Monday, September 9, 2013

Sunday - Fathers' Day in Fiji

We were invited to the Methodist church service at Naqara on Sunday by several villagers, so we listened for the beat of the "lali" (log dugout drum) and rowed ashore at ten in the morning. We were escorted to a bench set against the side wall close to the front of the church where we felt rather conspicuous. When we tried to move to one of the pews in the back, we were told that guests were expected to sit in the front, so we returned to our front seat. A couple of other kevalangi (foreign) women turned up a little later and joined us. We found out later that they were from a holiday resort at the northwest corner of Ono.

Mili demonstrates the beating of the lali in Naturu village

The service did not begin for another half hour and Chris was fidgeting already. Only about twenty people had shown up by the time the wild haired preacher, who looked a little like the actor James Earl Jones, began his sermon. It was all in Fijian but one could guess there was a fair amount of lecturing going on by the gesticulating and shouting. Someone gave us a Fijian Bible to join in the singing of the psalms and we did our best, probably amusing a few of the onlookers. After a while, an old lady came over to our bench and, in good English, thanked us for joining their small congregation. A wooden carved plate was handed around by a young girl and everyone gave a donation. Then an accounts book was read and people's names and figures were given out. Some people got up to give five or ten dollars - monthly tithes? At one point, the minister directed questions to the children. They must have given the correct answers because he looked approvingly at them. At the end of the service as we shook hands with some of the people and one man exclaimed to Chris "You were singing in Fijian!" If only it were that easy!

Methodist church at Naqara village
Then we were invited to lunch at the Chief's house. It was Fathers' Day in Fiji and also the one year anniversary of his wife's passing. Having seen the piles of taro and a trussed up pig outside his house on Saturday, we knew it was going to be a big affair. Returning from our hike that day, we had passed women loaded with bundles of firewood for the lovo and at night the long boat had motored past us to go fishing. As a small contribution, we brought over some carrot cake for dessert.

Sunday lunch

Inside the house, food platters covered in cloth were laid on chequered runners along the length of a large room with space for people to sit on either side. When the cloth was lifted we gasped in surprise. There were plates of roasted pork, chicken and potato curry, baked fish on taro leaves, tureens of ham and noodle soup, thick rounds of baked taro root, mugs of lolo (coconut cream), little heaps of salt and fresh hot chillies still on the branch. When the women found out I was a vegetarian, they sent over a plate of bele (spinach-like greens) fried with onions and covered with lolo and later, a platter of breaded egglant rolls containing canned tuna. The men and guests were seated first and the women and children waited until we had finished and moved outside. There was not much conversation during the meal as everyone piled up their plates and ate until they were fully satiated.

After the meal, we were mobbed by the children as we headed for the door. They jostled each other, played pranks and posed for our camera. We thanked the ladies for a wonderful meal and asked the kids to come outside and let the hard working women eat in peace. Kids being kids continued their horseplay on the grass and eventually one of the men came over to tell them to be quiet. We thought that was a good time to bid everyone adieu.

Rani tries to protect a little girl from being crushed by the ''mob''

And, they all fall down!

Dua, rua, tolu, jump!

Crushing affection!

The wind had swung to the east, so we sailed back to Nabouwala Bay for a comfortable night at anchor.

Naqara anchorage

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