Fiji-Rotuma Trip Highlights (May 29-June 11 2004)
Monday, May 31
Visited with Maniue Vilsoni and his family at his new home on the campus of the Fiji College of Advanced Education (formerly Nasinu Teacher’s College). Maniue’s children were all there including Phillip, Moira, Harieta, and Sylvia. Moira’s baby AnnMaree is six months old and very cute. We all sat on the floor around her.
Maniue, who had been teaching at Marist High School in Suva, completed a post-baccalaureate degree and was offered a position at the Fiji College of Advanced Education at Nasinu, where he teaches language, literature, and teaching methods. There are 10 Rotuman students there, only four of whom are fluent in Rotuman; Manu is teaching the others conversational Rotuman.
Back home at John and Sue Tevita’s, we attended Lisa Tevita’s 22nd birthday party in the afternoon with other family members and friends.
Tuesday, 1 June
In the evening we went to Village 6 Cinema in town to attend a fund-raiser screening of The Land Has Eyes. Prior to the screening they held a reception in the lobby. We met Emily, who plays Hanisi in the movie. We also saw John-John Fatiaki, Dr. John’s son, who plays Noa in the movie: he’s much taller now and has shorter, darker hair. There was brief ceremony, with Maniue acting as master of ceremonies (they had planned to perform a tautoga but couldn’t get a tape player for the back-up music—we talked to Emotama Pene while he was trying to organize the performance).
The movie went over very well. The motorbike scene at the wedding was a real hit. Afterwards Vili introduced the actors who were present: John, Maniue, Emily, John-John (whose 14th birthday it was), and one or two others.
Wednesday June 2
Our main purpose in making this trip was to accompany Vilsoni and Jeannette Hereniko, who intended to show the final version of The Land Has Eyes to the people of Rotuma as a way of thanking them for all the support given while the movie was being filmed in 2001. We had been trying unsuccessfully to rent a video projector to bring to Rotuma and were getting desperate. Our flight to Rotuma was leaving at noon and it looked like we were going to have to show the film on TV screens, which doesn’t do it justice at all. The cost of renting a projector, if we could find one, was going to be much more than we could afford. But that morning Vili went over to the USP media center and talked them into lending us a projector and screen for $400 for the week, which between us we were able to manage.
At the Nausori Airport we spotted Monifa Fiu talking with a Rotuman man and two Rotuman women and went over to greet her; then we talked with the man who turned out to be Sukamanu Pene (Ofa’s son), married to Marie (who works at USP). He has been living away from Rotuma but is now a fa ‘es ho’aga in Itu’muta.
Vili and Jeannette arrived at the airport with a huge long screen and big metal stand plus the projector. They were unable to get the screen & stand on the plane, but Vili carried the projector on. The plane left about 10 minutes late and took an hour & forty-five minutes. It was a pretty good flight until about 30 minutes away from Rotuma when we hit severe turbulence, tossing the plane from side to side and causing sudden drops. It lasted long enough (just a few minutes) for one fa fisi to throw up and several of us to think about doing so.
Elisapeti Inia was at the airport to greet us with Kevin, from Tuakoi (he’s home on holiday from FIT where he’s studying electrical engineering), whom she has retained as our driver for the week; and Tipo, also from Tuakoi. We greeted G/Maraf & Sani, and Sani’s sister Violet, as well as several other friends. Kevin drove us to Elisapeti’s house in Savlei, where we settled in.
At 4:30 Kevin came back and took us to the Hereniko’s home in Mea. Alan went to the community hall in Salvaka with Vili to set up the equipment to show the film, and Jan stayed and chatted with Elisapeti and Jeannette. About 6 p.m. the ladies walked over to the hall and were surprised to find it already full of people awaiting the movie. The doctor (Sumasafu Manueli) had provided a thick white sheet, which we hung on a ping-pong table, and someone else loaned us two speakers for the week. As soon as Kevin, Vili & Alan had things ready, they started the screening (6:10), although a few people, including Vili’s Aunty Sa’a, and Voi, who played Hapati in the film, hadn’t arrived yet (they came a few minutes after the film began). People laughed hard whenever they saw someone they knew--sometimes you couldn’t even hear the dialog they were laughing so loud. They clapped afterwards and seemed to have really enjoyed it. There were no glitches in the projection at all (though there had been a few the previous night in Suva). Elajia gave a thanks, after Vili thanked people. During the film screening, it had started raining and blowing very hard.
We went back to Va’s and had a lovely dinner of fish, he’e in coconut milk, pork, chicken, and a‘ana. Harieta Katafono, Sa’a, Elajia, and Voi ate with us and we discussed the parts of the film and how it was edited.
About 9:30 we decided to head home, because the lights were going to be turned off at 10. We got a short way before we ran into an obstruction: a mass of branches and vines had fallen right across the road. We either had to get some help to clear it, or drive all the way around the island the other direction. We drove back to Mea to let them know, and Elajia and another man got in the back of Kevin’s truck and we went to Hofea and got a chain saw. Then they and Kevin cleared the way enough to get through (but left some vines still strung across the road).
When we got back to Savlei Elisapeti turned on the solar-powered lights and we got ready for bed. We turned in about 11 p.m. We left the windows open, but about 2 a.m. a gust of wind blew over the vase of flowers on the table by our bed. Jan mopped it up, but about 3 a.m. the rain was blowing through the windows, so Alan dressed and went outside and closed them. The side window kept blowing open and shut (sounding like a resonant drum when it did so) but even that we eventually got used to, enough for fitful sleep until 7 a.m.
Thursday, June 3
We got up and took a cold shower, and had breakfast with Elisapeti. After breakfast we were still feeling weary from the previous day, so took a nap for an hour or so under the mosquito net. After getting up again, we took out the computer and started to catch up with our journal. Shortly before noon Elisapeti called us for lunch (boiled eggs, breadfruit, a‘ana, vati & pork in tahroro, cole slaw, canned tuna, & boiled banana in coconut sauce for dessert.)
Kevin picked us up as arranged at 1:35--he was a few minutes late, he said, because he had to take Jeannette to the hospital. She & Vili had been walking on the beach, and she stepped between some rocks and twisted her ankle. Vili tried to carry her but they both fell, and she hurt her neck & shoulder. Vili, miraculously, just fell in the sand and only got a few scratches. We said we would stop in at the hospital to see how they were.
We first stopped in Salosa, Itu‘muta, and fortunately Sarote was just getting home. We greeted her and said we’d like to come over on Sunday to visit with her and Sakimi. She asked if we could come in the morning and stay all day--for morning tea, lunch, and dinner. We said we would come about 10 a.m., after they get back from church.
Then we stopped at the hospital and found Jeannette lying in bed with her foot elevated and an ice pack on her head. Vili sat near her with sand still caked on his face. They told us how it happened, and then the nurse came to take x-rays. Fortunately, nothing was broken; just her ankle sprained. We took Vili back to Mea to get cleaned up and rest. The doctor came along in the car, to pick up a wheelchair further down the road; Kevin dropped us at Malhaha High School at 2 p.m. where a sports day was in process, but the vice principal greeted us and asked how she could help us. We told her that we wanted to collect the submissions to the Alan ma Jan Literary Competition, and she called over the English teacher, Dineshwar Ram, who had coordinated the poetry entries. He walked us over to the teachers’ lounge and handed over the 5 English and 5 Rotuman poetry entries that had been selected. There were no short story entrants. Dinesh had enlisted the aid of two Rotuman teachers to help with selecting the Rotuman entries. Master Frank was one of them, and he came and talked with us, too. Both were very appreciative of this way of encouraging the young people to write and aspire to something (which Vili has modeled). They asked whether the film could be shown at the school, but we said Tipo had to ask Vili about that.
At 3 pm Kevin picked us up and dropped us off in Mea. We chatted with Vili and his sister Vamarasi for a few minutes before going next door to interview Voi, who played Hapati in the film. Alan videotaped the interview. When we went back, Va gave us Jeannette’s sweater and socks to take to her at the hospital. Jeannette was pleased to have visitors, as she was disappointed to be stuck in the hospital overnight. Then we went home for an hour, had a cup of coffee, and set out for Motusa.
There was a problem in Motusa because the man who had said he would provide the generator and fuel didn’t come through. Sarote, who is the Headmistress at Motusa School (and plays a teacher in the film) had some men fetch the school generator and an extension cord and it all worked.
Elisapeti had been disappointed the night before when people didn’t hang around after the film to thank Vili, so she decided she wanted to say something about it before the film started. But when she stood up to talk, some of the young people in the back of the hall kept talking until Gagaj Markav, who has a good loud voice, asked them to pipe down. Elisapeti explained to the people that the film would be shown all over the world at prestigious film festivals where people would pay money to see it, and that they were so lucky to have it brought to them and to see if for free.
The audience was pretty raucous and laughed over a lot of the lines; in fact they seemed to be reacting to the subtitles so perhaps they were having to read rather than hear it. Most of the people left immediately afterwards.
Friday June 4
Elisapeti and we were invited to the anniversary celebration of the arrival of the Tongan missionaries by their descendants; it was held at Lia & Vafo’ou Jare’s place in Itu‘muta. Vafo’ou had asked us to come at 7 a.m. for breakfast (tea and cakes), but Elisapeti said the service would start at 9 a.m. so we decided to eat breakfast (fruit) at home and show up in time for the service.
When we got to Itu’muta we greeted Lia and Vafo’ou, and Gagaj Tamanao, who acted as MC. Through the course of the morning we greeted Harieta Bennett’s brother & sister-in-law, Katoagtau and Jioje; Samo Pene (to whom we expressed our condolences on the death of his wife, Rarikue; he said “She was blind and now she’s at rest”); Torika and John Croker (whom we had met last year when we went to see Flora Croker after Ian’s death)--John asked Jan to dance and later danced with Torika, swing-style--he was quite a good dancer! We also met Violet again. Tupou Taukave arrived and said she had missed the film last night because she has a mapiga to look after. Later, Vicente Makrava arrived and he and Alan had a chance to talk.
Alan asked Makrava what had happened with regard to the closure of the Mobil station, and he said that Mobil had decided the operation was unprofitable, so it has been closed down until someone else takes it over. Mobil is also dismantling the storage facility in Fapufa and taking the tanks back. So the only distributors of fuel on the island are now the Two Sisters, who get it via ship in 44-gallon drums.
Mac also said that copra isn’t contributing much to the economy of the island any more because there’s no one on island who can afford to buy the raw copra in bulk and process it. He mentioned a proposed scheme involving a revolving fund whereby the copra producers could be paid in a more timely fashion, but it hasn’t been implemented.
After about an hour, Mac said he had to go. Just after he left, Kevin showed up, saying that Vili was at the high school showing the film. We decided to go back to Savlei and get the camcorder to go and record the students’ reactions. We got to Malhaha just about 10 minutes before the film ended. Alan taped Vili’s Q&A session with the students. Tipo, the principal, spoke of how his face was awash with tears throughout the movie and thanked Vili profoundly. The assistant principal also said she had cried and tried to hide her tears from the students, so they wouldn’t tease her (they did notice Tipo crying and pointed it out to each other). Dinesh and some of the other teachers thanked us afterwards. We took Vili home and saw Jeannette and told her about how it had gone; she was feeling better although she said she had a big bump on her head. We had oranges and bananas (which served as our lunch, since we had left the Tongan celebration before lunch was served) and chilled Fiji water.
Elisapeti and we got home in time for a quick shower before heading out to Noa’tau. Again we stopped at Mea and picked up Jeannette and Vili and the equipment. We didn’t reach Sani & Maraf’s place until 5:30 (they had invited us to come for dinner at 5 p.m.) but dinner was served shortly thereafter--fish in tahroro, pork, sweet and sour pork, a kind of beef stew, a baked bean casserole with mashed potatoes and cheese on top, marama’ana (fekei) and a‘ana. For dessert Sani served fruit with jello (bananas, vi, and pawpaw), and po‘oi (grated vi in coconut cream). The other two guests were Gagaj Fonman (he is Lavenia Coy’s older sister’s son), and Sagaitu (brother of Feagai; he lives in Suva and his wife is from Mea). The latter was invited to give the welcome speech before the film, and he was effusive, thanking both Alan and Vili (and their wives, Jan and Jeannette) for all the work on behalf of the Rotuman people.
The hall had its own generator so there was no problem setting up. The kids were very excited when we first arrived (they applauded our entry) and were chattering loudly until Makrava told them to behave. The crowd was actually very subdued in their reactions (and as a result seemed to follow the story quite well--that and the fact that high school students in the audience had already seen the film and were tuned in to it). Before and after, Vili gave a speech of thanks.
Afterwards we went back to Sani & Maraf’s for a hot drink and fruitcake, and more conversation. Sagaitu and Fonman talked quite a bit about the film. About 9:30 we headed home, dropping Vili & Jeannette and the equipment in Mea.
Saturday June 5
Kevin came by at 4 p.m. to pick up Alan & they went to Mea, where Alan videotaped some scenes with Vili of the set for The Land Has Eyes, which is now used by a neighboring family. At 5:30 Kevin tooki us to Pepjei, where the film was to be shown. When we arrived in Pepjei the community hall was packed to capacity and people were standing outside the building trying to find a place to view the film. Vili had to actually move some people in order to set up the table for the projector. One of subchiefs from Pepjei told us that Gagaj Mora, the district chief, wanted us to go to his place before the movie started to have a meal that had been prepared for us. We went to his house and ate (‘ikou, poat kau, cassava, a delicious chutney) and then went back to the hall. It was a beautiful evening. The sky was awash with stars & the Milky Way splashed across the heavens like a gossamer cloud. A bit later the moon came up over the horizon like a gigantic orange ball, and as it rose it created a shimmering path across the sea to the beach. It was awesome. After the movie finished everyone dispersed and Kevin took us back to Savlei, where Elisapeti had prepared a meal. We got there at 9 p.m., just as the village generator was turned off, but fortunately she had the solar light.
She and Tipo had been cooking all day. They boiled eggs; prepared vati and cassava; baked a fruit cake and some potatoes; and made two “pizzas” with a “crust” from breadfruit and corn flour, and a filling of canned mutton and tomato sauce, topped with grated cheese. They also boiled a young chicken. Anyway, the chicken was the tenderest local chicken we’ve ever had. She also served a bowl of Vienna sausage, sliced Campie, and beans. For dessert she made sago with cooked banana and coconut cream (plus the fruit cake). She had invited the two subchiefs but they had to go to Oinafa for the funeral of Makarita, who is from Savlei but was married to Fuata Varea. She died on Saturday and was buried Sunday morning. Elisapeti also invited the doctor and Kevin for dinner, but they had to go somewhere else first and came later; fortunately there was still some food left.
Sunday June 6
Kevin picked us up at 9:45 and dropped Elisapeti at Motusa church; she saw Vili there. We dropped our bags off at Maftoa and greeted Gagaj Katoagtau, telling him we’d be back to spend the night after ‘omoe at Salosa. Kevin dropped us at Sarote & Sakimi’s at 10 a.m. and we went in and sat with Sarote till 1:30, having coffee and eggs and toast. Later Sita (daughter of Marsefo Sakimi) came by and we chatted. It was getting hot so we moved our chairs outside facing the sea and spread two mats. For lunch Sarote served cucumbers, eggs, boiled potatoes, breadfruit, three kinds of ‘ikou (ata, poat kau, and tinned fish), chicken, and curry, plus a boiled haunch of pork. Sarote & Sakimi’s sigoa, Moiro, fanned and brought us lemon drink, oranges, and bananas. (They named her Moiro because she was born on Palm Sunday, and in Rotuma they use the branches of the Moiro to wave as palm fronds.)
About 3 p.m. we walked up to Maftoa to shower and nap. About 5:15 we went downstairs and chatted with Samo, G/Katoagtau, and Joije, mostly about the film. G/Katoagtau had an insight into why people laughed so much: the young people especially see the depiction of the lifestyle in the film as very old-fashioned, like the clothing, the fly whisk, the Rotuman-style house, even cutting copra--very few people cut copra these days. Sita echoed this later, over dinner: she said most people have either cement-block houses or prefabricated wooden houses nowadays. Kids are growing up today with electric lights and they want to wear fashionable clothes. The film shows things as they were in the 1960s.
At 6 p.m. we walked back down to Salosa. Aisea Akerio (Marsefo’s husband) was there with two of his mapiga. There was more cucumber, plus some eggplant; chicken with vati; eggs; fried potato slices; and ‘ikou ata. They offered us coffee or milo afterwards but we asked for rau mori. Sakimi borrowed a truck to take Sita back to Losa, and everybody piled in to go along for the ride--us included. Only Sarote, Aisea, and his mapiga stayed back.
We got back to Maftoa about 8:15, but the water was already off so we couldn’t shower. There was a bottle of water on the sink, which we used to wash our hands. We read for a few minutes until the lights went off at 9 p.m. It was a very still night, but we finally managed to fall asleep. The lali woke us at 4 a.m. and again at 4:20, but whatever service was held took place out of earshot, so we slept in till nearly 7 a.m.
Monday June 7
We had a nice shower and breakfasted on scones and margarine (Alan), a granola bar (Jan), and bananas and oranges, with a cup of coffee. (Samo had turned on the fridge and the gas for the stove for us, and made sure we had toilet paper and soap. He offered us fish and taro for breakfast, but we declined, and he brought us freshly baked scones that his daughter Emily made instead.)
Kevin picked us up and we stopped first at Motusa school and talked to Sarote about entries for the literary competition; she said the teacher who was supposed to bring the poems to school hadn’t turned up that day, but that she would make sure we got them tomorrow. (Sarote is camping out at the school with the class six students who are studying for the Fiji Intermediate Exam.) Sarote said the other schools had no entries, so that meant we didn’t have to go around to the other primary schools. Instead we went to the Post Office shop at Ahau to buy camphor for our suitcase.
We stopped at the hospital and found Fasiu Josefa from Oinafa in a wheelchair on the verandah. We offered to pick him up this evening and take him to the movie in Malhaha.
When we got home, Elisapeti and Alan walked over to the Savlei community hall where the women were weaving, and took them some panikeke with jam. En route they also greeted Amei and Aisea Furivai. Jan stayed back out of the sun.
We had a quiet afternoon, reading and doing crossword puzzles and napping. Elisapeti fixed vati for lunch, as well as cooked eggplant with tuna, and breadfruit. In mid-afternoon she surprised us with a batch of french fries! and deep-fried breadfruit chips as well, with tomato sauce. We had a coconut to drink.
Kevin came to get us at 5:30. We stopped in Ahau to pick up Fasiu, who was still at the hospital, and Marieta (wife of Taito) from Oinafa was there, helping care for an old lady from Losa who was sick (Varea). Marieta greeted us warmly. Then we stopped at Mea just to let them know Kevin would drop us in Malhaha and then come back to get Vili & Jeannette and the equipment. While there we got help setting up the screen. At first they brought 2 smallish blackboards, but then nailed up 3 long boards (1” x 8” by about 15 feet), on which we tacked the sheet. When Vili and Kevin got back they set up the projector. Everything was ready by 6:40, and Vili asked the chief whether to wait until the scheduled time of 7 p.m. or to go ahead--he said go ahead. Vili gave a brief introduction, at which people applauded, and the show began. The audience was very intent; only the young boys were a little rowdy and laughing hard whenever Malhaha people came on screen. Afterwards they applauded and most of them even waited while the credits rolled. We stayed and chatted with several people, including Voi and Tokoara from Sauhata. They both greeted us warmly, and Tokoara hugged Jan several times and said “God bless you,” after she learned that we had arranged to give Fasiu a ride.
Jan sat outside during the movie, next to Aliti, the daughter of Rave Fonmoa. We remembered visiting Aliti in Rave’s house when it was first built--the first kit house on Rotuma, we think. Rave is in Suva at the moment; he hurt his leg and went for treatment.
We gave Violet a ride back to her house in the gaogao beyond Malhaha proper (near the airport), and then dropped Fasiu off at the hospital again. Marieta and a nurse and Vaivao (the short woman who lives at Ahau) were there, and Vaivao ran down and gave each of us a big happy hug. Her eyes were sparkling. We congratulated her on her marriage.
We had a snack when we got home (by the solar light): Alan had instant oatmeal with dried fruit, and Jan had tan sun ata. It was a slightly cooler night (it rained, but didn’t blow in).
Tuesday June 8
We woke about 6 a.m. and Jan wasn’t feeling well, so decided not to go on a drive around the island that Vili and Jeannette had planned. Elisapeti packed Alan a good lunch of cooked vegetables (cabbage and carrots) and breadfruit, plus a bottle of water, a box of cookies for the others, and a plastic tablecloth. We had our usual breakfast, and Alan set off at 8:30 a.m. After picking up Vili and Jeannette in Mea our first stop was at Fuli‘u, where Vili went for a swim. Next we stopped at the Two Sisters shop in Oinafa. From there we went to Noa‘tau, where we happened to see Sagaitu sitting by the side of the road. We stopped to say hello and he took us over to the beach opposite Afgaha and Husia he Rua and began telling us about local legends. He told us that Hanitemaus actually landed at Noa‘tau first, and then he dissected Rotuman names into syllables to determine their meanings. Vili’s plan was for us to picnic at the lagoon off Solkope, where Kevin dropped us off while he went back for Vili’s sandals (which he left on the beach), but we couldn’t find a decent place sit for a picnic, so we decided to go to Islepi instead.
On the way we stopped at Rocky Point to say hello to Hiagi, who was in a wheelchair because he had both feet amputated as a result of acute diabetes. His wife, Lita, was there as well. Hiagi looked remarkably good and was obviously delighted with our visit. He had a twinkle in his eye and seemed optimistic about his future. He expects to be fitted with prostheses for his legs so that he’ll be able to walk again. We ordered a couple of beers and spent a pleasant half hour chatting. Hiagi said they no longer host parties at Rocky Point because it’s too much trouble cleaning up after them. He has some men helping him to get his garden going again and he supervises them from his wheelchair.
On the way to Islepi we saw Gagaj Titofag & his wife, Susau, who was weaving a mat, sitting on their verandah and stopped to say hello. When we got to Savlei I went in to see if Jan would like to join us for our picnic at Islepi and she agreed to come with us although she had already eaten lunch. Just at that point it started raining. By the time we got to the beach it was raining steadily, so we just opened the back of the van and got our food from there, while holding umbrellas. The beach was just beautiful--white sand stretching in a graceful arc. Off to the right there was a wonderful surf breaking, and beyond that the waves were crashing against the cliff. Kevin said the land belongs to the district, not to any one family, although a couple of families previously claimed it. This is the spot Peter Mario wants to see with an eye to putting up a hotel, although Makrava told us it’s not likely to happen.
We got back in the car and drove around Itu‘muta so Jeannette could see it, then took them back to Mea. We got home about 2:30 and rested. That evening Kevin took us to Hapmak where we showed the film for a second time. When we got there, we took time to set things up before going to the fa hua’i’s place where Emily’s father and mother greeted us (Elajia is the tuirara and in charge of the church while the fa hua‘i is in Suva). The village seemed to have prepared a potluck dinner, including yams and rice, green lumu in coconut milk with onion & chili (like ‘ia hal), dahl, fried fish, ‘ikou, chicken, and several other dishes. Harieta Katafono sat with us and chatted during dinner.
During the film we stood outside, and then sat for a while in Kevin’s truck until he needed it to go to Malhaha, so we went along for the ride. We came back and waited till the film was over, disassembled the set up, loaded the car for Kevin to take Vili & Jeannette back, and waited for the car to return and take us to Savlei. Voi Fesaitu came to tell us goodbye, saying he probably wouldn’t see us on Wednesday because he was going to Makereta’s teran lima in Oinafa, but we told him we were going too. We also sat for a while with Ritie (who plays the mother in the movie).
Wednesday June 9
We got up at 10 to 6 a.m., showered and dressed, and finished packing. Elisapeti fixed us a bowl of fruit, and we had oatmeal with dried fruit, and tea. Kevin came to get us at 7:30 as arranged, and we drove around Juju/Pepjei to Oinafa. We spotted the grave at Paptea cemetery where the women were waiting for the others to come and put up the tefui. We got to Utmarae about 8 a.m., got out of the truck, and slowly walked toward the house. We spotted Voi, who was there as part of the Sauhata la‘o (he is the son of Nofaga and Manao). He told us that Fuata was in the house, so we walked slowly up and Elisapeti called out. Fuata’s son Jione was there and came into the living room pulling on a clean t-shirt. He said he would be going back to Suva on the plane today. Then his sister Faga came in; Elisapeti asked if Faga had been there when we lived in Oinafa but she said no; she had also come just recently to stay when her mother got ill.
Fuata came in and greeted us both warmly; he looks pretty much the same. He invited us to sit on the two chairs and Faga asked if we would like a cup of tea. We explained that Jan is allergic to milk and asked for plain hot water. Then she asked if we liked margarine, butter, or jam, and we explained that Jan also couldn’t eat wheat. So she went and just got us hot water.
While we were sitting there, we saw Fuata’s brother Dr. Sakio (now Gagaj Niomfag) outside. He came in and we stood and greeted him. He said he had come to Rotuma on the same boat with Alan in 1959. They compared beards. Then he invited us to sit down. He told us he has a 21-year-old son in Suva and a daughter, married to a German man who is a chef. His daughter and her husband currently live in Cairo, Egypt. She’s been away 12 years but manages to come back to Rotuma for Christmas. While we were talking, Kijiana Vilsoni came in and gave us both a big hug. Later, Victor Atalifo came to greet us while we were saying goodbye to Niomfag, and gave us a big hug, as did Torika.
Kevin drove us back; we stopped at the cemetery, where we met Akanisi (Sefeti’s sister, Jioje Fonmoa’s mother) and a younger woman named Amoe whom Makareta had raised. Amoe had flown over with us last Wednesday and was gratified that Makareta still recognized her, but said that she had been in a great deal of pain so her death had been merciful.
When we got back to Savlei, Tipo greeted us with the news that today’s flight was cancelled but that it would come tomorrow. We phoned Vili and confirmed the news, and later called the airport and were told that the plane had a mechanical problem. We had a snack of hot water and peanut butter on crackers with some dried fruit, and laid down. Elisapeti reheated the vegetable mixture and we had that with breadfruit for lunch, and some left over cooked bananas with sago and coconut cream for dessert. We laid down again and read and slept until 3:30. When we got up Tipo made us some coffee, breadfruit chips, and Elisapeti cooked some rice noodles which she served with a mayonnaise, vinegar & onion sauce. Alan then interviewed Elisapeti about the film; she talked about the stick she used as han mane‘ak su and the war club used by the warrior woman. Kevin came by about 5 p.m. and Elisapeti cooked him a batch of french fries, which he ate with pleasure.
At about 5:30 we went to Ahau where Vili had agreed to show the film at the pavilion, but it was raining and the floor was wet. Kevin went to Mea to pick up Vili & Jeannette, Va & Fatiaki. Nothing had been done to set up a screen on the pavilion, so when Alan met Tupou Taukave, who had asked Vili to show the film at Ahau, he suggested getting a ping-pong tabletop to use as backing for a screen. But the conditions made it increasingly clear that showing the film at the pavilion was not a good idea, so Alan went over to the hospital to check out the possibility of showing the film on the hospital verandah, which provided more shelter. The doctor was very accommodating and helped to tack up a sheet at one end of the verandah and brought out a number of benches and chairs for people to sit on. The screening went really well. Gagaj Tamanao from Itu’muta came and sat with the children up front & told them to keep quiet. Elisapeti also sat with them and gave them a brief lecture on proper decorum. All in all they behaved very well. Dr Taukave had gone to Motusa to get a ping-pong tabletop & brought it to the pavilion, but Alan explained the situation and he was understanding; he came to the film a short while after it started and stood in back. Several people stood in the rain under umbrellas and watched the entire film from there, although there was space for them on the verandah. A few people watched it from the reverse side of the screen, which had no backing. After the film was over Tupou & Dr Taukave expressed great appreciation; they said they first heard about the film when they were visiting their daughter in Sacramento. They gave us two pineapples from their own garden and said they would also send some to Vili & Jeannette.
Thursday, June 10
It had been a very rainy night; it rained heavily and steadily for several hours. But when morning finally came it was calm and sunny. We got up at 6:30, showered, and ate breakfast. Elisapeti had cut up the pineapple and some vi, along with banana and pawpaw. We sat around and read until 11 a.m., then had an early lunch: two poor little chickens boiled--their major contribution was the broth to cook the vati, as their skeletons had very little meat on them. Tipo had brought some long beans, and Elisapeti served those boiled over pasta with mayonnaise. She also served ulu chips, and we finished with a wedge of papaya, topped by a bit of pineapple and a spoonful of sago. Then we got ready to go to the airport and waited for Kevin. However, he was 45 minutes late because he was out counting taro plants for the Youth Committee (26,000 he said for Tuakai alone).
We got to the airport just before 1 p.m. Kevin dropped us and and went to get Vili and Jeannette. We spent time talking with Torika, Va, Fuata, Sani & Maraf, Tipo, and Elisapeti; Firipo (from Lopta) showed up briefly and told us he’s been watching BBC via satellite, courtesy of the huge satellite dish that Semesi and Ursula provided. Across the road is an array of solar panels. Sani gave us a write-up about the May 15 Rotuma day celebration for the website/ newsletter. Va went home and got a mat, which she and Vili and Tipo and another woman then sat on and played cards.
The plane arrived at 2:30 but had to refuel so didn’t take off till 3:15 or so. The pilot said it might be a little bumpy as we got toward Suva, but it wasn’t bad at all. John was there to pick us up, and dinner was ready shortly after we got home. Sue had had a long day at school with parent-teacher-child meetings (44 of 45 from one class, and 28 of 29 from another). We were also exhausted, so we went to bed at 8:15. (We tried to call Elisapeti to let her know we had arrived safely, but the phone didn’t work.)
Friday, June 11
We spent the day packing and making phone calls to people we weren’t otherwise able to meet in Suva, having spent an extra day on Rotuma. When we left for Nausori Airport around 4 p.m. it was still raining. The entire time we spent in Suva it had been raining; we hadn’t seen the sun even once! The flight to Nadi was smooth enough, and we had four hours to relax at Nadi Airport before taking our Air Pacific flight back home to Hawai‘i. All in all we had a great time seeing friends and enjoying the island atmosphere.
Vili and Jeannette showed The Land Has Eyes twice after returning to Fiji. On Thursday evening they showed it at USP to around 300 people, and on Friday evening, before taking the same flight as we did back to Hawai‘i, they showed it at the Mocambo Hotel in Nadi to about 200 more people. After staying at home in Hawai‘i for only a couple of days they have left for Russia where The Land Has Eyes will be screened at the Moscow Film Festival. The film is introducing people all over the world to Rotuma, and they couldn’t have a better introduction!