Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tacilevu Village receives donated goods – thank you !

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It is Saturday and it has been raining for days here in Savusavu.

Over the past two weeks I have been receiving donations to help a village about 40 km away. Tacilevu (pronounced Tathelevu) village has no electricity, and is quite remote. Thus, they have very little in the way of clothing and other supplies.

Alas, it is also the week I have experienced my laptop having problems, and had quite a drama to find someone in this little town that had both knowledge and time to repair.

So I had not the opportunity to raise as much support as I would have liked.

But in saying that, I am really thrilled and thankful to those who gave.

I was able to buy a stack of underwear for the kids. Most have little or none as it is about 3 – 5 hours wages to purchase one pair.

I was also able to go to a sale and make a deal with the manager of Bargain Box here in town. They sell second hand rejected thrift store clothes, but I picked through and found a stack of great items, and took them back to the house and washed them all. 

From Paddy’s (is a Fiji-Indian, not Irish bargain store) I was able to buy about 100 pairs of adult and kids thongs / flip-flops. 

I also got a great range of new baby and toddler two piece outfits and cute little dresses for all of $3 AU / US each.   We had a box of other items ourselves to take along. We also had a heap of donated clothes too.

So when Friday afternoon came to collect the rental car I had booked, I discover it has “broken down”.  Unlikely! More likely is there is a Conference in town with 400 attendees all who would have made a better deal than mine to secure a vehicle. So it is torrential rain, and no car. 

The roads are so bad there are no taxi’s to take us. 

After unsuccessfully trying every other rental car company in town – and there are not many – I sit in the rental office at a loss. 

I sit and I wait – over 1 hour – I figure it is his problem, and he can help me solve it. 

We have bought all the items to donate. This is our last weekend here. We can only go to the village on the Saturday. They are expecting us. We have made a promise. We will go. 

Then along comes a Christian Head Teacher (Principal) from the conference who is in the same predicament. 

They have also rented out his promised vehicle! 

We talk and discover he and his colleague wish to go the village next to the one we will go to. 

So we form a team and rent a car worth three times as much (also the only vehicle left), but haggle a deal due to the rental company’s stuff up. 

Next morning I am collected and we load up and “hit the road”. 

Well after a visit to the Hot Springs Medical Centre to see Dr Ishaque Mohammed, as my son now has quite a few staph infected sores and requires antibiotics and dressings.  Dr Mohammed gave my son excellent treatment and asked if I could mention his clinic in the blog.  It is a clinic where the bandages etc are donated and is set up to service the less fortunate who cannot afford medical care. We can pay the full rate as we have travel insurance though.  Please contact him direct if you wish to donate (

The road is now slush and mud and it continues to rain. Master Beci is driving, and it is a relief – the roads are way worse than when I drove there 2 weeks ago! Albeit his driving is way too fast for my liking (lack of rear working seat belts), but a thrill to my seven year old. 

We slide and bump across the tracks and arrive about an hour later. 

We arrive and the kids start running towards us. It is slushy and wet.

As the village knew we were coming back, the kids had dressed in their best and / or borrowed clothing, as they knew they would be photographed. The kids all ask for their picture to be taken. (They will come and tell me if I missed them. Then they gather around the camera and look and giggle. The women shriek with delight.) 

(I will do my next blog showing some of the kids we were able to give to).

They had made leaf decorations, and prepared a “song and show” for us. 

I realised the lady (she is a Mum at 20 and looks all of 14) hasn't informed all the kids - or they are busy elsewhere, so it is just this corner of the village. So not all 100 kids were there by a long shot. But the pastor came, and I spoke how they had to share it all with the other village kids – which they assured me they do anyway.   

I was told I was “Queen” and given a special chair – must say I didn’t feel too right about that!  But I am given a fabulous show and I just love the kids enthusiasm!

So the kids go wild when we start to give the underwear out. 

I have never seen kids excited over underwear. We had enough for all the kids and the ladies too. 

We then gave out the baby and toddler outfits and clothes. Bill – a cruiser on one of the yachts had donated over 30 t-shirts, and so these were given to the men and older boys. 

Next were well over 100 pairs of thongs. 
These were a massive hit!  The kids and adults all received a pair. Most have no shoes. 

They held up all their gifts. 

Then they all grouped and held up card letters of ‘V.I.N.A.K.A.’. This is Thank you in Fijian. 

They then sang thank you songs from Sunday School to us, and I had tears in my eyes. 

It was the most touching experience to see their joy. I guess pretty much like Christmas Day in mass form for a western child. 

It was playtime then for the kids. I have never heard my son’s name shouted so often. They all wan to play with him. The village’s only nurse – who administers all the medical treatment - has come along, and she makes me some tea. We are given papaya they had just gone out and picked – freshly prepared and it was so lovely. 

I had also brought 2 extra folding walking sticks from Australia. I asked who in the village needed them. 

We met a lovely old lady and she was ‘all smiles’. We helped her off the floor and helped her walk with it. 

And I was very honoured to then be asked to meet the Chief. He also had problems walking, and was really grateful of the other walking stick. It was great to spend time with such an honoured man amongst the clans, and to see him walk back inside using his new walking stick, and wearing a big grin.

We have a bit of spare time so we get to visit the coastal bay of Buca at the tip of the island. It is beautiful. We stop off for a photo and then head back ‘home’ over the slushy roads.

We see all sorts along the way.
I love the way these people are having their bath in the part made road-side.

We get back just as it stops raining. Really tired.
This is our first official trip to do our “Random Acts of Kindness”.
We want to do this the world over as we travel.
We than then many who have supported us, and who have blessed this village with kindness.
Your donations brought so much joy to these people.

They have asked us to tell you all “Vinaka vaka levu” – Thank you very much!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A day on a Fiji farm

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We are awake at 5.30 am to catch the early bus to the foothills.

Our friends Marylyn and Dave (50/50 Australian & Fijian) own rural property.
Their caretaker Julian, and his sweet wife Lele are organising a Lovo. 

Now a lovo is on my ‘to do’ list, so I am very excited.
I have been to Fiji 4 times in the past with my son, and always wanted the experience – so today is the day!
These folk are related to a boy in my son’s class called Crevan, so they both get the day off school.
Now my son is also excited, as they have horses, and live by a river. 

We hope off the bus and go via a village.
We meet some ladies from the village on the dusty road.

They are heading out to fish in the river for the day.
More relatives & friends of Marilyn & Dave’s I believe? 
My son is standing by the river - it looks like glass!

At the rear is a traditional bure.

We walk on to bring some clothes for the village, where the ladies invite me back another day to learn to weave with the palm leaves. 

I love their kitchen! 

We then walk about 2 km through a coconut plantation to the farm.

They have many head of cattle, and grow some vegetables too, along with the coconuts that are grown and sold for copra.

When we arrive Georgy and Sulo are busy preparing the vegetable for the Lovo.
Georgy is peeling the Dalo or Taro.

Sulo is busy using a coconut milk mixture and making Palusami parcels.

Inside Lele is preparing Walu Fish for the lovo, and a potato curry she cooks in the lean-to kitchen.

Today is a big day.
Wood must be collected and chopped. 

Via Leaves – small are used for the Palusami parcels, and the large are used on the top of the lovo. 
Special stones, to heat (and do not explode) must be collected from the river. 

The vegetables are dug from the farm – and usually there is quite a walk to find them. 
The fish is freshly caught from the sea, and that is quite a ride up the river in a boat and time fishing last night for Julian. 
This will be served with fresh limes from the garden, and a topping of caramelised onion, peppers, and tomatoes, all home grown. 
There are also 2 chickens that have been prepared earlier. 

Coconut (Niu) trees are climbed for fresh milk to drink and eat. 
(you can just see him up the tree!)

They have been preparing this since dawn. 

The pit must is freshly dug. 
Palm fronds are cut down. 

Now the thing to remember is this is like camping out here. 

There is no electricity. 
That means no refrigeration. 
No cold drinks on a hot day. 
No warm showers after the rain. 
And no running water either. 
This means no flushing toilets (you use a long drop outside, normally wiping with only newspaper). 
While we wait for the Lovo to cook, the boys play happily outside. 
I have been noticing the change in my son, as he climbs and plays outside with Crevan. 

They swim in the river, but my son has a few screams as the little fish give him a nibble. 

So they decide it is time for a ride around the property on the horse. Note this is bareback with no bridle. They seem to be gone for ages. My son had been wanting to horse-ride since we arrived, so he is pretty wrapt about this. They are still riding when our Lovo feast lunch is served under the trees. 

Time to see if the Lovo is ready.

Here it is!

No a Lovo is amazing!
The chicken takes like the most divine roast.
The Palusami parcels are like a sweet spinach pie.
The Dalo is crispy, and you could mistake it for a crispy bread roll, but it is sliced and tastes a lot like potato.
The fish melts in your mouth with the mouth-watering topping.

Alas my camera battery dies about now. I have brought the charger, but it is useless as I forget about the no electricity! 

I eat til I want to burst, and then of course there is dessert! 

This has been cooked earlier, and allowed to cool. It is ripe plantain – a sister to the banana fruit but way bigger. It can be cooked green as a vegetable, or yellow as a fruit. 

Cooked in a syrup, it is sweet and lovely, and a refreshing end to our superb Fijian feast. 

It is already mid afternoon, and the boys beg “Uncle Julian” continually to take them down the river in his wooden boat. We pile in and take off down the water tributaries, to the main river. At the mouth of the tributary, we find about 20 ladies (yes it is some of the ladies we met at our first village on the way to the farm) with a net right across the river fishing. This is illegal, and Julian will need to report them, as they are fishing in the breeding waters. 

Julian wants to show us where the river meets the sea. We are now in the main river, and it is just magical and peaceful, and extremely beautiful. The memories may not be snapped by my camera, but they are forever in my mind. 

We head back, and alas we run out of fuel. We have come a long way! Fortunately Julian – who is about 60 at a guess, is tall and strong, and has a long tree branch to pole us back. The boys jump in and out of the boat as we find sand banks, and run along and hop back in. It feels more like a gondola ride!  It is serene and magical. 

It may not be a magical end to the day for Julian, but it has been for us! 

We return home at the end of the day and sit on our back porch and watch the passenger ferries and yachts come and go.

Getting to know the ‘real Fiji’ is really making our adventure so very special, and I am extremely grateful for their kindness to us.  What an amazing day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The journey to the hidden Naselesele Waterfall (on the road to Bua)

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On Sunday we decided to ‘find a waterfall’, so we hopped in the hire car and headed through the hills towards to top left area of the island of Vanua Levu. 

(We are based at the bottom centre right coast).

We needed a break as all week long we have been buying up clothes for the village donation trip we do this coming Saturday.  It has been hard work hauling it by foot the 2 km each way up to our house.  Sometimes I do 3 trips a day, so that is 12 km.  Any secondhand clothes I have all washed too.

So here is our adventure.
We pass many people walking to church, and love the way these two guys stand as I take their photo – dressed in their sulu’s. 

The next guy we stop and ask if we can take his photo is the teacher / preacher – he is on his way to the meeting but needs for some reason to bring along his beast. 

We stop to give a couple a ride and he works at our friend’s farm.  

We first met Marilyn and Dave back on the other island at Pacific Harbour – they were visiting the church at Deuba Inn where we stayed also. We seem to run into Marilyn nearly every day and enjoy their company. 
They are now living in Australia and have a farm in Fiji, and are 3rd generation Fijians. 
Anyway, we somehow manage to meet their workers, so we give them a lift for about 10 km. 
Their farm is amidst a coconut plantation.

Along the way, we meet many more walkers, like this man. 

As you enter towns, you can here the churches sing in gorgeous harmony – usually hymns of years gone by. Most Fijians are dressed in their best today. 

 The terrain changes, and we head over the mountains.

We hope to first go to the Waisali Waterfall, which is right in the hilltops at the centre of the island, but it is Sunday and it is a locked National Park. 

So we head on, and the villagers change from Fijian, to mainly Indian. 

We pass this interesting mother and son – how different our Sundays are to theirs. 

Not knowing if we can find another waterfall, we head for Batiri village.

People are bathing, and clothes washing – it is quiet as most are in church. He has a lot of fun. 

My son is invited for a swim in the river. 

We give them kids DVD’s to watch (they have electricity and TV’s here), and also give them so toiletries to share amongst the ladies. 

We leave and continue the search for a waterfall. 

A policeman stops us and tells us to go up a track. 
It is so rough and rocky that the 4WD starts to slip up the steep hills and my son is screaming, but we find a fork in the road and turn around. 
My son prays, and says he sees angels holding the car as we head down the embankment on an angle. 
This is a flat smooth part of the track where we stop and gather our nerves.

Alas, we give that waterfall a miss, and head back to the main road where we meet Enochi, who I think tells us he is working for a geology company?

He says his mothers village is near the waterfall and will come and show us.

He leaves his daughters by the roadside and jumps in, and says it is ’30 minutes drive’.

After a while it looks more like we are in the middle of Australia. 

It is red and orange soil and very hot and dry and barren. 

I am shocked. Where has Fiji gone? 

We drive past many types of groups of animals and the vegetation continually changes. 

After about an hour he tells me I do not drive Fijian, and it will take much longer than the 30 minutes. 
I am having a hard time keeping the little car on the road. 
The rocks and potholes are not as bad as when it changes to slippery gravel patches. 
My arms ache as I clutch the wheel. 

 Finally one and a half hours later we arrive. It is right off the beaten track, and there lies before us a plateau of rocks and drifting water. It is just lovely.

Not a rushing waterfall; as the locals have discovered irrigation and are diverting the water at the top, but still a lovely spot.

As we wander around, Enochi explains many things to my son and I. 

How the irrigation works, and the Indians are planting rice fields nearby.

They wander around - man and boy - black and white - teacher and student.
They search and find things together, and I am pleased that learning is fun.

It is like a field trip.

Enochi explains how the volcanic rock was formed from the lava hitting the water.

 Then as we walk over the rock ledge, we find a great pool to swim in.

 It is cool, as we sit and enjoy the force of the water.

 We have a great time, and Enochi helps my son into the cool water for a swim.

Well a good time - apart from me falling on the rocks at the end as I slip on slime – I am bruised and battered in a few spots and missing some skin, but the water then cooled it quickly. 

It is hard to end the day but we have to head back before dark and drop Enochi back to his family near the Dreketi River – the widest river on the island. 

It is nearly dark when we get back via the hills - as we stop and enjoy the new foal at the side of the road.

We quickly head home for a shower, then off to the Copra Marina Yacht Club for a great $5 AU dinner, and to meet our cruising yacht friends and local ex-pats.

As we tell folk that evening where we went, they are pretty impressed – few Fijians have been there.

We really are exploring Fiji.