Sunday, January 31, 2010

Some babasiga family

from w
Here are some of Rick's photos when he was in the Labasa/Mali area last year when Peceli showed him around. Some are of the children of Vatuadova but also includes pictures of Sera, Uncle Samisoni and Peceli in borrowed clothes going o a church.

While the tennis final was on

from w
At the home of a Fijian family in Melbourne, I watched the mixed doubles final of the tennis while attending to a cute little four-month-old boy. He joined the kava circle of his grandfather for a while, then his grandmother on the sofa. How relaxed babies can be, without fears of the world, content and confident with their families. I think he will be a rugby or soccer player later on judging by his large feet!

After the Fijian church service at Altona Meadows/Laverton at 1 p.m. it's usual to have a delicious shared meal together and then drive to the home of one of the families to relax, share stories - or even talk about the sermon - around a kava bowl, or in my case, watch the TV and yarn with the women of the house. The tennis final was interesting - though I don't watch doubles much - as an Indian professional player Leander Paes from Calcutta and his partner from Zimbabwe won. There is an extensive document on Leander in wikipedia, though I'd never heard of him before. Tonight's final singles game between the Scot, Murray, is with Federer, and I guess that Federer will never lose his cool and will win.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sunglasses and cataracts

from w
It was good to read that screening has been done in Labasa to check the eyes of some of the people. A large number were found to have cataracts so there will have to be some publicity, more than just one article in the paper, to help with the prevention. Labasa is a hot sunny place and sunglasses may be part of the solution.
From Fiji Times today: (I can't read Fiji Sun news items today - something else pops up instead - pity as Fiji Sun usually has a few stories from Labasa each day.)
Sunglass prevention
Thursday, January 28, 2010

SUNGLASSES are more than just a fashion statement and should be treated as tools in preventing cataracts the leading cause of blindness in Fiji. Of 3000 people surveyed in Labasa through the Sight First Project of the Lions Club in 2009, 525 suffered from cataracts, some of whom were given eyeglasses while 89 underwent surgery. Sight First project manager Roshan Lal said a program would be carried out in the division urging people to wear sunglasses.

Medical authorities say exposure to the sun's ultra violet rays is a cause of cataract, an optical condition in which the lens of the eye hardens and becomes opaque leading to blindness. Labasa Hospital Eye Department head Dr Sandeep Nakhate said cataracts were a major problem in Fiji. "Fifty per cent of blind people I attend to are blind because of cataracts," Dr Nakhate said. "If untreated, as is the case in rural areas, it could to blindness."

Dr Kishore Kumar of the Labasa Optica Clinic said awareness was needed in rural areas where people treated sun glasses as an unnecessary piece of cosmetic.

"The general attitude is that sunglasses are accessories, for those that are fashionable, therefore one can do without it," Dr Kumar said. "But it's necessary considering the hot sun we have here everyday in the north. However, sunglasses must be genuine UV ones that can protect the eyes. This is a factor that we can control to prevent cataracts because once a person has it, it will take its course and cause blindness unless corrective surgery is taken."

Corrective surgery involves implanting an artificial lens into the diseased eye. Dr Nakhate said although cataracts could also be hereditary, and caused by other factors like diabetes and aging, sunglasses help control the UV ray factor.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Free school books arrive in Labasa

from w
It was nice to see a little video from the Fiji TV today that many boxes of school books have arrived in Labasa to be distributed to the many primary schools in the region. The donation of free books from the Ministry of Education is an excellent move and a great practical idea to help the youngsters of Fiji. I wonder though about what kind of books they are, because whoever chooses the books defines the syllabus material. Perhaps it's all 'top-to-down' anyway in Fiji curricula - all spelt out from the Minister rather than designed from each rural school. Are there any Art or Music or Physical Education books I wonder - as these areas in the school syllabus are just as important as readin', writin', and 'rithmatic!

We still send hundreds of boxes of books from Geelong to the South Pacific and South East Asia from Donation in Kind, the Rotary organisation. This morning Peceli and I did some sorting and boxing though most of the volunteers start again next week. Unfortunately we throw out numerous $50 beautiful books (of Form 6 level - Psychology, Business Studies, Biology, etc.) because they are inappropriate even for the higher classes in the Island schools. Some get reycled to an annual Book Sale in Geelong but as the Australian schools update their study books so often, the books are not wanted here either so we are given a hundred or more boxes of these higher level books. I think many would be good for Fiji Teacher's Colleges which are part of the new Fiji university.

By the way I can't get Fiji TV internet site (printed stories) as up comes a message 'Forbidden'. I wonder if anyone else gets that message or am I singled out as someone who should be banned! I still can get the Fiji TV site with the news as small videos.

Monday, January 25, 2010

National songs and what about patriotism?

from w
It's Australia Day today for those inclined to be nationalistic or patriotic when living in Oz, though I think we need to look beyond borders to take on board the idea that we are part of the human race and borders need not confine, nor define us. After all, it's often just chance that makes us 'belong' to one or another country. We also can have a love for, a loyalty, a passion about more than one nation. Fiji. Australia. So when it comes to National Anthems here is the beginning of the Oz one - written about 130 years ago - which I really dislike. See Geelong Visual Diary for my choice of an anthem for Oz. I found a lovely parody of Advance Australia Fair. I have put in bold the words I have problems with in the accepted words.

Original Lyrics:
Australians all let us rejoice
For we are young and free
We've golden soil and wealth for toil
Our home is girt by sea
Our land abounds in Nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare
In history's page, let every stage
Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing
'Advance Australia fair!'

Human Nature's, "Advance Australia Fair"
Misheard Lyrics:

Australians all own ostriches
Four minus one is three.
With olden royals, we're fair and loyal
Our home is dirt by sea.
I learned to bounce on nature strips
In booties stitched with care.
In mystery's haze, let's harvest maize
And plant azaleas there.
Enjoy full trains and let us in
And dance Australia yeah!

As for the Fiji National Anthem - words from a competition in 1970 (alas, my beautiful words didn't win, the husband of the judge did win! Though my lyrics were just as over the top and exaggerated!) The tune was chosen first - 'Beulah Land' from an old Alexanders Hymn Book which had been already given Fijian words as a sere ni vanua (nationalistic song) but the English version is not a translation at all and these days they are rather ironic.

I copied the following from wikipedia.

English lyrics
Blessing grant oh God of nations on the isles of Fiji
As we stand united under noble banner blue
And we honour and defend the cause of freedom ever
Onward march together
God bless Fiji

For Fiji, ever Fiji, let our voices ring with pride
For Fiji, ever Fiji, her name hail far and wide,
A land of freedom, hope and glory, to endure what ever befall
May God bless Fiji
Forever more!

Blessing grant, oh God of nations, on the isles of Fiji
Shores of golden sand and sunshine, happiness and song
Stand united, we of Fiji, fame and glory ever
Onward march together
God bless Fiji.

Fijian lyrics
Meda dau doka ka vinakata na vanua
E ra sa dau tiko kina na savasava
Rawa tu na gauna ni sautu na veilomani
Biu na i tovo tawa savasava

Me bula ga ko Viti
Ka me toro ga ki liu
Me ra turaga vinaka ko ira na i liuliu
Me ra liutaki na tamata
E na veika vinaka
Me oti kina na i tovo ca

Me da dau doka ka vinakata na vanua
E ra sa dau tiko kina na savasava
Rawa tu na gauna ni sautu na veilomani
Me sa biu na i tovo tawa yaga

Bale ga vei kemuni na cauravou e Viti
Ni yavala me savasava na vanua
Ni kakua ni vosota na dukadukali
Ka me da sa qai biuta vakadua

[edit] Fijian lyrics- Translated
Let us show pride and honour our nation
Where righteous people reside
Where prosperity and fellowship may persevere
Abandon deeds that are immoral

Let Fiji live on
And progress onwards
May our leaders be honourable men
Let them lead our people
To great things
And bring an end to all things immoral
Let us show pride and honour our nation
Where righteous people reside
Where prosperity and fellowship may persevere
Abandon deeds that are immoral

The burden of change lie on your shoulders youth of Fiji
Be the strength to cleanse our nation
Be wary and not harbour malice
For we must abandon such sentiments forever.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

An unwelcome visitor

from w
Yikes! This unwelcome visitor was found swimming from Qamea Island to the nearby shore of Taveuni. There was a letter to the Editor of the Fiji Times last week about ait and a whisper before that suggesting it was brought to Qamea by am American!
from today's paper: Villagers at Lovonivonu on Taveuni were shocked to find this iguana on Monday. They believe the reptile swam from Qamea, some 25 kilometres away. Now villagers fear the iguana will threaten chickens, ducks and indigenous species...
It's been put inside a cage and children warned not to tease it and the Quarantine guys are coming up from Suva to have a look. It certainly is a big one.

(Later, on 28 Jan, another article about the iguana and it seems that some of the information in earlier articles are not correct.)
Reptile fears humans
Theresa Ralogaivau
Thursday, January 28, 2010

A REPTILE that has stirred alarm on Taveuni and Qamea is scared of humans, according to the Department of Agricul-ture. The creature has been identified as the Green Iguana of the Iguana Iguana species, which is a new species in Fiji. Fact-finding mission head Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Robin Archari said the iguana was a herbivore that fled from humans, contrary to reports from the islands. The department is urging people keeping the creature as pets to surrender them," Dr Chari said. "We have reports that some iguanas are being kept in Nadi. We're concerned they could be carrying pathogens that could threaten indigenous species."

Dr Archari confirmed the iguanas were smuggled into Fiji in 2000 by a foreigner who owned a property on Qamea. He also rejected reports the iguana was threatening the islanders' food source by eating crabs and fish.

"It's actually scared of humans. All these reports are false because this is a herbivore that consumes mangrove leaves and bark and occasionally eats insects," he said. "The iguana was introduced by this foreigner who constructed ponds with the intention of breeding more. He brought in two iguanas and they've multiplied to about 1000." Dr Archari said the creature only took to the sea to escape from humans.

""We interviewed the caretaker of the property of the person who introduced it in Fiji and he has been living with the iguanas without any harm to himself for many years. It did not swim to Taveuni."

The iguana discovered by Lovonivonu villagers escaped the custody of a passenger on an inter island ferry that was about to leave Waiyevo for Vanua Levu. As a herbivore, the Green Iguana also eats dalo leaves.

"We have had reports that it has damaged the vegetable farms of some but we are trying to determine the truth behind this and whether it is a threat to the natural flora and fauna," he said.

Further trials will be carried out on three iguanas at the Koronivia Research Station before a decision is made about its future.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Music is my life

from w
A Fiji newspaper today describes the optimistic plan to teach orchestral instruments in the 20 centres of the new university in Fiji. I think James Ah Koy is sprinting flat out on this one. Are substantial music programs already in place in both the primary and secondary schools in Fiji? A better model for a university course would be closer to the Monash University emphasis on world music, rather than conservatorium style Western orchestral music. And there are numerous mistakes in the article. Piano, violin, are not brass instruments. Who will be the sessional lecturers in each instrument? Some guys from the Police or Army bands? What about a major in qawali, building upon the skills of musicians already in Fiji? And of course 'Voice' should be primary as the Island people are outstanding already in this aspect of music. And composing for choirs. Certainly it's a wonderful idea to offer degrees or diplomas in music and to widen the range of instruments to teach, but full orchestra is rather ambitious. Also, in MHO music-making is for living, not to make money!

from the Fiji Sun today:
University introduces new music course
An education institution in the country plans to introduce orchestral music courses into its new curriculum. The newly- formed Fiji National University hopes to introduce orchestral music lessons in all of its 20 centres around the country. College Dean of Humanities and Education Alifereti Cawanibuka said the University needs close to 600 pieces of brass instruments to move ahead with its plan. The University is consulting with the Chinese government to donate these instruments.

“The University would need around 30 pieces of brass instrument such as xylophone, saxophone, violin, piano, to name a few, for each center,” said Mr Cawanibuka.

Fiji’s Ambassador to China, Sir James Ah Koy confirmed that he is holding talks with the Chinese government on behalf of the University. “With this initiative, Fijians can be internationally recognised with their music talents,” he said. “And I’m not talking about guitar playing but orchestral music instruments.”

For a small country like ours, Sir James says, Fiji has a lot of talented musicians and with orchestral training, they could be recognised internationally. “If this goes ahead, every village in Fiji would be able to be exposed to orchestral music, which is something different,” he said. “With orchestral music, Fiji can be internationally recognised. It can do better than rugby or peacekeeping duties in terms of foreign remittance earnings for the country.”

He added that countries such as the Philippines are using orchestral music talents to earn foreign exchange in Asia. Sir James said Fiji could do the same.

The University will be involving local musicians like Seru Serevi and Laisa Vulakoro to facilitate the new curriculum. Mr Serevi said the new programme is good for the young talents at grassroots level. “In my view, this project must go,” he said. “It touches my heart because it is meant for musicians at grassroot level. “It’s been guitar all along but now we have the opportunity to advance into a totally another level of music,” he added.
PS. If I was younger I would love to be involved in such a course - ethnomusicology is my forte but I could offer piano, keyboard, pipe organ. No, Suva is too rainy for me!
A cartoonist, Gerard Hoffnung drew some wonderful cartoons of musicians. Here are some of his drawings.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Healing the rift

from w
In Australia there has been a spate of assaults on visiting Indian tertiary students, over 1000 in a year (out of about 30,000 assaults) so there has developed a sourness between the government of India and Australia, as the parents of these students are troubled about violence. I think the assaults are both opportunistic and racist and to be condemned.

So how to do something to heal this rift a little - besides better policing, advice to international students, etc.A.R.Rahman, the composer from Chennai decided to visit Australia, put on a concert, use music to invite a kinder relationship. Of course he would be preaching to the converted. Already most people in Australia abhor violence like this and also appreciate world music. The concert was held in Sydney last night and was called 'Jai Ho' from the song he wrote for Slumdog Millionaire. He uses Sufi qawwalis, Indian music and symphonic orchestral themes.

from The Age Melbourne a few days ago.
Bollywood brings love ... and beats
January 13, 2010
by Matt Wade.

CAN Bollywood rhythms help soothe international tensions? A. R. Rahman, the superstar of contemporary Indian music who created the Oscar-winning soundtrack for the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire, thinks they can. As fury grows on the subcontinent over attacks on Indians in Australia, Rahman will stage a free concert in Sydney's Parramatta Park on Saturday to ''build a bridge of understanding''. Rahman himself suggested the show as a gesture of goodwill.

''This concert is a statement of friendship, peace and love,'' he told The Age before leaving for Australia.

Rahman's desire to stage the concert underscores how deeply the attacks have been felt across India. He considers it his ''duty'' as a musician to help promote understanding between both countries. 'The show is to celebrate both music and friendship,'' he says. ''I feel a concert is a very spiritual gathering where people from many different backgrounds can come together doing the same thing. It's a great way to make a statement of love and peace.'

Rahman's show, which is part of the Sydney Festival, was announced last August after a series of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney. The assaults received blanket media coverage in India and damaged Australia's reputation as a safe destination for students.

Tension has flared again in the past fortnight following the violent deaths of two Indians in Australia, including the stabbing murder in Melbourne of former student Nitin Garg. These incidents have made Rahman's visit all the more poignant.

He hopes the Parramatta show will help break down cultural misunderstandings and boost the morale of tens of thousands of Indians studying in Australia. 'It's not just the music, it is what's behind the music,'' he says. ''I really hope we get a positive response in Australia.'...

Rahman has achieved hero status in India and his success is symbolic of a new, more internationally oriented and globally influential India. He has fond memories of playing to packed crowds in Sydney and Melbourne in 2005. 'They were some of my best audiences,'' he says. ''There was great hospitality … there was a lot of encouragement and a lot of love, so that's what forced us to come back again.'

Rahman said about 80 people would be involved in Saturday's high-energy concert, which will be one of the highlights of this year's Sydney Festival….

Even before last year's international triumph, Rahman had experienced huge success in his homeland, where film and pop music merge. He started out as a session musician and composing jingles for commercials in his home town of Chennai, formerly Madras.

Rahman launched his career as a film composer in the thriving south Indian movie industry….The 44-year old's personal story reflects India's religious diversity. Rahman's father, a composer, was a Hindu and his mother a Muslim. He was given the Hindu-sounding name, A. S. Dileep Kumar, but converted to Sufism - a mystical and lyrical form of Islam - in the late 1980s and changed his name to Allah Rakkha Rahman.

His music has been deeply influenced by his religious experience and Rahman attributes his achievements to divine blessing. ''My whole journey in music has had a spiritual guidance,'' he says...
And some tips to incoming international students to Australia:
Join student associations and develop a network where you can quickly learn the ropes of living in an Australian city.
Don't walk alone at night or through parks as there are bogans out there. It's unfortunate but there are young men who don't have respect for other people's rights and lives.
Make sure your chosen college is reputable and not one of the dodgy ones.
Form friendships outside your own cultural group and develop your English skills.
And after the concert
A R Rahman enthralls Sydney
Meghna Sharma, Sydney, DHNS:

''Love'' was the theme at the A R Rahman concert held in Parramatta Park in Sydney’s west.The maestro brought up the idea several times during his stunning extravaganza. The event was part of a wider initiative of the New South Wales Government to ease relations between the country’s significant Indian population and the wider Australian community.

Rahman performed a selection of his most popular pieces from hit films such as “Dil Se,” “Taal” and “Guru.” The most anticipated item “Jai Ho” was performed at the end to a delighted audience against a backdrop of fireworks. Despite the recent communal friction, the event faced no problems. The only hassle organisers faced was that of people creating a scrum as they tried to get as close to the stage as possible. When it came to the music, the Indians in the audience appreciated the traditional pieces, but the big Bollywood hits with pumping rhythm were the favourite among the non-Indians, as could be determined by the resounding applause following such numbers as “Chaiyya Chaiyya” and “Humma.”

While the atmosphere at the event was laid-back, there was an underlying awareness of the recent events that inspired it and another focus was what Indians and Australians have in common. Cricket was the most obvious answer and the concert was preceded by an address by former Australian captain Steve Waugh who expressed his wishes for a better future. Cricketer Matthew Hayden interviewed members of the audience during breaks. “The thing to remember is that we are all the same inside,” said a young man he spoke to.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fiji Dress Codes

from w
Dress codes in Fiji
Bula shirts and dressing in identical styles is common in the South Pacific but there is more to the story than this. Fijian costume 200 years ago was mainly a malo for men, or grass skirt for women and a wrapping of masi for some chiefs on special occasions. When the foreigners came along, particularly the missionaries, there was a 'cover-up' imposed, a 'putting on the cloth' to do with a perception of what is modest and appropriate, even when the climate really suited bare skin.

A dress code is really about appropriate wear for different occasions and contexts. But the bula shirt and kalavata - same design - seems to be a predominant thing in the South Pacific.

Is there therefore a difference in dress code to walking about a rural Fijian village to walking along Victoria Parade in Suva? It seems so if the elders in a village have very conservative views and value tradition even when the clothes are uncomfortable and impractical. So do teenage girls wear their board shorts under a skirt until they reach the bus shelter?

Weddings, funerals, and certain family occasions require formal dress such as adding a ta'avala waist mat for Lauans, masi costumes for bride and groom. Guests dress up because it is a special gathering though bula shirts as well as suits are worn by men. Women can be very fashionable and today the dresses can be spectacular.Modern fashion designs in Fiji are fabulous, very beautiful but are they still fairly conservative? Very interesting designs are being sewn for older women and young women with some excellent designers' work is emerging. Way to go!

Dress is sometimes about status, seniority, from medals to feathered hats, Also dress is often about uniforms such as school children at both primary and secondary levels. I think that school uniforms need to be practical (not white!). Is a skirt on a girl really practical these days? Even at tertiary level, there was a to-do at FIT over the way students/young adults dressed and a ban on tight, short shorts, etc. Okay, they are there to study, not to distract!

Fishing, gardening, going on boats, washing and cooking are informal so shorts, trousers, jeans, old clothes, seem to be okay. And the sulu vakatoga (informal wrap-around) is fine here.

Athletics, the gym, sports, footwear, dress for comfort, conformity when in a team.

Kalavata means wearing the same colour, design, patterned material and this is popular in Fiji, not just for a dance or singing group but amongst family or friends for occasions such as vakatawase, the New Year. Church dress code is often about choirs wearing of white or in one colour. Children dress in their 'best'. Older men wear jackets and sulu vakataga, ties, no matter the weather or 90% humidity! Older women usually wear dresses and suluira (long sulu underskirt). Younger women might wear a sulu and jaba (shorter top).

For vanua events there is more care. Traditional warrior's dress is worn for some ceremonies and by men's dance groups. There is a tabu about noise and kids being around usually.

Teenagers in Fiji have to put up with the contradiction of having both a local and a world youth culture. They watch TV, movies, internet and see how other young people dress in USA etc. and many want to be part of it all even though it might mean drab colours rather than the bright primary colours of bula shirts and dresses. And the wearing of jeans or shorts is part of this world youth culture. But guys and girls, just check out the back view. It oughta look good. 'You look so good to be true. Can't keep my eyes offa you' so goes the song!

Is it different for tourists and local people? Who makes the rules and guidelines for tourists?

Is there much cross dressing between cultures - does a Fijian woman look good in a sari, or salwar and kamiz?

Someone else might like to take up the topic of dress among the Fiji Indian young people?

Going back to the topic that triggered this discussion - the conservative view in some Fijian villages as in a post previously published in this blog - about a girl beaten for wearing three-quarter pants instead of a skirt. It seems that there needs to be discussion by people in that community - men and women and youth talking together, airing their views and coming to a compromise that involves respect for both the community and the individual.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sweet and sour in Labasa

from w
Painting murals in Labasa is a new thing, and a great idea. A band of youth got together to paint the world in a children's park - way to go.
Teens on world mission
Theresa Ralogaivau
Friday, January 15, 2010We are the world ... the youths of Labasa painted this mural during the school holidays
A WORLD mural brought together a band of Labasa teenagers who had a lot of time on their hands and very little to do during the school holidays. As the mural took shape, the boys bonded and formed strong friendships. Painting the town's first ever mural also fostered in them a community spirit and opened their eyes and their minds to the world that they live in.

Peace Corp volunteer Monte Shalett said the mural took a month to complete.

"We involved a group of youths from the primary to the secondary school level, wanting them to be part of something productive during the school break," he said yesterday. We consulted with school teachers and discovered that geography knowledge was an area that was lacking so we knew painting the world map would be a good idea."

The mural, painted on the walls of a building beside the children's park, is an eye grabber.

"This would be a way for children who come to the park to learn about world geography, and know about the world beyond Fiji," Mr Shalett said. "Aside from this, the lessons the boys who painted the mural have learnt is to be productive with their spare time and to give back to the community.

"If they learn this from their early age, it will be something they will carry through in life." Mr Shalett said yesterday plans were already in place for other murals to be painted around Labasa town, but involving a larger number of youths. The new school year begins in the last week of January.

However not everything is sweet, there's a sour note with a story about the beating of a girl because she dressed in cargo pants and not a skirt! Come on, it's 2010!
Bashed for wearing pants
Friday, January 15, 2010
Clothes gone wrong ... Asenaca Vunibola, right, with her father Tui and mother Sala after her traumatic experience at Naqai outside Labasa yesterday.
A 16-YEAR-OLD girl is in shock after she was punched and beaten with a stick by her village headman for wearing a singlet and three-quarter pants.

But police in the Northern Division yesterday backed the girl's right not be assaulted over the clothes she wore.

The incident happened at midday yesterday at Naqai Village, about four kilometres outside Labasa.

The police confirmed Asenaca Vunibola was leaving the village for town with her mother when the headman, Naisa Tagiwavoli, confronted her.

Children playing nearby confirmed witnessing Mr Tagiwavoli assault Ms Vunibola with a stick as she lay on the ground trying to ward off the blows.

Mr Tagiwavoli admitted to the Fiji Times he beat the girl, saying she had broken the village dress code for females and had "talked back" at him.

"I also did that to teach her a lesson because, as daughter of the turaga ni Yavusa of Naqai, who is my elder brother, she couldn't be breaking the law while other girls were abiding by it," Mr Tagiwavoli said.

"There are village laws that have been approved by the police and the provincial council and these must be respected."

But police spokesman Sergeant Suliano Tevita said the headman had no legal authority to beat up anyone to enforce village laws.

Ms Vunibola, who suffered bruises, said she was shocked when her uncle pounced on her as her mother Sala stood helplessly by.

"I can't believe I was beaten up over what I was wearing," she said. "He slapped me and punched me in the back before hitting me with a stick.

"Times have changed and they are trying to enforce the traditional way of dressing which is hard for the young generation to accept."

Ms Vunibola's father, Tui Vunibola, said he accepted there were village laws to be respected and followed but that did not mean assaulting people to enforce them.

"There are avenues that can be followed and what he did was just unacceptable," Mr Vunibola said.

Ms Vunibola was taken to Labasa Hospital for a medical examination and treatment.

Village elder Vilikesa Raitiqa said women were forbidden to wear pants, vests or sleeveless tops in public. "And yet women break these laws, so they need to be enforced," he said."What they wear outside the village is their business."

The police are monitoring developments in the village as tensions flare over the issue. Last week, Labasa police also looked into complaints that police officers were dictating to residents the kind of clothes to wear. In response, Inspector Atu Sokomuri said the police had no role in deciding what people wore.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ALTA on way out

from w
In the Fiji Times there's a story about ALTA - the land leasing system that has been such a problem. So what difference will a 99 year lease make? Our great-grand-children won't have access to land if they want to be farmers? I remember that in 1970 when ALTA was being brought in, there were street marches and protests about it but no-one listened to protesters then. Some thought that 30 years was too long.

ALTA is out
Ifereimi Nadore
Thursday, January 14, 2010

THE Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act (ALTA) will be revoked under the new Land Reform program. And all leases under native land will now come under the legal framework of the Native Land Trust Act. This means that farmers can soon expect to be able to lease native land for 99 year terms, as opposed to the 30 years that they were restricted to under ALTA.

Native Land Trust Board general manager Alipate Qetaki yesterday confirmed these details and said the board felt the revocation of ALTA should benefit landowners who over the years were denied a fair share of returns from the use of their land.

Mr Qetaki said the change would not only benefit landowners but also tenants and other stakeholders as well.

He confirmed that now that ALTA would be revoked, all agricultural leases would have their tenure extended from 30 to 99 years.

"The challenge is to work out appropriate terms and conditions for the lease itself. And having done this the interest of the landowners would be taken into account," Mr Qetaki said.

He said the new changes would have to go hand in hand with today's economic climate.

"This means that we have to build in certain conditions such as the periodic review of the rent likewise the periodic assessment of land," Mr Qetaki said.

This, he said, would also require a swifter and stronger enforcement regime.

"We don't like to see people taking advantage of the landowners," he said.

"We have to consider the reform with its current context. The main issue is to have accessibility to land but you have to pay the price," said Mr Qetaki.

He reiterated that the ownership of the native land would not change. "We have to find ways for how the landowners can best utilise their land and we will have all the necessary framework to facilitate that. Best use not only for the landowners, but for the tenants and whole country, he said.

He said the NLTB would like to empower the landowners to lease their own land for commercial farming, housing, and hotel business. He said the board would work closely with the Fijian Affairs Board by advising the landowners to become involved in entrepreneurship. "We would like to see the landowners properly invest their trust funds from land for future needs in education, development and other community service," said Mr Qetaki.

Meanwhile in babasiga land...

from w
While decisions and declarations in Suva are seemingly made around the kava bowl, ordinary things are going on in Labasa - the traffic lights don't work, there are not many fish at the market, and people struggle on to live their lives as gracefully as possible. One newspaper, short of stories from the capital, have little stories from the Friendly North. Vina'a va'alevu Fiji Sun journo.
Concern over lights

The only traffic light at the main crossing in the middle of Labasa Town has not been working for the past few months. That means pedestrians have a longer wait before they get a chance to cross the road.

One pedestrian, Ratu Iliesa Kationivere, said he got very frustrated waiting for endless minutes at the crossing for the vehicles to give to people wanting to cross the road. “This is the busiest time as parents come with their children to buy school stationery,” Ratu Iliesa said. He said it had been many months since the traffic lights had been covered over.

A Namara resident, Rohitesh Raj, said many times he had seen people with disabilities facing great difficulty trying to cross the road because no one paid them any attention. “When the traffic light was working they just pressed the stop button and after a short wait vehicles would stop,” he said. He said people put their lives at risk trying to cross the road there now. Mr Raj said it would be better if a policeman was stationed there until the lights were repaired.

And another story about a man living at Tuatua housing in Labasa although the heading of the article is a bit of a spin.
Williams supports State reforms
Former Labasa mayor Lesile Williams supports Government’s reform programmes.
Mr Williams, 81, lives in Tuatua Housing outside Labasa Town. “When I look at what Government is doing to develop our country, I remember the days when I was the Labasa Town mayor,” he said. He said Government’s work on building new roads, bridges, and schools made people’s lives better. “It is good to hear that the plight of people living in interior areas is considered by Government,” he said.

Mr Williams was born in Levuka, Ovalau on August 14, 1929.

He said serving as a mayor had been challenging. He was sworn-in as Labasa mayor on October 21, 2006. “Many times my councillors refused to listen to me and walked out the door leaving me sitting alone in the meeting. Sometimes I did not know what to do and felt like stepping down. My grandmother, Adi Sauca Lalabalavu used to tell me to never give up easily and always face challenges,” he said.

Mr William is now retired and spends most of his time doing backyard gardening.

“I feel peace at home and very grateful to God for giving me supportive children who look after me well now,” he said.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How to keep your cool on a hot day

from w
It's 44 degrees celsius here in Geelong today, much hotter than it ever is in Fiji, though the humidity is lower. It is just too hot to go swimming at the beach.

How to get cool on a really hot day – such as 44 degrees Celsius.

Wear only bathers or a wrap-around sulu.

Just add water. Put your feet in a basin of cool water. Have a cold shower in your bathers every four hours. Wet a bandana, towel or scarf with cool icy water and tie it around your neck or head or elsewhere.

Wear light colours and loose clothing if you have to go out. Darker colours will absorb the sun's rays and be warmer than light or white clothing, which reflects light and heat. Wear natural summer clothing.

Keep the air flowing. A house without air-conditioning needs a bit of help. Turn on an electric fan or portable water cooler if you have them.

Close curtains and doors, even put a blanket over large double doors during the day and open up as the sun moves to the other side of the house.

Turn off electrical heat sources. Turn off the stove or other sources of heat. Don't use the stove or oven - just eat cold food, or use the microwave.

Eat out or chill out. Find a cool venue and eat out, such as Hungry Jacks in Newcomb which has fabulous air-conditioning. Otherwise go to the local library or mall and chill out with a sketch-book or library book.

Use a hint of mint or herbs in your tea. Or make iced coffee.

Eat spicy food to make you sweat. This increases perspiration which cools the body as it evaporates. It also can cause an endorphin rush that is quite pleasant and might make you forget about the heat.

Put a freeze on things. Get a one or more bottles, fill them mostly full of water, freeze them and use during the day as the ice melts.

Think cool. Watch "March of the Penguins", "Ice Age", or "The Day After Tomorrow". Or email your cousins in France or northern hemisphere where it is icy.

Sit Still. Do not try to fan yourself because it can make you hotter.

Cool as a cucumber! Slice pieces of cold cucumber and stick it in the middle of your forehead or on your eyes.

Any other suggestions?
And, the next day:
During the night it never got below 32 degrees celsius which is the highest on record. The closest was 30 in 1902. Extremes in weather seems to be part of climate change it seems. Hopefully by this afternoon there will be a cool change.

Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements

from w
Should people work on a Sunday or have a rest? That certainly was a question many years ago when men and women in Labasa protested and some went to gaol for a road block. Anyway it seems that these days anyone can just work on a Sunday while others go off to church or do other things.

The newspapers of course - censored - now print articles about the lives of ordinary people to fill the spaces which used to be political comment or similar.
Fruits of his labour ... market vendor Anwar Shah with his lemons at the Labasa Market. Lemons or oranges?

Here is one from the Fiji Times Labasa journalist:

Tough times means no rest for vendors
Theresa Ralogaivau
Monday, January 11, 2010
CHALLENGED by tough times, Labasa fruit and vegetable sellers are taking on an additional business day just to make ends meet. The vendors are seen at their stalls in and around town on Sundays, a rare sight on the day of rest in the Northern town. Anwar Shah, 38, heaps his oranges at a corner of the busstand capitalising on an opportunity to do business with Savusavu-bound passengers. He never had to do that before. "Times are tougher now, the same income two years ago is no longer sufficient for my family," he said.

The father of three from Korowiri, five kilometers outside Labasa, makes a living buying and selling fruits. "Before working from Monday to Saturday was enough but now I can't do that because I'll not make enough to meet all my family expenses and send my three children to school," he said. "I have to sacrifice my rest day to earn more."

Mr Shah has been doing this for the past two months. And aside from working the extra day, equipping himself with better selling skills has become important. "I have to smile more, engage people in conversation, attract their attention so that I can sell the fruits," he said. "Once people stop, the likelihood they will buy is greater so I make sure they stop and talk." This he did by comically piling oranges on his body - people stared and stopped and Mr Shah was happy his strategy had worked.
And as the Fiji Sun journalist saw him - as a businessman.
Some bits I have put into 'bold'.

Benau businessman takes on challenge
Anwar Shah was the only person selling oranges at the Labasa bus stand yesterday.
Originally from Benau, a settlement outside Labasa, Mr Shah has been selling oranges for the past three years. He buys his oranges from the Batiri Citrus Farm in Dreketi and sells them at $2 a heap. “To survive the high cost of living we have to do something to earn extra cash,” he said.

The father of three said what helped him to cope was when the Fiji Development Bank provided him a grant to assist him in running his business.“I’m thankful for the assistance provided so that I can efficiently operate my business,” he said.

Mr Shah said life has been a struggle and he did not complete his form two at Vunimoli Secondary School.“I decided to leave school because I had no interest whatsoever in learning English. I was smart in Urdu Studies but not in English. Since English was a requirement subject at school I decided not to continue my education.”

When he left school, Mr Shah worked as a truck driver for 15 years. “I was driving for Vunimoli Sawmill Limited before I decided to venture out into selling vegetables and fruits at the Labasa market.

“Today, I’m happy to do this kind of business because at the end of the day I’m able to have some money to buy for my family’s evening meal,” By yesterday afternoon, Mr Shah had sold 90 heaps of oranges and took home about $180. Not bad for a day’s work.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Vakatawase and more parties

from w
The season of New Year - or Vakatawase - is on-going with more dinner parties, picnics and barbecues. Last night we were in the delightful home and garden of Selai and Ken. Where do you think these photos were taken? Suva? Lautoka? Labasa? No. They were in Geelong but there are reminders of Fiji throughout the garden. The main difference is that there is no throwing buckets of water or banging tins for weeks on end.

And what do you do with those wooden souveniers - the carved knife, the face mask? Well, here they were attached to a pole of an outdoor shelter near a barbecue, and now there are three of them!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Optimism, pessimism

photo by Alison Wynd in Geelong Advertiser.
from w
We smile and greet one another with a cheerful Happy New Year, hiding some of the anxieties, the regrets of the year before, the hope of something better to come. The other evening we had a magnificent sound and light show of lightning and rain as we drove up to Melbourne for the Fijian vakatawase worship at Chadstone. It reminded me of Dicken's words:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it ws the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way."
So I'm a both an optimist and a pessimist all at the same time and that's how I feel about Fiji most of the time.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The turtles of Vorovoro

from w
From Fiji Times Villagers warned against turtles Times
Thursday, December 31, 2009

VILLAGERS have been warned against catching turtles this festive season following reports of the illegal harvesting of turtles in some coastal villages of Macuata North Fisheries Officer Aminio Raimuria said that unless there was an exemption authorised by the minister, no turtle could be harvested. "This is the festive season and there will be feasting going on and as turtle meat is a traditional food for coastal villages, we fear illegal harvesting could happen," he said."The four months from November through to January are breeding season for turtles and the purpose of the moratorium on the harvest of turtles is to improve their numbers."

The district's resources committee said that turtles were being harvested for events that were not traditionally important. Committee treasurer Joseva Rasiga said that in a meeting last week they decided the reckless harvesting of turtles must stop. "People are harvesting turtles for any purpose, for birthdays and for events that are not traditionally important," Mr Rasiga said. "We are worried that with this trend continuing, turtle numbers within the district will deplete and when we really need turtles for a traditional event they will be hard to find."
(from my earlier posting on babasiga)
Turtle calling was part of the Mali Island culture, though not today. Some elderly people still remember the time. The people had chants that were sung from hilltops, such as Vatugolegole above the sandy beach on Vorovoro. A priest from Ligaulevu village led the chant and the chant was connected with a traditional religious view.
Ravete vete ni Toga,
vude mai mera
mai rai na marama sola e.
Ravete is the leader of the turtles, come out of the deep and show yourselves to our special visitors. Adi Timaima, who came from Mali and was the wife of the former Tui Wailevu, told me that a branch of the special usi tree had to be thrown into the sea and then many turtles and a shark will appear in the sea to form a parade for the visitors.

On one end of Vorovoro beach is a special turtle cave for breeding turtles. This faces the deep ocean of the Mali passage where big international ships come to Malau Port in Labasa. In the months of December and January female turtles used to come to the beach of Vorovoro Island to lay their eggs. It is an experience for life time to witness such events. Onlookers did not disturb the turtles as they laid their eggs. The turtle was regarded as a kind of god or queen.

from the Tribewanted website:

An extraordinary Christmas surprise on Vorovoro
Community → Blogs from Vorovoro → Jenny Cahill's blog

By Jenny Cahill,
Around midnight on Christmas eve, the tanoa was still at high tide, and there were still many a talanoa being told and laughs being shared on the grog mat. I had just woken up from having dozed off while putting Bethany to bed and was getting ready to head back to the grog mat when I heard a strange sound coming from the jungle near the volleyball court. Ssshhhrrrttttt, sssshhhhrrrrttt – the sound was soft and came again and again, although not at regular intervals. The sound was exactly like the familiar soft swish of a Fijian sasa broom brushing the sand and dirt from a woven mat.

I crept close, but stopped short of crossing the creek. The sound kept coming, and was so much like the familiar sound of sweeping that I could think of nothing else it could be – although I knew that there was no way that someone was in the bush sweeping at midnight on Christmas Eve – I surely would have heard about that cultural oddity if that were the case!

My mind went logically through my mental catalogue of all the creatures on Vorovoro that could possibly be making this noise. Rat – no. Cat – no. Crab – no. Spider – um, definitely hope not! After the previous afternoon’s many talanoa (story) about the presence of the ancestors on Vorovoro, I was more than a little convinced that it was something that could not be logically explained making this sound. I said aloud, “Hello? Anybody there?” – (I know, I know – how original). No response. I crept closer, straining my eyes but could see nothing, but the sound kept coming again and again – ssshhhrrrtttt, ssshhhrrrrtttt. All I could picture was someone sweeping – did the ancestors come out at night to do some island clean up to express their gratitude for the previous day’s annual clean up of their burial sites?
Incredibly curious by now (and maybe just a little bit freaked out!), I walked down to the Grand Bure, where Jimmy, Bebe, Jone, Api, and Tomisi were holding down the grog mat. I popped my head in and did my best to sound casual: “Um, hey guys… um, there’s a strange, um, sound coming from the jungle, um, behind Bebe’s house. Um, it, um, kinda sounds like someone’s, um, well, like someone is sweeping.” A few strange looks came my way – I think they weren’t sure if I was being serious or not. Slowly, a few ideas of what it could be were offered – all of which I ruled out. At some point in midst of this lambchopped brainstorming session, I heard someone say the word “turtle” and instantly felt my heart quicken to double time – that was IT! I knew it!

I couldn’t get back to the jungle quick enough then. Jimmy came with me with a light and sure enough, there was a huge and magnificent mama turtle digging a hole with her back flippers, the sand flinging across the dried leaves and making a ssshhrrrrtttt sound as it landed.

She was massive – at least 2 1/2 feet across. She was working hard at digging, and didn’t notice us until we crept into her line of sight while trying to get a good video shot. Even though we were quite a distance away from her, she still seemed nervous, and our suspicious of this were confirmed when she abandoned that hole and started moving as though to go back to sea. We quickly took our leave at that point, hoping that she would decide to stay and finish after all.

We walked down the beach, basking in the excitement of this discovery and listening carefully for any other sounds that would indicate that there was more egg laying preparation going on. I was giddy – it was a secret hope of mine that I would have a chance to see a sea turtle while living in Fiji – but this was beyond anything I had hoped for. That it was happening on the eve of such an important day, a day that marked the start of several days of celebration and fellowship, felt like a very special gift.

When we walked back by, she had found another spot nearby and was digging a new hole. This time, we stayed at her back and out of her line of sight. The whole process took a couple hours to complete. First she dug a deep hole with her back flippers, spraying sand several feet to each side. When she was ready to lay the eggs, she positioned herself over the hole and her body rhythmically pulsed as she deposited egg after egg after egg. As she worked to lay the eggs, I thought about the tiny turtles who would emerge in a couple months, perhaps as many as a 100. I thought about the arduous work she was putting forth for the children she would never see, of which only a few would survive to adulthood. It took her about 20 minutes to deposit all the eggs, and then she began the long, laborious work of filling the hole and spreading the sand, leaves, and rock so that it would look as if she had never been there.

By the time she finally decided it was good enough, she was clearly exhausted. She was taking long rests between bursts of sand swishing, and each stroke of her flipper was weaker and slower than the one before. When she finally turned herself toward the sea, she mustered up the last bit of energy she had left to pull her heavy body through the soft, yielding sand down to the harder packed sand of the beach. She aimed herself at the sea and used her massive flippers to propel herself forward, but the sand was soft and loose and gave way under her weight. She would try and rest, try and rest again, but only moved an inch or two at best with each attempt. Each effort she made buried her a little deeper in the sand.

Watching her struggle to return to the sea, I felt terrible, knowing that her work had left her more tired and weak than it normally would have, because she had had to do the work of digging two holes instead of just one. I felt responsible for this. After several minutes of watching her struggle, Tomosi and I decided to lend a hand. We positioned ourselves behind her and pushed as hard as we could. She was so massive – we couldn’t move her even a bit. But then she started to move her flippers, trying to gain traction on the loose sand, and so as we pushed hard from behind she started moving forward. She slowly moved toward where the sand was harder and packed tightly. As soon as she made it there, she scrambled faster than I would have ever thought possible for a sea turtle to move on land. Tomosi and I scrambled to our feet, pointed our torches in her direction, and were just able to glimpse her as she slipped into the sea.

There are a few events that happen in one’s life that are truly magical, and this was one of them for me. As long as I can remember I’ve been in awe of these beautiful creatures and their remarkable birth stories. Truly a wonderful way to welcome in Christmas day!

In two months time, we will watch the turtle nursery carefully for the baby turtles to emerge – I will camp out there if necessary to get video to share with you all!
Best wishes to everyone reading for a joyous New Year full of reasons to smile, laugh, and celebrate! Much love from our family to yours!


Congratulations Nukubati Resort

from w
Go Macuata go! Of the few hotels and resorts in Macuata, one has now taken out a prize from Tripadviser as very very good. They must have received or read many positive reports from travellers to achieve this. Congratulations. Of course there are other places such as Palmlea that also deserve accolades.

Fiji papers reported this week that Nukubati Resort in Macuata Resort gets rated as best in South Pacific as rated by TripAdviser’s survey.
Publish date/time: 31/12/2009 [07:42]
The Northern Division received another boost after a small hotel near Labasa was recognised as the most Luxurious Resort in the South Pacific. Nukubati Resort, North West of Labasa, received the award of being the Luxury Resort in the South Pacific, and the 5th Best Romance Resort in the South Pacific. This was after a survey was carried out by Trip Advisor, a website set up for guests who had stayed at the Hotel and rated the hotels.

Hotel owner, Jennie Leewai Bourke said that Trip Advisor is accessed by alot of holiday makers and the recognition means more income for the North. Burke adds that the Awards was special for her staff and she started from scratch 19 years ago.
Also – from the website which is rather good with excellent photos.
‘Nukubati Island is in a remote area of Fiji and is completely off grid. Wind and sun power its buildings. Rainwater is harvested. Waste is recycled. Nukubati conducts ecology and cultural tours, supports the local school with scholarships and assists local villages with infrastructure projects.’

I did a google search for visitors’ responses (via TripAdviser) to their holiday experience at Nukubati and here is an example which gives details instead of hype and is realistic about what occurred, the good and the difficult.

juwilker Boise Idaho Jul 7, 2009 | Trip type: Family

My family (me, my wife, my 70 year old mother, my 13 year old daughter, and my 11 year old son) just got back from a 2 week trip to Fiji (June 11 2009 to June 27th). The first week we stayed at Castaway Island Resort and the second week we stayed at Nukubati Resort. (section deleted here – about travel arrangments)
Nukubati (Noo coom bah ti)

Unless we had a sea plane with a direct pick-up and drop-off, we knew it would take a day’s travel from Castaway Resort to Nukubati. And we were right. Nukubati island is off the north shore of Venua. We left Castaway at about 11:20am via the Cheeta. It had to make one stop at Plantation resort and then headed for Port Denarue. Had to wait for everyone to get on the bus at the Denarue and finally got to the airport about 1:15. Our flight was supposed to leave at 1:45, but was delayed until about 2:30. Seems like everything is delayed a little bit in Fiji, even the airlines. We finally arrived in Labasa around 4:30p in the midst of a “tropical depression” meaning winds are under 60 miles per hour. It took about 2 hours by car (heading east) to get to the boat ramp that goes to the resort. About 2/3rd of the trip was on a bad dirt road that went by many remote villages. Our resort paid transfers to and from the airport, but the taxi driver said they normally charge $70F one way. A local bus runs daily charging locals $10F one way. Oh, as a side note, the Fiji dollar depreciated 25% during the two weeks: $1.72F/$US when we arrived, $2.00F/$US when we left. Seems that printing money is the government’s way of paying off its debts. All of Nukubati’s services are priced in US dollars. We got into a small boat and traveled about 1 kilometer to the Island. We were greeted by a few folks in the pouring rain and wind. They were very kind and we were happy get into our bure. The bure was very comfortable. Nice living room, 1 queen and 2 twin beds for the kids, ceiling fans, open air shower, stocked fridge (we never used it) and right on the beach.

The wind howled all the first night. The next few days the wind died down some, but I was happy I brought ear plugs. The next morning got a chance to get introduced to some of the staff and the mananger, Lynn, who was temporarily managing the resort while the owners were away. Lynn was very helpful. Just ask to arrange something and she made it happen. My mom got along great with Lynn(both the same age) and loved reading her published diary/cookbook. Lynn has been around Fiji for a long time and has many stories to tell.

A word about the staff. The Fijian people are the most friendly people anywhere. When you see an advertisement of a smiling Fijian, they are not faking it. They don’t have much, they are very hard workers, and they are mostly Christian. Their cheerfulness is catchy. You can’t help but feel good around them. Soloti was our dive master. Very knowledgeable with an adventurous spirit. Villi dove with us too and helped out with other water activities. He’s very good at volleyball. He’s a humble guy and will go out of his way to help you. Sera, Eta, and Mela were ladies of grace and goodwill. When you get back from Fiji, you realize you don’t have to be rich to be happy. So I suggest you interact with the staff when you can. Make an effort to get to know them and their story. They will surprise you.

Since it was Sunday, we took a boat back to the Venua and walked a short distance to a local village to attend their church service. The Methodist service was in Fijian, so we didn’t understand the message; but the kids choir was excellent. My theory is that since they have no instruments (there is no electricity or running water in village either), the people hone their singing and harmony skills. A few days later we also made a trip to a local black pearl farm (the village was called Ravi Ravi) that we had to reach by boat about 20 minutes from the resort. The people were very friendly. They received us with the traditional Kava ceremony and prepared tea and baked breads. This village of 132 people also have a 20 kV diesel generator. We bought a few baroque black pearls. They had two perfect pearls selling for about $250 each, but they were too pricey for us.

I really wanted to go diving because they are the only dive resort on the north side of Venua near the Great Sea Reef. But the winds kept the sea choppy and low viz. Their main dive boat (which only holds about 4 divers comfortably) was in the shop with a bum motor. So we took out a smaller boat out near the reef. The swells increased as the morning progressed so we only attempted one dive. My wife got sea sick, the boat motor stopped working, the anchor broke, and they had to radio the mechanic to come fix the motor. We abandoned the dive while two of the crew members sat on exposed reef holding the rope to keep the boat from drifting out to sea. While waiting, I got out and did some snorkeling. It was very good given the choppy conditions. They got us back safe, my wife recovered, and I loved the snorkeling; they just need to keep their boats in a little better condition.

A couple days later after the winds died down (we were at Nukubati about a week, which is just about right) and the dive boat was fixed, we made another run out to the reef. The dive site is called Fish Market – a drift wall dive about between 20 to 30 meters. It was a little overcast, but we got some sun. I dove with Villi, one of the local staff – who was very good at spotting things. The dive was excellent: moray & spotted eels, batfish, various colorful reef fish, many thriving and colorful soft coral varieties, one turtle, 3 white tip reef sharks (about 5 feet, but of no concern), lion fish, yellow flutes, giant clams with velvety florescent lips, rockfish, lobters, various nudibranchs, and a bunch of other stuff I forgot. I didn’t get cold as the water was 80 degrees and I had a 3mil shorty. My only regret is that I wish the weather was better so I could have went on more dives. Ask to go to the island of Kia about 15 km away. That is supposedly the most pristine diving.

My kids were not as easily entertained as they were at Castaway, but we planned it that way. We wanted them to create their own entertainment. And they did. My daughter loves to read, so she made use of their extensive library. My son found another boy to play with that was close to his age. They got out on the small plastic bottom boat (called the wild thing), played soccer with some of the kids from a nearby village, played games, and swam in the ocean (no pool). He couldn’t dive here because they didn’t have equipment to fit him.

The food. The food was excellent. All kinds of local veggies, spices, seafood, and breads. Everything is cooked fresh. Souffl├ęs, curries, pies, custards, grills, bakes, stir-frys. Lots of variety. If you go to Nukubati just for the food and sitting around the beach, you will be satisfied. The cook makes fresh bread and muffins each morning. Eggs, cereal, coffee (not too good), breads, fruits, sausage, bacon are the main offerings for breakfast. But there is always something different for lunch. Dinners are very good; lobsters and the pumpkin soups being my favorite. You get all the alcoholic drinks for free, but let me tell you, they are very stingy with the alcohol. I had three cocktails in short order, but couldn’t even feel a buzz. The wine is OK, but I didn’t order much. They give you Champaign at 5:00 each evening with hor’devors. The last night our dinner consisted of 5 different curries with rice. Very tasty. Not too spicy. I can’t describe it.

The last day my son and I went fishing. Roussi operated the small skif with a 40 HP motor and we trolled around the island/musgrove area at high tide. Didn't use poles, just let out 100 pound test fishing line wrapped around a hand-size spool and had only a jig and hook on the end. I believe they charge about $45/hour. My boy and I caught several Travali and a couple small baracudas. We had to leave at 1:00 pm so we didn't get to eat them. I'm sure they would've been good. I lost one jig from a snag. Roussi made up fake one using some green ribbon - and it worked! Those fish are hungy. Roussi said when they take the bigger boat out to the reef he once caught a 35kg baracuda.

As always with any location, there were a couple of downsides to Nukubati. First, at low tide, they let many of the locals who work at the resort go out on the reef to harvest giant clams and octopus. I was noticing that much of the reef around the resort had brown algae and dead coral. The people walking and chopping up the reef (literally bringing out hand made hatchets that would break away the coral lodging a giant clam that they wanted to cut open) has taken a toll on the local reef beauty. Soon there will be no more giant clams or live coral reef around the area. Second, they burned wood/plant/mulch-type waste every day. The fire was not far from the lodging and the shifting winds would often bring smoke smell to the dining, lodging, and beach area. Several mornings I woke up with a slight smoke smell coming through my window. They need to find another place to burn.
Response from Nukubati Management representative
Oct 2, 2009
As a Fijian and the owner of Nukubati Island Resort, I need to explain the situation that this guest has commented on as a “downside to Nukubati”. Nukubati Island is a freehold island and the boundary of that freehold is the high water mark. Nukubati has no authority over the waters surrounding the island. In fact, all the waters around Nukubati, up to the high water mark, are Traditional Fijian Fishing Grounds called “qoliqoli” in the Fijian language. This is the case throughout the whole of Fiji. At Nukubati, as with most other resorts in Fiji, we have to seek permission from the traditional qoliqoli owners for us and our guests to use the surrounding waters. When our guests go swimming, diving, fishing etc, they do so after we have received permission from the qoliqoli owners. That permission is never withheld, but it still has to be sought as a matter of respect and good manners. So when it comes to the “reef” around Nukubati, we have no authority to stop Fijians from walking out on their own traditional fishing ground to gather food. This is something they have been doing for thousands of years, in complete sympathy with the ecology and the environment.
Nukubati Island is in a remote part of Fiji, where the villages do not have refrigerators to store food (the villages don’t even have electricity) and the nearest supermarket is a 3 hour bus ride away. Every day food has to be gathered for that day to feed the family. The sea is an important source of food, and what this guest was witnessing was our Fijian staff going out on their “reef” at the low tide to gather food for their families, in the same way their forbears have done for generations.

The “reef” around Nukubati is actually no longer a coral reef. It was a coral reef many millennia ago, when it was underwater, but now it is just an inter-tidal shelf strewn with limestone rocks and long dead (tens of thousands of years) coral rocks. On the outer fringes there is some coral growing, but being exposed to the air on the low tides, this coral struggles to grow and is a natural brown in colour.
This gathering of food on Nukubati’s “reef” is done by the Fijian ladies on only six or so days each year. These are usually 2 or 3 days in each of the winter months (May, June and July) when the tide is at its lowest and the moon is full and the leaves of the Tavola tree are brown. The brown leaves indicate that there will be plenty of octopus on the reef and this is the main target of the food gathering. The other food gathered is a rather delicious mollusk called “va” in the Fijian language. Va lives inside the limestone rocks and the ladies break open the rocks to get to the va. This is what our guest observed. The ladies are not breaking coral, nor are they getting giant clams. There are no giant clams on the tidal flats. Clams live in much deeper waters. The ladies only gather enough va and octopus to provide their families with a special treat for a day or two. There is no point in gathering more than that, because they do not have refrigerators to store any extras. This is the same practice followed when Fijians go spear fishing. They only spear enough fish to feed the family for one or two days.

Our guests were actually very lucky to be on Nukubati for one of those very few days of the year when they could witness a rarely seen traditional practice of food gathering that occurs in so few parts of modern Fiji.

This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Fares and fairness

from w
It seems they've got tangled up a bit about the free bus rides for school-children and realize what a whopping cost it will be. So there are now some plans in place to limit the free fares. Of course if you kids go to school by car, taxi, boat, horse, or wear out your sandals, then you don't get anything. Also if your Mum and Dad can't show their pay-slips to be low enough, then you don't get it. It's getting more complicated. A bit like Myki, or Myki in Melbourne would be a better solution perhaps! And how do you assess income when you don't have pay-slips, but you are a cane-cutter or farmer? Or you sell beans in the market?
From Fiji TV
One National News

New criteria for bus fare assistance scheme
31 Dec 2009 21:39:06

Application forms will be sent out next week for parents who want their children to qualify under the Free Bus Fare Scheme. However, only those parents who collectively earn 15 thousand dollars per year will qualify. (what? Exactly 15 thousand or do they mean less than?)

Government has made it mandatory that wage or salary slips be provided, along with the application forms. Assistance will only be provided for 3 stages of bus routes equivalent to 80 cent. This means the cost of bus fares exceeding 80 cents, will have to be met by the parents.

The application forms will parents will need to fill for their students to qualify for assistance will be available at post offices from next week. The form will need to be accompanied with a pay-slip of both parents which will be evaluated by the Education Ministry.

The bus fare assistance comes into force on the first week of February.
and also, from Fiji Times this time.

No money: Tokens to replace cash hand-outs in free bus fare scheme

Sunday, January 03, 2010

ABOUT 71,554 children will qualify for the free school bus fare scheme this year. And instead of handing out cash, as was the practice last year, students will receive bus vouchers. A special committee set up to look into the scheme decided that only students whose parents' collective salaries were less than $15,000 would receive assistance.

The committee also decided that the scheme would only apply within an 18km distance or three stages of fares and would amount to no more than 80 cents per person.

Permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Colonel Pio Tikoduadua, confirmed these details over the weekend. "We have funding set aside for this, it's going to cost a fair bit," he said. "This time the money will not go to the schools, instead students will receive vouchers."

Col. Tikoduadua said that in order to qualify for the vouchers, parents would have to fill out application forms and provide proof of income level.

"The Ministry of Education and Social Welfare Department will send out forms to post offices where parents can pick them up and apply," he said. "But parents must provide proof like pay slips that their collective salary is less than $15,000."

The forms are expected to be sent out over the coming week.

Col. Tikoduadua said under the revised criteria 90 per cent of the 79,505 students who previously received assistance would qualify. The scheme is expected to benefit 490 schools on Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Levuka, Taveuni and Rotuma.

"That same amount (80 cents per student) will be given to children of rural areas for punt operators and carriers," he said.

"But licensed carriers and minibus operators have to apply to LTA to participate because there will be special conditions.

"For example carriers will need to put extra steps and the safety of children will be paramount." He said about $4million was spent on the scheme over an eight-week period last year.

He said the rationale behind the distance limitation was to encourage parents to send their children to schools closer to home. "The three stages of bus transportation is equivalent to travelling from Nausori to Suva. If you live in Nausori and your child goes to school in Navua, then you'll have to pay the extra from Suva to Navua."
So what happens if the kiddies lose their vouchers?