is easy-going, one day at a time, sega ni leqa. But there are always stories behind the smiles, and other feelings of sadness, unease, anxiety that are usually hidden well, though tears do fall at times. Fijians who migrate to Australia and other countries still have that gorgeous smile which hides worry about relatives back home who often have to face obstacles in their lives but still have resilience and courage. Here are pictures of some of the Fijians who live in Melbourne, including the women preparing the beautiful lovo food and the guys in the band who sing the nostalgic songs of the Islands. Perhaps a readiness to smile is a response to a security of belonging, to knowing that God is loving, and that family and networks are always there for you - not matter what the current circumstances.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Government of National Unity

from w
What a good idea comes to us today from Mick Beddoes. A very sensible suggestion. I read this in today's Fiji Times.

Call to form government of national unityFriday, February 27, 2009

Update: 3:25PM THE interim government and political leaders have been urged to consider forming a government of national unity if an agreement timetable to parliamentary democracy is not reached within 12 months.

Ousted opposition leader Mick Beddoes says Fiji state of economy cannot possibly endure the looming worldwide financial crisis, another 12 months of political uncertainty and the issues they bring to bear on people.

"While the recommencement of the dialogue process on March 13 is most welcomed, there is a need for leaders, especially the interim Prime Minister (Commodore Frank Bainimarama) to consider alternative options," he said.

Mr Beddoes says a government of national unity to oversee the transition from military to civilian rule and the holding of general election would among other things; establish a level of political stability necessary to help improve the level of confidence required to re-start the wheels of economic recovery.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fijian wins gold medal at the Australian Masters

from w
We had an enjoyable day at Landy Field in Geelong today and Andrew Ratawa won the gold medal in his age group at the Australian Masters' Games. Vina'a va'alevu Andy! His Dad did a credible job also in his age group, almost winning a medal. The event they participated in today was the javelin. Yesterday Andrew got a silver medal in the shotput event. The Masters Games is for senior athletes who want to keep fit. Several men and women over 90 years of age were in the competition, but I did notice one man with a walking frame who still had a go at the shotput!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More about the floating island in Fiji

from w
Some time ago I had written on this blog about this place, telling a story that Pita told us. Then I found another story. An interesting article from 130 years ago describes a visit to the ‘floating island’ near Nubu, Vanua Levu, written in the old-fashioned style of vavalagi explorers. At which is from the archives from 1878 in the old Fiji Argus and in a website of the New York Times.

Then yesterday a modern day story told in the Fiji Times shows how today’s young people view a visit to this site. Here is part of the story from the Fiji Times yesterday.

Floating on an island
Rashneel Kumar
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Isireli Taganekalou and Epeli Rokodolu posing on the Vanalato.

THERE are people who have heard and read about the Floating Island on Vanua Levu but I doubt if many of them know about the myth that lies behind this captivating place. Well, I never knew anything about this place until I went on a recent trip back home. I discovered how the island is supposed to have originated…(bit deleted here about trip from Suva.) Well my stop for the night was my home at Taganikula (about 50km drive from Labasa Town) close to where the Survivor Fiji television series was shot. It was a heart-breaking sight as I gazed out on the arid fields of my village which were once covered with 'green gold' and beautifully designed houses. It is a sad fact that a lot of people have either moved to urban areas in Labasa or local overseas, Suva because of the unsolved land problem. But life goes on, no matter where you live.

The floating island
Early one morning I set off with my nana (mum) Veniana Vakatari for the Floating Island, as it is known, in the yearn to unearth the myth following it's existence. I have been living in that area since birth but honestly speaking, this was my first trip to this amazing place.

After an hour of bus drive, I managed to get to the place where this lady my Nana said was familiar with the myth of the Floating Island. The place was peaceful and clothed in the colours of the vast and ancient place. Ghost gums and roots in the earth as red as blood stood against the expanse of blue sky which lined up in the meandering path down to a restful waterhole. This waterhole is a drano (or a lake) of approximately 100 square metres in dimension. It is situated at a remote place, to where one has to travel the entire rutted route to get - named Kurukuru in Nubu (about 60km from Labasa).

This lake is surrounded by pandanus (suluka) tree of almost similar size giving the lake quiet a queer but more of a uniform look. Upon stepping on the banks of the drano, I felt the ground underneath to be of sand. This is believed to be the remains of the yagona which the Vu's (ancient God) used to consume during their time!
"Isa ... o sa siga ni kila vinaka na vola ni drano" (I don't know much about the Floating Island) were the foremost words of 63-years-old Litiana Dicauna whom my nana said was the only person left in the area vividly knowing the myth.
But she combined with her pal Kesaia Ranuve, 60, and did satisfy my longing for the ancient discovery. I was told to observe some traditional norms during the trip.
The drano is believed to be founded by the Vu (ancient god) of Nubu.

This was because they can have easier excess to the nearby sea for fishing and transportation. They were said to have made a drain (I don't know why they called it a drain because it actually looked like a river) through to the sea.

Once the Vu from Nubu had a fierce battle against the Vu of the neighboring village and this forced the owners of drano to leave the place and reside to a little far away village named Siriaga.

Nothing is particularly special about the lake apart from its appearance. But the thing which is really charismatic is what is floating on the drano. The drano has two huge islands, one of which amazingly floats. It is believed that both used to make a circular trip around the Floating Island ,however, one of it has anchored itself on the side of the lake. The one that is still floating is named Vanalato (it is named after a tree) and the one that is not functional is called Vanavadra (pineapple tree). The names have been given after these things were found on the islands. Dicauna said that the Vanalato and Vanavadra have spiritual guiders who steers the island.

The Vanalato used to move on the tunes of the Bete (or priest) in the olden days but now any person speaking Nubu dialect can command it for a short journey around the drano. Also other people, but rarely, are able to make the island stir. Only fortunate ones are able to ride on Vanalato .The people also believe that the Floating Island has a captain who is really moody and is the one that navigates the Vanalato. When sometimes the island does not move, it is believed that the captain is missing or not in a mood to steer the drano.

I was told that the Vu (which the people living in Nubu believe is still residing) has a name - Yame-bua-ovo (meaning - fire). Well how the Vu got the name has its own story.

Some centuries ago a white man used to live on the hillside near the lake. One day he ran out of matches (or fire).He mumbled to himself asking if there was any fire left anywhere and to his surprise flames erupted from the lake to his cooking place.
From there on people living near to the lake named the Vu, believed to be still living in the lake, Yame-bua-ovo.

The Source (Origin) of the Lake
The lake is believed to be sourced from a far (almost 60km) place set high amongst the towering cliff called Kiriyaganilali. The shape of this place, I was told, is bit extraordinary - it looks like a house and the door shaped part is where the water surges down forever to far and wide.

The Depth of the Lake
Believe me - no one to date knows how deep the drano is? The bank of the lake is about neck high of an average person but centre is still a mystery. People had tried many times with none succeeding in determining the depth. I was told that about some decades ago a man tried to dive in to check the deepness but he never reappeared again leaving all in a total misery and mystery.

The Evidence that the Vu still resides there
Nine years ago on a beautiful Sunday a boy aged 19 took some visitors who had come to church service in Kelikoso (neighbouring village of Kurukuru) for a trip around the lake.

Let me call this teenager Pita (I know the name but cannot reveal due to privacy) was a bit mischievous youth. During the trip he was bit off the traditional norm that should be practiced during the visit to the place. Everything went well, the Vanalato responded and left the port (where it haboured) making a circular round. When it was on its way back to its base, the boy jumped into the lake ... maybe to take a quick dip because of the searing heat of the day.

Pita was well ahead of Vanalato, swimming towards the land when he suddenly went underneath the water. The other mates accompanying him thought he was just on the way to crack another joke. But he never came up and a search party was called who later found him somewhere floating about meter down the surface of the lake. He did not even have a scratch on his body and even the doctors were unable to find the cause of his inconceivable death.

Now and Future
Ranuve and Dicauna sometimes sit under the hurricane lantern light and share the story with their grandchildren. "They always ask me about the drano and are eager to know more about it," Ranuve said. As I board on the bus again that day to return home, watching the dust scattering carelessly in the winds, the legend woven in the tapestry of the land kept on banging my head.

Was it true or just another of the tales my grandfather always used to share with me... that is for you to decide!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bulabula iguana

from w
How did the iguana get from America to Fiji? And to a little island off the west coast of Vanua Levu? Who knows! But a new species has been found and called 'bulabula' which is nice. Their closest relatives are 5000 miles away! So I suppose Mr Charles Darwin would have an explanation for that. It's just over 200 years since his birth so a salute to him. The Fiji iguana is certainly prettier than it's long-lost cousin on the Galapagos islands which so fascinated Darwin on his travels. Another theory is that the lizard actually started from Mongolia and came down Asia and across to Fiji. This is suggested in a website called Fijian Crested Iguana.

I found some info in Science News on the net and a photo by PaddyRyan. On Geelong Visual Diary I put in some pictures based on the Fiji iguana.

Science News
New Pacific Iguana Discovered In Fiji

ScienceDaily (Sep. 22, 2008) — A new iguana has been discovered in the central regions of Fiji. The colorful new species, named Brachylophus bulabula, joins only two other living Pacific iguana species, one of which is critically endangered. The scientific name bulabula is a doubling of bula, the Fijian word for ‘hello,’ offering an even more enthusiastic greeting.
Green Iguana
Conservation status
Endangered species
Pacific iguanas have almost disappeared as the result of human presence. Two species were eaten to extinction after people arrived nearly 3,000 years ago. The three living Brachylophus iguana species face threats from loss and alteration of their habitat, as well as from feral cats, mongooses and goats that eat iguanas or their food source.

“Our new understanding of the species diversity in this group is a first step in identifying conservation targets,” said Robert Fisher, a research zoologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in San Diego, and coauthor of a study on the new iguana with scientists from the Australian National University and Macquarie University in Australia.

An important study finding for conservation of the genetic diversity in these iguanas is that, with only one exception, each of the 13 islands where living iguanas were sampled showed at least one distinct iguana genetic line that was not seen elsewhere.

The Fiji crested iguana, Brachylophus vitiensis, is gone from many islands it once occupied and is now listed as Critically Endangered on the “Red List” of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The IUCN is the largest global environmental network. “Unfortunately, this new study indicates that the other previously-identified Pacific iguana species, Brachyophus fasciatus, is probably critically endangered also,” Fisher said.

The mystery of how the Pacific iguanas originally arrived has long puzzled biologists and geographers. Their closest relatives are found nearly 5,000 miles away across the ocean in the New World.

“The distinctive Fijian iguanas are famous for their beauty and also their unusual occurrence in the middle of the Pacific Ocean because all of their closest relatives are in the Americas,” said Scott Keogh, an Associate Professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and lead author of the study.

The Australian Masters has started

from w
Tonight was the Opening Ceremony at Skilled Stadium Geelong for the Australian Masters and there are over 7000 athletes and sports people registered, including Peceli and our youngest son in the javelin events. The Masters is for veterans which means over 30, over 35, up to over 90 and there's even one jav thrower over 90! Here are a few photos at the opening ceremony. They don't go by countries but by category e.g. archery, athletics, soccer, etc. One of the photos is of Peceli with two athletes from Auckland, New Zealand, and an Australian dairy farmer from the Wakool area of western NSW and she said there are only 3 out of 21 dairy farmers left and all the rice production has gone because of the drought. She is in the pentathlon and practices her jav event with a curtain rod! My exercise for the day was to walk from the car park to the seats at the stadium - a very very long way!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Naughty journalists and a microphone

from w
Okay, I think the TV journalists erred in secretly listening in on a meeting they were banned from, but the story is out so it's a bit late now.

Teleni (who seemed a nice guy when we met him during his studies) is in trouble with his espousing of New Methodist shouting style and mixing up religion with policing. Selectively targeting the Indo-Fijian policemen was certainly a provocative decision. Here is what the Fiji Times said - and the disapproval is echoed in numerous Fiji organisations and institutions. Maybe we should blame it on the constant drizzle and rain in Suva!

An unacceptable outburst
Thursday, February 19, 2009

WE find the outburst by Police Commissioner, Commodore Esala Teleni, unacceptable and in extremely poor taste. How dare he attack Indian police officers and accuse them of undermining a crusade which is a matter of personal choice? Commodore Teleni has insulted hard-working Indian police officers and, by extension, their community. These officers have toiled day and night without complaint for years only to be summoned before the commissioner and berated as if they were children.

As if it were not enough to castigate the officers, Teleni ensured that only Indians were present. This pointed to the fact that his attack was clearly against a particular demographic grouping within the force.

Not two years ago Teleni and Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama seized power promising to root out racism and corruption.

Those promises seem incredibly hollow after the police commissioner's outburst.

Even more troubling was Teleni's use of expletives while addressing the officers of the rank of inspector and above. His conduct was unprofessional to say the least. If this is how the most senior police officer in the land conducts himself with his officers, we dread to think what treatment members of the public will receive.

Teleni's outburst appears to have been motivated by sustained criticism of a crusade aimed at promoting Christianity within the force in an attempt to reduce the incidence of crime.

Much of that criticism has been from indigenous Fijian officers who do not accept the fact that religious views have been forced upon them.

Many also believe that through the crusade police resources have been concentrated on activities which do nothing to reduce crime or raise the level of professionalism within the force.

If Teleni wants to reduce crime, he would have more success by putting more officers on the street. By reducing the size of the army and boosting the police force there would be an immediate reduction in crime.

Continued criticism of and unjustified attacks upon officers will do nothing but lower morale. Once that happens, professionalism within the force will suffer. Teleni must take a serious look at the issues which affect the force and ensure that these matters are addressed immediately.

He is no longer in the navy where swearing and threats are an acceptable part of life. The commodore is head of a professional organisation with a proud history of service to the people of Fiji. He would do well to remember that and act with professionalism at all times.

Some comments:
Now if a leader of a professional institution such as the police force sees that there is a need for the men and women to have not only physical fitness (in a gym or running around an oval), mental fitness (appropriate study and reading) and spiritual fitness (time out to meditate, pray) that is fine. However this is a dodgy area when we live in a multi-faith society. An hour a day set aside to look beyond our human existence is good, but perhaps folk like ECREA could work out a spiritual fitness program, rather than the New Methodists. Multi-lingual, multi-faith. The police, army, firemen, all need chaplains and time out from duties and they also need counsellors in extreme situations of great stress, I recognize that. So I hope that this incident is a learning experience, and then move on.

As shown in the photos below of the launch of the crusade at the end of last year, the police crusade was culturally very much ethnic Fijian and Christian and attractive to those who love large gatherings, choirs, youth action songs, and so on. It would not have the same relevance to police officers who belong to other faiths.

Go tell it on the mountain...

from w
Two items from Vanua Levu - and the Look North policy (I don't mean China - I mean Vanua Levu) - one is at Seaqaqa and they say an answer to their prayer and fasting... Has the infrastructure already been put in place to actually deliver on lights etc.? Villagers of Naravuka will have electricity so that is excellent. They are saying that the turbine generates power and also pumps water for irrigation, aquaculture, sanitation etc. Sounds marvellous. The water turbine was designed by Australian businessman Warren Tyson, who is in Macuata to supervise the installation and tests. The project is being implemented by the National Centre for Small and Micro-Enterprises Development (NCSMED), to support enterprise promotion in the Northern Development Programme and was funded by a donation from AusAID in Australia.

The other story is about the terrible state of the road at Lomaloma which has caused a dreadful accident. All the talk of bringing development to Vanua Levu is just hot air if they can't fix that road between Labasa and Savusavu!

from Fiji Times
Fasting ends with village power supply
Thursday, February 19, 2009

A VILLAGE river that was a picnic and common washing spot for villagers of Naravuka in the north will today become a mini hydro for 47 families in supplying free electricity generated from the village river. Yesterday the village men were out in the river to install the turbine, which is believed to be the first in the area of Seaqaqa, Macuata.

And the villagers believe the free electricity supply that was brought to their doorsteps in June last year by the Northern Development Program office in Labasa was a result of their three months fasting and praying.

Village assistant headman Rusiate Vunibureta said the village had just completed its three months fasting when officers from NDP visited them and informed them about the turbine to generate electricity to the village.

Mr Vunibureta said the officers told him they needed a river to test the turbines. He said they accepted the plea with no hesitation because it was a blessing from God and a need the villagers have longed for over past years. Mr Vunibureta said students would greatly benefit as the electricity supply would help with study periods and ironing of uniforms.

The project, worth more than $10,000 was donated by the Australian Government through the National Centre for Small and Micro-Enterprises Development and its north branch NDP.

NCSMED chief executive officer Savenaca Nacanaitaba said such projects to the community would bring about a lot of benefits to the villagers.

"We are pleased to support a community in developing a sustainable source of energy and to transfer this technology to Vanua Levu," Mr Nacanaitaba said.

"We believe that the provision of low-cost power will expand options open to people in rural areas to develop their resources to create wealth and improve their lives, using tools and modern conveniences we often take for granted in the cities and towns."
The Second story....
also by the Labasa journalist, Serafina.
Passenger dies as excavator falls on vans
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A MAN was crushed to death and three people admitted to hospital with serious injuries after an excavator fell on their cars yesterday. Dead is Vikash Chand, 24, an employee of Labasa's Makan's Drugs and Pharmaceutical Supplies. Two of the injured were passengers in Chand's vehicle while the third was in a Colgate Palmolive van behind the Makan's Drugs car.

Police spokesman Atunaisa Sokomuri said the vans were travelling to Savusavu along the well-known S-Bend at Seaqaqa, Macuata when the excavator, loaded on a 10-wheeler truck, slipped and crushed the vehicles.

"The driver of the 10-wheeler lost control, considering the weight and the bend it had to negotiate, and the excavator slipped and hit the vehicles," Mr Sokomuri said, adding they have not determined if the excavator was properly bound to the tray of the truck.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fiji missed out but Tongans got the job

from w
Though Fiji missed out on the short-term guest worker scheme for Australia, and we all know why, but a couple of days ago a group of fifty Tongans arrived in Australia to work in the horticulture industry at Robinvale on the Murray River. For years Pacific Islanders have worked (legally and illegally) in the fruit industry, living in picker's huts and earning money to send home to relatives. Farmers want labour, and Aussie men and women, even when unemployed, are not happy to do this kind of work in the hot sun. Robinvale is a lovely little town -(I lived there one year when I taught at Robinvale High School) - with mainly grape-growing and along the river many farmers want labour for grapes, oranges, etc. Good luck to the Tongan men who have been given these jobs. They should fit well into the Robinvale community which already has a large Tongan community and at least two Tongan churches. A few months ago we talked with Duncan Kerr about this scheme, really stressing how valuable it is to Pacific Islanders, and Fiji may be on the list, one day - such as when there is an election! Of course there are academics such as Bob Birrell, a population expert, who insists that Aussies should get jobs first - okay, but if they won't do the job, then....

Seasonal guest workers arrive from Pacific
PM - Monday, 16 February , 2009 18:38:00 ABC Radio
Reporter: Meredith Griffiths

MARK COLVIN: A group of 50 Tongans flew into Australia today the first contingent of unskilled workers brought to pick fruit on Australian farms under the Federal Government's Pacific guest workers scheme.

The pilot program was announced last August, before the global financial crash.

Is it still right to import labourers amidst fears of growing unemployment in Australia?

Meredith Griffiths has this report.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: This morning the Prime Minister of Tonga said farewell to 50 people flying out to begin work picking almonds in Victoria's Murray Valley.

Tongan newspaper editor, Kalafi Moala, says many Tongans are applying for the two-and-a-half thousand seasonal guest worker visas now made available by the Australian Government.

KALAFI MOALA: You're looking at a huge source of finance for a lot of these families, because these are people that are going out and they haven't had any jobs here.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: The Federal Government announced the three-year trial Pacific Seasonal Worker Scheme in August last year, but that was before the global financial crisis.

Dr Bob Birrell is from the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University.

BOB BIRRELL: This decision was taken at a time when most decision-makers thought there would be a long-term shortage of labour in Australia and that clearly is not going to be the case in the foreseeable future.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: He says the Government should be doing more to encourage Australians to move to areas of workforce need.

So would you like to see the Government scrap the program?

BOB BIRRELL: I don't think they're going to do that. There was a decision made and the bureaucracy's in process, but I would hope that once this trial is complete, that's the last we hear of it.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Some of Bob Birrell's concerns have been echoed by the Federal Opposition's immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone.

SHARMAN STONE: We do hope the Rudd Labor Government is keeping a close eye on local unemployed in those areas, so we're not simply replacing jobs for locals with jobs for imported labour.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: But the Australian Workers Union says it's confident that the Pacific Islanders who arrive under the scheme this year will not be taking jobs that Australians need.

Paul Howes is the union's national secretary.

PAUL HOWES: You're not talking about huge amounts of workers and you're talking about a sector that this year still has a shortfall of 100,000 workers.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Paul Howes says the Government may need to review the number of seasonal guest worker visas it offers but says the scheme has safeguards to ensure locals aren't disadvantaged.

PAUL HOWES: And it ensures the participation of local communities in approving the employers who get this labour. Now if there is a circumstance where a local community have an excess of unemployed workers who want that work and where Australians are being turned away, then those employers will not get the permits to be able to use this labour.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Social justice advocate Jill Finnane from the Edmund Rice Centre says while the Federal Government works to handle the local impact of the economic crisis; it must not neglect its neighbours.

JILL FINNANE: The Pacific Islanders have been asking for this for a long, long time. They have a great need, huge unemployment, especially among young people in their countries and the remittances that they send back to their country are absolutely hugely important in taking them from a level of poverty that we can't even imagine here in Australia.

So, I do think we do need to find work for our unemployed here in Australia, but I don't think that many of the unemployed here in Australia are actually looking for fruit picking work. I just don't see that there's a competing issue here.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Workers from Vanuatu and Kiribas have also been invited to apply for visas under the pilot scheme.

MARK COLVIN: That report from Meredith Griffiths.

from Weekly Times
Pacific Island guest workers en route to Robinvale
David McKenzie
February 16, 2009

THE first 50 workers under the Pacific Island guest worker scheme have arrived and will soon be helping out with the almond harvest in Robinvale. Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard and Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said the workers from Tonga would attend an induction day before travelling to Robinvale. They said two labour hire companies - Tree Minders in Victoria and NSW-based Griffith Skills Training - had been selected as the employers for the first tranche of up to 100 Pacific seasonal workers. Local advisory bodies had also been established in Griffith and Swan Hill to provide advice to growers, they said.

To date, four growers in the schemes two pilot areas - Swan Hill/Robinvale and Griffith - had submitted applications to employ workers, the ministers said. Under the pilot scheme, up to 2,500 visas will be available over three years for workers from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea to work in Australia for up to seven months in a year.

Evaluations will be conducted after 18 months and 30 months of operation. All Pacific seasonal workers will be employed in accordance with Australian work standards and awards.

Participating employers will pay half of the return air fares, and cover establishment costs involved in bringing the Pacific seasonal workers to Australia. Employers are required to put Australian job seekers first, the ministers said. Growers who wish to participate Scheme must demonstrate they've tested the local labour market by participating in labour market programs to train Australians, particularly income support recipients and Indigenous Australians.

Under the pilot, up to 2,500 visas will be available over three years for workers from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea to work in Australia for up to seven months in any 12-month period.

An evaluation of the effectiveness of the Pilot will be conducted with reports to Government after 18 months and 30 months of operation.

AllPacific seasonal workers will be employed in accordance with Australian work standards and awards. Participating employers will pay half of the return air fares, and cover establishment costs involved in bringing workers to Australia.
(later) They are settling into Robinvale, learning to drive tractors, etc. and already the local Aussie Rules footy club is asking them to come down and have a kick! Watch out though - they are probably rugby players. Another memo: don't invite them to al all-you-can-eat restaurant as they might take you seriously and not eat till they are full, but eat till they are tired! Some Pacific Islander groups were banned one time in Kong Kong from a restaurant because they ate everything available. Malo lelei and have a good day, guys.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Submarines and Valentine's Day

from w
I thought of the Fiji navy little boats when I read that story of a British and a French submarine slightly touching one another in the middle of the Atlantic. It seems like the kind of thing the Fiji navy might do! Then I wondered if it was a Valentine's Day greeting, but the incident had actually occured earlier on. Okay, it's not funny as they were carrying nuclear weapons, etc. Well, if you have friends like that, you don't need enemies do you?

Is this in Cumming Street Suva?

from w
Yesterday I discovered a different kind of shop in Moorabool Street I hadn't seen before (though it's been there about three years someone told me this morning as we packed books for Donation in Kind). The windows were crammed witha gorgeous colourful objects, cushions, choes, sculptures. Scherezade kind of scenes. I realized it was an Indian shop and I thought I was back in Cumming Street shopping in Suva!

Thank goodness for multiculturalism in our city and the opportunity to see something different to shiny minimalism in shop windows and fashionable items for size 2 models! Though I have little money to spend, this is the kind of shop I could browse in and find delightful objects in brilliant colours. But this time I didn't dawdle, just went on my way, intent to see an art show further on. But I did take two photos of the Indian shop window!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tribewanted continues on Vorovoro

from w
We pop into the tribewanted site occasionally though we have never been members. It's mainly because of our relationships with the people of Mali Island who are closely related. Peceli has met some of the tribewanted team on two visits to Vorovoro. Here is some news posted yesterday. The funeral described of a young man aged 31, gives little detail of what really happened, why he died, and that is concerning. Our family from Vatuadova attended the funeral as the young man was related.

Islands as Arks: re-discovering Vorovoro
Community → Blogs from Vorovoro → Ben Keene's blog
By Bengazi, Vorovoro, Fiji Posted 1 day ago
University of the South Pacific Ethno bio-diversity study begins
As I am sure you will read on Ben Katz’s blog – our sustainability manager was able to recently persuade a team of five students and lecturers to visit Vorovoro to begin a study of local knowledge of Vorovoro’s reefs. The goal is that after this initial research more students will return to extend the study, building up detailed knowledge of the islands marine environments so that both the knowledge and the reefs can be preserved for future generations.

At sevusevu on tuesday (Tui Mali’s weekly visit to Vorovoro) the USP team presented their two day findings to chief, team, tribe members, and the Prisons Commissioner for the South of Fiji (as Tui Mali’s guest). Teddy Fong, the team leader from USP, spoke of ‘islands as arks’, of how we can see the whole cycle of life on and around an island – and how they provide a rare opportunity to see global ecosystems on a micro scale. When we first looked to come to Vorovoro, I remember thinking something not disimilar although not as scientifically put – that on Vorovoro, we can see so easily the full cycle of life and its biodiversity, and that is why it is the ideal place to educate, inspire and make connections. We will post the full report of their survey online when it is complete and I hope that the partnership will grow from here.
The 11th Hour: a holistic sustainability workshop
After a full meke class on Thursday morning (with Crimestopper even introducing a new head wiggling style), Ben Katz lead a discussion on tribe members attitudes and involvement with sustainable living. Interestingly all those present had been involved through their work at home in some way: Jodie as a sales rep for a recycling company, Louis from Holland knows a lot about liquid nitrogen and even sells CO2, Paula from Italy sells bikini’s (thus saving on extra clothing…), Becky had been involved in Environmental & Energy Law, Moya ran the eco-car fleet for Estee Lauder, Sophie had produced Radio Campaigns on green issues, and our very own Katz had run a sustainable landscaping business.

From Hybrids to Shampoos to Greenwashing to defining sustainability, Re-designing Design itself and becoming re-connected with our environment, we covered a lot of ground. The third compost loo is being re-decorated by the tribe with eco facts for what you can do easily at home.

Later in the afternoon, as the showers began, we settled down in the Great Bure with scones and sugared tea to watch The 11th hour, the most compelling environmental documentary I’ve seen – following the insights of the world’s most eminent scientists into the state of planet today and what must be done to prevent catastrophe. The closing comments of the film are made by an indigenous indian chief who speaks very plainly that no matter what, the earth will survive, the question is whether we want to survive with it.

A community in mourning
News came early in the week that Mosese’s (one of our boat captains) younger brother had tragically passed away at the age of 31. Peni was a fit young man, who met his lovely wife whilst visiting Vorovoro one afternoon last year, and since begun a new life in Nakawaga village. No one seems to know why he dropped down so suddenly last week – all the villagers can say is that his wife had been saying that Peni had told her in the days before his death that he “would soon be going to a far off place.”
Marau left early in the week to start helping the village prepare for the significant funeral. I travelled with the family on Friday morning and arrived to a village full of people quietly preparing for a heavy day. The two hour service was followed by the short pilgrimage to the village grave site on the hill, and there in the midday heat, 150 gathered – wailing, singing hymns and shoveling thick heavy mud into Peni’s final resting place. I don’t think I’ve ever been part of something like that – where you can feel the communal shift in emotion for a man who passed too soon to one of quiet acceptance for all except the immediate family, as the flowers were placed on his mud and rock make-shift grave.

Life – and death – on these beautiful islands, a story we’re fortunate to be part of.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A week after the worst bushfire in memory

from w
It's a week since that terrible Saturday that scorched so much of Victoria's bushland, mainly about one to two hour's drive north of Melbourne - there were fires the week before in Gippsland and even now there are still fires burning in about twenty areas. The newspapers are full of stories of heroism, courage, resilience, compassion and terrible loss of life. The statistics - 181 people deceased and still counting, 1800 or more homes lost, and over 7000 people homeless at this stage. The generosity of the ordinary people has been outstanding as about $100 million dollars have been given already. The two photos are from today's Age newspaper and show the strength of the fire and the total devastation of the forests in one area.

Town administrators

from w
A letter to the editor of the Fiji Times today says something. The lowliest worker in Fiji gets less than $2 an hour and when there was a plan to give them a few more cents, the idea was taken away! Alas, money has to be used elsewhere. Instead of voluntary councillors overseeing the planning in towns, there are now administrators, possibly with little experience in the tasks ahead, and now they have been promised hefty salaries!

Administrator's pay

$45,000 is a bit too much pay for the administrators considering the deferment of the wage increase of the poorest workers.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From Labasa to Navosa, version two

from w
Here is a delightful version of the trip to Navosa for Pinky's wedding, told by my namesake, Wendy Junior who is the same age as Pinky, 22. I am waiting to see the photos of our relatives riding horses! Meanwhile some rough drawings will suffice though I can't draw horses' legs!

Hi Grandma and Grandpa,

The people from Labasa arrived to Suva around 4.00pm which was Monday afternoon. They went straight to Raiwaqa where we were waiting for them. Uncle Dakai was there too.They arrived and make the sevusevu and they started packing all the wedding stuff.

On Tuesday morning we departed Suva around 9.00am and reached Sigatoka around 3.00,we have to take are rest and have our lunch,after 20 minutes break,then started travelling again,we went by two carriers(10 tonnes).We have to pass several villages to reach Draubuta,

Half way across we have to get off and walk since the carrier driver say he can't go further due to the road condition ,so we took the light stuff to help the men and boys who carried the luggage, which was about 30 minutes walk and we wait for 20 minutes and the van arrived, Some of us have to walk about( boys and girls).When we reached the top mountain we have to get off again and walk to the village because the van cannot reach there due to the landslide next to the village., Uncle Dakai had to go by horse back since it was about 2 hours to reach the village ,The village is surrounded by 2 fences. Bu Litia from Ra had to pull it off for Mila to get through it,we reach the villages around 8.00 in the night.

After a few hours in the village ,Uncle Samisoni arrived with some of Maria’s relatives. We were so tired and can feel our skin coated with dust so we have to go bath in the big river which was deep and water cold like ice which was the good thing about that village. We have to sleep early due to the long ride along with the gravel on the road not forgetting the 2 hours to reach the village.

On Thursday morning women were busy preparing all the wedding stuff, Amalaini was Pinky's witness on the wedding day. Due to the hot condition on the wedding, Amalaini got black out, so the priest have to wait few minutes for Amalaini to gain her strength, After it was all good. Some of the relatives from Ra were also going with us to the village. After the wedding we had a great lunch,and people started enjoying themselves like drinking grog, siba, and another stuff. Like some of us have to wake up the whole night since it was the last night of us.

Around 6.00 in the morning we have to get ourselves ready to climb back the mountain because the sun was still down, Uncle Dakai have to go back on a horse since he can't walk over the mountain. Also Mila have to go by horseback, like it take her 30 minutes to get on top of the horse. (I'd like to see that!) That was the most enjoyable part of the trip.

We have to get off from one carrier, walk across the bridge then hop it to another carrier. We have to wait for Mum, Mila, Aunty Bale, Aunty Sena, Pinky, since they went to another village, Pinky and her husband came and drop us in Sigatoka town and then they have to go back.

We arrived in Suva around 5.00 on Thursday afternoon. They have one day shopping in the city which was Friday ,and they went back to Labasa on Saturday morning by Patterson shipping.

Thank you
Wendy Junior

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From Labasa to Navosa for a marriage

It's quite a long distance from Labasa to Navosa in Viti Levu as the map shows, even further inland than Keiyasi.
from w
We received a lovely letter from Ateca in Labasa telling the story of how our relatives from Vatuadova and Tuatua went from Labasa, Vanua Levu to Navosa, in the interior of Viti Levu. The marriage was a week ago. The bride is our niece Pinky (Mere)the youngest daughter of Peceli's brother Irimaia and Evia. Isa, they are both gone now. I am waiting for the photos of Pinky' wedding as I really would like to see some of our relatives riding horses up and down mountains and across rivers! Peceli used to do this when he was stationed at Naikoro, Navosa, but that was a long, long time ago.

Ateca tells the story as follows:

None of us had been to Draubuta which is about 20 to 30 km from Naikoro. We left Raiwaqa (in Suva) at 9.00 oclock on Tuesday morning and reached Draubuta at that evening. We had reached Sigatoka at 1.00, had a light lunch and then went up the Valley Road to Draubuta which was 3 hours drive dusty and gravel road up and down the mountains of Navosa. We crossed several rivers and it was very far. We saw land slides and bridge damage. We hired 2 big carriers and there were about 50 -60 people on board.

The road was really bad and we had to stop the carrier then start walking. We walked for 2 hours before reaching Draubuta. That was a trip so tiring. Some of us could not walk so rode on horses like Naukisi and Uncle Dakai.

The wedding was the next day on Wednesday with the Fijian traditional stuff, the feasting and merry making and the drinking of kava. It was a big gathering and they fed and looked after us so well. The tevutevu was on that same afternoon with the mats and gifts.

On Thursday morning we left very early in the morning so a few of us made it to Naikoro where I was born, to present some traditional gifts like Tabua. We even went and laid masi in the bulubulu, met the chief of Naikoro, and then headed back to see the rest of the guys.

We headed back to Sigatoka and back to Raiwaqa. We had a good time. Some of us stayed with George. (Mila and them)I managed to see George, Jordan, Andrew, which was good. I visited Marica on Friday night and we prayed together.

Then back home to Labasa on Saturday morning.

Tui Macuata pays up and moves on

from w
Juggling fishing rights is a problem - thinking of conservation of the reef resources, the needs of subuistence farmers and fishermen in the villages, the needs to buy fish in the markets of Labasa and Suva and the right of people to make a living. Thankfully Tui Macuata, caught up in the problem of a seized fish catch by some of his people, instead of a prolonged court case, just paid up. Were the fish caught in the protected reef area, or over the imaginary border with Bua, I do not know. Anyway, let's move on, but keep in sight all the time the need for protection of the reefs and over-fishing.

Also, the removal of sand from sandbars and beach areas is a topic that so far has not been discussed, though we were quite distressed to find out that this is happening close to Labasa.

from one of the Fiji papers yesterday:
Paramount chief pays for seized fish
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

THE Tui Macuata has compensated a Labasa fishing company with cash and fishing permits to the total value of about $11,000 to evade criminal prosecution for theft Ratu Aisea Katonivere said that he had settled with Labasa Fish and Ice Supplies and the matter had been resolved.

Company owner Mohammed Aiyaz told the Labasa magistrate's court he wanted to withdraw the case against the high chief.

However, Ratu Aisea's lawyer Amrit Sen said he has yet to lodge his client's application for the withdrawal of the case with the Director of Public Prosecutions Office. Mr Sen said his client felt obliged to pay the wrongs of his people.
Ratu Aisea faces a charge of larceny of fish for allegedly seizing 900kg of fish from two fishing boats that belonged to Mr Aiyaz while it was crossing Macuata waters headed for Labasa on September 10 last year. The fish, according to the charge sheet, was valued at $4500. The high chief told Fiji Times he did not anticipate the criminal charge he faced. "I was just trying to protect my God-given resources," he said.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Fijian Tradition of abundant hospitality

from w
The argument about the continuation of Fijian traditional customs for weddings and funerals (and Methodist conferences and big soli occasions I suppose) has once again surfaced with the argument about the extra-ordinary financial burdens. Here is an article from today's Fiji paper about it. A civic education workshop at the Pacific Theological College in Suva, yesterday looked at the continuation of Fijian customs.

Traditions at crossroad
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A CALL by the Fijian Affairs Board for Fijians to abandon some of their cultural and traditional practices is a good idea, says the Soqosoqo Vakamarama. General secretary Adi Finau Tabakaucoro said "it will be good to reduce the amount of time and money we spend during the funerals of our relatives and weddings because they are not suited to the present economic climate that we are facing in the country".
"However, it is totally up to the individuals what they want to do because the proposal is only an advisory for the people on something they might want to consider," said Adi Finau. She said the Soqosoqo Vakamarama, the biggest women's organisation in the country, has hosted a number of Fijian weddings and funerals at its headquarters in Nabua and has seen that a lot of people still prefer the best to satisfy their traditional requirements.

Naitasiri chief, the Turaga na Qaranivalu, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata said the idea would only benefit Fijian people. "I support the changes because it helps us to minimise some of the economic difficulties that we have been facing on a daily basis," Ratu Inoke said. "Times are changing and we must change the way we do things to suit the economic climate we are in. In the past, our forefathers practised two-night, 10-night and the 100-night after funerals because they had the means to do it. Now, we want to do the same even when we cannot afford it."

Ratu Inoke had earlier made a presentation on the need for such changes in Naitasiri province and according to him, many people of Naitasiri have abandoned some old practices.

The FAB believes that many of the Fijian rituals practised during funerals, weddings and the birth of a new child should be done away with so that we can save more money.
My two bob's worth (from a vavalagi perspective).

The gathering of relatives for a few days is a wonderful thing, for mutual support, for an affirmation of identity, for sharing grief or joy. In the olden days, the burden of supplying food and mats and hospitality, etc. came from resources that were available. In the present day, the resources required often mean a loan, extensive requests to members of the family who do have a cheque coming in. I know of weddings that were simple, as well as funerals that were basically over in a day, good sense prevailing. But I also know of rites of passage that have caused a great deal of anxiety and debt because the hosts want to be seen as hospitable. It is a shameful thing to be called mamaqi. (frugal, selfish)

I remember reading a story, quite a long time ago, by Naca Rika, about the situation when he had to abandon sitting a university examination to go to a family rite of passage which was considered the priority.

So there is difficulty for Fijian people in making a decision about the continuation of Fijian traditions that can become a financial burden. It is an important topic to think about. But I did disagree with a vavalagi fellow who had a raging argument a few days ago (here in Geelong) about yaqona. Enough said. I wanted to throw him out of my house as he was so rude about Fijian customs! And he was mamaqi too!

But, it is not up those who are not Pacific Islanders to have the last word about traditions!

Aboriginal faces

from Peceli
Faces of people are hard to draw but I have been having a go this week and here are three of my efforts. They are of Aboriginal faces and I used pastel and pencil.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The hottest day ever and a koala story

from w
About 5.15 p.m. It is sweltering today, the hottest day on record for Melbourne and this part of the world. For Fijians it is even hot! Over 45 degrees centigrade. At nearby Avalon airport it hit a staggering 47.9 degrees - the hottest day on record in Victoria. And that's in the shade. Central Melbourne is also sweltering through its hottest day since records started in 1855, hitting 46.4 degrees. But the cool change is on the way. Temperatures in Western Victoria have dropped as much as 20 degrees in the past two hours, going as low as 19 degrees at Point Nelson. The current CBD temperature has dropped to 45.7 degrees.

The Hopetoun Airport in the Mallee hit a staggering 47.6 degrees at 2.30pm, but 20 minutes later Avalon broke the record again with 47.9. Melbourne hit 46 degrees at 2.27pm, breaking the record for the all-time hottest day of 45.6 degrees in 1939, which was Black Friday.

A cool change is expected to reach here about 6pm. This morning had been okay early on as I went to a car boot sale in the East Geelong church grounds and we sat in the shade yarning. Lucky I came home before 11 though as it was intensely hot by midday with a wild wind as well. Now it is starting to cool-off a little bit.

How much heat does a koala bear?

Last week there was a cute story about a rescued koala in the Anakie ranges - about 28 koalas were rescued during the heat wave. This little one - about nine months old, jumped into a bucket of water to beat the heat! Now that koala is a star on the internet apparently.
from Kerri-Ann Hobbs
February 7th, 2009

A TINY koala rescued from a Maude property in last week's record heatwave will remain in care until the end of the year.
"Star", as she has been dubbed by Anakie wildlife carer Sandi Murdoch, is lucky to be alive after being abandoned by her mother at just nine months of age.
Since appearing in the Geelong Advertiser on January 31, Star has become an international sensation.
Viral emails of her plight has swept the globe and dozens of websites show her standing in a bucket of cool water in a bid to escape the heat.
"She was dehydrated and obviously heat-stressed," Ms Murdoch said.
"She is doing brilliantly.
"The heat is really hard on koalas and ring-tail possums."
The searing heat saw a record 28 koalas need help from Ms Murdoch.
Two failed to survive the extreme stress and dehydration following four days of temperatures above 40C.Ms Murdoch still has 17 koalas at her Anakie home, including two youngsters keeping Star company inside the house. Ms Murdoch said most koalas stayed with their mothers until at least a year old, with many in the wild still being babied at 15 months of age. Star would be released in early spring into bushland bordering Ms Murdoch's property.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A lele or lamentation

from w
the broken Hallelujah

This morning Peceli and I were reading from Lamentations and trying to understand the pessimism of the writer and then we associate the feelings with some things in our life and in the world today. It’s real of course, this feeling of being abandoned, outside, without hope and justice. In Fiji a lament is called lele –a sorrowful song. Such a one is the song about the death of Thomas Baker in Navosa.

English Poems with this mood are common. Here is part of one by Yeats.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

And sometimes a song, such as Leonard Cohen’ song Hallelujah, has the same mood, perhaps of regret.

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah

Lamentation or Lament is a term that is used for a poem or a song that expresses a lot of pain, regret, grief, angst, misery, sorrow or mourning. It is said that many of the oldest poems in that have been written in human history were pure laments. Laments have been present in the Greek plays – and stories - both the Odyssey and the Iliad. It is also present in various manuscripts like the Hindu Vedas. Laments have been one of the oldest arts in writing music. And in painting, what comes up in Google is mainly a painting of the Pieta – the mourning of the mother of Jesus. But there also paintings with this mood in protesting against war such as Picasso's Guernica.

In our times there are pieces of music that are about laments, such as Gorecki’s Symphony No 3 sometimes called Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It is minimalist music and almost drives you mad with its slowness and repetition, but that’s what lamenting can be, just repeitition, going over and over the same thing A solo soprano sings a different Polish text in each of the three movements. The first is a 15th-century Polish lament of Mary, mother of Jesus, the second a message written on the wall of a Gestapo cell during World War II, and the third a Silesian folk song of mother searching for son killed in the Silesian uprisings.[1] The first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, and the second movement from that of a child separated from a parent. The dominant themes of the symphony are motherhood and separation through war.
Irish music at times reminds me of laments, even wailing, passionate, and in minor keys and about separation from a loved one.

Peceli and I were talking about the word lament and how it impinged upon our family life at times and how we managed with the help of friends.

So here I am,today, just mourning the dying of leaves because of the unforgiving sunshine we have had recently. And then I watch the TV and the obsessive chaos of the Middle East is nearly always there with stories of hatred and death. So I sip my Nescafe Gold and murmur, 'we indeed are very lucky here in our distance from that desperate place!' Perhaps an indecent lament might be timely to make us shudder and wake up to the rest of the world. Solving things with billions and trillions of dollars won't fix everything that is wrong.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Paintings of Vorovoro and Pacific Harbour

from w
Two paintings hang in the sitting room next to the garage - in acrylic and they were made some time ago. One from Peceli )with a bit of help from his teacher!) one from me. Vorovoro Island. Pacific Harbour Arts Village. I was taking a small painting class for adults in our home those days and Peceli decided he could paint too!