Friday, September 6, 2013

Great Expectations

I suppose in any exchange between people there are expectations on both sides. This is certainly true when 'kevalangi' (foreigners) arrive by yacht at a village in Fiji. We are usually looking for a novel experience - the more 'authentic' the better. We hope for a glimpse into native culture - a partial understanding of how other people live. The villagers, beginning with the chief, have their own expectations of us. This seems to vary by how much tourist traffic they receive and is no doubt influenced by their previous experiences with yachties.

On a hike across Ono to the village of Naqara, we met Asaeli who showed us his taro plantation.

On our return from Naqara, Aesali climbed one of his palms and brought down a dozen coconuts to share with us for lunch.
The first expectation is that we will perform sevusevu by bringing a bundle of yanqona (kava) to the chief. This is expected of any visitors to a village who plan to spend time in the area under the chief's control, anchoring, fishing, walking, and swimming. Further expectations fall into two broad areas - providing things that are hard to obtain locally but apparently easily available to yachties and providing services that require expertise not found in the village. Some examples from our recent visit to Ono include requests for wine bottles in which to store coconut oil, vegetable seeds, snorkeling gear, fish hooks and lead sinkers, glue and fiberglass to repair boats, cigarettes, and a tent. Services we have heard requested range from repairing broken machete (sele) handles to help repairing boats and assistance in fixing solar systems.

Cutting up drinking nuts for their sweet meat after we have drunk the water. Aesali  told us he is looking for a tent so that he can stay overnight in his plantation and save the walk back to the village. He asked us to put out the word in case someone coming to Ono has one they can part with.

Aesali  also gave us some local cabbage and bok choy that he grows among the taro. He showed us how he keeps some cabbage plants for seed and then broadcasts these seeds among the taro when he replants his crop.
The little children are not exempt from all this and while in most places they are just happy and curious to see strange people, we sometimes get requests for lollies (candy) and balloonies (balloons). In Naturu village on Ono, a group of toddlers ran up to us with delighted smiles yelling 'kevalangi, kevalangi, ballooni, ballooni!. This is likely the result of visiting yachties who came before us bringing small presents for the children. Of course we did our part to uphold the tradition and brought balloons on our next visit :)

In Naturu village, Sera and Iowana strip the inner stem of coconut palm leaves to make brooms. The yellow broom straws are visible at the far right.
Rani has a good attitude about all these expectations. She calls the exchanges we make gift giving and gift receiving, for when we do provide something for a villager we are often given some fruit or vegetables to thank us. And through these exchanges and the time we spend with people we help, we receive what we are looking for - small glimpses into the lives of the people of Fiji.

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