Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Waterfall and joyful kids

or about villages around Levuka...

Life in a Fijan village is simple, yet difficult. To enter or walk through the village you new to ask for permission which is usually granted by a village chief. The best strategy is to bring some kava as well, so that the chief and residents could prepare their traditional tongue numbing beverage.

We walked along villages near Levuka, watching small houses made of wood and metal, looking at children playing by the coast or on a little rugby field, often barefoot or in torn clothes, but always happy and helpful.

Searching for a waterfall, we met a group of curious kids, the youngest aged 6, the oldest about 14. They guided us through their village, into a rainforest, through rocks and lush plants. They were running through the rocky path skilfully, barefoot and confident. We followed them carefully, equipped in hiking shoes and a mosquito repellent.

The real show started once we reached the waterfall. Our kids, 2 boys and 5 girls, run off to jump into a little and quite shallow pool. High from a  rock, just above the waterfall. In their colorfoul clothes and huge smiles, they climbed higher and higher. And encouraged us to do the same.

Finally we followed them too. We weren't brave enough to jump, instead we chose to swim and play with the kids. We tried to teach them how to take pictures, which they fully enjoyed. They told us that it was their last day of holiday and the following day they had to be back at school. Their parents didn't mind them jumping and swimming in the waterfall, they were at work, they wouldn't even know. Only one girl from this group lost her house in the cyclone, the rest still had a safe place to live.

We came back on the following day to visit our little friends. This time it was difficult to find them playing outside. Other kids quickly joined us and showed a house of the youngest girls. Shy and hesitant at first, they finally recognised us and accepted a little sweet surprise we left for them.

                    The village of Rukuruku

Searching for the taste of local villagers' life we also visited Rukuruku. A big yellow pickup took us there from Levuka. The truck quickly filled in with the residents of Rukuruku who come to Levuka once per week for their big grocery.

We found ourselves squeezed between women in colorfoul dresses, with their babies on one lap and bags full of bread and sweets on the other one. Boxes with instant soups and breakfast crackers landed on the floor, along with bottles with fizzy drinks and yellow or white petrol cans. The truck stopped first at the local petrol station to fill in all the cans of passangers and their relatives. A plastic foil wrapped around the bottle neck served as a seal. This protection wasn't strong enough as some liquid spilled on the truck floor. But that was not a problem at all, a piece of cardboard landed on the stain and we could finally move towards Rukuruku, uphill, on a rocky road.

The village of Rukuruku

What seemed to me to be a poor shop supply in Levuka, turns out to be the only and most welcomed variety for the residents of this tiny island. A trip from Rukuruku to Levuka for snacks, bread, some veggies (mainly potatoes), flour and petrol is a big event that takes half a day. The truck goes to Levuka only 3 days per week in the morning and after a few hours comes back again.

There are no shops in the village, only a primary school and a car repair. The houses, partly damaged in the hurricane, stretch along an unpaved road. A couple of blue tents pitched on a hill overlook the village. It's the base of UNICEF which tries to help the local community as much as they can.

Our visit to Rukuruku was very short as we had to catch the last transport back to Levuka. But it's enough to realise that still a lot of work and support is needed here. The government plans to repair broken electricity lines in August. The cyclone devastated the island 3 months ago, in February, and it still looks as if it happened only a week ago.

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