Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Bible and protest

from w
Two of the Bible readings for today in the general lectionary used by many churches in the world have important ideas that require our attention. There is always a difficulty for me about protest although I've been in some - peace marches, against atomic testing, against super-size bridges and buildings in our city, etc. When I see what is happening in Egypt at present I wonder what motivates people to march. A desperation, a real need to agitate, a hunger for a better world, for justice. I really admire courageous people who are non-violent in their protest like the gracious lady in Burma. Today it seems that what may start as a peaceful protest soon turns into something violent.

I still hark back to the 60s and the protest songs we used to sing, and I taught to the students in Dudley High School. This afternoon I watched an interesting TV program on the life of Joan Baez. 'Them were the days!' you might say.

Anyway here are two modern translations of parts of today's Bible readings used in the Uniting Church and several other churches.

from Micah 6: 1-8

Open your ears, for this is what the LORD has to say:
If you have got a complaint, stand up and let it be heard;
........let the mountains and hills be your witnesses.


Come on people! God has told us what is good.
........We know what the LORD wants from us:
To make sure everybody gets a fair go;
To be passionate about caring for others;
And to stay on track with God without getting full of ourselves.

Matthew 5: 1-12

Jesus found himself increasingly surrounded by crowds of people, so one day he headed off up the mountain. He sat down up there and his committed followers gathered around to hear what he had to say. This is what he taught them:
“Those who depend entirely on God for their welfare
........have got it made,
................because the whole realm of heaven belongs to them.

“Those who are stricken with grief
........have got it made,
................because they will receive the ultimate comfort.

“Those who allow others first claim on everything
........have got it made,
................because the whole world will be given to them.

“Those who hunger and thirst to see the world put right
........have got it made,
................because they will be richly satisfied.

“Those who readily treat others better than they deserve
........have got it made,
................because they will be treated with extravagant mercy.

“Those whose hearts are unpolluted
........have got it made,
................because they will see God.

“Those who forge peace and reconciliation in places of hostility
........have got it made,
................because they will be known as God’s own children.

“Those who are attacked and abused for sticking to what is right
........have got it made,
................because the whole realm of heaven belongs to them.

“When people turn on you
........and do all they can to make your life a misery;
when they make false allegations about you
........and drag your name through the mud,
all because of your association with me, have really got it made!
Kick up your heels and party,
........because heaven is coming
................and you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams!
You are in great company
........because they were just as vicious God’s faithful messengers in the past.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton - a Baptist community in Melbourne.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Talk from a call centre

from w
The phone rings and a young woman's voice is there with her accent rather obvious. She says her name is Alice and she is offering ten day's accommodation anywhere in Australia or New Zealand. We talk more, wasting her time, then I ask if they will pay the travel to New Zealand. She pauses - that's not on her paper - and I add, maybe I will swim there or go by patipati (outboard). She is silent then says, we are only offering accommodation. So I add - maybe my patipati geer jau (drown) - something I once heard in a Fijian joke when someone was telling a story to visiting Queen Elizabeth and a guy from Labasa was telling the Queen the problems of his outboard boat, mixing up English, Fijian and Hindi. Okay, I then said to 'Alice' oh bahut dhanyabad bhaini, (thanks very much sister) and I hung up. Okay, these young men and women from the call centres do want a job, but really we are tired of the calls day after day, mostly about 6 or 7 p.m.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kind words for today from Oz

from w
Today is Australia Day so it is fitting for the representative of the Australian High Commission office in Suva to say some good things about the attitude of the Australian government towards Fiji. These are nicer words than some of the smooth talking from some particularly larger and smaller countries. Happy Oz Day.
from Fiji Village:
Aust ready to assist Fiji
Publish date/time: 26/01/2011 [13:15]

The Acting Australian High Commissioner to Fiji has extended Australia's offer to Fiji again that they are ready to assist Fiji make a transition to democracy through a free and fair election at the earliest opportunity.

In her statement for Australia Day celebrations today, Judith Robinson said Australia remains committed to supporting the welfare of the people of Fiji by maintaining programmes to support the delivery of essential services, helping vulnerable groups and improving economic opportunity for rural communities.

Robinson said Australia's total financial assistance to development projects in Fiji, either directly or through regional programmes, in the year to June 2011 is estimated at 67.6 million dollars. She said Australians consumed goods and services from Fiji to the tune of 2.09 billion dollars in 2009 to 2010 while Fiji imported 888 million dollars worth of goods and services from Australia.

It has also been revealed that just over 1,300 Fiji citizens were granted permanent residency visas to live and work in Australia in 2009 to 2010. More than 60 thousand Fiji born citizens now live permanently in Australia.

Story by: Vijay Narayan

Monday, January 24, 2011

How quaint the local culture is!

from w
How often do you hear a tourist in Fiji say something like 'How quaint the local culture is. How different. How interesting.' Well, the boots on the other foot here as two rather 'cool' Fijian youth and their Dad explore one of the colourful lanes of Melbourne's CBD with the walls painted over with graffiti. Some members of our family were in Melbourne today for an important errand and on the way back to the railway station we discovered this interesting place. A different culture indeed. There's been a shift in views about mainly anonymous paintings on the walls of buildings - it used to be condemned but the standard of this kind of art is different from the tags and scribbles that is also associated with the painting on someone's else's 'canvas'. I say - how beautiful some of the paintings are with such energy and talent and it's good to acknowledge the passion of the artists.

Friday, January 21, 2011

In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight

Two Fijian youth explore Chinatown in Melbourne's CBD.

from w
One of the grandsons was singing that old African song 'wimoweh' which I taught kids to sing in Fiji many years ago and I was thinking of the rainforests of Fiji and the magnificent growth of plants and trees there. However I'm distant from that place now and jungles seem a bit claustrophobic. Somehow both the strong and weak survive by an interconnection, an interdependence, getting along somehow but some plants and trees do not survive such as the host tree when the banyan roots crush it. Here are some photos and images I made this week - not the mountain scenery of Fiji but in an Australian Botanical Gardens but the trees certainly remind me of Fiji.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sugar cane trains

from w
A familiar sight of the small sugar cane trains running around the Labasa district might be no more. Instead there would be more trucks on the already busy roads. Farmers are not happy it seems.
from Fiji FBC
Farmers concern over railway closure
Thursday, January 20, 2011

Labasa sugarcane farmers have expressed concern at the possible closure of the railway network system by the Fiji Sugar Corporation. The FSC announced last year that the closure of the rail network system is a real possibility.

National Farmers Union president – Surendra Lal says farmers who completely rely on the rail system will suffer as poor farmers will not be able to afford the lorry costs.

‘This is a serious issue confronted by growers now as the FSC has indicated in 2010 season, they are likely to close the railway network system. Areas like Daku, Wainikoro where farmers are predominantly dependent on rail system. We have written to FSC indicating that there’s willingness for farmers to retain the railway network system.’

The FSC says they are looking at various options at the moment, and no decision has been made.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Are Suva kids becoming couch potatoes?

from w.
This morning I read an article in an Oz newspaper with a by-line but I later discovered the writer had pinched it from an American website at least six years ago. It was about the difference between the lives of children from the 50s compared with today. Retro dreaming of course as some of those activities were in fact dangerous. So here are pictures showing the activities of kids. Of course location counts and opportunities and fashions and certainly our grandchildren know more about computers, play stations, mobile phones, texting, than we ever can know. My childhood was piano, reading, drawing, climbing trees and chasing sheep or playing in a shearing shed. Being rural Australia. Peceli's childhood was in Naseakula village, finding crabs and fishing and riding a bike around the village. The next generation did things differently but there was still curiosity, learning, exploring, engaging with adventurous experiences, climbing mountains, and so on. Today's children seem sedentary (TV, computers, electronic games) but they also can play basketball, skate, swim, and play various kinds of football as well as being very helpful around the garden and barbecue. One thing though is that parents and grandparents sometimes fear the dangers of modern life and instead of the children walking to school, some children go by taxi in Suva! Well, it's the same price for six people as the bus ticketing!

The gift of a Bible

from w
Some gifts are greatly appreciated, others dismissed as propaganda. The Gideon organisation are renowned for their gifts of Bibles into hospitals, schools and hotel rooms, though these days this doesn't always happen. I like different translations but as for the King James version, well, that is difficult though poetic.

Now the Ah Koy gift of Bibles to Fijians in the Corrections institutions seems to me to be of the propaganda type as the Bible gifts are not the standard Fijian Bibles but a new translation that has a few problems - such as the re-working of the familiar word 'kalougata'. Also, why give Bibles only to Fijians and not everyone? That implies that people are divided by religion which is not 100% correct.

Now a gift of a thousand Methodist Hymn Books would be appreciated with the love of singing in Fiji. Ah ha, but does that sound like bias also!!!

Yesterday at a Fijian church service in our town, one of the kai vavalagi visitors was astonished by the fine singing, even a po-lotu with a triangle - and I think that is where the heart of Fijian worship is - praise of God through the human voice.

from Fiji Sun today:
Inmates receive bibles

All i-Taukei inmates have a reason to celebrate the New Year after they were given a Bible each through a donation from a former parliamentarian. The bibles, often preached to inmates by Prison Commissioner Brigadier-General Ioane Naivalurua, as the best place ever to seek advice, were donated by Sir James Ah Koy. Mr Ah Koy recently completed his term as Fiji’s Ambassador to China.

About 2000 bibles were handed over to the Fiji Prisons and Corrections Service (FPCS) through the Ah Koy Christian Trust and James Ah Koy Trust.

The Fiji Prisons and Corrections Service (FPCS) chaplain Netani Bolatolu is in the Western Division distributing bibles to all i-Taukei inmates at the Lautoka and Ba Prison. Mr Ah Koy said it was their wish that all i-Taukei inmates received a bible each.

Mr Bolatolu said FPCS was grateful to Mr Ah Koy for the donation. “Now each i-Taukei inmate will have a Bible which they have been requesting, for a long time,” he said. Mr Bolatolu said the bibles would help his ministry and that inmates would benefit. I believe that spiritual intervention is the beginning of rehabilitation,” he said.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Farewell Jieke Meli

A highly esteemed member of the Melbourne Fijian community, Jieke Meli, passed away last week and his funeral was held today at the Melbourne Fijian Uniting Church, Chadstone, and the burial was at the town of Wallan. Our condolences go to Lydia and family and the relatives back in Qamea. Rest in peace, Jieke, a highly valued friend.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sorry but...

from w
Promises are made to upgrade the very bad roads across Vanua Levu, but now the not-so-sweet tale of the sugar industry has to be prioritized. Well, that's sad.
from today's Fiji Times.
Road plans shelved

Thursday, January 13, 2011

THE Nabouwalu and Dreketi $30-million road upgrade project has been dropped this year. This is according to the Commissioner Northern, Inia Seruiratu. Mr Seruiratu said the action was undertaken to salvage the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

Initially it (road upgrade project) was covered under the FRUP Four project which was expected to begin in 2012 under funding by Asian Development Bank (ADB), he said.

The Government looked at its financial position and had plans to start in 2011 (on the project) and an amount of $30million was allocated for the purpose. But unfortunately because of the problems we encountered with the FSC, the Government now has to find other sources of funds from elsewhere. And that is why the Nabouwalu and Dreketi Roads project funding was dropped so that the FSC could be salvaged.

Labasa Chamber of Commerce president Ashok Karan said it was sad that the project had been dropped.

But the Commissioner Northern has ensured the roads will be worked on, Mr Karan said. Improved road conditions will boost business in the North because we have the pine chip mill and bauxite mine in Bua. It will greatly benefit commuters and encourage tourism.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vatuadova family

from w
Melaia posted some photos on facebook of our relatives at Vatuadova village - some very old such as Auntie Tarisi, Peceli's uncle Timoci's wife, and plenty of new babies and toddlers. Here are some of the photos Melaia posted.

When the floods come

from w
When the Fiji news is trivia or grumbling about a rugby fund raiser, my attention is elsewhere, particularly our concern for the people of Queensland where three-quarters of the state are affected by floods, a disastrous tsumani type wave of water in Toowoomba and up to 20 metres rise in one of the rivers. Even Brisbane may have 100,000 houses in trouble. The TV news in Australia is obsessively concentrating on stories of the floods which will be unprecendented, even worse than the floods there in 1974. Many people are missing, many deceased and the stories are of cars (with people in them), containers, houses, floating by.

However people are mainly resilient and will survive the trauma of such loss. As one woman said, 'You've got to be strong and just keep going. That's the Australian way'.

This reminds me of the people of Fiji who suffer the damage of cyclones and floods and the wastefulness that wind and water can bring. Neighbours help neighbours and everyone pitches in to start again. Time after time.

The weather is so strange. Though rain in Queensland is expected, these floods are 'Biblical' as someone said, huge. Even in the southern part of Australia it has been humid and wet. Some country towns where a dry heat is expected in summer, have had five inches of rain in a day. Now that sounds like what we once experienced in Taveuni and that scared me at the time.

Our prayers are for the people suffering in the Queensland floods as we ask why our world offers so many trials and tribulations to the good and the bad - everyone - no favourites.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Working in the garden

from w
Even though it's about 35 degrees Fahrenheit our resident Fiji family have been working together cleaning the side driveway which has become a jungle when unattended. Here are some pictures of some working, resting, posing. The drum kit has now been placed in the garage so no doubt will be heard by neighbours! Yesterday some of us were in Melbourne and went to Footscray market, a wonderful place for buying vegetables and fish. They even offer crocodile bones for sale!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Swimming at Eastern Beach

from w
This afternoon we had an excellent time at Geelong Eastern Beach, four boys from eleven to eighteen in the water. However one of the boys, an Aussie had a fear of deep water so only wanted to stay in shallow water even though he knew the basic swimming strokes. With a bit of patience, cajoling, and step by step we convinced him that he could go into the deep water near the diving tower. Jump away from the safety of a ladder into the water. Be able to float, to tread water, to swim with a football as security. Half an hour later he was swimming to and from a platform - quite some distance. A wonderful change in confidence. Thanks Epa, Jordan and Andrew for helping their friend to actually enjoy jumping into the deep end.

It is usually easy for Fiji children who live near the sea or a river to learn to swim though it's obvious from Fiji stories in the papers that there have been drownings. I believe that every child MUST learn water safety, to be able to stay afloat, to be able to swim a reasonable distance comfortably.

So today we feel pleased with the two hours of effort to teach the thirteen year old Aussie friend of our boys to be confident in the water.

Ratu Joni a Lord?

from w
There's a strange story from the Fiji Village media this afternoon. Ratu Joni had gone to the Solomon Islands despite being on of Fiji's highly educated chiefs. Now the Tongans want his advice. In the article there's a suggestion that he can just use email to provide legal advice! Okay, it's 2011 so that's alright. But a 'Lord' of Tonga, now that is bizarre surely.Although 'Lord' I suppose means 'Tui' which in Fijian sounds right. However democracy and egalitarianism seems distant even after Tonga had their election and a love of titles is something I find difficult to contend with. And 'Grand Gross' doesn't sound very good in English! Anyway good luck to Ratu Joni who is a fine gentleman and several of his speeches are memorable.

Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi bestowed new Lord of Tonga
Publish date/time: 05/01/2011 [13:04]

Former Vice President and the Roko Tui Bau Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi has today joined Tonga's Law Lords becoming Lord Madraiwiwi Tangatatonga, through a life peerage bestowed by Tonga's King George Tupou V.

Matangi Tonga news agency confirmed that in a brief closed ceremony at the Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa this morning Lord Madraiwiwi Tangatatonga was also awarded the honour of a Grand Gross of the Royal Order of Queen Salote.

He becomes a Law Lord who advises the King on legal matters.

Lord Madraiwiwi Tangatatonga told reporters that it was "great surprise" when he was informed that he was going to be given a Tongan noble title.

His responsibility will be to give legal advice to the king and it can be carried out via e mail, but Lord Madraiwiwi said he will visit Tonga from time to time.

Lord Madraiwiwi Tangatatonga is currently engaged in the Solomon Islands as one of the two International Commissioners with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Story by: Roneel Lal

What if an iguana met a famous tourist?

from w
What if an iguana met a famous tourist, who would be the most surprised? Actually there are 'visiting' iguanas on Laucala Island, or so they say, that need eradication, just like those on Taveuni and Qamea. The pic is of course faked and not even the 'American' iguana, but the local green iguana which is very welcome.
In today's Fiji Times, Serafina Silaitoga writes:
Villagers work with State to wipe out lizards
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
VILLAGERS are helping government officials as an iguana eradication program begins on the island. Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Colonel Mason Smith said he would receive an update this week. "Work on the eradication program has started and we have involved villagers to assist government officials," he said. "The team has started with the trapping of iguana and awareness programs including training of people who have assisted government officials." Col. Smith said he would meet with the team from Nature Fiji this week to finalise details of the work. "Once we do that then we can move on to the next step. The eradication program covers the whole of Taveuni, including Qamea, Matagi and Laucala," he said. "At this week's meeting we will also know exactly how many iguanas have been trapped and in which areas."

Mid last year, the ministry appointed two herpetologists to develop an eradication strategy for the South American Iguana first found on Qamea Island. Igt also appointed a team of bio security officers to help the herpetologists.

American iguana has caused fear among the islanders, especially those on Qamea, with women reluctant to to go out fishing alone.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Art, phys ed and music

from w
In Fiji schools three subjects are put on the periphery of the basic syllabus for Fiji's schools and it's such a pity as Art, Physical Education and Music add a balance to the emphasis on rote learning, English, Maths, etc. In fact a very long time ago I taught Art, Physical Education (okay that sounds pathetic for this lazy one) and Music in high schools. Apparently the teachers in training at Nasinu prepare for these subjects but in the real situation, Art, Music and Physical Education don't rate highly. IMHO they are the top three subjects because they offer the potential for alternative career choices to white collar jobs or farming. All important in the emotional, physical and social development of children. Three articles in the Fiji Sun picked up the topic.

PEMAC is the acronym in Fiji for a department in the Fiji school system. The acronym [PEMAC]stands for Physical Education, Music and Art & Craft. The department's role is to promote the PEMAC subjects.

Two years of artwork and handiwork of art student teachers were on display for the public yesterday. The Fiji College of Advanced Education yesterday opened its doors to members of the public to showcase the work of PEMAC second year students.
PEMAC students study Physical Education, Music and Art and Craft, majoring in usually two out of the three courses. These students are expected to graduate at the end of the year after two years of studies.

Iliesa Namosimalua is a PEMAC student at the College. His display corner seemed to be one of the popular ones. The Lau native showcased his artwork and handiwork in the two years of studies at FCAE. His art ranged from wood carving to coconut carving, water colour to oil painting, tie dying to screen printing. The student teacher is looking forward to passing on what he has learnt to his students once he enters the main education system.

Mr Namosimalua, a national sprinter is studying PE and Music at the College. As a requirement he took on Art and Craft studies and has become hooked. “My initial interest was PE but Art was part of the PE course. Once I developed an enjoyment for art I have learnt plenty of good skills,” he said. Most of the skills Mr Namosimalua came to learn from his teachers. He is also skilled in weaving. “We learn weaving as well, as you can see from my displays. We only see our grandmothers back in the village weaving, since taking up this course I have also learnt how to do this,” he said. He has also mastered the art of origami."Origami is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding. The goal of this art is to create a representation of an object using geometric folds and crease patterns preferably without gluing or cutting the paper, and using only one piece of paper. “When a volunteer came to the school some time ago, we were taught origami,” he said.

Students of PEMAC are also taught flower arranging.

Another second year PEMAC student Pratik Kumar had an interesting design work. He has mastered the making of batik fabric. ccording to the Wikipedia, batik is cloth which traditionally uses a manual wax-resist dyeing technique. Mr Kumar gave the FijiSUN a rundown of how to make batik. “First you make your design, then heat candle wax and apply on design and live it there for it to dry. When it is dry dip the fabric into the dye then hang it out to dry. After it is dry place a newsprint sheet on the floor/table then put the fabric on it, cover the fabric with another newsprint sheet. After this iron over the newsprint.In this way the excess wax will stick to the newsprints and your batik fabric is ready to be sewn into whatever clothing one wishes.” Mr Kumar said art is interesting and fulfilling, especially when the end product is revealed.

As the showcase went on several teachers at the College and members of the public approached Mr Namosimalua’s display corner to buy some of his art work. However, most of his art work will also be taken with him to show his students once he takes up teaching duties. He said the skills he has learnt from his teachers at Nasinu will help him a lot when he joins the teaching system.

Music motive ‘lacking’
A survey revealed that some students studying music do not have basic knowledge of the subject. The survey was conducted by Fiji National University music lecturer Saula Naivalu. Mr Naivalu revealed students are not motivated to learn music. In his survey, Mr Naivalu states that in his first semester in the Music Department at the Fiji National University, many music students did not have the basic knowledge of music.

"One of the main concerns I encountered in the teaching of music among the year one students of the Fiji National University (FNU) was their difficulty in reading and understanding music theory," he said. So in his bid to see that students at lower levels contribute efficiently to the music industry he conducted a survey to see how schools offered their music classes. Mr Naivalu said in the process he was able to identify schools that were actively offering music classes and explored with the heads of department (HOD), principals and management how music is taught in their schools.

He also made recommendations on how to improve the teaching of music in secondary schools and also identify the causes of problems encountered by the schools. With the 12 schools he visited, Mr Naivalu was trying to find out the effectiveness of music teaching in the Secondary School.While visiting these schools, Mr Naivalu noted that only one period per week was allocated for music class by all schools. He discovered that most schools did not have specialist music teachers.

Schools need to do sports
“Quality education is an investment to our country therefore schools, teachers as well students should be better equipped in learning and teaching resources in order to become real agents of change.” Speaking at a panel discussion on sports education, researcher Fabiano Tikoinavuso said at times students were deprived from participating in sports due to financial problems. “About 5 percent of government grant is allocated towards the development of physical education. Schools have to fundraise to cater for the financial needs of the Physical Education department.”

Mr Tikoinavuso, who once carried out a survey of the allocation of funding towards the development of physical education and sports in the country, said the majority of the schools do not have the required teaching and learning resources for physical education. “Schools have very tight budgets, therefore if a particular subject is treated as unimportant, minimal amounts are spent on it.” He added that in some schools the playgrounds were not up to standard and the same can be said of the equipment used for PE classes. “It’s just a pure testimony to the small amount spent in this area. I strongly feel that nothing has been done to remedy this situation,” he said.

Some of the recommendations highlighted in his research were:
1. Increase per capita grant from 10% to 15%.
2. Core subject like sports be given the same priority as academic subjects as far as grants is concerned.
3. Students and sports should not be at any time compromised due to unavailability of funds.
4. Students are not to be used outside of the school premises to fundraise. The number of fundraising drives should be determined by the policy makers of the day.
5. Government should assist in supplying the required learning and teaching resources for Physical Education and Sports financially.
6. Principals and HOD’s should have the rights to be informed of the financial statement of the sports department. (Transparency)
7. Fair distribution of Pemac teachers in all secondary schools in the country.
The three- day conference was held at the Fiji National University Lautoka Campus.

I found an interesting website about physical education in Fiji Schools - it's based on an academic study of the topic worth a read.

And now for some drau-ni-moli

from w
The lavish meals seems to have been going on for ten days so it's time now to fast a bit and surely drink only drau-in-moli (lemon-leaf tea) and eat plain biscuits! Every day has been a feast of some kind - here, or visiting friends, or after the Fijian church in Altona Meadows/Laverton. Of course laughter and stories and food all go together and we thank God for the richness of family life and for reliable friends. We've had about eight or nine people sleeping in our compound and now have a vakatunaloa set up outside - it was an open walled car port and now has mats etc.

Anyway today we'll start our long walks to get fit again! A New Year resolution.

The pictures were taken at Wyndam Vale at the home of Sailosi Koto.

Recipe for drau-ni-moli. Start boiling the kettle. Put in about six to eight fresh lemon leaves and boil. That's it. You can still use milk and sugar with it. It doesn't curdle. Enjoy. A frugal drink that they used to joke about in Fiji.