A hard bed, a crowing cockerel and cava pounding late into the night did not make for a very sleepful night but at least we didn’t have to get up too early! It is a little cooler on the island in the mornings which is welcome. It really is a lovely setting; the small, mainly wooden or corrugate iron houses surround a central green very reminiscent of an old English feudal village. Each house has its own small plot of land with a variety of produce; flowers, as they are all over Fiji, provide splashes of bright colour – pinks, reds, purples. The leaves too are colourful and the sun shines through them to give them a sort of iridescence. Cassava is here in abundance and taro, bananas and coconut also grace most gardens.
Breakfast was a lavish affair and mainly kiwi-style – cereals, toast and pineapple jam, baked beans, spaghetti. Banana cake and fresh pawpaw and pieneapple gave it more of a Fijian touch. First stop after breakfast was the medical centre to hand over the baby scales and the stretcher we had brought. The reception we received was generous and quite humbling. Their gratitude seems to know no bounds and we lost count of how many times the word “thank you” was uttered. Jill was asked to bless the gifts and photos were posed for. In return they presented us with a mat and some locally made coconut oils and soaps. We didn’t realise until a few days later just how much of an honour it was to have been presented with a mat – they are often made for weddings and other ceremonial occasions. Hand-made from the pandanna leaves, they will apparently last for a good twenty years. Marama, in whose house we are staying, is one of the ladies who makes the coconut oil – a cooperative was recently set up and a group of women extract and process the coconut oil in the traditional way, by hand, which must be a painstaking job. The oil is reputed to have healing powers and as well as being used to add shine to hair it is also used on skin to lighten scars and heal dry and chapped skin.
Next we were whisked off to go to the village school to deliver the maths and English books that we had brought. We have already seen the children this morning, on their way to school. The girls dressed in their pretty pink dresses and the boys in shorts and white, white shirts. Whenever I see films of children in third world countries going to school, I am always amazed by how clean, neat and tidy they look; proud to be wearing their uniforms and to have the opportunity to go to school. These children also seemed very happy as they smiled and skipped their way along the path. The Headmaster was very welcoming and accommodating considering that this was an impromptu visit. Our girls were keen to sing as a way of saying hello and so the Head Boy was sent for and asked to round up the children and send them to the library. Our songs were replied to by two form the children. We have noticed here just how beautiful the singing is here – loud, tuneful and melodic.