Moving Day! There is paint to be bought so Jill and I set off to catch the bus. We took a roundabout bus tour all around the houses before going back past St Christopher’s 20 minutes after getting on and then another 20 minutes on to the paint shop! Never mind, we had plenty of time to chat and look out at the houses and the people. One of the things that I like are the mottos on the schools that we pass. The one for Nakasi High School I think is particularly down to earth and simple; ” In all things be human”. It made us reflect on the “striving for excellence” that many NZ schools have, including Dio. Very laudable, but have we lost sight of what education and learning is all about? Strive to do your best, yes, but your best may not necessarily have to be achieving Excellence as a grade. Anyway, what is “Excellence”? – a benchmark set against some given criteria that can, at times, be fairly arbitrary!
Anyway, by the time we got back, Jo and the girls had sorted out all the toys, books and clothes we were taking to Ovalau. A quick lunch and soon we were all aboard the bus en route for the ferry. When I say “soon”, I mean in the Fijian sense of the word. I love the laid back pace of life here; it is too hot to do anything fast and so the bus came when it was ready which was about half an hour after we were!
As we drove north the terrain changed; much denser bush because we left the built-up areas. Taller trees with splashes of red at their crowns started to dominate after the scrubbier areas with banana groves and coconut trees. Many of the dwellings were much poorer, more ramshackle, corrugated iron and wood but set in their neat little parcels of land planted with cassava, vegetables and flowers. The mountains looked impressive and I was filled with a longing to get out and climb. I wonder if there are treks in them thar ‘ills? The trip across on the RO-RO was very pleasant; the islands dotted around the ocean are bright splodges of green in the dark blue of the water. The ferry manoeuvred it’s way out of the port through the shallows where little mini islands of mangrove stand proud. We basked in the sunshine and it almost felt like we were on holiday as we chugged across the sheltered stretch of water to Ovalau. The bus drove us straight off the ferry and on to Bureta village where a welcoming committee awaited!
The village is nestled in a valley surrounded by hills – not very big but they look like they might be limestone – I must check – maybe there are caves?! We were taken to the house of one of the main families who were to be our hosts for the next two days while someone went to find Marama who is our main contact here. Jo and Jill were welcomed as old friends as they had visited last year, and the rest of us were warmly welcomed and introduced. We were relieved to learn that we were all to stay in the same house (apart from Jill, who was chief guest and had the honour of staying with Donato and Vany) which belonged to Marama’s nice who was also called Marama. Dinner was lavish – the women had clearly been hard at work all day preparing a feast. There was soup, which was delicious, home made bread, chicken curry, chicken stir fry with veg and noodles, rice and taro – a root vegetable which is the staple diet of the islands. It is a strange fibrous vegetable with not a lot of flavour, but eaten with the soup it was quite palatable.
It was rather unnerving and a little uncomfortable as our hosts did not eat with us but waited until we had finished. Nevertheless, we ate heartily as we were hungry and the food really was excellent. We stayed and chatted for a while and they asked to see the things that we had brought for the kindergarten. It was funny because Sola, one of the young boys (probably around 19/20) who had been helping in the kitchen and was very chatty and friendly, ended up sitting on the floor with the girls eagerly unwrapping the boxes and playing with the toys we had brought! Donato is the main man of the house, is wheelchair bound and he is apparently the main driver of the village and instrumental in getting things like the kindergarten built. He will not be able to get to the kindergarten tomorrow so wanted to see the toys this evening.
So we are all now in bed; I can hear the gentle snores of the girls next door as they sleep marae style on mattresses. Jo and I have our own rooms although my bed is as hard as aboard! Outside I hear the clicks of the geckos and the rhythmic hum of the cicadas. There is also the steady thumping of the village men pounding the cava roots. Tomorrow promises to be busy so I guess I should try to sleep a little too before the cockerels start!