23 October 2014

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This was the real beauty from this week – a gorgeous metallic looking insect.  I think this bug is even on one of the Fiji postage stamps.

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AN OLD FRIEND

I saw Billy the goat and his sister foraging in the drain beside the road, thought “how sweet” and stopped to take a photo.

2014-10-23 Billy  R

Billy recognized me and came up to say Hi!   I was so happy and surprised.   Billy’s owner told me that it’s good he stayed with us for a month, because he is not afraid of dogs any more.  If a dog comes near, Billy turns around and shows them his horns 🙂

2014-09-25 waka levu   R

KAVA STUFF

The proper way to drink yaqona (kava) the local mild intoxicant, is to pound the root, add water and squeeze.  The lazy way is to use powdered kava.  Anyway,  the dried roots are organized into a bundle called a waka.  I asked this man if I could take his picture because it is one of the biggest waka I ever saw.   Almost for sure he bought this to take to some ceremony (wedding, funeral, petition to a chief).

2014-10-23  kanikani R

And THIS is an example of kanikani, the “lizard skin” condition that happens to people who drink too much kava.   It results from Vitamin A depletion.    This is my friend’s foot.

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IT’S A MIRACLE

That long drought had one surprising side effect:  MANGOES !

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The tree is loaded.   We are shocked.

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LAND SWANS

Two ganders that always hang out in our yard have taken to chilling in the driveway.  I know they are ganders because they are pure white.  The female pilgrim geese have some gray on them.

CONFESSION TIME

My dear friend planted the tree in memory of her grandpa  (see 21 August ) …. and then I forgot about the tree!   We had that awful drought, and the tree on the top of the hill …. well, I was afraid it was dead.  Austin said it might survive and that I should just watch it.

2014-10-23  Vova survives   R

Finally!  It is putting out new leaves.   Isn’t this a delightful fleur-de-lis configuration!

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2014-10-23 bleeding heart  R

This is a flower I love that we have in Suva, a kind of ‘bleeding-heart.’

Happy Diwali.

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1 May 2014

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You might remember a couple of months ago I mentioned how PROUD I am of our good paved road.  I still am.  And there is even a clear kilometer marker at our road so I can tell guests exactly where our feeder road is.  We are at Km 19.2
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I just don’t know if it is REALLY 19.2, and if it will stay that way.  Here are a couple of other kilometer markers between Sigatoka and us.
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There should be a football field between these two markers.
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And a whole half-K between these two.   Oops!
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TANOA – THE GROG BOWL
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Drinking grog (yaqona) is an ancient sacred custom in Fiji – seen at the recent funeral.   After the kava (another name for yaqona) itself, the most important thing is the tanoa – the grog bowl.   Everybody sits around the grog bowl.  Traditionally there is a notch that points to the highest ranking person present – and there is a piece of coconut fiber rope (magimagi) with a cowrie shell (buli) which is attached and points to the chief.  If there is no one of high traditional rank, the magimagi and buli are removed.    Above is a photo of a very beautiful grog bowl – available for sale at the tourist shop.
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Here is a photo of a tanoa from a few weeks ago at the funeral.  You can see that it is wooden and large.  It also has pvc pipe reinforcing the broken legs.   Informally, friends will often drink kava from a plastic basin or a bucket.
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My personal favorite – and this was at a formal event, though not with a chiefly person present – was this tanoa made from a fishing float and a sawed off traffic cone.
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BREAKNECK GROWTH
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It occurs to me that all of you living in temperate zones probably cannot imagine the speed of the growth of trees here.  My photos are kind of shabby, but this is a shot of a royal palm Austin planted in 2005 – about 9 years ago.
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Here’s a shot of another one.   These are around our house in Suva.
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Here’s our house in 2005 – no trees in the yard at all.   The little royal palm in the front had grown to about 25 feet or more a couple of years ago and the Electric Company (FEA) cut it down.  (Yes, I know – I should have tried to get a current shot of our house from this angle.   Maybe next time I go to Suva…)
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Another example is this big tree –  I remembered there was a little news story when it got planted.   Here  –  http://news.bahai.org/story/366
The trees were a spontaneous activity – a brainstorm of Austin’s – and I’d forgotten that I was quoted in the article …. but anyway.   We know from this story that that tree is exactly 9 years old.  Of the 4 that were planted in April 2005.   two died, two are still living.   This one is towering over the coconut tree.
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KIDS!
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I’ve been seeing a lot of baby goats around – snapped these two cuties on the road right below our house.   I want some!
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MORE ABUNDANCE
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After the huge tamarind crop last year, I thought the tree was going to take a season off.   I was really surprised to see it full of fruit again already.   You’ll notice that the fruits are smaller – but WOW – plenty of them!
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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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31 October 2013

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FOOD GROWING WILD
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One dish that Vina served last week was seijen “drumsticks”.   Seijen (pronounced say-jen, and I may be spelling it wrong) is a tree that just grows here.  Vina uses its leaves in her dhal soup. The English name for this is moringa.  I didn’t know there was anything else to eat from that tree.   Then Vina made the seijen drumstick curry.  When cooked, a drumstick is long tough strings that we suck the curried mush from.   Today a sweet neighbor boy came over to see if we still have some on the tree.  We did and here is a photo of his hands holding some of these things that do not look like they were meant for food.
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AT AN INDIAN CEREMONY.

I went with my neighborhood lady friends to the river where they had a ceremony to wash and bless a new Hanuman statue for their temple. We had to wait for the tour boats full of tourists to stop racing up and down our little stretch of river near the landing.  I guess we looked picturesque in our saris on the bank.  (I  can’t remember every having been a tourist attraction before.  Ugh! )    While waiting, I noticed a big thatch of light green vines mounded up growing together – no flowers.  I had a bad feeling.   Looked closer and there were thorns.     This was a weed that took over a field in Puerto Rico in one year, converting my short cut to my friend’s house into a no-man’s-land.   “Lantana?”, I asked.  The ladies were also really concerned.  “Not lantana,” one said, “Something else. It is bad.”  “Yes,” agreed another, “very bad.”  Then the ceremony started and distracted them. But because I did not understand the language, I was still thinking about the potential hell-plant just a few kilometers from our fields.
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10-31-13 stock mimosa invasive
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The actual name of the plant is mimosa invasive, and here is a stock photo.
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AT A FIJIAN CEREMONY
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We went to the 100 nights ceremony after the passing of the young man whose funeral we attended three months ago. We sat around for a few hours on woven pandanus mats in a room decorated with local greens and flowers.  As I waited to eat lots of nicely cooked local flora (various salads, eggplant, dalo, cassava, green vudi) and fauna (at least 3 chicken dishes, ocean fish, river kai),  the men conduced a lengthy traditional kava ceremony with the local root yaqona (yang-GO-na).  Some week I will dedicate the blog to yaqona as it is at the heart of Fiji culture.  Today I really just noticed how a fellow washed the grog out of the pounded roots in a cheesecloth bag, squeezing those soggy roots over and over and over … I thought, “These guys could really help their wives with the hand laundry if they ever felt like it.”   
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FEATHERED WATCHDOGS
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I have wanted geese since we had chickens stolen the first time. Habitual thieves know how to deal with dogs; geese on the other hand can be terrifying. We had a friend on Romanum in Chuuk who had tall aggressive honking geese – Whoa Nellie!   It’s taken a long time to get geese.  This week Austin  got 3 females and a male that we can keep here for breeding.  I asked him for photos.
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Phooey,  They are a lot smaller than the geese i remember in Chuuk.  Will they be scary enough?    Anyway, while Austin was taking photos, he also got some of his two species of ducks.
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MYSTERY OF THE WEEK
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Well, more of a discussion really
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Austin: What do you think ate this, Junia – myna or fruit bat?
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Junia;  Fruit bat.
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Austin:  Yeah – that’s fruit bat teeth.
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(So why didn’t you just leave it for the bat, Honey?}.
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10-31-13 honey eater KIKAU Cr
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NEW BIRD
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The honey eater has come to our property.  Its Fijian name is “kikau.”  They are native to Fiji and found only here (i.e. endemic).  They eat nectar and small insects – and they have a sweet song.
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PHOTO OF MOM
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Akka:  There is no photo of you on the blog, Mom – I’ll take one of you with the praying mantis.
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He took one with the mantis on my exceedingly scrunched up face – it would cause nightmares.   And the mantis looks better on my arm anyway.
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SHOUT OUT TO VICTOR
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This is Torsett now.   See how grown up he is!   He looks like Toto from Wizard of Oz, but nice and big.  He is a real sweetie, and his job is guarding the ducks, geese and fish at the fish pond.
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PS – Happy Halloween, everybody.