Sunday, March 14, 2010

Moce- love and goodbyes

Two weeks ago at a rugby function a member of the Fijian community in Tasmania approached my husband to talk about this blog, stating that I had shamed him, his village and his clan.
A week ago we were both at a birthday party for a member of the Fijian community here in Tasmania and I realised at the end of the night I had been ostracised by the Fijians. No one had made eye contact and no one had greeted me. I got up at the end of the night to say goodbye to two wives and they flinched when I kissed them goodbye. Was I imagining it?
Friday night my husband was called to a kava session by the Fijian males in Tasmania who told him they found the blog offensive.
He told me the next day. I ranted and raved about freedom of speech. I was also dumbfounded. In Fiji I would be invited to attend a village meeting and have my say. In Australia someone would have rung me to say 'There's a problem; lets talk about it".
I rang one of the members of the community to ask him why he had approached my husband and not me. We decided.... was his reply.
Who are you to decide? was my prompt reply.
As a member of the Fijian community I have a right to be told. To me their actions are not the act of friendship. I have known these people for a number of years; they know me, and they have chosen to think ill of me. Surprising.
I have terminated my association with this bunch of mean, narrow and small minded peope, even if they are Fijian and their wives are Australian. We know who our real Fijian friends are.
However, all Fijians are interconnected so my husband has found my decision difficult.
He has also asked me to terminate this blog. I am doing it out of a profound respect for his culture, and the deepest love for the man who met me by accident five years ago. This was always intended to be a story of love and our journey to get him to Australia.
This world is not perfect. People are not perfect. This life is a struggle to overcome obstacles and find joy. I have found joy in my relationship with this wonderful man who acted honorably on Friday night, stood by his wife, and faced his community and said ' no' - a difficult action for a tribal community with huge pressure to conform.
I finish this blog, with the whole reason for writing it in the first place- how I fell in love with my husband. This is a short story I wrote for a competition called 'Coconut Crush'

Coconut Crush
Completely unaware of the slow, steady drip running down her left arm, Angelina grips the telephone tightly. A stream of dark, unctuous chocolate slips through her fingertips and glides across the back of her hand; swirling around her wrist and falling in droplets down her arm.
In her right hand is a sheaf of paper, full of words that bite, scratch and tear at her heart.
‘Why are they doing this to me?’
Her bewildered gaze falls on the washed Huon pine refectory table in front of her. Ten pages of vitriol now lie in an unwieldy pile. A fluorescent yellow and red express envelope still glares at her. Strewn across it are a scrunched up ruby, sky blue and white wrappers, a half eaten bar of almond chocolate and nearby a small Spanish green ceramic bowl with a scattering of remaining rainbow coloured sweets.
Directly in front of her, a long elegant spoon awaits. Beside it a gleaming crystal glass of ginger infused chocolate mousse with swirls of wafer thin chocolates on top continue to beckon.
The droning voice causes her to dip her finger into the glass and quickly suck in the sweetness, blocking out the unpleasant sound.
‘Write a letter! Okay I will write a letter. Ciao!’ She hangs up leaving a chocolaty smudge on the phone.
The phone rings again. Licking the drips on her finger, she picks up, only to find it’s her close friend Elise.
‘I’ve booked two tickets to Fiji!’
‘Mamma mia! You have done what?’ Angelina exclaims.
‘You are not going to sit there stewing about a court case that may never happen. You are coming with me!
‘But I always spend time here with mamma!’
‘You are coming!’
‘Va bene! Only if you come over and help me eat this delizioso chocolate mousse I have been testing. It has a taste of the tropics – glace ginger folded through rich, creamy chocolate, mousse, a puddle of refreshing mango and passionfruit as a base. We can discuss the trip while we eat.’
She hangs up again.
Angelina glances down at her turquoise blue peasant skirt, realizing a rivulet of chocolate has now formed tributaries in the folds.
Sweeping the evidence of her unhappiness into a bin, she quickly resets the table with two champagne flutes, checks that a bottle of champagne is suitably chilled and places two crimson place mats on the table. Searching through her kitchen drawers, she finds two white linen napkins. Opening the French doors to the garden Angelina takes a pair of shears to cut pink magnolia flowers to scatter across the table. Satisfied with the impromptu arrangement she jumps into the shower, washing off suffocating anxiety and fear, and emerging ….
Where have I left my passport from my last trip overseas?
Enveloped in a blanket of warm air, her tiny white shell necklace nestled around her neck, Angelina is directed to the coach taking her to the Coral Coast. Her companion Elise’s head quickly slides onto her shoulder. While everyone dozes on the bus, Angelina’s eyes focus on the mountains; the sleeping giant coming quickly into view. Dusty roads, potholes, brilliant sunshine and Fijian students in crisp white shirts, and formal navy-blue sulu or sarongs, waiting at the bus stop for a ride to school or walking along the road; she can’t sleep.
The hotel room is not ready upon arrival so Angelina and Elise saunter towards the breakfast buffet. Sitting at heavy square tables, with napkins decorated with tapa motifs, and the whir of ceiling fans above their heads Angelina was feeling excited.
One look at the range of food on display and her appetite quickly left her. Frayed, desiccated pancakes with brown bananas, fried eggs sitting congealed in a bain-marie, indigestible white bread only for toast, and the jams were strawberry and apricot.
Where was the pile of tropical fruit she had seen on the road side stalls along the highway –pyramids of green oranges called moli, watermelon whole and sliced into mouth-watering chunks, fragrant paw paws and mangoes to bite into and watch the sweetness drip down your chin.
‘I will head for the pool and sleep’ she thought. Eyelids fluttering, Angelina relaxes on the blue sun bed she has managed to find beside the pool. She pulls it back under the palm tree.
‘I am going for a walk’ says Elise. Elise is a tall, statuesque blonde, who is full of energy and moves at a lightning pace during her working week and even now on holiday wants to see it all, and tick off her mental checklist of what a holiday in the tropics should be.
Si, si,,,,, mutters Angelina, as she drifts into sleep.
Lawyers, letters sent and more letters in reply, and more paper wasted had left her exhausted. Fiji for a holiday had sounded like the perfect escape.
I don’t have to think about it anymore. I have done all I can.
She drifts into a dreamless sleep that washes over her, and allows her body to relax completely.

‘I can’t believe she has abandoned me already!’
Elise is sitting working on her tan in a swirling orange and pink tankini, her long legs dipping into the pool as she tells Angelina’s love story to other guests seated at the pool bar, while slurping on an endless gin and tonic.
I left Angelina lying on a sun bed while I walked down the beach. At the end of the resort is a brightly coloured collection of handicraft stalls you know. Have any of you been there? Yes well, there were five or six Fijian women sitting braiding hair and putting out stuff for sale.
I boldly asked ‘Does anyone feel like cooking with my friend Angelina? She is a great cook and she wants to learn about Fijian food”.
One of the ladies smiled and said ‘I will”
Her name is Tamia and she asked me to bring Angelina to meet her so I arranged a time later in the afternoon. They met, and Saturday at ten was the set time.
I had had a big night with my handsome Fijian waiters from the Italian restaurant the night before so I rolled over and told Angelina she could go alone.
She didn’t want to, but I had already booked a taxi which was waiting in the foyer.
She found herself at the bottom of a road leading up a hill. Beside the entrance was a thatched bure with seats; she could see other tin houses through the trees but she couldn’t work out where she had to go.
‘Angelina, Angelina’ a group of children rushed down the hill to meet her, took her by the hand and pulled her up the hill to auntie’s house. She had one kg of kava to give to the head of the household as a gift and sign of respect to the family.
Entering a wooden house with a tin roof, mats on the floor, Angelina met the big smile of Tamia.
She was stirring a pot of river prawns in coconut milk, turning a delicate shade of pink.
‘Come! Try some!’
The rich coconut milk slid down her throat feeling its way towards her stomach releasing a feeling of content.
This was more like it - Real Fijian food, authentic Fijian food cooked at home.
She looked around and Josefa, a young Fijian with an Aussie accent held up some big grey scaly fish he had caught on the reef early in the morning.
‘How do you want to cook these Angelina?’
‘With fresh garlic, fresh red chillies and plenty of lime juice’ replied Angelina.
Elei Angelina! You must be Fijian to cook like that!
Outside the bure, a broad shouldered ebony skinned Fijian male called Ula was digging a hole. He put some stones in the bottom and lit a fire. When the stones were red hot, and the wood had disappeared into a layer of charcoal, he started throwing hand-made baskets of threaded palm leaves filled with marinated chops, whole chickens and sausages onto the rocks.
‘Eh Angelina, do you want to help?’
‘Yes, yes what can I do?’
‘Here is a coconut scraper; Seleti over there will show you how to do it.’
Angelina turned around to see a tall and very handsome Fijian with an extra white smile beaming at her.
‘Come, come’, he beckoned her over. He was sitting on the edge of the bank on a box with a pointed metal scraper attached. Taking the coconut with both hands he turned the coconut slowly so that the milky white contents fall into a big pot below.
‘Tamia will make a Fijian speciality – polisami- which are taro leaf parcels filled with coconut and tomato or tinned fish or corn beef.’
Seleti made it look easy but Angelina found it quite hard to hitch her green peasant skirt, maintain modesty and do what he was doing.
I arrived late to see Angelina surrounded by kids laughing.
We were invited into the house to sit down either side of a long aqua tablecloth with a mixture of plates and cutlery set out along it.
Angelina was looking for somewhere to sit, so that she could prop herself up against a wall, but the cloth was in the middle of the room.
Seleti called to her ‘Come and lie down and eat. In Fiji, it’s not a problem.’
They laughed and joked all afternoon. He offered her a plate of roast pork saying’ In Fiji the head of the family is offered the best part of the pig, he will take a portion and then send it back to his wife to eat. The men and invited guests, seated at the top of the cloth, eat first and then the women, who are seated at the other end of the cloth with the cooking pot beside them, wait until everyone else has eaten and then they eat. It’s a way of communicating love and respect between a man and his wife.’
Do you know what he told her next? The best part of a man is a woman! She fell for it all.
I was trying to tell Josefa a story and Seleti was leaning towards Angelina the whole time whispering ‘Angelina what are you doing? Do you want to come and visit the coral reef restoration project with me tomorrow?’
They were looking at each other and not listening to me. ‘Can you believe it?’
Our taxi arrived at four and as we were walking down the hill and Seleti calls out to Angelina – ‘How many children do you want to have?’
‘At least five!’
They both laugh and Seleti calls out again ‘See you tomorrow at ten’
‘Si si or should I say ‘io!’ replies Angelina. ‘Io’ means ‘yes’ in Fijian, she informs me. I nudge Angelina in the back of the car.
‘He likes you, you know’
‘No he doesn’t’
‘Oh yes he does!’
‘How do you know?’
‘By the way he was looking at you’
‘I don’t know what you mean. I have had no man in my life for a long time. I wouldn’t know if a man was looking at me or not.’
‘Believe me, he was looking’.
Angelina blushed and turned away. ‘I don’t believe you Elise.’
You are wondering of course, where she is right now.
Well she is down the beach with her tall Fijian lover –her Greystoke, the jungle boy, the untamed one.....lucky girl!

Angelina was indeed sitting on the white sand of the marine protected area talking to Seleti while he packed up his gear.
Che giornata! What a day!
It had all started strangely. She had dragged herself out of bed and had prodded Elise. ‘Are you coming with me or not?’
‘No, you are going it alone’.
‘Va bene’
Elise calls out ‘The taxi is waiting for you upstairs’ as I leave the room. I decide to wear a long skirt as I had been told by Seleti that Fijian women cover their arms and legs. This Fijian custom is a little strange to me as it’s so hot! In Italy everyone would be in a bikini flaunting whatever they have got... Ah but I am always forgetting the strong influence of the Methodists here who taught the natives to cover up. I must show respect.
I arrive at Mara at around ten to find no one around. I walk towards the nearest bure calling out ‘Seleti, Seleti’ but no one answers.
I see a bunch of Fijian guys walking towards me with machetes in their hands, heading towards the plantation and I hear ‘Bula! Bula!
I quickly ask ‘ Seleti, do you know where he is’.
One of them disappears into a house and beckons for me to come in and sit down to wait.
I wait and wait and wait. I don’t know for how long… Mamma Mia! I am sitting here on a chair still waiting.
Josefa appears.
‘Sorry Angelina, Fiji time! Let’s go down the beach.’
Sono confusa. Here is Josefa, but where is Seleti?
We walk down the Queen’s highway towards the marine protected area. We walk along the white sandy beach and I take off my shoes so I can feel the crunch of the sand under my feet. We find a protected bay, with a pile of rocks.
Josefa disappears again while I sit on the sand again wondering what is going on. I watch the tiny white hermit crabs scurry across the beach. It looks like the shells are moving in a parade across the sand and I begin laughing to myself.
The heat of the sun on my back, the water of the lagoon changing from aqua to deep blue in the channels, the roar of the waves as they pound on the outer reef, and the sway of the palm trees above my head.
I close my eyes again and relax. Josefa reappears again with three green coconuts.
Eh Angelina, do you want a drink?
I take in his big machete about to slice through the coconut and gulp ‘Si, si, I mean io”
‘Here is a green coconut for you to drink. It will give you energy.’
Angelina stands up to drink and the clear coconut juice spills into her mouth and down her neck. It’s refreshing.
Josefa hands her a piece of fresh coconut. ‘Eat this; it will keep you satisfied for the next couple of hours while we swim.’
Groping around for her sunglasses, Angelina, sees a tall, lanky figure slowly walking towards her. She sees the ripped pale blue jeans, the bare feet and the water glistening on his torso. It’s Seleti carrying a net bag over his shoulder.
Seleti smiles and Angelina feels warm inside. He’s here at last.
‘Where have you been?
‘I went out to check some coral before coming here.’
‘Come’. He takes Angelina by the hand. ‘Do you want to look around before we swim?
He grabs her hand, and they step off the beach onto a grown over pathway which heads towards the point.
‘I have had a dream for five years to build a café on the beach here. What do you think? I can clear the trees; make a two storey wooden house with a deck looking out over the lagoon. People will love to come here, don’t you think?
Angelina looks around her at the lush green of the tropical forest, the coconut palms bending in the breeze, orange lines etched into their trunks revealing their age, the fish leaping in the lagoon and the white waves crashing on the edge of the reef.
‘Why not?’
‘You really think so?’
‘Will you help me?’
Why not? Angelina had plenty of experience in food and wine and could already see a café with a coffee machine and a barbecue on the side for grilling fresh fish.
‘You can get the local boys growing fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs for the café.’
‘Enough! Let’s go and visit the coral reef.’
At the water’s edge Seleti turns to Angelina ’Look at the waves Angelina, when they have white tops; we say they are smiling at you. The movement of the tides is the sea breathing life into the waves that touch the shore. The pull of the tides is the heart beat of the sea.
‘Josefa will take you on a snorkelling tour, while I swim out to the rack on the edge of the reef. You can join me there.’
Josefa takes her on an underwater journey. They swim past seaweed beds, along corridors of dead coral, which open out into a glittering sea garden. Tiny fish of every colour combination possible dart in and out. She swims over big white and brown sea slugs lying on the seafloor. Clown fish swim around her mask.
Josefa points to the surface, and then says ’Watch out for the fire coral Angelina! Don’t touch!”
Crabs clamber over coral, a big conga eel pokes his head out for a look, a reef shark appears in a deep water chasm, Angelina quickly swims over the top of him.
At the edge of the lagoon are sea racks for fast growing corals. Seleti is standing in chest high water, counting the corals. Concrete cones are filled with special putty and a small piece of coral is planted. The cones are left on the sea rack for five to six months and the corals grow big enough to be replanted on other reefs around the Pacific.
Angelina puts her mask on and dips her face underwater to see tiny blue fish on each coral cone, nibbling the algae growing there.
‘What do you think of my sea garden Angelina?’
‘Bello! Beautiful.’
‘I have brought these cones out to grow, and I will write your name in coral across the reef? What do you think Angelina?’
Angelina turns around but Josefa has gone. She can see his flippers in the distance.
‘Come, Angelina, take my hand, I will show you my world and then take you back? Okay?’
On the return trip all she remembers is his smile, how he made her laugh a lot, how she felt when he held her hand.
Sitting in the shallows trying to remove her flippers, Seleti in his very quiet voice beckons ‘Angelina, come here. I want to show you a trick I learnt on Turtle Island? Come into deeper water and sit of my lap. I will take your flippers off for you.’ ‘Okay.’
Feeling so close, Angelina looks up at Seleti and feels each flipper being flicked off her foot and tossed to shore.
Arms come around her waist and she is pulled closer
A kiss - A long slow kiss! Angelina, feels warmth shooting through her body. He does like me.
Sitting on the bus heading back to the airport, Angelina’s brain was in a whir. What am I going to do? I like him, but I don’t know him.I have work to do back in Australia; I need to look after mamma. I have this court case to attend to. I don’t have time for love. I am too busy.
Elise taps her on the arm saying ‘Angelina, why didn’t you stay? You could have booked another week at the hotel, and you would still be lying in the arms of your jungle boy.’
In Angelina’s lap is a scrunched up wrapper from a chocolate bar, the tropical heat causing chocolate splotches across her bright pink summer dress. She quickly licks her fingers as the chocolate melts in her hand.
‘Sei pazza! You are crazy. I can’t do that. I don’t know what I am doing? I like him but why is this happening to me. Italy is where I want to be. This is just a holiday romance. I am crazy to think about making a life here. What can I do? How can I bring a jungle boy back to Australia? It’s too much! I don’t want to think about it anymore!’
A flash of their last morning together and Angelina was remembering trying to dress quickly. She pulled on jeans and a t-shirt to catch the van with Seleti into town to pick up some souvenirs for family and friends – jangly coconut bracelets, fans and other paraphenalia.
He held her hand as they walked around Sigatoka. Around him, she feels still, safe and secure.
Plenty of Fijians call out or stop Seleti asking ‘Eh Seleti, we have not seen you around for a long time! Who is this?’
It’s hot, steamy and humid. Sweat causes her jeans to stick, and her t-shirt to feel like gladwrap. She twists her hair into a coconut clip so that the warm droplets of body water forming on her neck can evaporate.
‘My girlfriend Angelina’
Angelina smiles at the memory. Her breath tightens as she remembers saying goodbye. Seleti had jumped out of the van at this village to run down to his house to get a pen to write his post box and telephone number. They had quickly exchange numbers and he shook hands with her saying ‘Angelina. Good bye. I hope to see you soon. I will miss you.’
Angelina wanted to hug him so badly but public displays of affection are not allowed.
‘I will miss you too.’ Tears run down Angelina’s cheeks as he bus winds its way up a hill heading towards Nadi airport.
‘I will come back, I promise.’ she whispers to the sleeping giant resting his head, to the palm trees, to the aquamarine waters of Denarau and to a tall quiet Fijian man who had stolen her heart. A new business and a new life with this man await. She opens the note he had thrust in her hand and there was a picture of a Fijian bure with a deck amid swaying coconut palms, two stick figures – Angelina and Seleti- smiling together, holding hands together.

Ginger scented chocolate mousse
with mango and passionfruit.

Serves 6

1 egg
2 egg yolks
100gr caster sugar
175 dark, milk or white chocolate melted and kept warm
60 gr of glace ginger, finely chopped, syrup reserved
1 ½ cups thickened cream whisked to soft peaks
Pulp of 6 passionfruit
1 large mango (approx 460 gr))

1. Combine egg and egg yolks in an electric mixer and whisk at high speed for five minutes or until pale and fluffy.
2. Combine sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat to dissolve sugar, then bring back to boil and cook until syrup reaches hard ball stage ( 121 degrees on a sugar thermometer).
3. Reduce mixer to a low speed and add syrup to egg mixture in a thin steady stream and then increase speed to high speed and whisk for 5-7 minutes or until completely cold.
4. Fold in the chocolate, then the glace ginger and cream.
5. Combine the passionfruit pulp and two teaspoonfuls of syrup from the glace ginger in a small bowl.
6. Divide the mango among serving glasses, spoon over passionfruit syrup then spoon the chocolate mousse over fruit and refrigerate for one hour or until set.
7. Scatter with chocolate curls and serve immediately.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas in Tassie 2009

December 14th a year ago Chita rang me while I was out on the Derwent river taking 6 students through a motor boat licence. He had accidentally told the Department of Immigration that we were getting married in December. I got back to shore, googled marriage celebrants and got someone to marry us. This year has gone so fast. Its been a roller coaster ride.
Chita and I are two single people, different gender and culture who have spent their first year together. Aprilthis year, I gathered up heaps of paperwork to satisfy the immigration case manager and a month later Chita received temporary residency which comes up in April 2011- and THEN he can become a permanent resident of Australia. I have never been much of a number and date girl, but a calendar is now a vital part of my life.
On December 18 last year Chita arrived on a plane from Nadi, with a backpack, looking thin, and goosebumps on his arms, to meet me. A year later he has completed a Certificate III in Aged Care, has been contracted as a teacher aide at a high school here in Hobart and does casual shifts in Aged Care. He now has a wardrobe of his own, full of stuff he buys from the salvos, or has been given by friends and family. He also has a basket of shoes, size 12.
He has his Learner's permit and will chalk up the required 50 hours in January to apply for an automatic licence.We are also looking at buying a more recent model automatic car and will be doing our research in the holidays. I can't wait for him to take over more of the driving. I have felt like a parent, having to drop him off places and then hang around sometimes to pick him up.
The challenge for any Australian woman who brings an Indigenous Fijian to Australia is suddenly realising that I am responsible for another person who does not have a clue about MY life.I have to manage two lives not one.
The benefits are having someone to share the journey. Someone who has a beaming smile and is very cheeky and makes me laugh a lot. Someone who can do the hard physical stuff, that I struggle with. Someone to talk to on a long car ride to Launceston. Someone who sings to me daily. Someone who gives me a hug daily - yes he does....
The hard stuff for me is....

I have all the financial responsibility. He thought my family would buy a house for us and that I would buy him a car.... He is learning the word 'budget' and has his own savings account. The day after he opened it, he raced back to the bank to check it was all still in there....
He worked and saved for a boys weekend in Adelaide to see the Fiji Sevens and the Tassie Fijians were in the background most days of the tv viewing. He has been to Melbourne twice, and Sydney for Fiji Day in October. The Tubunas get around...
I have had to support this man that I love totally to come to terms with a completely different culture. Everything I think about is for us both and that's been a big adjustment for both of us. Dreams of Sicily in September have been blown out the window as we discuss strategies to make our lives together better.
I have had to develop communication strategies to bridge the male-female divide with someone who comes from a male dominated culture. I have been a strong and independent woman for a long time now, and it has been tough at times.
I have had to support someone who has had continual bouts of homesickness and spent the first 8 months asking 'When am I going back to Fiji?".
Turning the 'I' into a 'we' is a perpetual journey.
You can take the Fijian out of the village, but the village is still in his head. I have had some major issues to deal with and we are slowly working on them.
Being a couple, is an expected part of our culture. Chita initially thought he could just keep doing what he was doing in Fiji and I would do whatever I was doing (he had no idea) and everything would be hunkydory. Not so.
One of the funny moments this year is asking him to wear a suit to a black tie function a couple of weeks a go. His instant response ' I will dress the way I want to". I tried to carefully explain that formal means formal so his agreed concession was to wear a sulu. My sister in law had offered a suit. We had one night to go around and try it on; he refused. Three days later as I am throwing our stuff into the car to drive 2.5 hours to the party. His response was:
Its cold. I think I need to wear my grey jacket and pants.
Its formal remember. Too late. We have no suit. Wear your sulu.
We drive to our destination and I ring a friend who we were going to stay with the following evening. I have learnt that if I try and convince him to do things, I am bossy, and his 'mother' and he digs his heels in and shuts down. Its much easier to hand ball to someone else who he knows and doesn't react to. My friend Mary found a suit, a pale blue shirt, a pale blue, brown and black bowtie and walked him through it.
As he walks to the car, he tells me this is the first and last time he will wear a suit. I smile.
At the party everyone tells him how handsome he looks; Chita beams. At the end of the evening I walk up to him and ask:
How was the party for you?
Easy! Piece of Cake!
One of our big discussions has been about weekends. Chita has become number 7 in the Fijian community and the guys have welcomed him with open arms. We are suddenly a part of a Fijian Australian wedding, the funeral of a Fijian Minister which lasted TWO WEEKS, and kava nights whenever the boys feel like it.It came to a head when I realised he was having a great time and I was staying home alone.... we now talk about balance, between his friends, my friends, time alone and quality time together.
Quality time together is my biggest challenge. Chita runs his social life as it was in the village. My idea of romantic dinners, walks along the beach, going to the movies, and visiting friends for a gourmet weekend retreat- do not exist. He is still in his comfort zone, which I drag him out of occasionally and immersion in Australian culture is still really limited.
We have played mixed volleyballs on a Wednesday nights with friends which has been fun for me, but an adjustment for him as he is a competitive Fijian and the hit and giggle concept is not for him.
He is still uncomfortable in cafes,bars and restaurants. Tasmania is a white Anglo culture, despite a few Sudanese so he feels self conscious. The kids at school thought he was a black American initially, then started calling him 'Puma" instead of Chita (Jita. He can't fade into the background here, but has had to step up and be forthcoming - its taken a year but he is doing extremely well.
I have booked a beach shack for four days in January and we are going to go there alone.... let's see how long that lasts!
We are both community minded and like helping people but I keep reminding him that it shouldn't be not at the cost of our developing relationship. Chita has not had a 'stop' or say 'no button'. We have a 1964 weatherboard with a neglected garden, a veggie patch to dig, a compost heap to set up, a worm farm to get going, and some leaks to plug up. A renovation plan is in our minds but will take years to activate.
We are hosting our first Christmas for my family- 24 in all if everyone turns up. It will be fun watching him run around, play with the kids, serve drinks, wheel my father to the table in his wheel chair, eating Christmas pudding for the second time, glazing the ham stuffing the turkey and enjoying it all.
He spent the weekend with a chain saw chopping down small trees in our garden and cutting down a small pine tree on our boundary line. He brought it inside, filled an old green tin with earth and put it in a corner for me; he trimmed the branches so we could fit the star on top, and watered the garden while I hung up the decorations. He loved it.
Its fun sharing my family celebrations with him and my idea of entertaining with him too.
On Saturday afternoon I invited a few galpals around for a Christmas drink. I decorated the table, threw together a couple of canapes, and sweet treats, and he ended up saying. 'I can't find anyone free this afternoon can I hang around?'
Sure. He served drinks, welcomed everyone with a Merry Christmas and then disappeared into the garage.
His comment- I haven't seen girls do that I get it.
We have had some big fights, arguments and discussions on what a Fijian Australian relationship should look like. Being accountable, avoidance and shut down are not working for him so having to be straight with me is still a challenge. He speaks Fijian daily to the myriad of Fijians in Tasmania, Australia and Fiji that he knows. He has just discovered that seven of his high school mates have migrated to Oz and live in Brisbane. He is ecstatic to be back in contact. He has daily phone calls from the Fiji 8 ( yes another guy has arrived) and a myriad of texts with a constant stream of jokes.... He now turns off his mobile at meal times, and chooses to answer the phone when he is ready, instead of jumping up and running for the phone whenever it rings... the novelty is wearing out. His phone credit never lasts, and he blew most of mine on the weekend.
Its Christmas! We have sent money to his mum and money to his daughter.... so December is covered. If you need to send money overseas Moneygram is the way to go. A flat fee of $12 is charged for up to $2000 Fijian. We never send that much, but it has irked me greatly that Western Union charges $35 and gives a poor exchange rate.
I can't wait for the holidays to potter with my husband in our garden, do a bit of maintenance, and hang. Not having a schedule, not having to get up early, not having to go to meetings, will be fun. We have a barbecue so meals are sorted.
New Year's Eve 2009 is our first year anniversary. We will start with a Fijian lovo and party but will hopefully end up alone...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A home at last!

Since Chita arrived in December I have been wondering how we could buy a house. We have no money, but there must be a way. How can I take advantage of the First Home Owners Grant? It kept bubbling beneath the surface of my thoughts and after we organised the Spouse visa interview, only to find we had to pay a bridging fee of $600 instead of $2,400 things started looking up.
A couple of months ago I was in my office doing a quick flick through real estate and saw a house that could do. I had figured out that we didn't have much to spend in Hobart and I wanted to try and find a renovator's delight which wasn't awful around $240,000.
We had started spending weekends looking at houses in Mornington, Moonah, Warrane, Glenorchy and Seven Mile Beach - a pipe dream as Chita has a learner's licence but needs 50 hours before he can get his P plates..... what to do.
I submitted an email to have a look at the property and got a reply on Wednesday - what time? I drove up Barossa Road, looking for the number, and discovered an acqua blue weatherboard - beach shackesque and thought, this doesn't feel like the city. It borders on a reserve - Chita can run up the fire trails. It has a semi rural aspect in the next block of houses - its only ten minutes from North Hobart - this could be it. Offers over $230,000. Okay.
I went for a walk through the house - the three bedrooms are a good size, the living area is L shaped with floor boards and there was plenty of backyard for my boy - who is itching to set up a veggie garden.
I came home raving about it, and convinced Chita to go and have a look with his mate Sam. Yep, they liked it too. Then fate played its hand. The tenants were expecting a baby and a building clause had been put in place that no one could visit the property once the baby was born. The baby arrived, and we were the only offer on the house. The real estate agent convinced the owner to sell. I upped the offer to what she wanted and the house was ours.
Getting the bank loan proved to be one of the biggest challenges of my life. I applied to one finance broker who kept me waiting three weeks and I finally realised that he was a bullshit artist and hadn't done anything on our behalf. I changed brokers and got approval in two days. Going to the banks was a nightmare as I did not have three months of salary savings - 4 years of constantly flying back to Fiji and saving for it, as well as supporting a business counted for nothing. I had to find a Building Society which would lend us the dough. We went for My State as they were based in Hobart but B & E were another option we didn't take up, as they are in Launceston and we didn't have enough time. Luckily I have a permanent position with the Department of Education which helped. Waiting for the finance was the worst bit. You feel as if you are not worthy. They keep ringing and asking for more documentation but in the end we got it...
My sister had a look on the internet and called it the Blue Moo, so that's our house for now.
Pikcing up the keys to the house a couple of weeks a go was also a bit of an anxious moment as the solicitors had settled at 12 but the papework had not been handed over to the real estate agent- there was a ten minute wait to see if they were going to give me the keys or not. They did.
Walking through the house that first evening, I realised all the things I had not paid attention to - the dilapidated paint work, the curtains, the fluorescent lights, but none of it mattered. The house is ours.
We spent a weekend painting and then moved in last weekend. A fresh coat of paint has made all the difference. However there are a few touchups to be done, and paint splats on floors to scrape off, but it feels clean.
There had been five cats in the bedroom but I slept like an angel.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I am back at last. I have been working on intercultural and interpersonal relationships between a Fijian and an Australian for the last three months. Its been a busy time for us, with a wonderful summer, me getting back into the swing of work and Chita trying to get work.
He started out well with two days a week at a gourmet butchery here in Hobart. He learnt how to use a computerised slicer and package the best bacon in Tassie for customers all over Australia. However with the economic downturn they no longer needed a casual.
I drove past a Turkish restaurant one Sunday night and he successfully applied for some waitering work and now serves Turkish food to eager customers. He had three shifts a week but that has dropped to one and now we are busy finding courses in care either aged care or students with disabilities for Chita to pursue.
Money has always been tight for us, so nothing has changed there. We are both catering for a private party on Saturday night. Chita is in charge of lugging stuff and setting up and I am cooking and serving food while he manages the bar. What a team!
We have come to an agreement that I cannot presume he knows what to do in all situations so I can tell him or show him what to do. That works in theory but telling a male what to do is rarely successful. I have to find a lighthearted and cheey voice to get my point across as my serious voice offends.
Some funny moments have been:
Me trying to keep the petrol cap open so we can get petrol into our car only to find he has taken hold of the wrong pump and I was trying to put diesel in - luckily it all dripped down the side of the car.
We were housesitting my brother's house and I came back from work to find the cat growling and howling. I looked in Spike's food bowl and found it filled on one side with kitty litter and the other side with dog food. He had read the note saying there is kitty litter under the sink and please fill the container. He just got the wrong container.
I am working full time, so when I come home he is there all happy and smiley waiting for me, and I am ready to space out for twenty minutes and recoup my happy smiley self. I give him a kiss and a hug first and then regroup and we cook dinner together.
We are a team in the house - I cook and he washes up which is great.
We have met the Fijian community in Hobart and he is number seven male. We have been invited over by all members and two of them Pita and Sam have become great mates with Chita and keep him busy. Pita has a tea with him every morning before work,and he usually drops in for a chat in the afternoon before heading home. Sam picks Chita up and they go and weed his vegetable garden, go for a drive, or go op shopping. Chita came home with a $3 bag of goodies last week including a fab jacket that just happened to be made in Fiji, jeans and great shirts. The boys were very pleased with themselves.
Last Sunday we took a long drive out into the country to a friend of our's rural retreat- a cottage at Deddington. The day was grey and gloomy with some rain, but once we hit the gravel and dirt road, the sun peeked through. We were welcomed by Suzanne with a wave from outside the front garden. We drove down the long drive and parked under an enormous tree. The day was idyllic. We helped set the table up on two picnic tables out in the nextdoor field. We had cows grazing in front of us, and Ramsay the ram loitering and sniffing us nearby. We sat down to marinated quail with a red wine fig and olive sauce, followed by a pear and treacle upside down cake which was delicious. Chita disappeared to sleep on the nearby river bank with the cows munching and crunching in his ear. The rest of us found places to crash for a siesta. I had my feet massaged by Chris and then I fell on some cushions and rugs to drink coffee and eat chocolate macadamia nuts with the rest of the guests.
Around 4.30 those with energy disappeared to collect wild mushrooms and Chita emerged with a big smile and two fistfuls of mushrooms which were cooked in butter and garlic, and placed on toasted sour dough as a bruschetta before the long drive home.
I love the peace and quiet here....... he says and I did too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Our journey!

Over the last few days I have had a chance to think about what I am doing. I am an unpublished writer. I have a stockpile of manuscripts in my cupboard. I intend to write a novel about an intercultural Fijian relationship soon. I started writing this blog because I was desperate to understand Fijian culture, its traditions and customs and there is nothing out there.I thought that by sharing my experiences I could assist others in the same situation. I have had plenty of confirmation from friends met through this blogsite that I have helped.
I have lived in Italy and for twenty years I have immersed myself in the lifestyle and learnt the language. When I am in Italy now I blend into Italian life.
Fiji is different. I am a kavalagi. I am different. Fijian culture is still a mystery to me. I tried to learn the language but had difficulty finding someone who with the time to spend on conversation. I only learnt about tradition when I had made a mistake. It has been frustrating. My relationship with my husband has succeeded only because we have created a level of communication which bridges two cultures. He has to compromise and so do I. We treat each other as equals and respect each other.
I am so proud of him. He is adjusting to Australian daily life and makes inciteful comments frequently to the differences. Every country has good and bad and plenty of social problems. It is my view. I will not be compromised. I live in a democracy with freedom of Speech. I am sad to see the comments by Fijians and am sad to see that not one of them had the guts to leave their name. That is a side of Fijian culture I don't like.
Thank your for your support and positive comments all my kavalagi friends out there. This blog site is written for you. In Fijian culture people are quiet and in the village situation I have heard Chita say often - I can't say much'. That is not the Australian way- when we have an issue of problem we talk about it. We don't have to wait for a village meeting to speak our opinions out loud. I have never meant to offend - I have tried to use humour instead.
I have nothing to hide except a strong and deep love for my husband. I have spent four years supporting him, his family and his clan. We opened a village business which I am proud of. It has been a struggle to get him to Australia. It has taken a personal toll upon me. I have had to prepare all the paperwork, change jobs so I could support his application and apply for visitor's visa. I had to cut back my living expenses to nothing so I could afford to go back to Fiji and see him every three months. Last year I got seriously ill from the stress of it all but we did it!! I made a commitment to my husband that I would be there for him always. He and I are very happy.
Arriving at Melbourne airport at 11 pm in a near empty airport all I can remember is his smile. We walked around Melbourne city the next day and his comment to me was ' I am in the land of the kavalagi'. I looked through his eyes and instead of seeing Australians on holiday, he is now seeing Australians participating in daily life. Our flight back to Tas was delayed for 8 hours and the two of us were tired, bored and desperate to get on a plane - His comment cracked me up - If I spend much more time here I will turn white.
He has got a job already working two days a week for a gourmet butcher. His first pay was the equivalent of three weeks work in Fiji. He is very grateful. I am about to take him on a walkabout tomorrow to find more casual work - probably in Hospitality. We are no longer a separate entity - we are 'Us' and we are heading towards a future as a couple. Laughter is going to be the way forward. He still has issues with pyjamas - an ozzie concept but I have agreed that he is making so many adjustments on a daily basis that we will take change one day at a time.
However, I have the responsibility of this man. We still have to apply for a spouse visa and meet all the conditions. I have been a single and independent woman who has travelled the world and loves OTHER CULTURES. I have to adjust to someone else being in my appartment and my life. So far it has been fun.
Chita's cousin Joe in Sydney remarked that he loved the burgers in Australia. Chita has already told me - I know why Fijians stay in Australia, there is so much food to choose from. Watching Chita enjoy day trips driving around Tassie, eating new foods - creme de menthe meringues and apple and rhubarb crumble are off his list, playing touch footy on Sunday and getting to meet a few people, hanging out with my brother, being welcomed into my family, and us spending time together. He has been here over a month and last year I only spent a week in January in Cyclone Gene, a week in June, an week in September. Our journey has begun!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fiji is always close!

Having Chita here in Australia has been great. He is adjusting to a new way of life, but retaining his dignity as a Fijian living in Australia. He and I both love Fiji and would love to be building up a business in Fiji, assisting the village community of Votua and providing education and training to young Fijians from his clan.
Unfortunately, at the moment that is not possible. We have two good friends running the business for us, and we know we can always go back and visit. We are also organising a way to support his mum from Oz.
I have had a recent comment from a Fijian male, saying that I am being disrespectful to Chita's family and his culture. That is something I would never do. I started this blog to build bridges so that other Australian girls who find themselves in the same circumstances will need patience and persistance in an intercultural relationship. I respect his family and his clan. I have never talked about them. Living with two cultures requires flexibility, patience, mutual tolerance and respect. Chita and I have begun that journey.