Sunday in Fulaga
Sunday 19th July 2015
We went ashore dressed in our Sunday best and walked through to Tara’s house for 0930. The church service was due to begin at 1000, so after a quick chat we left with her son Teddy and Joshua for the church. Tara needed to prepare the lunch, and said she would join us later. We would meet Joe there.
When we arrived, the drums were calling everyone to church, and we made our way inside. We were pleased to find pews to sit on, as we had seen some churches already in Fiji where the congregation sits on mats on the floor. The service was entirely in Fijian, except for a short piece when one of the villagers stood up and welcomed the yachties in English. Shortly after, there was a pause, and Bear, having been briefed that this would be his cue, stood up and thanked the congregation for their warm welcome. The singing was somewhat loud – they seemed to think that louder was better, and so it seemed like shouting to music – accompanied by someone bashing out time on a triangle. The sermon was accompanied by further shouting and much fist-shaking. The usual Minister was away from the island and this young trainee was from one of the other villages. A little too enthusiastic, we felt.
The service lasted about an hour. The best bit had been the children’s choir, which was far more melodic than the adults. Outside the church we finally met Tara’s husband Joe, and we chatted with him as we walked back to their house. Lunch was all ready for us, laid out on a cloth on the floor. We were joined by Teddy and Joshua, and Peter and Johnny, two more of Tara and Joe’s grandchildren. Tara served up several fish from a huge pan, the bottom of which was blackened from the open fire, and some bowls of coconut sauce. Grace was said, and we were invited to help ourselves. They all looked on expectantly, clearly waiting for us to serve ourselves before they began. The problem for us was that there was no cutlery other than spoons in the coconut sauce, and we were unclear how to proceed. After a rather embarrassing pause, I did the easiest thing which was to take a piece of baked cassava. Fortunately the family then began to help themselves, and we were able to follow their lead. Pieces of fish were taken off the bone with the fingers and placed on one’s plate, then covered with coconut sauce. Then the fingers were used to eat. This was rather a messy business, but the food was very tasty. We washed it down with coconut water straight from a coconut with a straw cut from a piece of papaya stem.
Over lunch we chatted about our lives and families, work and home. Joe had been born in the village and had met Tara when he went to Suva, the capital city on the main island of Viti Levu, to school and then work. They lived in Suva for thirty years where they had four children. Joe had worked for the government and retired seven years ago. He decided to return to Fulaga, and although Tara was reluctant at first, she now says she cannot stand to be in Suva for more than a couple of weeks before she wants to get back to the village. Peter and Johnny’s father lives in Suva – when we asked how often the boys see him, Tara replied that they only see him at Christmas time if she and Joe decide to make the journey to Suva with them. As it is a four-day passage on the cargo boat to get there, they are not keen to do it very often.
We chatted on into the afternoon, and then decided to take our leave and allow the family to relax for the remainder of their day of rest. It turned out they would be going to church again at 3 p.m. so we thanked them for their hospitality and headed off back to the boat, where we enjoyed the most beautiful evening sky and sea so calm it was like a mirror. Wonderful.