THEIR home was a mere 30 metres from the beach and she enjoyed swimming every day especially when it rained because the water was warmer even though she got scolded by her doting dad are just two of the memories which sustain Ofa Fisher Qarase.
The girl who grew up in a settlement at Ucunivatu, Viani Bay in Vanua Levu is focused as she studies for her Master's Degree in maritime safety and environment management at the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden. She will not be distracted by the fact she won't be coming home during the 14-month course as she is "engaged in a tight schedule, it would be impossible to come to Fiji during the break and also the break is very short".
Despite not having the support of her hardworking father, as he had passed away just before she left for the course which began on September 17 this year, Ofa knows she has the support of her husband and that her sisters are helping look after her three sons.
When contacted, Ofa who attended Somosomo District School then moving to Bucalevu Secondary School in Taveuni before completing Form Seven at Ballantine Memorial School said: "First of all, I would like to thank the Lord with the wisdom that he provides enabling me to venture this far. I thank my mum and dad for bringing me up to become the person I am today."
About her career Ofa said: "By profession I am a master, or a ship captain.
"After 12 years of seafaring, I worked in the office as an assistant operations manager in one of the shipping companies.
"After a year, I then started with then TPAF (Training and Productivity Authority of Fiji now part of the Fiji National University) as a lecturer.
"I had been teaching for three years until I was awarded a scholarship to do a master's degree.
"As the first female representative from Fiji to be sponsored by ITF (International Trade Unions Federation) based in London, I was the first ITF-sponsor student to be given an award to visit the Philippines since it is the home to most of the world's seafarers.
"It's not an easy journey to choose to be in a man's field of work, face with discrimination and criticism I was moulded even better to survive. I had to work twice as much as the men to prove I can do it.
"When I reflect on my past, I have learnt that working hard is not about one proving he or she can do it, but it is to prepare a person for the bigger challenges in life. I thank all the people I have worked with for making life a challenge. It is not working twice as hard that matters, it's working together that counts."
Ofa said she never wanted to go public but reconsidered "for the sake of all the women in Fiji".
"This is my chance to encourage them that taking up responsibility is a born with attitude given by God. In order to archieve something good in life you have to believe in yourself.
"In general we are all special and we have a purpose in life. Nothing is too late; if you have a will you have a way.
"And if women worked very hard it is not to prove themselves or to offend the male, but it will make the male work much more efficiently and effectively, and if that is the attitude of people in our land, then Fiji will be a country of hardworking citizens," Ofa said.