Villager on the Sidelines
I always wanted to write on being raised in a farming community in Rakiraki. As a child I grew up in the arms of Mother Nature blossoming with lush green mountains, pristine river and surrounded by sugarcane fields. Those nostalgic memories of my life will remain in my heart forever. Life was too simplistic to be true. The aroma of soil and fragrance of the blooming flowers enchanted the exuberance of one’s peace and existence in a small world of our own. There was so much connection with the serene nature and our dependence on it for the providence of food, water, shelter, recreation, and our happiness.
I have been modestly keeping away from writing about my childhood in the midst of acquiring further education and job. Then I got married and suddenly from boyhood to a fine young man with a family of my own, kids and added responsibilities. I moved from Suva to Apia, Samoa in 2017 to take up a job offer on a regional technical position. It gives me a reason to spend some time recalling my childhood.
I was a habitual kid like any other blokes in the village. There was nothing exceptional about me. Our life was meant to be idealistic and peace with nature. We learnt to be self-reliant and grew up developing natural hunting, gathering and surviving skills. I would hike to a nearby forest and gather yams, roots, fruits and vegetables for food. As much as I hated, it was always important to make sure there was sufficient firewood in the kitchen. We never had the luxury of a gas stove and on the days when we ran out of fuel for our wood stove my mum will grab the knife and walk across to nearby bushes to collect some.
There was no internet or PlayStation, no Facebook, twitter or any other social media. It is quite remarkable that without internet or any other such entertainment we were still engaged in things that made lifelong experiences compared to many things we do today that rarely people remember after a month. In the afternoons I would take our cow for grazing and this will be the time when we have hundreds of stories to share with other boys grazing their cattle along the river greens. These moments of my life was making of who I am today. It seemingly prepared me of who I am today and if any success I have in life today is due to what I have learnt during those days. My endeavor to write about reminiscences of my childhood is to inspire and motivate others. I hope that my love for the place of my birth, my own struggles and enriching life lessons will be source of inspiration to others. While this may be an interesting way to know me and discover the person I am, it is however my own personal attempt to relive those moments as I submerge deep into the thoughts of the past.
I was born in an extended family to a cane farmer in a farming village on the outskirts of Ellington. The village was called ‘Natunu’ surrounded with mountain cliffs, forest shrubs and a river flowing along the graveled access road. Along the road were mostly cane fields, mango trees and wild almond trees and rain trees. It was a small Indofijian village with around thirty families that had clustered and made a niche of their own living peacefully tempered with peace, goodwill and understanding for each other. Everyone in the village lived like a family and it was a taboo to address elders by their names. It would either be kaka, mama, aja synonymous to uncle and grandfather in English.
We never had clean piped water until the late 90’s by when I had entered secondary school. It was common for families to have their own well for drinking water and ladies would take piles of dirty laundry to a nearby spot at the banks of the river called the ‘ghat’ a flattened rock protruding on the banks of the river where they would sit and wash all household laundries. Electricity in the village had come through government assistance and community fundraising in the early 90’s. I was very small when this project was initiated and used to excitedly watch Fiji Electricity Authority workers laying cables. My personal favorite was a guy named Manasa. Occasionally I would be sent to give refreshing juice to these guys and Manasa will allow me to hop on the digger and he will turn around few gears on the heavy machinery as the bucket shovels around to my excitement.