Soli Preparation


2009-06-13
Today we had language in the morning and then prepared for the queen’s
birthday in the afternoon. Language is o.k., but everyone is sick or
becoming sick so the energy level is low. We played Simon says in
Fijian with body parts and the kids helped out. That was fun.
After language Turani and I went to the farm to prepare for Monday’s
big soli (fundraising festival) at the tribe’s community hall. There
are three tribes in this village. Our tribe is the Nabai tribe and
consists of 186 people. Each tribe celebrates the Queen’s birthday at
their own respective community halls. I think it is unique that they
still celebrate the queen even though they have been an independent
nation for almost 40 years. The Fijians are big on traditions even if
they aren’t there’s. Anyway, back to the preparations at the farm.
We arrived and harvested some Dalo with a big iron rod with a flat
end. You basically shovel the suckers out of the ground with this big
pry bar of a rod. After a few trusts into the ground around the base
of a mature dalo plant you can pull the root up by the leaves. It is
pretty easy. After than you strip all the leaves off except one and
bind them up. That is the hard part as they are very heavy and wheel
barrows are not an option. Instead you stick the large and heavy bar
through the binding and hoist it over your shoulder. I have to say I
almost wussed out on this one and could barely make it out of the
fields. My shoulder is still sore.
After that we harvested cassava. It is a similar process except you
don’t trim the leaves. It has a wooden branch for a stem. ADD
moment: I just looked out the window and there is a man washing his
car in the rain. O.K. back to the farm. We finished with the cassava
and then worked on the yellow dalo harvesting. It is very similar to
purple dalo except much smaller and easier to pull.
We then went to the woods and cut down a Mahogany tree for firewood
with about 15 other Fijians. Yes, I said firewood and Mahogany in the
same sentence. As we where waiting for the dude with the chain saw to
show up the guys drilled me with Fijian questions and actually gave me
time to think and answer. Most are so excited to speak English they
quickly answer or state the question to you in English. I found it
very helpful and was surprised at the amount I could recall. I just
need more practice.
The chain saw man showed up and we started the tree cutting process.
It involved one man with a huge chain saw and 10 Fijians yelling and
screaming. It was sort of intense as no one was really sure which way
the tree was going to fall. We all chose our respective exit paths
from the bush in case the tree chose us for its victim. When the
moment came, it instead attacked a nearby coconut tree much to the
celebration of the observing Fijians. We started cutting up both
trees but the blade soon broke so work was over! Yeah!! I don’t
think anyone was really disappointed. If that would have happened in
Matador, my grandpa would have broken out three spare chains and an ax
and stayed until every bit of wood was hacked up and hauled out. I’m
starting to enjoy the Fijian laid back attitude!
We piled the bit of harvested wood into the back of a small Nissan two
wheel drive truck with a canvas top. I have no idea how that little
rice burner made out of the muddy bush with 10 Fijians and 20 logs,
but it did.
We unloaded the wood at the community hall and had a bit of an
afternoon snack complete with, of course, Dalo and pork curry. After
the break the wood chopping began. They let me have a go and after
hacking away they decided it best I retire so we would actually have
firewood instead of fat spears. I did split one small log with a
single swipe so I didn’t feel too white.
The day was very productive and we spent the night catching up on
language studies. Tomorrow is Sunday so I am expecting much headway
in the studying department.
-Matt

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