Monday, May 9, 2016

All the colours of the world

or about our little voyage into the wild...

Levuka, the old Fijan capital, is full of colours and surprises. The town that is inhabited only by about one thousand people hasn't changed much since the 19th century when the European settlers came here for the first time.

Little colourful houses stretch along the main street built by the sea shore.

Colorfoul are also Fijan money with images of birds, flowers and insects.

Colorfoul are traditional and casual outfits worn by the local people. Today in the church we could experience the whole range of colours, sounds and emotions.

What stroke me the most was that the local church goers take out their shoes before entering the building. Finally I could find in a catholic church one of my most favourite rituals that is so characteristic for the mosques and hindu temples around the world.

People here sit down on the floor covered with mats made of dry grass. Everyone wears their best clothes: men put on their traditional black or navy blue skirt with a flowery shirts, women wear tunics and long dresses in bright, happy colours. Mothers bring their little children, cheerful songs and guitar music fill in the colorfoul wooden house and everyone celebrates the mass respectfully.

There's so much one can learn from these simple and loveable people from the other side of the world. Their warm hearts, hospitality and happy souls are the real treasure of the island.

On our way through the town we met local firemen. They invited us to their simple building, showed how they work and live. They told us that most of the crew members were sent here from Suva, not only to deal with fires but also to teach local people how to prevent danger. Their typical shift lasts 24 to 48 hours. They drive around the island, visit people's houses and explain how to stay away from fires. They also had a lot of work in February when the whole island was seriously damaged by the biggest cyclone in Fijan history.

On the way to Levuka after the sunset we saw villages plunged into darkness. The hurricane broke off electricity lines, destroyed houses and knocked over the trees. But the real scale of the catastrophe was to be revealed in the day light.

Many families lost everything. Houses, cars, animals and hope. But they keep singing and praying, waiting for help and better times.

Some families received support from the government: big white tents that serve as a temporary housing. All villages around Levuka look similar: torn houses, white tents in the yard, colourful laundry lines and children playing carelessly outside.

Luckily, the government provides money to the affected families, although in some cases the funds are not spent properly. I've heard that some people from nearby villages buy extra food, toys or gadgets instead of investing in their households.

Another curiosity: there are about 20 shrines in Levuka. Catholic, methodist and pentacostal church, a  hindu temple, synagogue and a mosque...

Every time European sailors arrived to the old harbour in Levuka they brought their churches and religions with them. Many different nations tried to settle here, so all the influences are still clearly visible. A town inhabited by about 1000 people has a huge choice when it comes to the spiritual needs.

But not so when it comes to the nutritional needs. Local shops sell mainly goods that can be stored for a long time: cans, instant soups, nuts, cookies. The island of Ovalau is not well catered for, all healthy products stay on the main island, veggies and fruit are scarce, the crops were destroyed by the cyclone. Some shops sell fresh bread and fish, but only for a limited time. Local kids, including toddlers, consume endless quantities of colourful fizzy drinks and salty snacks. And this is probably why they are always so active and dynamic.

More stories about joyful kids from the nearby villages in the next post.

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