9 October 2014

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We have a new ornamental flower bush, as lovely as forsythia.

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It is not in the yard: we discovered it down on the farm

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Even the bees love it.   If you look closely at this picture, you might be able to figure out what it is….. it is COFFEE FLOWERS !

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YOKED OXEN – UP CLOSE

When in the neighboring village this week, I was able to get a close look at a team of bullocks and the loads they pull.

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Men make yokes out of local logs and put them together with ropes and chains.

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See how logs and sticks are used to make a sledge.   It works.

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After the sacks of cassava are unloaded – another cargo just piles itself on board 🙂

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TRADITIONAL FIJIAN WEDDING

Lucky us!  We got invited to a full traditional Fijian wedding this week!  Not so many Fijians have traditional weddings any more because they are quite costly. I was able to go and to take some Teitei guests along.   We were taken first to the home of the groom’s family.

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This is in the room that has been prepared for the groom and his bride.  The first photo was of the emroidered mosquito net over the wedding bed.  This photo is of  some of the wedding presents for the happy couple:  Pillows with their name embroidered, blankets and mats.   There were many, many more presents – this is all referred to as the tevutevu.

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These are a few ladies in the groom’s family living room.  Off camera, the mother of the groom was sewing lace around a pillow, and another lady was pleating colorful fabric that would become an “apron.”   These ladies were starting to prepare plates of cake for the bride’s morning tea.

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Although we said “Vinaka” (“thank you” – which is how you say NO when you are offered something to eat), they brought us this beautiful plate of cakes and some mugs of tea anyway.

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One lovely young woman named Maraia (ma-RYE-ya) served as our guide, and she took us through the village.   It was life as usual going on around the big wedding – I loved these kids.

We were taken to a large temporary shelter, called a “shed” to wait for the arrival of the bride.   Maraia was eager to see how the bride would arrive because each place does it a little differently.

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Here comes the bride, wrapped in white masi, with one attendant (I’m guessing a sister or cousin) and other family members.  The bride in this case carried a hand fan made of pandanus with her name woven in.

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And here she is, the masi is off, sitting in the position of honor at the front of the shed.  Can you see how relaxed she looks?   She looked happy and relaxed for the entire event.   I figured out why later.

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Next are some customs I was expecting:   speeches and KAVA.

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Speeches and TABUAs, whale’s teeth.  I’d never seen so many at one time – there were even more off-camera, and I never saw one as large as that big one.

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And then Morning Tea for about 200 people in the shed

Relatives had come from many places in Fiji.  Each family brought specific gifts.  Handmaidens from each family group/village had pleated aprons of identical cloth (“kalavata”), see above: three different cloths, so three different villages visible here. The wedding serves as a big, humongous family reunion.

THIS is why the bride was not nervous!   The wedding is not the “day of the bride” – it is the “day of the family”

So we sat around visiting and waited for the second appearance of the bride and the first appearance of the groom.

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Voila!  The best man, the groom, the bride (now in brown masi) and the maid of honor.  They made a ceremonial circuit of the village.  In addition to masi (bark cloth), they are each wearing a salusalu (garland)  that is specially made for the occasion.

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Then they crossed the dry river bed and went up the hill.  I had no idea why they were going, and asked around.  Finally I found out … the Assembly of God church was on that side of the creek!   And so we followed.

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The humble but spirit-filled church building.

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The beautiful entrance.

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The small shed outside where some of us sat.

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But this just Would Not Do for my gentleman guest.  The pastor sent someone out to fetch him and make sure that he sat INSIDE the church.  This friend felt very honored and very happy to be escorted inside.

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The exchange of vows inside the beautifully decorated church.

Then there was a reception line and we all walked back to the village.

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The community hall was decorated in such a fancy manner!   Two relatives work for  resorts on the coast and they rented fancy tables and chairs for this.  I was amazed.  The pastor tried to get us to join the wedding party in here, but we declined as it was so special, we did not want any of the family to have to give up their seats for us.

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We returned to the groom’s family home where a delicious lunch was brought to us.  I wish you could taste it!

Those who know Fiji well may be asking, “What about the lovo?,” i.e. the underground oven that is a staple of all meetings and ceremonies.   This is clearly not lovo food   Funny thing there.  Yes, there was a lovo – but it was not for the lunch.  The lovo food was being saved for the dinner.  The pig was to be given to the bride’s family.  The beef was going to the groom’s dinner.

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Some palusami from the lovo did come out for the lunch, though.    YUM.

Even after the wedding meal, the wedding is not over yet.  Not even.

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Exchange of gifts between the families was still to come.  Drums of kerosene, piles of mats, mountains of pillows.   Perhaps that lorry came full of these presents, and will return home full of other presents, because we saw more of the same in other locations.

*     *     *

“I dodged the lovo …. again!”

Have a happy week.

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17 April 2014

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Last week while I was in Nadi, Vina’s brother-in-law asked about the papaya seeds he’d sent Austin.  I had no idea, said I’d have to ask Austin, and wasn’t all that interested …. and then I saw the papayas in HIS yard.    WOW!   I’m Interested!   He tried to send some seedlings with me – I told him I was afraid I’d kill them.   But WOW.  Must ask Austin when he gets home.
 
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A FIJIAN FUNERAL
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My friend Mary’s mother died in the neighboring village last week.  I went to the funeral, because I love Mary – and I was very happy that the family allowed me to take photos, so that I could share the beautiful Fiji customs with all of you.
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Every funeral starts with a reguregu, a traditional ceremony where family and friends come to offer gifts to the family to help with the funeral expenses.  
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A family member accepts the reguregu gifts with a speech, usually given while the speaker stands on his knees.
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Then the visitors are invited for tea.  We were in one of 3 “sheds” (temporary posts holding loose roofing irons) that were erected for this funeral.   Villagers had gathered grass for the ground to make it comfortable.  Tarps had been spread and then cloth runners as “tablecloths”
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Later, in the home where the viewing takes place, the floor is prepared with mats.
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Lots of mats.
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I learned that there are 3 major types of Fijian mats – NAI ONI – the very large mats.  VAKABAUTI  – the mats with colorful yarn.  and  DAVODAVO – the small every day mats.  All three kinds are used in a funeral.
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The ones I know are at a funeral are a kind of vakabauti – they always have a very wide decorated part along one side.
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Kava is another essential element of a Fijian funeral.  Here is  kava (also known as yaqona or grog) being presented in the house.
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And kava being taken outside in one of the sheds.
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No Fijian funeral takes place without masi, the cloth made of pounded plant fibers.  At this funeral I learned about the piece of masi called “kumi” (beard)!   I’ve been to a lot of funerals before and either did not notice it or they did not have it.   These are HUGE pieces of masi that are hung up on either side of where the casket is brought.
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When the casket arrives, the kumi is lowered, and the mourners have privacy while they cry and weep.   
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The casket is carried to the church, where there is a loving and dignified Christian service.  The acapella choir was magnificent.
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The pall bearers are traditionally from the extended family-of-birth, not -of-marriage.  The casket is carried around the village square, led by the ministers who preached at the church service.
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The spokesman for the family-by-marriage presents a tabua (whale’s tooth) to the family-of-birth.  I take it they are saying something like “thank you for loaning us your relative” and how much the relative was appreciated.
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The spokesman of the family-of-birth accepts the tabua and also gives a speech.  At another time there is a lot more exchange of gifts – drums of kerosene, mats and so forth.  These customs all reaffirm the ties of affection between the two families.   After this, while the pall bearers hold the casket aloft, everyone walks underneath the casket to say their last goodbye.
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The casket is carried to the graveyard – a bit of a trek in this case, blessedly above the flood plain.
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Gravediggers had dug a clean hole about four feet deep.  They respectfully received the coffin and secured the mats around it.
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A choir of angels sang as mourners threw in handfuls of dirt, and the gravediggers started shoveling the soil back into the hole, on top of the coffin.  (Normally the ladies are wearing black – but my daughter-in-law and I both think the white is really terrific and hope it becomes the custom)
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In this village they build a little wall with stones around the grave.  It was my first time to see this.  The reason is that they do not have the resources to finish graves with cement blocks the way families do in urban areas.
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As with all Fijian funerals the grave is finished with masi cloth being spread out and staked down, and then flowers put on top.
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Every Fijian funeral ends with a wonderful, huge meal fed to everyone who is there.  I asked a young man beside me what is the significance of the meal.   He thought a bit and then said, “It is so you will be happy.”
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26 December 2013

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There were two celebrations this week – my birthday (huzzah!) and Christmas (hallelujah!).
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I wrote to friends, family and facebook about my terrific b’day – so the only thing I’ll say here is about the amazing bougainvillea at Raffles Hotel where I got to spend the night.
                              ** Off * The * Farm **
First a photo to demonstrate that it really is bougainvillea:
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And now a photo of the massive trunk of one of the older plants.
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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Can you believe that bougainvillea can get THAT old and THAT big?   ….   Will I still be around and bearing flowers of the spirit when I am that old?
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And now to Christmas ….
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We had good intentions of celebrating Christmas in a really Fijian manner this year.  Monica decorated the living area with foliage and fresh flowers.  Here are hibiscus on coconut ribs.  They bloom for a day and close at sunset.
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And here is a sweet nativity scene that Monica did.   It is not traditional in Fiji – but I had the idea, and Monica has the artistic skills.   This is based on the technology for making masi designs (see the 21 November entry to read more about masi).    Nowadays, to make masi designs, the artist makes stencils from old x-ray films.
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This is the stencil Nica made.   She did this FREEHAND and in one shot.   I think she is some kind of genius.
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Anyway, as I was saying – we were planning to do a traditional Christmas which would have been decorating with fresh foliage, bringing out all the new china, new mats, etc.,  AND having a humongous dinner together and eating for hours.   We were planning to have a duck.   It is obvious from the way I am writing that that is not what we did.   Nope.
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Instead we did the traditional Fiji Christmas – Plan B.   We went to the BEACH.
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All the neighbors from our end of the road decided to go, and they invited us along.  Fun, fun, fun.    We went to a beach that our family had never been to before, near Vatukarasa village.   The photo at the top of the blog is from this beach.
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We’ve been noticing the interesting orange growth on the western side of coconut trees on the Coral Coast for years.  Today Austin got a really great photo of it.
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I was thrilled to find a hermit crab.
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Here is a close up.   Isn’t he adorable!
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And then I found a BIG one!   Sorry the photo is all blurry.
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Austin got all enthusiastic about pumice floating in the water.  He remembers using pumice like this for sharpening cane knives when we lived in Micronesia.  He collected all he could. Before our neighbors climbed back into their transport, he gave a hunk to each family –  “Ho Ho Ho – here’s a rock for you.”   He didn’t say that exactly, but he did tell them many uses of pumice – most of them had no idea what it was.
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Monica remembered we’d also brought some cake to share.   Everybody got a little something to like.
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So, bye for now!   See you next year!
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21 November 2013

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21 NOVEMBER 2013  
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This is masi – cloth made from the local masi bush – and this particular piece of masi was given by one of my local friends to one of our very dear visiting friends this week.  It is one of the prettiest pieces of masi I’ve seen.  Masi cloth has a nice texture, and it is used for things like traditional wedding attire, wall hangings, book covers and grave dressing.
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Traditionally the patterns all have meanings.  The black is produced from lamp soot, the brown is produced either from mud or from mangrove stain (I forget).   I feel I can put this masi in my weekly update because we actually have the masi plant growing here.  And we have friends with the expertise to make some beautiful masi cloth from it someday.  (By the way, this is called tapa cloth in some other places.)
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We also have a mulberry growing near the cottage here this week.    There is a connection.   The masi plant and the mulberry bush are floral first cousins.
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MORE WILD FOOD
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These are fiddle head ferns – called “ota” here.   We don’t have them at the farm, but we buy them from the market. They are not cultivated.  Folks just go in the woods and get them..
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 We eat the leaves and the tender part of the stem – which is only the distal 3-4 inches or so.  They are yummy when lightly cooked and served with raw coconut cream, lemon juice, onion, and chilli (all this together is called “miti”).   The yummiest part is the little fiddlehead.
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DR. DISASTER
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Austin is predicting another big hurricane.  One suggestive detail is that a wasp built its nest low in one of our closets. That also happened last year.  Another suggestive detail is that our breadfruit tree has a huge number of baby breadfruits.  That also “also happened” last year.  The breadfruit tree got totally creamed by cyclone Evan, and I’m really surprised to see all these fruits this year.    So if we do get clobbered in the next few months – remember this prognostication when my blog doesn’t come out for 4 weeks due to a power outage…..
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I wonder if the insane profusion of angel trumpet flowers is also a sign?  We’ve never seen so many on the bush at one time
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THE BIG DRAMA I MISSED
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There was a massive swarm of wild bees while I was in Suva last weekend.   Akka got some photos of the swarm on the tree.
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He didn’t get photos of Austin in the bee suit, smoking them to sleep, gathering them up somehow – he says they were the size of two large American footballs (rugby balls) – and getting them into a bee box.
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The hive is now on a wheelbarrow, sitting on the terrace where the orchid house is to go.   Austin moves the hive about a meter a night – has to move it that slowly to get it to its final destination, or the bees will get disoriented and angry.
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For now they are happy.
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TEDDY BEAR TREE
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I took my camera with me to Suva just so I could get a shot of this tree.  I fell in love with it when I saw it on my last trip.  I’ve seen lots of trees with plants growing on them, but never one so totally covered.  It reminds me of a teddy bear – and if my little granddaughter who adopted my teddy bear can come to visit, I will take her to see the teddy bear tree.
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SPIFFING UP
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Akka and Monica have been working hard to get the Teitei ready for guests.   This is the path to the cottage…. white stones to help folks aim themselves in the right direction at night.
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