Day 47, Year 2: Sunday in the Village of Vacaleya Date: Sunday, June 10, 2007 Weather: Picture Perfect South Pacific Day Location: Vagola Bay, Kadavu Island, Fiji Well, we are still in Vagola Bay and we have another evening with a fabulously star-filled sky. Our day today in the village of Vacaleya was truly amazing and when we all returned to our boats, none of us felt as if we should move on until tomorrow. So the plan is to leave here around 10 AM and head for Koralevu Bay. At 9 AM this morning we got in the dinghy and motored to shore. We could see a boat tied in an entrance into the mangroves, and that was our first destination. Jean-Pierre and Colette were already there and Paul, Marie, Mark, and I arrived and tied the dinghy to a tree. The men had on long pants and the woman had on long skirts as dictated by local custom, and getting out of a dinghy in shallow water with long clothes on is challenging. When we got ashore we met Aceni (pronounced Athen). He is probably in his early to mid-thirties and lives in the house at the edge of the mangrove with his wife and his “auntie.” He was very well-spoken and obviously very intelligent. He explained that he would walk with us over the hill to the village of Vacaleya. There we would attend a Methodist Church service and then present our sevusevu to the turangi or chief. That plan got modified as the day progressed, but at this point, we started the trek up the hill and across the island. We were in rainforest and the trek was a very narrow, and sometimes muddy path. We could hear the “whoo-whoo” sound of the Fiji pigeon–a little like the call of a mourning dove and an owl combined, and the sound of the Kadavu parrot (more cat-like than bird). As Aceni led us he often mocked the bird sounds or just started singing. We came to a vista of an inland valley that was beautiful and then rose to the top of the hill and saw the bay on the other side of the hill and the reef beyond. The vista was so beautiful, enhanced by the almost cloudless blue skies. It was a picture-perfect day. We then entered the village. Aceni stopped and asked us to take off our backpacks. It is very disrespectful to enter a village with a backpack, hat, or sunglasses on, and women must have on long skirts and men should have pants below the knee. Colette had on pants, but pulled out a sula to wrap around at Aceni’s prompting. We have read that you can never go into a village on Sunday, but Aceni assured us that it was fine with his sponsorship. The village was on a hilltop, not on the beach as other villages have been, and he explained that this village had once been down on the bay but had been moved to higher ground during World War II when many villagers contracted measles. Almost two-thirds of the people died, so the remaining moved to higher ground feeling it was healthier. It was a very clean and neat village with the church at its center. There was a concrete walkway from the church leading through the village and Aceni explained that the walkway had been built by the Candadian government. Jean-Pierre and Colette were excited about this since they are from Montreal. We walked on the paved walkway to the home of Albert and his family. Albert is not the chief of the village but is the son of the deceased chief. He was too young to become chief when his father died, so the title of chief went to the chief’s brother. The current turangi or chief is over 80 years old, and when he dies, Albert will be chief. At this point, duties are shared, so we entered Albert’s home and met his family. We were invited to leave our backpacks here while we further explored the village and attended church. We were also invited to return after church for a Fijian Sunday dinner with Albert’s family. We graciously accepted and then went across the walkway to the current turangi’s home. Each time you enter a home, you take off your shoes, and when you get inside, you sit cross-legged on the pandanus floor mat to talk with your hosts. We sat in the turangi’s home and talked with him and his wife. When we left, Aceni explained that we would present our sevusevu after church in either the turangi’s home or Albert’s home. That was still to be decided. Aceni thought we would have time to walk down the hill to the school before church, but we heard the second set of bells and drumming indicating that it was time to make our way to the church. When the third set of bells and drumming start, it is the beginning of the service. So we walked back through the village to the church. Aceni explained that there are four clans in this village. All attend the same church except for three families that are trying to start a Church of the Nazarene congregation. That group was already inside one home and singing as we walked past. The church service was much like others we have attended. The singing was just so beautiful–so many harmonizing parts. The minister presides, but there are many readers. The men sit on one side of the church and the woman on the other. In this church, all of the children that could walk sat in the front of the church on the women’s side, and the head village elder stood in front of them with a little switch. If any child started to misbehave, the village elder tapped them with the switch. Sometimes during the service, a mother would come over and pull the ear of a child misbehaving, but basically the children sat quietly for over an hour and a half. Babies were held by a parent, often a father, and were carried outside when they started to cry. The sermon was one of fire and brimstone, and afterwards Aceni explained that it was a sermon from the book of Genesis about Sodam and Gamorrah (I have no idea how to spell these names and am embassassed to admit that.). We had appointed Jean-Pierre as our “talking chief” and at the point in the service when we were welcomed in English, Jean-Pierre responded with our gracious thanks for allowing us to be a part of this service. After church, we met many of the people attending, and were then taken to the turangi’s home for our sevusevu. All of the village elders were in attendance. The man who had been in charge of the children during the church service serves as the talking chief for the village and he was the one who actually performed the blessing. After the ceremony, we took pictures and exchanged greetings of thanks. It was then time to go back to Albert’s home for Sunday dinner. A cloth had been spread across the floor and China dishes and silverware were set for all of us and for all of Albert’s family. There was fish, taro, coconut cream in pitchers, and a special clam mixture. Everything was delicious and the conversation was rich. Albert’s son, Albert, has four children (all beautiful) and he has been off island in Kuwait as part of his Fijian Army service. He and his father were very knowledgable in world affairs, and there was a television in the home and phone service. Many homes had television, but we saw no others with phone service. After dinner, Aceni walked with us down the hill to the school. This was a class one through class eight school with four teachers. Their homes were across the rugby field from the school. The school site was actually the original site for the village. We walked back up to the village on the Canadian sidewalk of many steps, and by this time we could really appreciate the concrete walkway. The ground here is red clay and very slippery when it is wet. For the school children to have this concrete walkway is really a gift. Thanks to the Canadians for this. When we got back up to the village, it was time for us to make our way back down the hill to Vagola Bay. People were most gracious and shook our hands and sent us away with good wishes. We could not have asked for a more welcoming village. Aceni walked us all the way back down to his home in the mangroves. We got in our dinghies and slowly left the mangroves. We had a very special experience and it was hard to pull away. It was 3 PM by this time and there was no way we were going to pick up anchor and head on to Korolevu Bay today. That will happen tomorrow. So no snorkeling today, but a fantastic land experience. We are hoping for more snorkeling tomorrow once we reach Korolevu Bay.

070610 Day 47 Kadavu Island, Fiji–Sunday in Vacaleya Village