20 November 2014

2014-11-20  hidden eggs  R

Behold another hidden clutch of chicken eggs, this one on an undeveloped part of a hill near a set of bee boxes.    Such fertility.

Speaking of fertility…..

FAMILY REUNION 2014: A QUINQUIENNIAL EVENT

Our kids live all around the Pacific rim – last time we all managed to get together was 5 years ago, and there are more of us now.   In celebration of the triumph of family over inertia and other commitments, I give you each family member with the bit of flora or fauna of choice.

2014-11-20 BEAMER and coffee Cr

Doris (“Beamer”), our beloved matriarch,   Crown of thorn flowers in her hair, and more importantly COFFEE in her cup!

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2014-11-12  AKKA and strawberry  Cr

Akka and a big fat strawberry he grew

2014-11-20 MONICA and uci  R

Monica and an uci (OO-thee) plant.  This plant is very important for traditional garlands.  It has a unique “clean” scent.

2014-11-20 KIKI and 4-petal plumeria  Cr

Kiki and a four-petal plumeria.

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2014-11-20 MAKI and jackfruit  Cr

Honorary Uncle Maki – lucky us that he is in Fiji right now – with jackfruit.

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2014-11-20 LUA and Mangoes  Cr

Lua and mangoes – she was asking for mangoes once she arrived and was surprised to hear we have them at the farm.

2014-11-20 MAX and dogs  'Cr

Max and our dogs.

2014-11-20 VICTOR and chickies  Cr

Victor and some chickies.

2014-11-20 ALICE and Teddy  R

Alice and Teddy the cat.

2014-11-20 HAZEL and bougainvillea  Cr

Hazel and bougainvillea.   We picked it out for her thinking it would be easy.  Then she started carrying it with her everywhere.

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2014-11-20 JUNIA and Flora  Cr

Junia and “Flora” margarine spread.  Austin won’t let me buy margarine, but one of the in-laws smuggled some in.

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2014-11-20 CLARA and bananas  Cr

Clara and a stalk of bananas.  She was shooing away fruit flies with her hand.

2014-11-20 NIGEL and crabs  R

Nigel and mangrove crabs.  His brother had caught these crabs (Nigel’s family lives near Nausori on the other side of Suva) and Nigel brought them to the farm for one of our dinners.  YUMMY !!

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2014-11-20 RAKESH and wild fledgling  Cr

Uncle Rakesh, one of my Raksha Bandan brothers, and a wild fledgling.  Herein lies a story.  Clara wanted to be photographed with the nest of baby birds.  Junia warned us not to get too close or the birds would jump out.  We got too close.  The dogs were too interested.  Rakesh rescued the fledgling to return it to the nest.

2014-11-20 VINA and betelnut  Cr

Auntie Vina  (she is Beamer’s personal assistant, Rakesh’s wife, Maki’s “Rakee sister” all at once) and betel nuts growing in front of the house.   Vina just told me betel nut is very important in some of the Hindu prayer ceremonies!

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2014-11-20 GUY and peppers  R

Guy and some of the beautiful bell peppers (capsicums) Austin bought at Taiwan Mission.

2014-11-20 MAMI and duranta   R

Mami with a purple flower we did not know the name of.  Junia tells us it is “duranta” – and they also had it in Haifa.  (Guy, Mami and Junia all served in Haifa together.)

2014-11-20 LEO and hibiscus  Cr

Leo, currently the youngest family member, with hibiscus.

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2014-11-20 GRANDDADDY  R

GRANDDADDY!

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13 March 2014

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Mostly this week’s Report is dedicated to covering the most detailed ritual I have ever attended, but first I’ll share a little bit of this and that around here.    I was taking the Valley Road bus and some critter banged into the side of my head, crawled down my neck, on top of my dress and sat by my knee.  A big grasshopper, photo above.  My new camera turned the freak-out moment into a fun memory (thanks, Cousin Ashley, for the camera lesson).
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GUTSY GUESTS –   We have a sweet-faced young couple here from Canada (she is a very pretty flight attendant).  They like chicken and had never had fresh organic chicken and were eager to help.  I thought they might pluck one.   When I got home, I found out they had each done a whack job!  Man!  I’m impressed. They were also impressed.   Happily the roosters were still young enough to be fairly tender.  Yum.
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WISH I’D HAD MY CAMERA –  Today there was a toad sitting on top of a coconut by the pond.   The scene was framed with leaves from the living fence.  I have no idea what that toad was thinking about.
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FEEDBACK FROM LAST WEEK
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A cousin said the “clean bucket” for fermenting the coconut oil didn’t look all that clean in my photo.  She was right, but it was clean on the inside.   She also said it sounded like a lot of work – she just doesn’t know how yummy the cheese is.
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And my Indian lady friends were all excited about seeing the photos from the Day 10 ceremony.  They have never seen it, because women don’t get to go.    Surprise, surprise.
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And with that we will go on to …
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DAY THIRTEEN of the SANATAN HINDU FUNERAL
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The pit for ceremonial fire (hawan) is dug, bordered with feedbag mats, and then decorated with powders (turmeric, flour and the red one for the married woman’s hair-part), and with flowers (marigold and hibiscus).   The pundit sits on a fine mat, on the south side, facing north.

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On the opposite side a banana leaf is laid out with 4 pairs of leaves –  4 piper leaves (see 12 September 2013 post) closer to the pundit  and 4 jackfruit leaves behind them.

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To the pundit’s left, on the west side, a piece of banana leaf is laid with 3 nutmeg seeds, and a “lota” (vase).    He goes through a number of steps preparing the lota, which represents the Vedas (Scriptures).

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Now you can see yellow string around the nutmegs, and ghee (clarified butter) in the lota.

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There were many steps between these pictures.  The close male relatives were given the koos grass to sit on.  A yellow string was stretched out across them.  Mango firewood was brought.   Nutmegs were put on the piper leaves.  Now the men are gathering handfuls of torn flowers and spices and even coins when the pundit tells them.  (If I understood Hindi, I might know why.)

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Each man is given a little ring of koos grass.  Later on, the eldest son is given a second one for his other hand.

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The firewood is moved and coals are brought.  The men pour ghee onto the coals.

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Here is the part of the ceremony I always noticed and never understood.  The eldest son forms a little loaf of  a rice mixture with his right hand and tips it over his thumb onto the jackfruit leaf.  He does this again for every jackfruit leaf.    According to my friend, this represents (and I quote carefully) “I don’t know!”  She finally adds,  “But it is called pind पिन्द and it is being offered for the person who died.”

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The pundit makes circles of white string and tosses them to the eldest son who put them around each nutmeg.

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One of the loaves is cut into 3 pieces, and a piece is added to each of the others.   Then the loaves are decorated with yogurt, ghee, water and honey.   Flowers are added.  Camphor pieces are added and lit.

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All of the rice offering is rolled up in the cloth, and then a basin is brought for milk, which is blessed with flowers, spices, and lots of ghee.

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The eldest son pours the milk handful by handful into another basin.  He does this facing north, west, south and east.

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The pundit puts yellow string around a mature coconut.   The coconut represents Ganesh, the elephant headed deity.

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Then slowly, slowly the ceremonial fire gets laid.  Burning squares of camphor are put in the bottom of the pit.  Pieces of dry mango wood have their ends dipped in ghee and are laid carefully inside.   (This is where my camera battery gave out,  dangnabbit,)    Finally there is a burning lattice in the pit.  The coconut is laid into the fire.    The roof of the temporary shed is opened and the ceremony, the funeral, is now complete.   The family then treats all the guests to another magnificent vegetarian meal.

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The roots of this ceremony go back nearly five thousand years, so to me, the funeral is like a little pine cone on a giant redwood of human ritual.

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19 September 2013

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Lautoka is a beautiful city, especially if you love trees.  There are rows of palms, of mango trees, of huge vaivai, of “Itt”s.  There is mahogany and teak and date palm.  We ended up spending most of the week in Lautoka at the large regional hospital.   Above is a shot of the corner where Hospital Road meets the main road.

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I’m shocked that on-line resources do not mention Lautoka’s many parks and stately avenues.   Lautoka has been a prosperous little city because of the sugar industry, and some farsighted people invested in making it beautiful.  Here are a few shots I got of some of the magnificent trees.
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Even the main street is lined with palms.   Maybe we can read history of bad weather from their bent trunks.

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This was the view from the hospital room.
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 Beautiful, eh?   I kept thinking about how none of the coconut trees were “decapitated” from the recent fierce hurricane: so many of the coconut trees in Guam are headless because of the storms.   Then later, Austin and I noticed this group of headless royal palms.
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That is weird because royal palms throw off their leaves during storms, and almost never lose their crowns or get blown over.  That’s why Austin always plants royal palms near any house we live in.   Anyway, he’s thinking maybe a piece of flying tin got them, since it is 3 trees in a row.
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Just a little more around the hospital.  Beautiful hibiscus.  I envy the healthiness of this plant – as you recall I often bemoan the plight of my hibiscus bush at home.
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This beauty was blooming in the parking lot.  I asked Austin what it is – he doesn’t know.  Says we have it at home.  He was quite dismissive, but I found the flower charming.
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And I can’t leave the hospital without showing off the TALLEST Cousin Itt trees I’ve ever seen – standing there against the hospital. …  And finally we could go home.   This is part of what met us.
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More ducklings – these are a couple of days old and going to their new owner today.
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Austin wanted to make sure EVERYBODY notices that there are some with pink bills and some with blue.  He thinks the pink-billed duck is a hybrid.  (Sometimes he goes on about their feet – some are yellow and some are black.  Big deal.)
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And finally – this is the happiest thing that met all of us on our happy, healthy return from our sojourn in the west.   Tarsi’s puppies – 5 females and 3 males.
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PS – I feel the report is not complete without mentioning that  I did not notice any flora or fauna inside the hospital.   I actually LOOKED for vermin for my report, and there was none.  For the tropics this is incredible.  The other thing is that we did not have to “shell” out any money for the 6 day hospital stay.  It was paid for by our tax dollars.  The care was beautiful, and I think it deserves a mention.