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Flavours of a village life

Zhera Zawawi
Friday, January 11, 2013

SOMETIMES I wish I could start all over again and re-teach myself about the little joys of this world — which I have so far missed out on in my life.

Raised in United Arab Emirates, catching up with its fast life, and being a city girl through and through, I found the peace of the village of Vadravadra unlike any of the comforts I am accustomed to.

Vadravadra is a small village on Gau Island which is Fiji's fifth largest island located at a distance of approximately 90km east of Viti Levu. It is an area covering dense rainforest, highland, coral reefs and mangroves and has been identified as one of the most important conservation sites in Fiji.

My purpose for this trip was to lend communications support to the WWF South Pacific team for their workshops. I discovered and was surprised to learn that there is an entirely different aspect of communication which I had no clue about and yet the people living here are completely in sync with.

The harmonious existence between the people and their natural environment is a picture of an eternal understanding between man and his flora and fauna without the utterance of a single word.

While the workshops had been an eye opening experience altogether, what has been more inspiring is the dedication of the participants of the Sawaieke district who gathered to show concern for their beautiful forests, the varied fish species and the unique traditional values.

All chieftains, fish wardens, clan leaders, land care representatives, government and non government organisations officials stayed inside one room from morning till evening, for five consecutive days — like a family living under the same roof.

The people of Vadravadra are always up early. The children would walk to school and the men went to the sea to catch fish while some women accompanied them assisting the men with the fish lines and as well as collecting nama (a seaweed) from the reefs. Others went to their farmland which is the main source of livelihood for the people. The ladies were found drying kava roots and coconuts under the sun while the rest weaved mats from pandanus tree.

One of my favorite spots was the kitchen where the women chatted amidst cooking food and brewing tea on socu (stove).

The menu is different each of the three times of the day; sometimes it was rice in coconut milk, dumplings, bread for breakfast and sometimes it was fish soup, fried fish, chop suey and fish curry for lunch and dinner. I could not help contrasting that with my evenings back home, reheating leftovers from the day before so I can keep up with my 'city pursuits'.

As the sun would go down, I could hear the children singing and playing and women preparing for another round of tea time. When I felt home-sick I would quietly sit among the ladies in the kitchen listening to their conversations which had a strange soothing effect on me.

And when I felt dehydrated the boys would get fresh coconut juice from the palms which indeed refreshed us after a day's work and eventually night would capitulate into late night grog sessions which brought the whole village together to celebrate the joys of being together.

nZera Zhawawi is a WWF volunteer.

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