October 6, 2011

Village Life

Lucy giving Evan a necklace
 Each time we go ashore in Gunu village we are given a gift: shells, jewellery, a woven basket, flowers, a meal. We hadn’t expected this. In other more well-trodden villages in Fiji there is a friendly spirit but also a hunger for our dollars—the women pull out handicrafts that are often clearly made by some other set of hands, claim them as their own, and then seem to resent our lack of interest in the trinkets.

In Gunu I am overwhelmed as Bill and Lucy empty things out of a hand-made basket and press the basket into our hands. When we visit Lewa and her family the bags of shells they give us are some of their best—shells that would have fetched much needed money from the tourist boat.
wearing our gifts of flowers
 No matter what we bring to shore—and we’ve brought bags of clothes, fabric, food, and school supplies—our offerings can not touch this gentle generosity. They are giving what they have. We give spares—things we bought for the purpose of trading, or things we no longer use. It’s hard to imagine giving the last of what you have, as our hosts seem so willing to do.
Peceli uncovering the lovo

A lovo is a special meal in Fiji that is used for weddings, birthdays, fundraisers and other special gatherings. Our lovo will be one of the highlights of this trip. When we arrived and saw the men digging at the earthen oven and the women and children gathered around we realized this was not a simple meal—but a feast. They pulled bundles of chicken and cassava, white yam and stuffed pumpkin from the steaming pit. Then Lewa and her sister Vesi put salusalus (leis) around our necks and visited with us as still more village women set up the feast area.
Seated at our feast--Maia and Chelse are probably grateful they're not picky eaters

The villagers followed us into a sparsely furnished house and we were seated on the mat around a long, laden tablecloth. Explaining the food--the fish caught by that uncle, the breadfruit cooked by that aunt, the pulusami made by that sister--the women who made the meal scolded us into filling our plates. As we ate we complimented the amazing cooks, talked and joked, and ate some more. Then we realized from the growing crowd that this was a true feast—we pulled back from our seats of honour and the men and children took our places for their meal. And then at last the women.
Lewa and the ladies who cooked

We settled around the room drinking tea (perhaps from the tea bags I brought) while Maia, Chelsea and Nick ran wild outside with the friends they had made over the past few days. Evan and I were sitting near Nelson, the Methodist minister. From him we learned there are four religions in this village of 360—a fact that became amusing when Maia and Chelsea returned with Awake magazines from the competition. Nelson rolled his eyes a bit, then laughed. But we know from Bill and Lucy (who were once chased out of the village for their beliefs) that small village politics are not always simple.

Some of the children asked if they could see the boat so it was decided that in the morning before school we’d pick them up at the beach and bring them to the boats for a visit.

And then we said our goodnights.

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