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Many Tuesdays ago

Sailosi Batiratu
Sunday, December 16, 2012

VULA i gunugunu. Translated into the iTaukei language or as Paul Geraghty calls it, the vosa vakaviti raraba, it would mean a "month or season for drinking" or something of that sort.

I first heard the phrase several years back during a conversation with a gentleman, Petero Maciu, who is from the village of Nawi, in Buca Bay, Cakaudrove. It was around this time of the year and we were discussing at Cunningham Stage 4 as to how it seemed that even nature "knew" Christmas was around the corner. There were references to the beauty of the sekoula tree and others which flower at this time of the year. The weather we said back then knew it was a time for joy.

Maciu, using his chosen reference for me said: "Qase, qo mai na'oro dau 'ilai tu me vula i gunugunu." (Qase, back in the village this {time} is known as the month for drinking, if you're using my translation.) Pressed on what exactly that meant, Maciu said it was the practice from that area that the menfolk would go to their plantations in the mornings to get whatever it was that was to be eaten later in the day and that would be it. There was no serious work. The replanting of whatever had been uprooted or the clearing of land for new plantations would be done after the Christmas and New Year's festivities were well and truly over.

Upon their return to the village, yaqona would be pounded and a session would ensue. They would sit around and talk about the highs and lows of the year that was about to end. And in some instances plan how things would be done differently in the new year. Whether it was actually done was another matter.

Maciu, however it must be pointed out, was not known for his yaqona drinking.

Same time, a few years prior I was part of a group; the Tuesday Club, TC to its initiates, as it was about to mix at one of our favourite yaqona haunts, 26 Vere (Rd) in Laucala Beach Estate.

As the designated mixer for the night set about his task, someone said: "Isa, sa voleka tale ni oti na yabaki." (Isa, the year is about to end.) To which another replied, "and what have you done with your life".

There was some laughter but also some serious faces around that tanoa as we took a moment to reflect on what we had done as individuals and a group to better ourselves and the lot of those whom we had come into contact with that year.

That simple query generated some discussion on whether anyone had done anything or had plans to add to academic qualifications whether locally or through correspondence abroad. Then there was some stock taking on how we measured in terms of being members of our respective religious groups. Conversation carried on in that vein for a while after which we reverted to what we did best, relaxing with topics not so taxing or serious.

Once in a while someone would break out a pack of cards at our too-many-to-count Tuesday Club sessions and we would play a few rounds of warotu or known to others as Fijian trump or tarabu vakaviti.

I remember that the mother of two members, who must have noticed the amount of time we had evident from our numerous pre and post-Tuesday gatherings, suggested we try meditation. For reasons I do not remember, that was not taken up. What I do remember is that it was one of her boys who was not so keen on the idea.

One thing we did seriously apply ourselves to was learning how to go about traditional presentations of sevusevu and the like.

We learnt that if one was to do a presentation at Yasawa-i-rara it would begin with vakaturaga i Vatanitawake vua na turaga na Tui Yasawa. At the village of Tavua on the island of Koro it would be vakaturaga i Cawalevu vua na turaga na Ratu ni Cawa. We had a Bauan in the group and any presentation we did at their Nepani residence would begin with vakaturaga i Kubuna vua na gone turaga na Vunivalu na Tui Kaba. A visitor to Dogotuki in Macuata would say vakaturaga i Rogorogonidromu vua na Marama na Tui Vuna. And for a visitor to Nadrau it would be vakaturaga i Taladrau vua na turaga na Tui Nadrau.

Not long after that the father of two members was taken ill and the practice presentations at the Tuesday sessions came in handy as there were numerous visits from delegations and individuals. All these had to be accepted and then reciprocated in the traditional manner to which the brothers put their new-found skills to good use.

The Tuesday Club does not exist in that form anymore as its members are now in the UK, New Zealand and the various suburbs of Suva, Lami and Nasinu. Maciu has for several years now been back in his village of Nawi after a brief stay at Nacamaki, Koro, Lomaiviti.

Of course, just talking about the year that shortly would have been is of minimal use without resolve to take concrete action to better things in the 12 months that soon will be.

Experience would have taught some of us that setting year-long goals or resolutions does not always translate into the desired results, so why bother at all.

Instead, why not just focus on the days remaining in 2012 that we be the merry and the prosperous in the season's greeting of, "Merry Christmas and a happy New Year".