Village visit

Lars Alfredson
Fri 9 Aug 2013 09:45
20130807 Wednesday – Shân


We breakfast at 8, by 9 o’clock Lars is ready to take us ashore.  He has opted to stay on board to dismantle the freshwater maker but first he drops us off on the beach adjacent to the chief’s house.  He is already sitting on his platform under the tree waiting to receive guests.


There is a code of dress when visiting these villages.  It is polite to cover shoulders and legs.  I find one of my only tops with sleeves and don my sarong as a skirt.  The chief greets us with the customary cobo (cupped hand clap) and confirms that we’re welcome to stroll around the village. 


Off we set, Bob with camera ready. The village is just waking up.  The grass cutter is servicing his strimmer, women are washing clothes, the older children have gone to the Primary School on the other side of the island and I head for the kindergarden.


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                      Fueling up the strimmer.                                                                                                 The lawn.


Twelve or so 3 and 4 year olds are hard at work.  There is just one table and three chairs in the school so three are3 colouring at the table whilst the remainder of the school sit on the floor with wooden alphabet and number games.  They are very shy to start yet fascinated by Bob with his camera.  I sit on the floor and start to join in their games.  They soon relax and start to show me what they can do.


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They speak no English but are learning.  Bob picks up a few of their Fijian words, particularly, “papalangi” this means “sky piercer” – the Tongan name for white people, who were originally presumed to have come through the sky from another world.


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Francis, the teacher is very smartly dressed is traditional, flowered, cotton sarong and top.  It’s time to leave so I ask if they can sing a song for us.  This they perform with gusto.  Sitting crossed legged on the floor we have a rendering of “Impsy whimsy spider”, “Ba ba black sheep”, a mimed version of “Row, row, row your boat” and many more familiar rhymes with a few Fijian songs thrown in.  Singing is obviously one of their favourite activities, I just wish I could add a sound track to this blog.


As we leave the school we are adopted by Emily.  The self appointed guide to the village and its traditions.  A very switched on young lady of 20 years, she takes us to her house and persuades us to buy a memento, I choose a pretty piece of choral.  She then wants us to buy some fruit but we decline saying the only thing we’re short of is onions.  “No problem”, she replies, “we have three shops in the village.”  So off we go on a shopping spree and buy 10 onions for 5 Fiji dollars about £1.75.


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                           Emily                                                                                       at home                                                                                     


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               Selling handicraft.                                                                Selling onions ( more useful)


As we stroll back along the beach she asks if she can come and visit the boat.  She joins us for lunch but whilst I’m preparing the salad Bob sets her up on the computer.  That’s it! she spends at least 2 hours on either Facebook or her mobile phone.


After lunch whilst Bob snoozes she’s back on the computer.  At about 2 we accept her offer to see the plantation owned by her parents.  Unfortunately most of the pineapple and banana crops were ruined in last April’s cyclone.  She guides us bare foot through the undergrowth, luckily there is a well beaten track.


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                        Newly planted cassava.                                                                           The track.


We see where the plantation had been, their “cassava” crop, a root vegetable that is part of their staple diet as well as the two horses owned by her family.  The village pigs, the mangrove swamp, the cemetery, a large water hole and finally we emerge on the far side of the beach where she introduced us to the “Tavola” nuts, very tasty.


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                    in the jungle                                                                          Water hole   


Next, with practiced skill she strips the husk from some coconuts by driving them onto an iron spike she has brought with her, cuts them in half by tapping the back edge of her knife around the centre of the nut before pounding it on a stone which cuts it clean in half, then serves the soft creamy fruit from inside, this is the creamed coconut milk.


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               Husking of coconut.



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As we’re about to walk back to the dinghy a young man appears and offers to sell us some lobsters.  Bob’s eyes light up.  We negotiate a good price 15 Fijian dollars only to discover that he hasn’t caught them yet, however, with confidence he says he’ll deliver them to the boat at about 9pm.


We finally part company with her on the beach and promise to collect her in the dinghy at 7pm.  On the way back to Dawnbreaker we decide to say hello to our new and only neighbours on their catamaran.


They’re a British family, Charles, Jane and daughter Isabelle and Taka, Isabelle’s Fijian friend. They live in Southampton but also have a house on a small island off the north coast of Viti Levu.  Really friendly, we join them in a beer and then invite them over for drinks later. That’s when the rot sets in, we start drinking wine at 5pm.  In a moment of madness Jane and I decide to join forces to eat, I supply very nice sausage cooked with onions served with fried potato and chorizo, she supplies a cooked chicken, veggies, potatoes and gravy.


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                                 Happy hour guests


Whilst we’re putting the final touches to our impromptu feast, Lars fetches Emily from the beach.  She comes with her sister Una and lots of lovely gifts, so kind of her.  We travel the 50 odd metres to Kudana in 2 convoys. Lars takes the food, Emily and Una.  By the time we reach the boat the girls have bonded and are chattering away as though they’ve known each other for years.


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                     Gifts from the girls.                                                                                          Joint dinner.



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                        Tomorrows dinner for them                                                                                                for us.


So we settle down to eat and drink, it all goes down very nicely, too nicely!  Jane commandeers Emily to take them on a tour the next day and when our lobsters arrive she buys up the rest of the catch.  Everyone is very happy a really good night is had by all.  So good that when Lars delivered me back to the boat apparently I took a dramatic fall he only just managed to save me from taking a midnight swim, oh dear, I have no recall of such an event.


Mrs Blog.