Journalism has been on my mind lately, so I want to write a lede and nutgraffe, but then I remember it’s just a boring blog and if you’ve clicked on the link you must care enough about me to read this thing through no matter how interesting the first few sentences. Which is very touching, so thank you, I appreciate your attention. I hope I can keep your attention for long enough. I apologize in advance for the lack of photos: Bluetooth is being uncooperative, but soon enough, there shall be jpgs for all.
Monday was the Siga ni Marau, which literally means “Happy Day”, and celebrates the 90-somethingth anniversary of the founding of the Sabeto church. So peoples came from all the 5 villages of Sabeto and we partied: there was a presentation of food – a lot, a lot of food, including more than thirty women carrying woven baskets full of the root crops tapi and doko (cassava and taro) – there was a huge, delicious lunch made by the youth groups, followed by resting (of course), and later church group singing/fundraising and grog, much grog. I was randomly asked to be the photographer for the presentations, and people have asked me about the photos, so I’ll get those up on the book of faces very soon. Don and I were also using the opportunity of all the attendees to hand out invitations for a meeting we are having next week about the dictionary project. I didn’t attend the Siga ni Marau singing and grogging, though – because Tiko, the son of my good friend Nita Lu, was getting out of prison the same day.
I had made him a banner, despite his robbery of my room last year being the first in a string that landed him in jail, and we put it up at the vatuniloa (temporary outside shed, consisting of simple bamboo beams and tin roofing). The police were of course a few hours later getting Tiko back to us, but when they finally showed up they did a formal presentation to the village and family, as part of the Yellow Ribbon Project. This yellow ribbon thing is awesome – basically, the police and everyone sits around and forgives Tiko, then has a criminal psychologist come and answer questions from the crowd while we grog. It has reduced recidivism from 35% to 5% in less than a decade.
Of course, the damn police chief forced me to sit at the front with him. He was like “shake my hand!” so I went up to do so, as it would of course be extremely rude not to, but then he wouldn’t let go, telling me I had to sit with him. I told him no, I’m just a youth, but then he pointed to the guys on either side and said they were too. Wouldn’t let go, so I just sat and swore and people laughed at and with me.
But then the criminal psychologist showed up, and she turned out to be a Fijian woman in her mid-20s who just finished her Masters in Canada, at Simon Fraser University, so then I stuck around the front because we could talk about Vancouver and Fijian culture and a much wider variety of conversation than I normally get. She has taken two Lautoka volunteers, Sunny and Ruth, on a previous Yellow Ribbon prisoner-drop-off to the interior, and she invited me to go with them all next month to an island south of us. Definitely going to try to take her up on that.
So grogged, a decent session of four hours, but then big big bowls because people were going “wasawasa eh Tomasi?”, a joke that now perennially haunts me. Was very mateni, and slept in the next day.
DIdn’t do too much yesterday, tried for the umpteenth time (going on about 3 weeks now) to get an audience with the Momo Levu along with the Turaga ni Koro Tai Samu, and was foiled again. But I did get a signed letter of support from the Mata ni Tikina (district spokesperson), the first of five letters I need for various things (two from the Momo Levu).
Then today was good. On Monday Don and I had failed to get an invitation letter to the Turaga ni Koro of Natalau, the closest other village to us, so I just took off in the morning to Natalau (Don wasn’t feeling up to it, though I can’t tell you why exactly due to sorcery), taking a very long shortcut through some fields to get there.
When I got there, I didn’t know who the TK was, so I just walked up to the first house I saw and asked, and everyone knew my name, but I couldn’t remember anyones face, nevertheless their name. Damn this Peace Corps fame. But we sat around and chatted anyway, and they introduced me to passersby with the whole “look, white boy speaking broken TatavaSabeto!”
Eventually, after tea, a seemingly familiar old man’s face appeared at the window and asked what I was doing, and I said I was waiting for the TK. Everyone laughed – the old man was the TK. Somebody kindly defended me, saying it was the glass, but really – I just don’t know who anyone is.
After I went to the TKs and he agreed to come, after looking at the project description and page-of-dictionary example, and then showed me a much much faster shortcut back to Sabeto. Of course, I still had to cross the river, which was more than halfway up my thighs due to rain and high tide. This afternoon, didn’t get up to much, but spent a half-hour workshopping Caroline Turuva’s next news article (why I’ve been thinking about ledes and nutgraffes).
Finally, to end this very long-winded entry, an update on the weather: we won’t be hit by a cyclone. But it is raining and gusting pretty good right now, which is an excellent respite from a few weeks of broiling heat. So travel plans to the interior for the weekend cancelled. Instead, watch cyclone rain for a few days, and hope these letters of support for the two projects sign themselves. Oh, and eat some avocado I splurged on. Fiya.
 Wasawasa means deep ocean, and it is a joke I came up with in the training village (yes, October 2014, sixteen months ago) and I have yet to escape. A visiting volunteer from the next group even took the joke back to his training village, and at his swearing-in in November he yelled “Wasawasa!” to the audiences delight.