The man who is considered to be the first ever itaukei to join the United Nations has finally called it a day and is living out the rest of his days here in Fiji.
Saula Raiyawa was one of the pioneering Fijians who served under the blue flag of the UN.
After serving 34 years, the Vanuavatu, Lau native has called it a day.
"I've had enough! Even though they (UN) wanted me to stay another two years but I told them that there are more than enough younger and fresh personnel there who can take up the job," Raiyawa says.
"For the last 10 years alone I have been working long hours and I had missed out much, especially with my family," he says.
Raiyawa first started off in the Fiji Military Forces when he enlisted in 1972. He joined the Signals Corp and in 1978, before the commencement of the first batch of Fijian soldiers for peacekeeping duties in Lebanon, he joined the UN. And he is probably one of the last signals officer from the Fiji military that can read the morse code.
He joined the UN as a field service officer and was part of the UN team that set up the famous UNIFIL mission in Lebanon. He was on the ground when the first army arrived there, under the command of the current President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.
In his 34 years in the UN, Raiyawa served in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia in Africa and the former Yugoslavia. He was in charge of a field office in Lebanon when open war broke out between Israel and Hamas in 2006. When the UN ordered the evacuation of UN staff, he was told to stay back. Here he uttered the famous words, "No money! No wife!"
"I'm used to it, when one becomes responsible for a unit, they have to stay back and account for UN assets and in 2006 when the evacuation order came in, I had no other choice. So again, my wife has to leave me again and those of us who stay back do not get allowances while those who were evacuated, usually get allowance," Raiyawa says.
His shortest mission ever was to the former Yugoslavia where he only spent two months and when asked, he simply replied, "It's too bloody cold." And being far away from his homeland, the Raiyawas have hosted countless visitors from Fiji, including those that go to Israel on training or educational visits, but the most frequent were the Fiji soldiers serving in the Sinai and Lebanon.
Recalling his days in the UN, Raiyawa is well informed of the diplomatic efforts usually undertaken by the UN to ensure peace is realised in many troubled regions and between countries.
His stint in Afghanistan and Pakistan has given him an insight into how volatile it is, to get a peaceful resolution.
"Usually it's the elements between the governments and politicians that usually push against peace but all in all, it comes down to the politicians themselves. Unless the politicians get together, there can never be peace," Raiyawa says.
And now after 34 years of service, Raiyawa and his wife Kalo have returned to Fiji to settle down.
He does not have any immediate plans for the future but he wants to make up for lost time and this means travelling to visit his two sons and three grandchildren who have settled in the US.
"I still wake up early every day at 5am and people have been telling me to work again but I'm not interested. What I want to do now is to travel between Fiji and the US to visit my children and my grandchildren," Raiyawa says.
Raiyawa received glowing citations from various members of the UN family like the UN Field Service Union president James Butler, Naulu Mataitini, the chief security advisor for the UN mission in Pakistan as well as former colleagues.