Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's High tide - this time in Suva

There's a funny story going the rounds about the New Methodist group having a lively session.
Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, Amen!
Then a few giggles.
More Hallelujah! Ban kava! Amen, amen!
Then more giggles and then much laughter.
The preacher must have been puzzled.
A businessman from Savusavu - oh yes, it was high tide - was showing a bit too much flesh from his nearby yacht. He was arrested later on. But it must have really livened up that New Methodist audience. Cake and circuses indeed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What do old people do?

from w
The other day Peceli and I were part of a group from Diversitat (Migrant resource centre committee) who inspected an aged care facility in Geelong before the official opening next month. It's for sixty people who are not disabled, frail or demented. It is like a fancy hotel, luxurious except that you only get one bedroom for $80,000 and then each week give your pension for your food in the diningroom etc. People over seventy can come here, said the lady who showed us around. Hmmm. Well, this is what an over 90 year old does in Labasa! What a different way of life! Which is the healthier really?

He still has to work at 97By THERESA RALOGAIVAU
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ROOP Singh may be 97 but he still has to earn a living. The son of a girmitiya, Mr Singh can be found sitting on the pavement of Labasa's streets selling coconut scrapers and kava bowls. He told the Fiji Times that even though he's almost a centenarian, contributing to the family coffers is still a responsibility. Mr Singh lives with his daughter but doesn't want to be a burden on her family. He said he had little choice but to ply the streets with his trade.

"Hum kushi heh ki hamar larki hame ghar dis heh aur khana bhi de, par hame fikar ki u apan sab paisa hamar upar kharcha kardei toh uske liye kuch nahi bachi (I'm thankful to my daughter for providing me food and shelter but if she continues to spend her money on me she won't have money left for herself)," he said, adding that life was tough but must go on.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A baptism in Melbourne

from w
Sweet Leilani is a little girl 10 months old, daughter of Fiu and Peni who live in Melbourne. Yesterday was Leilani's special day with her baptism at Altona Meadows/Laverton Uniting Church. It was a lovely celebration led by Rev Eseta Meneilly with many relatives and friends attending.

Afterwards we drove to the grandparents' home in one of the new suburbs of Melbourne for an excellent feast of lovo food, pork, crab, fish, chop suey, cakes. There was lots of great conversation especially with some visitors from Fiji. One of the FIT boys was there too and they are having an excellent tour as part of their automotive studies.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Update of 'switched at birth' story

Eternal love ... Sofia Maleti and her son Filimone at their home
from w
The story of two babies accidentally switched at birth in the Labasa hospital several years ago is here updated. The first time I read about this story was in Maiviti and I posted it in this babasiga blog some time ago. The situation raises many questions to ponder about identity and race in Fiji.

Raising the other boy
Saturday, June 27, 2009

WHEN fate or gross human error dealt Sofia Maleti a cruel blow giving her a baby that was not her natural born child, the 33-year-old Matalolo villager stuck up her chin and faced the music to protect her son.

"They would stare at my son Filimone and whisper or even say to his face that he was not a 'kaiviti'," she said. "It hurt me, not because I knew it was true, but because it was not our fault," she added.

On the 1st of August 1994 Mrs Maleti gave birth to a healthy baby boy at the Labasa hospital. She was elated with her new bundle of joy who was also her first-born. A few days later she was discharged but with a different child; with the son of an Indo-Fijian woman from Seaqaqa. "I really didn't notice anything until people started talking and they questioned my faithfulness to my husband," she said. "Some said I had committed adultery and already cheap talk started making waves in the village."

"To make matters worse my son was from a different race and had wavy hair and looked like no one else in the family," she said. "Everywhere we went they stared, talked and pointed and it was a very hard time for us as a family," she said. "I used to fight for him, protect him like a mother hen because I loved him dearly."

Sometimes in 1995 Mrs Maleti stumbled upon the truth while visiting in Seaqaqa. "Someone told my husband that there was a boy who looked like a 'kaiviti' growing up in a Muslim family in the area."

"When I walked up to the family, and I saw some of the children run out and I saw the striking resemblance they had with 'Mone' I knew in my heart that this was his natural family," she said.

"Then I saw the baby 'Mone's' natural mother was carrying and knew he was mine," she said. "We both cried for all the misery and pain that we had gone through as mothers whose babies were switched at birth."

Both families decided on a switchback date some months later but when the day did arrive it wasn't as easy as planned.

"I couldn't give him up, I wanted my natural son back but at the same time I couldn't give up 'Filimone'," she said. "Even though I knew for certain he was not my natural born child that didn't make a dent on how I felt or cared for him because I had breast fed him and raised him as I would my own."

"And he just didn't want to go."

The stares, the criticism and the pointed fingers did not end there and many times racial slurs reduced Mrs Maleti to bitter tears. "They questioned my decision to raise a boy from another race as my own, why didn't I just give him up now that I knew he was not my natural born."

"Since he is my eldest child he is expected to take over the leadership of our mataqali when my husband passes on but already there is opposition because of his race."

"When I look at him I only see a son, not a boy from another race. I'm telling him to study hard because I worry about his future here in this village. Already he gets caught up in punch ups because they call him racist names and he doesn't like it. He often tells me that even though he looks like an Indian, he feels like a Fijian. I worry about him a lot but I know I have the strength to carry on because I love him no matter what."

It's a strange strange world

from w
I'm typing out a hundred pages of bush ballads and poems for an elderly poet who wants to publish a couple of books. In the background loud and clear are kind-of familiar words and certainly we all know that thumping music. The entertainer is dead, the individual who could sing and dance.
As I type I realize what a strange world we live in with all kinds of people, all so different. Just a couple of days ago I was was watching Ophra (and I only watch her about once a year) and it was about some Kingdom of something with families so isolated from the big bad world that the women wear neck to ankle, have weird hair styles, share one husband, and never read fiction, watch TV or videos, though they do have cell phones to listen to religious music and sermons. It is a weird world.

It's close to midnight
He flew to the top of a farmyard tree
Something evil's lurkin'in the dark
and crowed both loud and long
Under the moonlight
to let the whole world know that he
You see a sight that almost stops your heart
was fit fat and strong
You try to scream
but the cocky was hungover
But terror takes the sound before you make it
his head was aching bad
You start to freeze
his bull missed a prize
As horror looks you right between the eyes
at the Horsham Show
You're paralyzed
which made him pretty mad
He stuck his shotgun out the window
and blew the rooster up
there weren't enough big pieces left
to feed his starving pup...

And I type on, the words on the screen and the song on the TV get mixed up but I type on wanting to make my bit for the soli for the Methodist Church in Fiji's Conference - on or off - by getting $20 an hour for this typing of bush ballads for a few days! It is a weird world after all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

View from Toorak

from w
What a difference it was to move from Davuilevu greenery to Toorak in Suva with a view of buildings running all the way down to the sea. This is just a memory sketch of the time when I rented a room in Amy Street (with Mrs Chaudhry's family I believe) and cooking roti and curry on a little primus. Living in Suva in the 60s was wonderful with the mix of people. It was very safe then - no locks, no bars on windows - and there was a great freedom to walk about. There were the calls from the nearby mosque, the choir practices in tonic solfa at the Methodist hall opposite. I remember the lovely meals with neighbours in a cubby under a house, the Brown family, the Chinese shop below. I was a teacher at Dudley High School and a member of Dudley church, though I also went to Centenary. Life was busy, optimistic, secure, and there was a passion to participate in the education of both Indian and Fijian girls.

A song:
Those were the days my friend I thought they'd never end....

Davuilevu - two views

Green grass and jungle, Baker Hall, Lelean Memorial School, the Vuli Talatala, houses on hilltops. One view is from Shantiniwas, which was once a building below the Dilkusha Orphanage. The other is a view from Veitalacagi where, once upon a time, the single women teachers lived near the girls' dormitory.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sai Levuka ga - the song calls you back, don't it?

from Radio Fiji:
Sullivan engine gave up
Monday, June 22, 2009

The MV Sullivan experienced engine trouble this morning as it approached Suva.

One of its engines reportedly gave up as the ship was approaching Suva.

Ministry of Health Spokesperson Iliesa Tora who was one of the passengers on board the Sullivan says that one of the engines gave up as they were approaching Nasilai.

The Ship left Savusavu at around 8pm last night and should have docked in Suva at 6.30 this morning.

"One of the engines gave up this morning and now we are diverted back to the old capital..."

Tora says that there are about 100 passengers on board and they have been diverted to Levuka.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fijian Methodist/Uniting people in Melbourne

from w
Yesterday four Fijian congregations joined together at Altona Meadows/Laverton Uniting Church to uphold the people of Fiji in prayer and support the Methodist church in Fiji in their awkward situation. It also happened to be the 32nt birthday of the Uniting Church which grew out of Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational former churches in Australa.

I've posted a few photographs and notes on our other blog Geelong Visual Diary.

A national treasure from Bua

Paula Sotutu ... teacher, diplomatic, politician and social worker
from w
This is the kind of gentleman that Fiji needs - a man of wisdom, peace-building and integrity and also he is a person who has humility which is so important in today's Fiji.
And he comes from Vanua Levu!

(from Fiji Times today)
Committed to children
By Monika Singh
Monday, June 22, 2009

HELPING children who are not able to get a decent education has been the most important part of his life and even today, at the age of 77, Paula Sotutu's work with the disadvantaged continues. The man from Bua, who was born in Papua New Guinea to missionary parents, said he found his inspiration to help others by witnessing the faith his parents had in what they were doing.

"When I returned to Fiji I felt that God had something planned for me and for all of us and it is up to us to find that something," he said.

Being part of the Commonwealth and the International Labour Organisation and having visited many countries made Mr Sotutu realise how fortunate children in Fiji were in terms of education.

At present, Mr Sotutu is working with Social Welfare and other non-government organisations to help street kids and other families that need help. "All my life I have been helping children who cannot afford secondary education and I am happy to say that I have been successful in helping them get a good education," he said.

Mr Sotutu, who completed his teacher training from New Zealand, believes a strong family foundation is important for children to be able to live a stable life. "Street kids come from broken families and unless they have a permanent place to stay, educating them will be a difficult task." He said there was a need to strengthen the families of street kids so that they could have a firm support.

He said the most important institutions that were in a position to provide that kind of support were the religious organisations.

Mr Sotutu said he has joined an organisation that was bringing people of different religious denominations together to discuss how they could work to strengthen families so that their children are not neglected.

"The Universal Peace Federation is an inter-denomination group which is working to strengthen marriages and people's views on the institution of marriage." He said it was important for people to understand they should be committed to each other and God. If the foundation of a family was strong then the children would be safe and have a stable education and future.

"I believe that is what we want to address in Fiji for the future of street kids." Mr Sotutu said he believed God had a plan for him when he returned to Fiji as a child.

His plans involve helping the less fortunate and to help children who are not able to afford secondary education.

FIT students in Melbourne

A group of thirteen students and teachers of Automotive Engineering are in Melbourne at present on a study tour. Each year they go on a tour as part of their studies, staying in a backpacker-type accommodation, and during the visit some of the Fiji people in Melbourne assist them with food supplies, hospitality, etc.. We met them yesterday and here's a photo of three students - two of them from Labasa. Best wishes with your studies, guys!

Friday, June 19, 2009

There are no universities in refugee camps

The photographs taken yesterday are of recent refugees who have settled in Geelong, and one of our guest speakers, a young Karen woman with Veema an intercultural worker.
from w
Today is World Refugee Day and yesterday I attended the launch of the local Interfaith Network launch of their website. One of the speakers was a young woman from the Karen people originally from Burma. She told us that she lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for twenty years! Although there were schools, she said 'There are no universities in refugee camps' and how wonderful it was for her to now live in Geelong and be able to do tertiary studies. Many Karen people have recently settled in our city after arriving as refugees.

We certainly do not know how the other half live.

Even in Fiji where there are many people under stress, at least there is education at many levels available for young people.

Peceli and I have associated with Diversitat (Geelong Migrant Centre) and intercultural programs over many years. Peceli represents the Fijian and Pacific Islander community here. It IS the way to go and is so different from the imposition of one brand of religion without respect for others! The Network here includes a variety of Christians, Hindu, Muslim Buddhist, Baha'i, Quakers, Sikh and others.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Falling in the water

The Labasa journalists are writing some pretty weird stories this week - first a woman falls into the sea from the ferry near Savusavu and now the sugar train drops bundles of cane into the Labasa River to sweeten it up!

Rail carts drop into river with cane
Wednesday, June 17, 2009FSC workers help put up the rail cart that fell into the Labasa river on Monday afternoon.

A LOCOMOTIVE operator escaped injury after the rail carts he was towing went off the track on a bridge and plunged into the Labasa River on Monday night.

Yesterday morning, a group of Fiji Sugar Corporation workers and cane farm labourers were on the bridge putting the carts back together and collecting scattered cane.

A cart carries about three and a half tonnes of cane, at the value of $61 a tonne.

Samisoni Tunatui was drinking grog at a taxi stand in the Labasa market when he saw the three carts go off track before one fell into the river. The second cart hung on under the bridge while the third remained on the bridge but it was derailed.

Mr Tunatui said he and some friends ran to the bridge and when they got there, they saw the locomotive had stopped at one end of the bridge, on the mill side and the three carts had fallen off at the opposite end of the bridge, toward the Grand Eastern Hotel.

He said cane from the three carts fell into the river.

The Fiji Sugar Corporation said crushing at the Labasa Mill started last week.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Same old story about the Labasa roads

from Fiji radio today:
Repair roads in Labasa
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Road conditions in and around Labasa should be addressed first before more taxi and mini-bus permits are issued. Bus owner Parmod Chand says road users and bus operators in Labasa have to live with bad roads, which is not helping them provide better service. "We as bus operators are expected to run on roads which are no even farm roads, pathetic roads! They’re logging roads! The roads are no good! Hopeless roads! Rubbish roads! And you cannot expect us to run profitable in these kind of roads with so much competition." He says the roads should be repaired for the sake of the traveling public as well as businesses.

Meanwhile, Bus companies in Labasa are protesting about the Land Transport Authority’s proposal to issue more taxi and mini-bus permits.

Chand says Labasa’s economy cannot sustain an increase in the number of taxis and mini-buses.

“We’re simply objecting because of too many taxis. The population of Labasa over the years have gone down. Leases have expired, people have moved out of Vanua Levu and there are excessive taxis, mini-buses and carriers which resort to illegal operation ahead of the buses and when we complain to the LTA, they say they don’t have much manpower and we cannot police all the time and all this.”

The LTA, the bus drivers and all mini-bus and taxi permit applicants will sit next month to discuss the issue.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Oilei! No kava for Jone!

(photo taken at the time of the swearing in of PC Teleni some time ago)
from Fiji Sun

A ban on kava consumption at all police barracks or residences throughout the country will be imposed soon, it has been revealed. Commissioner of Police Commander Esala Teleni made the revelation before hundreds of people at the police crusade in Labasa over the weekend. Commodore Teleni had also placed a ban on kava drinking at all police stations throughout the country last year. He said he will not hesitate to make the same decision again.

Speaking in Fijian, Commodore Teleni challenged those who gathered at the crusade to quit drinking kava, the traditional drink, as it was not "right". He plans to impose the decision of banning kava consumption throughout all police barracks throughout the country when he returns to Suva after the crusade in Vanua Levu.

"Au sa vakatabuya na gunu yaqona ena siteseni taucoko e Viti. Au na lako I Suva i ei, au sana lai tarova na gunu yaqona ena vei bareki kece ni Ovisa," Commodore Teleni said. He said if police officers did not like his decision than they will have no choice but to leave the force. "Au dau kaya vei ira (ovisa), ke sa kaya na Kalou me tabu, io ena tabu." He then told the people in Labasa to immediately report directly to him if they saw if this was not practiced.

Police media liaison officer Ema Mua said if the police head verbally informed the public of his intentions than it is official. Ms Mua said all areas of institutional quarters including the barracks are governed by rules and regulations. "If the Commissioner verbally told the crowd of his intentions than he is serious about it. If he plans to make that directive than he will execute it once he puts it in writing. As it is we have rules and regulations for institutional quarters, for example, lights off at a certain time and limitation of people per family unit. Officers who are given residence at the quarters are those who will immediately respond to the Commissioner's call or duty call on the basis of need."

Ms Mua said the directive to place a ban on no kava consumption at police quarters is a positive decision. "If a directive is put than so be it. It's not a bad move either to make such a decision. Commissioner has the powers to make such directives under Cap 85 of the Police Act."

What event and what year?

Everyone has a story

As in Max Ehrman's Desiderata:- speak your truth quietly.
A different kind of life
Sunday, June 14, 2009 Fiji Times

Sitting from left: Catherine Smith-Johansen, Tom Smith, Maryanne Smith. Standing from left: Mere Siriivalu, Robert Johansen with baby Everlyne Johansen, Charles Siriivalu and Maikeli Hooper at home at Naisaumua Village.

TOM Smith willingly let life lead him. He had two different sets of names - one given to him by his mother, the other by the father Robert Smith - the man he never knew.

It didn't matter until he reached 18 where as fate would have it, the name bestowed on him by his father would help further his career in the mining industry.

Returning some 41 years later to roost, he has since resumed his original name - Sakiusa Siri'ivalu.

Tom Smith aka Sakiusa Siri'ivalu was born in the old Naisaumua Village, Tailevu in 1930. His father was an Australian who settled in Fiji in the post independence era. But Mr Smith does not speak much of his parents. His childhood was shaped by the early years of his life spent as his grandfather's "tauraki".

"I never went to school. My mother's siblings were all with good jobs. But no matter what they'd tell my grandfather of the need for me to go to school, he wouldn't have it.

"He would argue that he needed me to accompany him to the farm, to send me on errands. He would tell them - "who knows, he might turn out better than you".

"It was like music to my ears because I didn't want to go to school. I saw the children in the village get up every morning and go to school, and I knew it wasn't for me. I wanted to stay at home with my grandfather," he said.

Mr Smith made friends with a truant student of the same village.

"He'd go half way to school, turn around and come back and we'd spend the day together. Life was hard. No toothbrush, no toothpaste, no towel, no pillow. No alcohol, no smoke, no grog. That's how I knew I could fit in anywhere," he said.

At 18, he and his friend picked and sold mandarins. Their ultimate goal was a job at the gold mines of Vatukoula. With 15 shillings between them, the duo caught the bus down to Vatukoula where they soon found jobs at the mines.

His employers were surprised with his name which in those days was obviously awkward if you were fair skinned, he said.

"They'd look at the color of my skin - I was fair and my name - which was Fijian, after my grandfather," Mr Smith said.

But he worked as a plumber for a while before he was shipped off to Gau where he learnt to read, write and speak English.

"Sure, some words I pronounced were not clear, but that's their language, not mine. They always spoke to me in English and I, in Fijian even though they spoke better Fijian than me. They spoke to me in English because they knew who I was, they knew my father. They were friends of my father," he said upon returning to Vatukoula for the second time to resume a job at the mines under the name Tom Smith.

"When I got to Gau, the first thing they told me was that my name would be changed to Tom Smith - the name my father gave me. And they told me not to speak to them in Fijian," he said.

On his return to Vatukoula, he won the respect of the white men after he not only changed his name, but also learnt to speak, read and write in English.

"Before that, they would look us up and down and say "You want yorp(job)? Go back to village, eating plenty tavioka and come back next year," Mr Smith said.

He rose through the ranks and ended his career as shaft foreman in 1989 when he returned to his village to build what is today fondly referred to as The Castle by villagers of Naisamua.

His daughter Maryanne Smith says the house was built from remnants of old homes that were dismantled in Vatukoula.

Their home is known as Delailoloma, after an area near the Smith shaft in Vatukoula. And true to form, the house does stand out like a castle in the middle of a rice paddy in Naisaumua.

If it's true that the eyes are the gateway to the soul, then Tom Smith's shining bright brown eyes speak volumes of how his kept himself happy and strong in the 79-year-year gone by.

He is the essence of the text in Max Ehrman's Desiderata:- speak your truth quietly and clearly.... even to the dull and ignorant, they too have their story.

Celebrating life in a large way with his eight children, 15 grandchildren and five great grandchildren, he laughingly says " Dua na ka o yau, eh? Va ka ga na toa!"

His life long principle remains unchanged.

"Be honest with yourself as with others. Whatever you do, do it with all the goodness of your heart, no matter what. It will come back.

"And remember who you are working for. Give something back to them; not just waste your eight hours work to get paid. Give something back and try and do better than the last person that was there before you," Mr Smith said.

Love has kept him alive even after the sad loss of his wife in recent years.

Admittedly he confesses to spoiling his grandchildren even to the extent of going against their respective parents' wishes.

What do these pictures have in common? Answer - tomorrow

from w

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A week in the life of....

from Peceli
Tribewanted is still going strong on Vorovoro. It is a very beautiful place and the young people seem to be having an excellent time there. There are some good photos following the story of one of the eco-tourist visitors on a link on the tribewanted site. These were taken by jbfwoodroof and are on flickr. One is posted here. Here is part of a week's diary.
The Hammock Society Interview with Semesa the Wavu
Community → James Kerridge's blog
By Jimbo, ,
Posted 7 days ago
You’ve been sleeping up in Poasa’s village, what’s that been like?

At first I thought it would be weird to be so far away from the tribe, but the good thing was to have my own private space and there’s a shower down there. But then on the flip side Francis and Chelli like to sing at 5 o’clock in the morning! Lovely, lovely church music but it is 5 o’clock in the morning when its still dark and I need to sleep some more.

Fijians love to get up early.

The great thing is every morning I get to say god morning to everyone as I walk past and make my way up to the bounty bar, occasionally get called over for tea in Francis kitchen or with Team Fiji.

Let’s run through the typical week of the Wavu…

OK, Monday… kitchen clean-up, its also the day we normally go up to sunset peak in the evening, take the tribe trough all the villages, a quick tour pointing out where Pupu’s house is… Tevita’s house… then head down to the Poasa’s village and point out Tui Mali’s house, talk a little bit about that… the wind turbine, my house and the whale skeleton… explain a little bit about that and head up to sunset peak. I think I worked out I’ve seen the sunset 25 times since I’ve been here.

Have you ever seen a green flash as the sun finally disappears over the horizon?

I’ve heard of this illustrious green flash but I’ve yet to see it.

Watch carefully… very, very carefully…

On Tuesdays, it’s the busiest day on the island… we set-up the Tribewanted marketplace selling t-shirts, sulus, postcards, prints, Pupu’s coconut jewelry. Then we get the village ready for Sevusevu and Tui Mali’s arrival, lots of raking and burning leaves. After lunch we collect banana leaves for the costumes, make charcoal for the face paint, make sure the Grand Bure is ready, all the mats are organized, the grog is pounded, the water is ready, Tui Mali’s mat is there, his bilo is there… and then make sure the tribe is ready and waiting for Tui Mali. That’s the most hectic day I think but the afternoon is lots of relaxing, lots of kava, lots of cake, maybe some meke.

And we’ve done some pretty big meke performances in your time here…

We have! We meke’d for over a thousand people at All Saints Secondary School when I first arrived but I think mekeing for the biggest chief in Fiji…

Just the two of us…

Yes, just the two of us… I don’t think many people can say they’ve meke’d for the biggest chief in Fiji, that’s quite an honor. It was good fun as well.

It certainly was.

And on Wednesday, the last few weeks we’ve had sunset fishing. I went out probably five times in a row with Jone Robinson and everybody else on the boat caught a fish except me! Then after that I gave up, but the following week I went with Va out on the rocks and now Va is my good luck token because I caught my first fish after 99 days on Vorovoro. I was very pleased with that, I blame Jone Robinson for my bad luck.

You may have a point there.

On Thursdays… reef trip happens but you run that. Sometimes myself and Amy would run a sustainability forum. We also prepare for the school trip the following day, talk about what lessons we’re going to do for the kids. Its also a good day for another sunset peak.

We’re flying through the week…

Dream Foundation Fridays… my favorite day of the week, definitely… we get to go to the Mali District School, its exhausting but so much fun, so we might go and do some work in the local community, help with some raking and gardening, whatever’s needed and then head on to the school for 1 o’clock and split into the different classrooms. I go in and introduce the tribe members to the kids in each class and for half an hour we do arts and crafts, story telling, games and then we all move to one classroom where the kids sing some songs, do some meke… sometimes they drag tribe members up to do some meke. After that we have an hour of sports which is football, netball, rugby…

Do they play rough?

Normally the netball is more violent than the rugby. There’s been quite a few netball injuries. Its hectic but so much fun, the kids are quick, they don’t wear shoes and just fly past you.

Moving on to the weekend…

Saturday is normally my town day, so its nice to have a day away from the island, upload some blogs, upload some photos, say goodbye to the tribe members leaving and welcoming the new tribe members arriving. Lately we’ve been going to see the Mali Sharks play rugby which has been lots of fun, they won their last 3 matches. And Saturday night we chill out, light a fire, occasionally there’s a quiz, maybe some chocolate games.

And finally… the day of rest…

Naked Sunday, it hasn’t been very naked the last few weeks, no sunshine! We normally have our team meeting at some point and relax for the rest of the day, go for a swim, go for a walk, chill out in the hammocks, watch a movie…

What’s been your happiest memory?

Happiest moments are definitely going to the school every week and hearing the kids sing, it’s a fun escape, chilling out with Team Fiji is always lots of fun. I think one of the funniest moments to happen… and probably ever in my life… happened last Wednesday when we brought over a water tank from the government.

It’s not a small tank either is it?

It’s a 10,000 litre water tank! It is the same size as the green one on top of the hill, over eight feet tall, I don’t know how wide but its huge and it just about fit in the boat. There was four of us… you, myself, Nemani and the boat captain collecting it from Malau. The sea was quite choppy that day, it was windy, we were driving slowly. Nemani decided to climb on top of the water tank and both of us were sitting down below. Nemani was laughing and it wasn’t as fun where we were so I climbed up the top and given that it was a bit windy, I was bit shaky up there and then I decided you should come up as well.

I didn’t need telling twice.

And I think you were half way up when the next thing I know is I’m flying through the air and in to the water. When I surfaced and looked around, you, me and Nemani and the water tank were all floating in the sea, I just couldn’t stop laughing… all I could see was this massive water tank floating away from the boat… what do we do?...

Very good question, I was just thinking what sort of punishment would Tui Mali give me if I managed to loose this water tank? I was worried that it would fill up with water and sink!

Luckily the tide was working with us, heading towards Vorovoro so we just let it drift past Nakawaga. Everyone was pointing and laughing at us, why are you doing that?..

We must of looked ridiculous.

It was such a funny episode, definitely a highlight.

Yeah man, it could of gone really wrong but I haven’t laughed like that in a long, long, time. And on that happy note, any last words from your good self?

Out wit, out play, out talo! I hope to be back one day, it’s been an amazing time, vinaka vaka levu to everything and all the tribe members...

How do you balance tourism, ecology and Fijian village life?

Villagers consider change
By Jone Luvenitoga
Sunday, June 14, 2009

What has long been known as one of the country's most exquisite tourist destinations - the Coral Coast - could lose that status if people within its surrounding villages don't make changes to their lifestyle.

Highlighting some devastating issues, the chief guest at a recent Serua district refresher course, Setefano Osonamoli saluted certain NGO groups who were monitoring the situation providing a series of research results on our suffering natural surroundings.

Their reports show a chain of worrying factors but one in particular that mesmerised them were piggeries posted close to the shoreline and beside village areas posing a great danger to both aqua and human lives. This they call the most devastating factor which villagers had been living with.

"It has been a common sight along coastal villages for as far as I can remember where people raise pigs by the beach and waste is drained directly into the sea when pans are cleaned," Mr Osonamoli said.

Researches stated in their reports that nutrients in animal waste cause algal blooms and use up oxygen in the water contributing to the "dead zones" where there's not enough oxygen to support aquatic life. The dead zone fluctuates in size each year, which will definitely extend around the coral coast and regionally if not stopped.

Ammonia, a toxic form of nitrogen released in gas form during waste disposal, can be carried more than 300 miles through the air before being dumped back onto the ground or into the water, where it causes algal blooms and kill fish as well as coral.

"We cannot stop development taking place but we can monitor them," he said.

People, he said, had been living and making the same mistakes for a long time and are paying for it now.

From rising sea levels, disappearing sea creatures and soil erosion, the district office will continue to refresh people's minds in workshops around the coastal areas.

With the agro ecosystem, the district, said to be the second highest provider of mahogany in the country had seen logging taking place as far back as 1950.

The higher regions are now bare from the high demand of mahogany plants and soil erosion is a common sight there.

A recent tour around the Navua area saw the rise of underwater sea bed that had enclosed the mouth of the river. Uprooted trees are stranded across the shallow areas, spilling water across the drier areas which are now threatened by the rise of water levels. A family cemetery at Toqoru by the Navua coast is now under water.

Mr Osonamoli added that the country has only heard of rising sea level.

"No one has even heard of rising underwater levels where every inch gained above extends inland below the ground as well. And coastal villagers will be the most vunarable to this threat."

Researches in their reports showed proof where plantations around the coastal areas are deteriorating in size and in other places nothing grows anymore. A sign of salty sea water reaching beyond the coast. A well set scenario for any tsunami.

A combined force of police officers and the fisheries department is helping train village officers to look after their marine protected areas.

Course participant, Namaqumaqua Village headman Everi Lavo said the workshop had brought the community together after witnessing the fall of their aqua resources over the past 10-years.

"We are now looking to the government for assistance regarding our sea patrols around protected regions. This would a great help us and our future generation," Mr Lavo said.

The assistance of OISCA and Coral Development Projects in reviving aqua resources has seen the return of schools of fish that had disappeared over the past 10 years. "We cannot stop development taking place around our areas for that benefits the government and the people as well. But we can monitor them in line with the boundaries of the law."

There's a very good article on-line - http://www.lmmanetwork.org/Site_Page.cfm?PageID=26

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Malvina (from Nadi) weds Sashrika (from Sri Lanka)

from Peceli.
Last night was very enjoyable as we were guests at a Fiji Indian wedding in Melbourne. We have known the girl’s family for a few years as they were in Geelong for a time. The venue was the Williamstown Town Hall and on stage was a brightly decorated pavilion and there were about five hundred guests in the hall. Most of the women and girls were dressed beautifully in saris. The Hindu ceremony was led by Pandit Sharma who used Fiji Hindi, Sanskrit and English through the many ceremonies but it didn’t go all night like it does in a wedding in the cane-field settlements in Fiji! The photos I took are of Malvini, the bride’s arrival, the bridegroom Sashrika waiting for her, and during the signing of the register and the girl's father, Amar, and mother Mahdur, originally from Nadi. The boy is from an Indian family who came to Melbourne from Sri Lanka.

What great music we had. There were hhajans, qawali like our neighbours in Vatuadova, Labasa can sing, wedding and film songs and plenty of drumming.

It was good to meet with many people from Fiji who migrated to Melbourne, but who still love Fiji their home. One guest, a cane-farmer from Ba, said to me, I have a son in New Zealand. I have a daughter in Melbourne, but I like Ba best of all.’ I asked him why, and he said, ”Here there’s no one to talk with.’ As we met people we didn’t know, we always ask, ‘Where are you from?’ The answers – Lautoka, Nadi, Suva, Ba and so on. One young woman surprised me with ‘Naleba, Mataniwai’ so I was happy to tell her I was from Labasa too. The meal after the ceremonies was delicious of course with puri, pilau, chutneys, vegetarian curries, salads, and a sweet called besin.

So dhanyabad and vinaka vakalevu to the family, the organisers, the caterers and the opportunity to share a lovely evening with Fiji people.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ready for crushing?

from w
and later:
from Fiji Sun
Cane drivers want a resting place
Most cane lorries and tractor drivers in the northern division need a home at the Labasa mill to sleep in overnight while waiting in the queue.
Some come from remote farms with a rationed food supply for the day. In the cold and rain, they are attacked by mosquitoes. Some spend their time yarning in groups at the bus shelter while others sat under trees catching up on their sleep. On Tuesday the mill stopped crush and resumed yesterday afternoon. It stopped crushing again yesterday morning due to minor problems.

Vanua Levu Cane Milling Transport Union vice president Amirka Prasad said drivers had to sleep overnight on Wednesday as they could not leave their trucks and cane supply unattended to.

They have been left in the dark about times to report to the mill.

Mr Prasad said during the first few days into crushing, most drivers and growers were frustrated with the breakdown. Commissioner Northern Inia Seruiratu said mill operations were back on track. Mr Seruiratu said the Fiji Sugar Corporation experience a low supply of cane to the mill this week as growers watched the production process. He said growers must liaise with sector field officers on the mill operations.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Tuvalu men kidnapped by Somalis

from Peceli,
We are thinking of our Tuvalu friends at this time. They have enough to worry about with the rising sea without the fears for the safety of some of their men kidnapped off the coast of Africa.

Tuvalu left helpless by pirate kidnappings
By New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie
Posted 1 hour 31 minutes ago

The families of a dozen Pacific Islanders being held by Somali pirates are continuing to pray for their safe return.

Eleven sailors from Tuvalu and one from Fiji were kidnapped two months ago and very little has been heard from them since.

The pirates are demanding a ransom of $US15 million - the kind of money a tiny island nation like Tuvalu does not have a hope of raising.

In a church in Auckland, members of the Tuvaluan community meet up to pray for absent friends who are in grave danger.

The 11 men from Tuvalu and one from Fiji were working on a German cargo ship which was seized by pirates on April 4.

One of the men managed to phone his sister who lives in Wellington.

Sapalina Samasoni says while they talked, a pirate was pushing a gun into her brother's back.

"He said that if they don't hear anything from Tuvalu or they didn't bring money they are going to shoot two of them," she said.

"There's nothing I can do. We just pray for him."

Reverend Suamalie Iosefa has been offering support, but he says the crisis has crippled his homeland.

About 40 per cent of Tuvaluan men work at sea, mainly for German shipping companies.

Reverend Iosefa says the entire population is now very scared.

"Eleven men in a population of around about 10,000 people is a lot," he said.

"And 11 men to us is one of the biggest resources for the family.

"These seafarers, when they go out, they support their family financially, so that's why the whole population of Tuvalu, they know what is happening.

"Everyone is in that same spirit, because we belong to one another, and we are just the one family."

Tuvalu is not only a tiny country, it is also one of the world's poorest.

Tuvaluan community leaders have pleaded for more assistance from their neighbours, Australia and New Zealand.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has said that the men's plight is worrying.

"[We are] speaking to our international partners to see if there's anything New Zealand can do to assist, but at this time it's really a matter of showing our solidarity with others that we are very concerned by what we hear," he said.

Vamarosi Mausio, the mother of Wayne Suliana, who is the only Fijian amongst the group, continues to pray for good news.

"I'd like him to know that I love him. I'm doing all I can to bring him back," she said.

One rescue attempt has already failed. Last month the German Government sent in its elite combat force to storm the ship, but they abandoned the mission at the last moment after fears from America that it would all end in a bloodbath.

"I'd like to ask them to please let all these men go, and to think of them. They have their own families. So we don't want anything like this to happen to any of the families," said Vamarosi Mausio.
According to postings on the Tuvaluan Message Board on Yahoo, the names of the Tuvaluan seamen are as follows: Telava Tofiga, Pii Tiale, Wayne Suliane, Kaitu Leka, Logo Samasoni, Jack Taleka, Malologa Pulusi, Fiu Tui, Pule Hauma, Teraoi Richard, Olataga Safoka, and Mailagi Mapusaga.

Sangam Hindu procession in Labasa

from w.