Monday, September 15, 2014

A Visit to Naviti, Yasawa, Fiji

How is this for a fashion statement!
Fiji is an archipelago consisting of over 300 islands grouped around two large main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. We have been based on Viti Levu at Vuda Point Marina.

There is a diverse population of Fijian and Indian, who were brought to Fiji as laborers to work in the sugar cane industry in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The native Fijians of Melanesian descent live primarily on the outer islands while the Indian population is on the two larger islands where they are engaged in various forms of commerce.

The village "market."

Upon arrival at a village, there is a proper protocol to follow. And follow it you must! First of all, your attire must conform: no hats or sunglasses, shoulders covered, a sula wrap is worn over your shorts for men and women, shoes are removed before entering a building and no backpacks or bags carried on your shoulders - only by hand. I am not sure why, and it was difficult for me as I have always had some kind of bag on my shoulder from diaper bag to purse, brief case or computer bag.

Tewa was our guide (not sure of how to spell his name!)

At the shore, we were greeted by a young man, Tewa, who immediately corrected our attire as I was wearing a visor and sunglasses. I am very sensitive to the sunlight and always have my eyes shaded so I did not even realize I still had them on. Opps! The first thing you MUST do when you arrive is to visit the village chief. In this case, it is an elderly woman.

Breadfruit after boiling for 20 minutes and
peeling the tough outer skin. Next you cut it
into pieces like French fries and cook it in
hot oil. Result: Island version of Frites!
We presented our gift of kava, paid our token "entry fee" to support their community, and received her blessing to visit the village freely. Although, we were always escorted by Tewa. Right after the sevusevu ceremony in the chief's home, we were invited to visit their market. I am thinking that I can buy some fresh fruits and vegetables and maybe some bread. Wrong! It was several ladies sitting on the ground with some handmade jewelry and fans for sale. I was able to purchase a breadfruit which was hanging from the tree.

Dennis offering some assistance in the camp.
There is a camp on the island where young people from around the world come to work on village projects. We visited the camp site and saw several project in the works. The biggest undertaking was the construction of a new communal village toilet and shower facility. It is going to be a great addition to the village. Dennis watched the natives working with an electric saw with no eye protection and a make-shift electrical hook up to a generator. I could just see his "products liability lawyer" mind working on the dangers of the situation, but he did not intervene.

There was a very serene feeling in the cemetery under
the palm trees. The graves were interesting.
We quietly visited the cemetery at the edge of the village. The grave markers are interesting. The larger graves were where chieftains had been laid to rest. The chief position is handed down from generation to generation within the same family. We understood the woman was the current chief as her husband had died. The next in line is her son. Since most people in the village are related, there does not seem to be a conflict over the leadership. It is understood.

Not a great photo due to dim light, but a look at the
native costume for the performance.
We were invited to return to the village at 7:30 pm for a village performance. Of course, this is a way they collect money from the yachties, but we did not mind. It was totally different from all of the performances we have seen to date. The older villagers sang and danced for us while the children watched through the open windows. They all had a good laugh when we were all pulled up to dance with them. Keeping a sula in place while dancing their way is a challenge! I think we were the entertainment for the children!

Kini explaining the island culture in her home. They sit
on the floor or ground and have little furniture. I have
difficulty sitting on the ground so I was offered a chair.
We visited the home of one of the a teacher who shared their culture and needs with us. We sat in her home with only a kerosene lantern for light. She gave me her Facebook address so we could be in contact; that is when I ask, "How do you access the Internet here?" As we left, her husband smiled and pointed to the generator sitting just inside the front door! Their high school son must use the Internet!

Our gift of papaya and bananas were delicious!
The Fijians living in the outer islands have a very simple lifestyle. They live off the land and the sea. We were offered lobsters for sale and given a large bag of  pawpaw (papaya) and a large bunch of bananas. The men go to the plantation - their gardens somewhere outside of the village - during the day and return around 4 pm with fresh items for their families. We were told they have everything they need for food as it grows there or they catch it from the sea. We also saw people gathering seaweed. Apparently, right after a bit of rough seas, there is a part of the seaweed they harvest.

This little guy has a club foot. It is unlikely
that any medical help will be available.
There is great need in these villages for
medical ad dental care as we know it.
There is no municipal source of electricity. In fact, they use gasoline generators when they need electricity; otherwise, they use lanterns and their senses. We were escorted through a village at night by a young man with no torch (flashlight). He didn't need light as he knows every step of the way. I needed my torch to keep from stepping in holes or tripping on roots! I gave him my flashlight when we left. I wonder how - and if - he will use it.

The sun was setting in the west as the moon rose in the east.

We can see a lot of need in these islands: powdered milk for the children, eye glasses, clothing for the children, school supplies. When we come back next year, we plan to bring what we can. If you have old eyeglasses lying around, consider getting to me when we are home in December. Probably someone here can benefit from them even if the prescription is not perfect. It may be better than nothing. We would also accept any light-weight school supplies (we will be flying with several stops and can't deal with too much weight or excess baggage).

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