Day 44, Year 2: Village Life on Dravuni Island
Date: Thursday, June 7, 2007
Weather: Partly Sunny, Periods of Misty Rain
Latitute: 18 degrees 45.5 minutes S
Longitude: 178 degrees 31.1 minutes E
Location: Dravuni Island, Astrolabe Reef, Fiji

Tikotiko kina (once upon a time) . . . there was a man and a woman with a dream of sailing around the world and meeting the wonderful people on all of the islands along the way. Today that dream was played out to its fullest. It is one of the days where you have to pinch yourself to believe that what is happening is real. With that introduction, I will continue with today’s story.

We woke to beautiful blue skies and sunshine. It was perfect snorkeling weather, but Marie of Ranger and I had asked permission to visit the school, so we had to honor that commitment first. Paul took us in and dropped us off and someone met us and walked us to the school complex. That consists of a fenced area with the teacher’s home on the right, the school in the middle with a lawn in front, and the kinder (kindergarten) school building on the left. The teacher was just coming out of her home
and she greeted us warmly. We explained that we had asked the chief for permission to visit the school and she said that was fine. She had on a tailored suit, skirt over the knees and fitted jacket. We talked for a while on her porch and I watched the sixteen children in the school yard. They were very well-behaved although Mistress Siteri pointed out a couple of children that can be a little more challenging than the others. Primary teachers here are addressed by the formal “Mistress” followed
by the first name. It is not until secondary school that teachers are addressed by the last name. She explained that we would first witness the toothbrush drill, followed by the flag ceremony, and then the health inspection. After that we would enter the school for devotions, and then around 9 AM the instruction would begin with Maths (the Fijian word for mathematics). I was like a kid in a candy shoppe watching the school day begin. The flag ceremony was preceded by a very military style exercise
where the children stand at attention and in different positions on the command of the teacher. At all times when lining up, the students have been trained to leave an arm’s length between themselves and the next student. They did this with no prompting from the teacher. Siteri explained that hygiene must be stressed at school because it is not always at home. Every child must have their hair and fingernails inspected by the teacher and results recorded for the Ministry of Health. Each child
must bring a handkerchief to school and if they do not have it, they must immediately return home to get one. When the children entered the school the class one and class two children went in through one door and the class three and class four students through another. But then they all met at one end of the double classroom for devotions. A student provided seats for us and for Siteri. She started the devotions and we all had to close our eyes for a very long prayer. The students then sang
a few devotional hymns and some songs very familiar to us such as Rocka’my Soul in the Bosom of Abraham and My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. Most songs were sung in English and then in Fijian. After the singing the older students went to their side of the classroom where they sat at individual desks and started to work in the Maths Journals. There was also some boardwork that they had to write in their exercise books. Siteri stayed on the end of the classroom with the class one and two children.
The children pulled out their tables and benches and got right to work. The class one work was on one side of the chalkboard and the class two work on the other. The youngest children were to draw circles in their exercise books, labeled with numbers to seven. Their job was to draw the indicated number of objects in the set. The class two children were working with the number 13 today. It was written on the board that 13 is one ten and three ones. And then Siteri lead this group of children
through a written and oral recitation exercise where they explored the various combinations that make 13–yesterday was 12 and tomorrow will be 14.
This went on with the various combinations of 2 and 11, 3 and 10, 4 and 9, 5 and 8, 6 and 7, and finally 0 and 13. The communitive properties were written on the board, copied by the children, and then recited out loud. All this while, the older children were working quietly on their own doing division. Siteri showed Marie and I the English workbooks the students use. Grades one and two are taught in Fijian while the students are learning to read and write English. By grade three, the students
are fairly fluent in English and their reading books looked quite challenging. I was absolutely amazed at how easy it was to manage a classroom of grade one through grade four children. There just weren’t any discipline issues. How different from back in the USA and how wonderful.

Mark and Paul had come to the village at 8:30 AM to work on trying to get a pin out of the crankshaft of the village generator. The pin is broken and they have a new one to put in–just no way to get the old one out. The village generator has not been working for the past six months, but the efforts this morning were unsuccessful. The piece is going to have to be taken to Suva to a machine shop and evidently this doesn’t happen easily. As we were leaving the school, we saw that Paul and Mark
were in Siteri’s home with her husband Moses. Mark and Paul had wandered this direction when they finished working on the crankshaft and Moses invited them in. Siteri walked us over to meet Mark and Paul, and she invited us all to come back at 5 PM for tea. I had asked her to help me translate a couple of children’s books I bought in Suva for our little grandson, and she said we could do this over tea. We then trekked over to the village chief’s temporary home to find his wife Marianne. Our
next task was to make banana bread with her. Yesterday I had thought that we would make both regular whole wheat bread and banana bread, but Marie suggested that maybe just making the banana bread would be a good idea. I agreed that I had been a little too ambitious, so this was our goal. A woman called to us from inside the community building and told us Marianne was taking a shower and would return soon. This person was Emily and she was inside weaving a pandanus floor mat. Emily was obviously
a very spunky member of the community and she invited us in to see her work. She also showed us her beautiful flower gardens next door. She explained that Marianne had to lead the Women’s Prayer Group at the church at 10 AM, so we decided that we would have to come back later to make banana bread. As soon as Marianne came, she agreed with our decision and we said we would return between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon.

We then returned to our boats to prepare for the next adventure of the day. That was a walk to the top of the knoll on the south end of Dravuni. We made the decision to walk first and then snorkel, which ended up to be a mistake, but our thinking was that we would walk and get very hot and then relish the dip in the water. Mark and I picked up Marie and Paul on Ranger and Jean-Pierre and Colette on Safina and headed back to the village to pick up the track leading to the south end of the island.
It was a delightful walk. The walkway leading from the village was lined with planted tropical ornamental plants. There were beautiful black butterflies flitting everywhere. We passed the village pig pens, stands of hemp plants and planted casava (tapioca), and continued on the little path to the top of the mountain. The weather had started to change as we began our trek, and by the time we were climbing the knoll, the views of the surrounding islands and reef were partially obscured by the
overcast skies and misty rain. I’m sure photos would have been more beautiful with sunshine, but we still really enjoyed the climb and the views. Once at the top, we saw someone working in the village gardens on the northeast side of the island. We called “bula” and the person working did the same. While we were sitting at the top of the mountain, the person working in the garden came up to join us. It was “little” David from the village. “Big” David is Emily’s husband, and this young man is
somehow related. He had his bush knife, his sharpening tool wrapped in a plastic bag, and a plastic bottle of water. Like everyone else, he walks barefoot. He became our guide and taught us as much about the island and the surrounding reef as we could absorb in our trek back to the village. When we were almost to the village, he climbed a coconut tree to get some coconuts for Jean-Pierre and Colette. Mark and Paul had already been paid for their crankshaft efforts with coconuts earlier in the
day, so we didn’t need any. When he shimmied back down the tree, he then went to a mango tree and cut a branch lying on the ground. The piece was about 2 feet long. He quickly sharpened both ends, and drove one end into a fallen log. He used the other sharp end to peel away the coconut shell. His dexterity and stength were impressive. Mark tried but was unsucessful. Shucking the shell of a coconut is no easy task.

By the time we returned to our boats we all made the decision that snorkeling without the sun to light the waters was not going to work. So no snorkeling today. Instead, we stopped on Safina for a mid-day break, went to our respective boats for lunch, and then Marie and I returned to the village to make the banana bread. Marianne and some of the other women from the village met us in the community center. They laid down pieces of clean cloth for us to work on and we got busy assembling the ingredients
for whole-meal banana bread. They were very excited that I had whole-meal flour. This is not something they can get easily, but they are convinced that it is better for them. Since Mark and I have been prophets for whole wheat all of our lives together, this seemed most fitting. Even Romero, the village chief wandered in to see what we were doing, and he sat down and stayed to watch the show. We got the ingredients mixed and carried the two loaf pans back to Siteri’s home to bake it. It seems
that only the teacher and the minister’s wife have gas ovens. I had thought that we were going to bake this in a wood-fired outdoor oven, but somehow that idea got lost in the process. Even the gas oven was a bit of challenge. There were no knobs and only an indication of high and low for temperature. We chose “high” and Marie stayed to watch the cooking while I returned to the community center with Marianne. I had thought we were going to clean up the dirty bowls, but she just wanted to sit
and talk. The minister’s wife was there busily copying the recipe over and over for different people. Emily was still weaving the floor mat, but she stopped for a bit just to talk. We talked about children and grandchildren and life in general. Emily asked how old I was and when I told her I am 60 and Marie is 65, she was very surprised. Another woman sitting with us look very old to me, and she said she was 65. Obviously, the slow moving island life is much harder on people than the life we

Once the bread was baked, we went back out to our boats to gather some things we wanted to give to Siteri and to Marianne, and then Mark and Paul returned with us to Siteri’s for tea. She had come home during the hour-long school lunch break and baked a chocolate cake to serve with tea. Another cruiser had given her the recipe for “Crazy Chocolate Cake” that requires no eggs and no milk. These are precious commodities in a village. The cake was delicious and the time we spent with Siteri from
5:00 to 6:00 was very special. Marianne and Romero joined us, but Siteri’s husband, Moses, was sleeping. He would be getting up soon to go out fishing for the whole night. I brought three children’s books I had bought in Suva, written in Fijian. I bought them for our grandson Sam, but I wanted to have them translated. Siteri and Marianne told us the stories in English and the village chief, Romero, sat there and read the books with us. This is when I learned that “tikotiko kina” means “once
upon a time.” It was a fairy tale day with a fairy tale ending. We hugged and kissed and said goodbye to our most gracious hosts. Weather permitting, we will be leaving this island tomorrow and going a short distance to another uninhabited island that is supposed to have good snorkeling. Maybe tomorrow will be the golden snorkeling day. I sure hope so.

070607 Day 44, Astrolabe Reef, Fiji–Primary School Visit on Dravuni Island
070607 Day 44, Astrolabe Reef, Fiji–A Day on Dravuni Island