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Journey of discovery

Matilda Simmons
Monday, February 26, 2018

SHE made the big decision to come back to Fiji to reconnect with her Fijian heritage as well as complete her love for theology.

Meet Mariana Waqa of Lovonivonu, Taveuni. The 34-year-old was born in Suva but grew up in Australia after her parents migrated when she was just six years old.

We met Mariana during the voyage of the traditional vessel, the Uto ni Yalo, to Macuata last month.

For her, the trip was something to get her mind off study, work and the daily hustle of city life.

Her decision to pack up and leave Australia was also to discover Fiji and give back in her own way.

"My parents were not very impressed," she said smiling.

"I was wondering what I was doing with my life. It was an opportunity I took and I've never looked back since."

While looking up the Uto ni Yalo Facebook page, she came across a call from the Uto Ni Yalo Trust for volunteers to be part of its maiden voyage.

"Just when I was making my way across to Fiji, my application to join the trip was approved by the Trust. The voyage has been so amazing including the great people we journeyed with."

Mariana's interest lies in Pacific theology. It's a subject she likes to hold debates on and hold stimulating conversations.

It was something that kept us engrossed on during the two-week voyage around Macuata. Ever articulate and passionate about her area of study, Mariana had some of us thinking at some of the broad range that theology covers.

It was one of the reasons that she decided to move back to Fiji so she could base her research and work on.

"The study of theology which is essentially the study of God is interesting for me because of its vast application to all other fields," she said.

Whether it's religion, politics, science, law, history, literature, the arts, social studies, psychology and so on.

"My own interest in Pacific theology and biblical interpretation is the way in which it affects thoughts, knowledge systems, culture, gender, violence and creation. It's a fascinating area."

In a thought-provoking journal she shared recently, Mariana said she didn't know what lay ahead as she embarked on Fiji.

"I made the decision with no guarantee of employment, a small amount of money and an overdue honours program.

"But I have learned over time that when you make those risky moves which go against the grain of things, often times a new world of opportunities come swinging your way."

Apart from her work, Mariana carries out reading sessions with young children.

On Saturdays she visits them in settlements around Suva to hold a reading group and engaging with them through literature.

"I provide the books through some donations and we sit and read with the kids in vulnerable communities. I want kids to discover the magic of knowledge sharing.

"Coming to Fiji was one of the best decisions and I hope to rediscover what it has to offer me," she said.

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