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Monday, August 04, 2008

Village Life

All eyes were upon me as I walked with the girl and her mother into the village. Kids grinning, old folks waving, even the village fowls seemed to cluck their generous welcome...maybe I'm exaggerating a bit here. But there was one slight problem, I had to urinate like a race horse as the expression goes...I had to urinate 20 minutes ago while I sat almost hearing the contents of my bladder sloshing around on the bouncy bus. And with the crowd that enveloped me, never would I be alone to relieve myself. What made it even more awkward was the 14 year old girl, Mimsy, followed my every step as though it was her duty to shadow everywhere I went. I had to tell her directly, "Before I go meeting everyone in this village, I really need to to go the toilet." Thinking that she would leave me alone to water a tree. But no, she did the civilized thing, and showed me to her family's outhouse. She must have thought I was quite the savage wanting to empty my bladder on her village's main highway...a dusty trail.

This was after I had seen her and her mother's lodgings and had been shown the living room where I was to make my bed. The house had one main room, like a living room. Large woven bamboo mats covered the entire floor. This was where everyone mostly sat, though there was one chair in this main room and a couch; everyone still made use of the mats. The room also had a large sheet or curtain that divided where all the beds were situated. In another hut, sharing the same roof was the dining room and two other beds. Outside was the cooking room, were the fire was lit for all the serious cooking. And then the outhouse behind that. The walls of the house were made out of the this bamboo or coconut woven material as well. Though the roof was tin, not thatch.

They made me sit down and rest, an act that Fijians can be pretty strict about, and next I was to go and present the kava to their chief in a special ceremony, that I can't remember the Fijian name for. It is truly something to be in a society where peoples lives aren't too busy in order to hold ceremonies completely unplanned for. Just how unbusy this chief was, I soon found out. For when Mimsy, walked me to the chief's hut, I found him prostrate on the floor waking up from a nice little nap, he had on those same mats that I found on the floor of every Fijian's house. Near him lay this little boy sprawled out almost lifeless in his sleep. The chief introduced himself as Chief Samuel. He had this squint in one of his eyes and a full-going moustache that is typical of Fijian men. He sat up sluggishly and got his wife to bring the large kava bowl, as I lay before him the bag of powdered kava.

Please excuse this bit of disrespect, but the chief's wife had to be the ugliest woman I've ever seen in a long while. But as I found out, she was in a staggering competition for that title with several of the wives of other Fijian men. I'm almost to the point of suspecting that the men pride themselves on the obtaining of ugly spouses, or perhaps their idea of physical beauty does not conform to our concepts of that notion. Besides however unattractive the older Fijian women of a village were, their inner beauty, devotedness, and motherly charm more than compensated for this lack of pleasant-lookingness.

Cross-legged I sat on the mat with Chief Samuel while we downed the kava and he told me a bit of the history of Fiji and was glad to inform me that back in the early days, me wandering into their village, a big feast was sure to be entertained and I would be the main course. For only about 150 years ago or so, Fijians were considered the world over for being the most voracious cannibals. "Yes," he told me, "people would have traveled from miles around to taste your fair flesh."
Thank God for the missionaries, for this horrid practice has long since been abandoned and now the current indigenous Fijians are the most devout Christians. Methodists they all are, and every village has a quaint little church building where the villagers assemble and sing in gorgeous voices about the love of God.
I found out later that Chief Samuel was Pentecostal although the entire village of Yavuna was Methodist. At least even in the strange happenings of the Pentecostals eating other people is frowned upon.

I sat with Samuel for a good while. But the sun was still blazing this beautiful color that always amazes me in any country in the world during the late afternoon. And I was desirous of exploring the village more. Chief Samuel would have sat and talked with me and drank kava for the rest of the night and day, had I been so inclined, but I think he sensed my restlessness and bade for Mimsy to take me around and give me a tour of the village, while he returned to his nap.

Mimsy did show me around. But this wasn't much else to see. A church, a large field, several other huts and buildings. And then she showed me her father's tomb. For little did I know, but her father had passed away several years ago leaving a wife, 2daughters and a son. And still these folks, the Sautonia family, had taken me in and were busy fixing a big dinner for themselves and their unexpected guest.

That night a group of children were playing about the Sautonia house and I began to draw cartoon pictures for them. "What's your favorite animal?" I'd ask. "A tiger." the child would utter. I would sketch a cartoon one for them and they'd crowd around me drawn in by this entertainment. When dinner was ready, the Sautonia family sat around a large dining table with ample enough of rice and vegetables to feed all ourselves and 3 others. Even with food shortages in the world, the Fijian people never starve. Yes, they may not own huge houses and cars. But they believe that they are blessed more than enough. They always have enough to eat. And their life is a simple and non-stressful one on a tropical island. I sat with Mimsy, Maves (her sister), their mother, and Junior the little brother who was about 4 or 5. The mother asked me to say the prayer and afterwards we talked and how beautiful, how remarkably wonderful these people are. Here I am, a person from a land where we horde more dollars in our bank accounts than these people make in years, and here they are feeding me dinner, urging me on to seconds and thirds, for absolutely free.
Shortly after dinner, a bell rings. This bell indicates that it is time for the village devotional that they have every night. And on this night, the entire village is to assemble together, though this particular night there was an exception because a very old and well-venerated Fijian passed away. And this night many of the elders of the village were not present but were going around to various other villages on foot, announcing the funeral and burial times. So no devotional time this first night. It wasn't long after that we were urged off to bed shortly after 9. My bed was on the top bunk above Mimsy and Junior were sleeping. They even made a mosquito net for me. I laid there for the next few hours until I finally got to sleep.

More to come...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bo-rian. How's it going?
Love the story so far.
Hurry up and get to the next part!

I'm reading a good book you might like: "The Road Gets Better From Here" by Adrian Scott.
Check it out.
Have a good evening!

7:23 PM  

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