7 April 2013

Google Earth Map - Kavewa to Udu Point, the farthest east we got in Fiji. (Click for larger map)

Google Earth Map – Kavewa to Udu Point, the farthest east we got in Fiji. (Click for larger map)

Nukusa Village is the 4th to the last village from the tip of Vanua Levu. It is so remote that the villagers need to use up to 40 gallons of fuel for their fiberglass boat to get to the town of Labasa at Fiji$13/litre, spending more than F$400 one way. So most of them simply stay put and rely on subsistence farming and fishing to survive. And in Nukusa Village, they seem to be totally fine living this way with a certain community order and a disciplined way of life. The village is beautiful and looks impeccably clean with lawns well manicured. Everybody looked healthy, happy and strong.

Fijian girl runs to the community Methodist Church for First Sunday service.

Fijian girl runs to the community Methodist Church for First Sunday service.

Mobile signal is almost non-existent here except for a spot beside a bush near the mango tree facing the southern mountains. We needed to urgently send an SMS message to Australia and I had to stand very still on the left side of the bush holding my cheap Nokia mobile phone up to get two bars!

Nukusa Viilage from the sea. And only below the mango tree facing the mountains can you get two bars in your low-tech mobile phones.

Nukusa Viilage from the sea. And only below the mango tree facing the mountains can you get two bars in your low-tech mobile phones.

The mango tree by the sea. Only in this point can the village folks receive mobile signal to communicate with the outside world.

The mango tree by the sea. Only in this point can the village folks receive mobile signal to communicate with the outside world.

With hopes up getting two bars on my mobile, it was frustrating receiving continued “failed” messages for close to two hours of trying. Eventually, my one important message got through! Imagine my thrill when I received a response back from Oz!! But iPhones didn’t work in Nukusa and Patricia Mallam of WWF South Pacific was in dire straits not being able to send a message home to Suva! Oh how we have become slaves to technology. Being able to go to remote places like these is such a gift and a privilege. It also allows me to reset my priorities instantly!

Amazing Google Earth showing the tiny village of Nukusa!

Amazing Google Earth showing the tiny village of Nukusa!

This was the first Sunday of April. The community belonging to the Methodist Church do not work on Sundays – there’s no farming or fishing on this day of worship. And this being a first Sunday of the month, the men went out spear fishing the night before to catch fish for the community lunch feast after the church service. Their catch the night before was staggering.

Massive pile of fish caught the night before by 6 men spear fishing.

Massive pile of fish caught the night before by 6 men spear fishing.

Early Sunday morning, the men started preparing the food soon after waking. And by 8am, the community was in full swing preparing food for 3 villages – people from 2 nearby villages motored in to Nukusa for the First Sunday mass.

Fish cleaning and chopping preparation with the kiddies counting every chop.

Fish cleaning and chopping preparation with the kiddies counting every chop.

Predominantly big sized unicorn fish or surgeonfish, the huge pile were each chopped into 4 or 5 pieces and the kids counted – dua, rua, tolu, va, lima! Each fish was massive! The Great Sea Reef this far away from the busy towns provide very well for the villagers. But the fish must have been sleeping in the reef when they were ambushed.

Clever use of a banana leaf to shoo flies away from the fish!

Clever use of a banana leaf to shoo flies away from the fish!

Then the root crops were brought in – taro, yam, philip-pine, sweet potato, cassava & tapioca. When they found out I was originally from the Philippines, they showed me the root crop they called philip-pine! I think they were thrilled by this coincidence. An assembly line of men peeled all the root crops. Then they were cleaned and cut into big chunks then boiled. The massive pots were filled with huge amounts of chopped root crops and once filled to the brim and watered, were covered with freshly picked breadfruit leaves which one of the men said was to help cook it faster.

Food preparation. Different root crops like taro, cassava, yam - Fijian food staple.

Food preparation. Different root crops like taro, cassava, yam – Fijian food staple.

Food preparation cooking with massive aluminium pots in open fire.

Food preparation cooking with massive aluminium pots in open fire.

Breadfruit leaves cover the food to keep the heat in and cook the root crops faster.

Breadfruit leaves cover the food to keep the heat in and cook the root crops faster.

Cooking area for 3 massive aluminium pots in open fire.

Cooking area for 3 massive aluminium pots in open fire.

Root crops, bananas, plantains, along with coconut and breadfruit are the dominant Fijian staple food especially in rural and remote areas.

Abundant use of coconut to grate and extract coconut milk from to add to dishes cooked lobo style.

Abundant use of coconut to grate and extract coconut milk from to add to dishes cooked lobo style.

Nothing goes to waste. Fijian boy drinks fresh coconut water.

Nothing goes to waste. Fijian boy drinks fresh coconut water.

The families rely on their own gardens for their fresh fruits and vegetables and the sea for their protein of fish, shells & crustaceans. They have pigs in their backyards but these will only get the chop on special occasions like weddings and funerals.

It was amazing to watch how the locals cooked up a feast. Like clockwork, everybody knew what to do and everyone was in sync with each other. The food preparations and cooking progressed in such perfect order it was like watching a well made documentary unfold.

Methodist Church service in Nukusa Village. Towards the end, our presence was even announced to the entire community!

Methodist Church in Nukusa Village before it was packed with people. Towards the end of the service, our presence was even announced to the entire community! The Reverend also talked about the importance of marine protected areas!

After the church service, we were told “Lako mai kana! Come let’s eat!”

Community lunch meal after the first Sunday of the month Methodist Church service.

Community lunch meal after the first Sunday of the month Methodist Church service.

The next day was a working day for everybody. Clothes were washed, buns were baked, fish was brought out to dry and fishing tools were made by hand. It was wonderful to be in this village, to watch life being lived extraordinarily – from my point of view.

A unique style to do the laundry.

A unique and effective way to do the laundry without a machine!

Community wood fired outdoor oven made by a Peace Corpse volunteer for Nakusa Village.

Community wood fired outdoor oven made by a Peace Corpse volunteer for Nukusa Village. Notice the chicken beside the fire? She wanted to go into her home to roost for the night! She would have made a tasty roasted chicken!

Orisi Vuki handles his dried fish of salted blue tailed mullet which fetches $16/kg in Labasa to the Indian community.

Orisi Vuki handles his dried fish of salted blue tailed mullet which fetches $16/kg in Labasa.

Fijian man blows a conch shell to summon the adults in the community for a meeting.

Fijian man blows a conch shell to summon the adults in the community for a meeting.