7 April 2013
Nukusa Village -16.18356,179.875503
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Root crops, bananas, plantains, along with coconut and breadfruit are the dominant Fijian staple food especially in rural and remote areas.
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.
After the church service, we were told “Lako mai kana! Come let’s eat!”
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.