Friday, October 4, 2013

Village Visit

5 October 2013

We signed up for the village visit this morning.  Many of the staff members at our resort are from this small village, and in fact our chef is the son of the village chief.  In Fiji, chiefdom is inherited within a family, so the chef will eventually become the village chief.  (This is different from the Samoan tradition, where the chief is elected by the village elders as well as some of the neighboring chiefs.)  In both countries, though, there are also women chiefs.

The village was originally up in the hills, but there were some disagreements and a group split off and moved away, forming their own village.  This was first built on the point where our resort is situated, but eventually this was too small an area so the village moved further inland (although there is a beach on the far side of the village).

Houses ranged from wood siding and corrugated zinc to mud brick with thatched roofs, with a variety of combinations of those materials.

The village doesn't have a working generator, though some individuals have generators or solar power for their homes.  The village does have a primary school - by age 6 or so, the children move on to the bigger school in a neighboring village, and they board with family or in the dorms to attend school each week.  Teenagers go to the mainland for high school, and again stay with families or in the dorms.

So, we started by walking through the village, saying "Bula!" as we passed people, and heading to the meeting house to meet the village chief.  This is always the first thing one does when entering a new village, and it is considered a major insult if you don't.  The meeting house was pretty obvious, being the only all-thatch building, and also being at one end of the village square or green or whatever you might call the clearing.

We entered and helped spread out mats.  Then a new clean mat was placed on top, and we took off our shoes and sat in a semi-circle.  I should add that the women in our group all had to wear either long skirts or sulus (sarongs), and have their shoulders covered - no sleeveless tops.  Men could wear anything they wanted, but no hats in the village.

So, we sat in a semi-circle, and looked around.   I thought the ceiling was very cool, including the way the beams and posts were put together so decoratively.  Plus there were occasional shells or whale teeth to decorate the place.  Turns out the whale teeth are very precious, like major money, among Fijians, because they are so hard to come by.  They are also baked underground to harden and preserve the tooth, and passed along from generation to generation.

The chief came in, and we all said "Bula!"  He sat down, and each of us stood, walked over, shook his hand, and introduced ourselves by name and where we come from.  He would shake our hand, smile, nod, and say "Welcome" to greet each of us.

We had some time to ask questions either about what we saw, or how the structure of village life works, what is the role of the chief, etc.  
So then - because this village and the resort are used to crazy tourists - we all had a chance to sit next to the chief and have our photo taken.  Silly, but, well, it seemed like the only way to get a photo of the chief.
And then we all stood, went over to shake hands again, and say goodbye.  Oh, and we tourists pay a nominal fee for this activity; 33% of the money goes to the young man who is the guide, and the other two-thirds goes to the village chief - I'm not sure if this is for him personally, or if it's for town income, or what.  The town does have funding to give to families who do not have an income, to help so they can send their children to school.  

So then we went to the school, and chatted with the teacher.  They only have two teachers, I believe, for nine students - there's a class for the very little kidlets, and a class for the older kids.  But as I said previously, anyone 6 and older goes to the larger school on the other end of the island.

And the children - so cute, so sweet.  This littlest boy was yelling "Bula!" and high-fiving everyone who walked by - I asked him if I could take his picture and he happily agreed, then grabbed the camera to see himself, yelling "Billybo" - or maybe it was "Filippo" as his name, I'm not sure.  But he was just so adorable.

The young boy in the swing said he's twelve, grade 6, and his name is Joe.  He's the son of one of the workers at our resort.

The little girl was yelling "Bula" as we walked by her house, and she was wearing this crazy round piece of metal, it looks like a giant hubcap, or maybe something from some machine?  But she was wearing it as a hat, and was just so funny and cute, I had to get her photo too.   She didn't get as excited seeing her picture as my buddy Billybo (or Filippo).

So we walked around the village a bit, went over to where the village women set up a little market to sell trinkets to the tourists.  I felt bad not buying anything, but we're pretty committed to not making major purchases since we just have to keep on carrying whatever we buy.

We walked along the beach to visit where the village pigs are raised - the pigs are eaten at special occasions, such as weddings and funerals.
And everyone in the village is pretty much related to each other - second cousins, aunts and uncles of your mother's brother's stepfather - like that.  In fact, most of the people who live on the island of Nacula are related to each other in some kind of way.

There seemed to be a great deal of laundry blowing in the breeze - I'm not sure if this was because students brought home their dirty laundry from school, or if adults who work have Saturday off so they do the laundry, or what.  But this is toward the end of dry season, the rains are coming soon, so right now we have warm days, cool nights, a constant breeze, and some high clouds or clear skies.  The weather is beautiful, and we are enjoying it no end!

So, tonight's crazy activity is that we're supposed to make "jungle dress," whatever that might be.

You KNOW I am ALL OVER this contest!  I see it as a Project Runway challenge.  I've collected some of that weird woven type stuff from the top of palm trees, and that will be my bodice, along with the coconut bracelet I made.  Then I'm thinking something like a palm leaf skirt for the bottom.  With, of course, some flowers in there if I can figure out how to attach them without a glue gun.

I'll make sure to get some photos, and post tomorrow!  And let you know if I win! 

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