Headstrong Uncle | A Fijian Fiction

My chiefly village of Vitiritiri would be a more ideal place to live in, if only it didn’t have the painful existence of the outspoken and powerful – Momo Kisitoni. He was a pot-bellied dark man with a shiny bald head, who was feared by most villagers for his deep thundering voice and slicing tongue, that ruthlessly humiliated those who caused him dismay.

His astute business acumen and big money, that he gave generously, made him ascend to leadership positions naturally. He is our village headman, our local Primary school manager, Rugby club manager and also an outspoken man in Church – with rights to speak freely, as he pleases, because he makes the largest donation. 

People struggled to make donations in church but Momo Kisitoni had a different struggle – the struggle to cut down his consumption of red fatty meat – as advised by their expensive Private Doctor in town – and reducing that bulging stomach of his.  

The sensible people of Vitiritiri loath him, but there is this other gullible portion of villagers who support him, saying that he is a true leader. Momo Kisitoni is the nephew of our village chief, Ratu Tirauni, but sadly, I feel that the chief also harbors a secret fear of his nephew.

“For once we have a real man, an intelligent man who is leading the village to a better place. Our village is being pervaded with outside influence and outsiders too. Kisitoni is the only strong leader that has the vision and resources to restore the former glory of our village,” says my mother Varani, his keenest supporter. 

The outsiders being my best friend Rusila’s family and two other families that had moved from villages in the hills to our village. During village meetings, Momo Kisitoni raises the motion that the outsiders residing in our village move back to their original villages, for they are taking away land and resources from the true villagers. Determined, Momo Kisitoni urges the chiefs of their original villages to take them back. 

Momo Kisitoni is that man who every feminist would hate – often publicly spewing vile ideologies that are against women. The irony is that he is married to someone who I consider a feminist – my educated Aunty; Nei Mela. She has her diploma from our local University on Secretarial studies and works for a government Ministry. She is also the President of our Women’s club, which under her leadership, has become a successful support group for the economic and social empowerment of women in our village. 

Nei Mela is my father’s half-sister – a very beautiful woman with a fair smooth skin and soft curly hair. Rumor has it that her father is not Tai Sakiusa, my grandmother, Tai Merewai’s 3rd husband. Instead her father is a Chinese farmer that my grandmother secretly had an affair with, while still married to her second husband. 

Nei Mela wears bold red lip stick, eye liner and blush and dresses up in clothes and jewelry that raises eye brows amongst the prudent fashion police club of my village. The life of the party they called her too, always leading the festivities and dancing. On these occasions, one could see anger in Momo Kisitoni’s face. And every one of these dances would always lead to shouting, rattling of furniture and thumping noises, afterwards from their house.

My mum never liked her sister in law Nei Mela, she says that she deserves those beatings for making a fool out of her respectful husband and also that Nei Mela dresses suggestively, and her make-up makes her look like a clown. My mum suggests that instead of working Nei Mela should stay back home and focus on bearing a child, a heir for Momo Kisitoni. According to her, it is shameful for a woman not to bear children, which is the prime purpose of marrying into any family – they are considered ‘a waste of food’.  

Nei Mela couldn’t remain silent anymore contrary to advice from the good housekeeping ladies, that she avoids involving authorities. She reported him after last New Years celebration after beating her up badly. However, he only received a warning, that being his first offence. Despite the beatings and clearly not sharing his stupid ideologies, Nei Mela stayed with him and I have my suspicion that she loved him too, for some unthinkable reason. 

However she was his strongest opponent who never feared speaking against him publicly like others. During the farewell dinner for my cousin Tevita, who was moving to New Zealand for work, Tai Kisitoni – always arrogantly sitting above all the elders of the family on the eating mat – seized the opportunity to give a lecture on the erosion of traditional i-taukei culture from our daily lives. 

Everyone nodded obediently to his words, with their mouths full and moving jaws. We all quietly ate, trying to enjoy the feast; shredding pieces of chicken and dipping it into tomato sauce, serving ourselves large servings from the chopsuey bowl, removing bones from fish, spooning green rourou with pieces of mutton into our mouths, along with soft boiled cassava and dalo. 

Nei Mela serving food down below with my mum and other ladies from my family unit – started getting agitated with Momo Kisitoni. She stared angrily at him and tutt-tutted her tongue, irritated at him for killing the joyous mood with his irrelevant topic. 

“Please Kisitoni shut up! We are all trying to enjoy our meals here. If you are so concerned about the ancestors, why don’t you go and join them!” Nei Mela said, stopping him in midsentence. 

“Can you hear her? You see this is what I am talking about. Know your place woman! What sort of example are showing to these young girls?” my uncle roared back at my aunty.

“I am teaching them how to stand up against all the foolishness that comes from your mouth.” 

A heated exchange erupted between them leaving the atmosphere awkward and uncomfortable and a solemn silence followed when the argument ended. 

We, the young ladies were then told to eat faster, and to get on started with the washing of dishes immediately. I happily stood up first, collecting all the empty plates and bowls, delighted that my Aunty with her smart sassy mouth defeated Momo Kisitoni in that battle of words, making him look foolish for once. 

Tai Kisitoni was the enforcer of not only culture but also of religious and moral conduct. He talked about himself all the time on Sunday’s during Church service, making himself appear faultless – perfect and supreme above all. 

He knew everyone’s weakness and he would bring them up during the service, shaming the sinners in attendance – that ranged from the excessive kava drinker, the smoker, the alcoholic, the bad parents, the ganja eaters and the ganga dealers, the adulterers, sorcerers, lazy people, fornicators and the village gossipers.

It was on a Friday night when I got found out by the man himself, with his own eyes. That afternoon, I had told my mum that I would be doing tutorial questions at Rusila’s house. Me and Rusila had always been on the same class all throughout Primary School up until now where we were both first year students in University, taking the same course – Tourism and Hospitality – doing the same units and intending to work in the same posh Hotel. 

My boyfriend Netani, was Rusila’s second cousin. He had always been inquiring about me to her, saying things like how pretty like the moon I was and other smothering feather-soft words. Being his cousin and being my best friend, Rusila fixed us two together. She warned me to be cautious though, not too overinvest, as he had a considerable experience in dating. I took no heed and quickly I developed the fever

We got caught sitting in the dark, on the wooden bench underneath the mandarin tree behind Rusila’s house – our usual meeting place. We had been talking for more than an hour when all of a sudden a flash light shone upon us like we were some criminals. 

“What is happening here? What are you two doing sitting in the dark?”

Tentacles of fear quickly spread across my chest when I realized that the voice was that of Momo Kisitoni. He started moving towards us, all the while continuously shining the flashlight upon us. We shamefully covered our eyes from the bright flashlight directed at our face – like Adam and Eve did in the bible from the light of God – awaiting judgement. 

“Miliana, is it you? What are you doing here in the dark with Netani?” he asked. 

I couldn’t answer a word. My heart was beating so loudly, my mind went numb. 

“Sorry, we were just talking sir, nothing more,” answered Netani calmly which I found to be very brave of him. Another part of my brain, which was not affected by fear at that moment, loved him more for that. 

“Did I ask you a question? You blarry low life, I am not talking to you. I am talking to my niece,” Momo Kisitoni answered almost spitting at Netani. He stood right in front of us, inspecting us closely. 

“Stand up!” he said sharply. 

We both stood up slowly. While getting on our feet, he hit Netani on the face with the thick flashlight, sending Netani down to the ground. He kicked him three times like a dog making him moan badly which had me crying.   

“I didn’t tell you to stand up, you pig. What do you think of yourself? The audacity of you to court this girl. I pay for her school tuition do you know that? Just so that she don’t marry low life boys like you. What do you have? Nothing! You are nothing! There’s great plans for her and you just come in intending to ruin her life?”

“Please forgive me sir. I didn’t mean to do anything like that,” Netani murmered incoherently, crouching on the ground in shame and pain. Seeing his bleeding face sent shivers down my spine. 

“Be gone now before I kill you with my own bare hands. Go!” he screamed at Netani, who quickly stood up and ran through the Hibiscus hedges, disappearing underneath the breadfruit trees. 

He never said a word to me while walking me home. Poor dad was watching the six o’clock news in the living room when Momo Kisitoni stormed in with me.

“Etuate! Where is Varani?” called out Momo Kisitoni. 

“Tavale (brother in law) what happened?” my father asked. 

Dad stood up and muted the television with the remote, eyeing us with surprise, curious as to what sort of crime I have committed. And my mother in the kitchen, hearing his deep distinct voice and sensing alarm in it, rushed to the living room where we stood. 

“Now what is wrong with you two, letting her roam around at night like this?” Momo Kisitoni asked, pointing at me. 

“She was going to Rusila’s house to do some school work. What happened, where was she?” my father replied. 

“I found her at the back of Rusila’s house sitting in the dark, talking intimately with Netani. Now what was that all about? You call that doing school work, huh?” 

“What?” my mother shouted, just arriving in time for that part of the story – stunned and in disbelief, when she heard it. 

She turned to my father and screamed at him; “This is all your fault, you are not doing enough to discipline them, you tolerate them too much – letting them do as they please. Whenever I impose something tough, you oppose it.” 

“And you just let me deal with you after this!” my mother shouted at me. 

“Who knows what immoral conduct they have been engaging in, in the dark. I have invested so much money onto her education, all gone to waste now,” Momo Kisitoni said. 

 “Etuate,” he continued, “prepare the grog bowl and the kava, Ill send word for Netani’s parents to come over here for the meeting,” Momo Kisitoni said leaving us to our own selves, which I feared, seeing the murderous look in my mothers face and the look of disappointment in my fathers. 

The door was closed, my brother Jovesa was sent to fetch the thickest piece of stick he could find and was threatened that he would be beaten up with it, if it was not of good size. I was given the beating of my life by my mother with that stick – which broke into two – and the sasa broom too. My father had to stop her from hurting me further. 

Around 9pm, Netani arrived with his parents, and seeing me limping into the verandah with my mother made tears stream down his face. My mother swore at him and threw all sort of abusive language at them. Poor old parents of Netani begged for my parents forgiveness – his poor old mother even cried. 

Momo Kisitoni dismissed Netani from being the captain of the rugby team and from playing in the team entirely. He also fired him from working at his Car Repair shop as a mechanic, but this was later reconsidered. 

We were asked if we had engaged in premarital sex and we both lied. We had done it once – my first time – in his room during new years eve when their house was empty with everyone in the village ground celebrating the new year. 

“Do you love Miliana?” Momo Kisitoni asked Netani. 

“I do, very much,” he answered which stunned my mother, making her curse at him. 

“Will you marry her,” Tai Kisitoni asked further. 

“I may not have anything but I am honest and hardworking and I can make her happy. Anything that her parents needs I will provide. The big functions and the small one’s I will undertake,” replied Netani while looking deep into my eyes. Those words changed my life forever. 

Mariage was final, as decided by Momo Kisitoni. My mother cried and my dad looked down hiding his tears. Nei Mela strongly opposed it but that was futile. 

We got hastily married a month later. Netani remained working for Momo Kisitoni and was to pay him back the tuition that he paid for my two semesters at University. 

My uncle continues ruling with an iron fist, his judgements, not always the best nevertheless people silently obeyed. My life changed that night, and that year many changes happened within the village too. Rusila’s family gave up and moved to their original village in the hills. On the day that they moved, we stood crying on the road side while I clutched onto my stomach, heavily pregnant with my first born. 


A Most Fun Job Interview

Last week Friday I had a job interview, the first one in quite a long while. I am always excited about job interviews, I get to talk to the important people within an organization, without knowing how important they are yet, which is cool, and we converse as equals, with me hoping that I get hired. When succesful, then the organizational structure kicks in and I tip toe around them, respecting them for their important’ness. 

I love interesting questions, I love answering them and also seeing what sort of answers I can pull out, off the top of my head. It’s like some sort of game for me, a challenging game that I try to win. At times I miss, I have an embarrasing flop in answering certain questions and other times I hit the spot, making me thrust my hand side to side, doing the choreography to Beyoncés song Formation, singing 🎵I slay! I slay! I slay! 🎶

Talking about interview flops, I got shortlisted for this job in this other organisation that I dreamed of working in sometimes this year. This particular organization has a significant focus on our agriculture sector. The job requirement was a Degree in Agriculture or Agricultural Economics or Agribusiness and somehow I got through with my Economics and Finance degree. They asked me questions about agriculture, and I learned then how I hadn’t any clue about agriculture at all, even though I grew up in a farming community. I may have grown up in the farm but I don’t know how to milk a cow, ride a horse and I have never engaged in commercial farming. The interviewer asked me how many acres of land we had and I didn’t know what acres meant, well I have never taken a measuring tape and measured the entire land area and neither have I had any interest in reading my dad’s documents about the land. He asked me about the viability of an agricultural business, ignorant me, I confidently answered that I believed it was viable. Few months later I actually realize how that agricultural endeavour wouldn’t be viable, it would have failed. Thank goodness I didn’t get the job, I wouldve been bad at it and miserable in it. 

Remember few weeks ago I talked about the few good job applications that I did and the ones I was crossing my fingers for. Well I had an interview for one of them last week Friday. Oh what a relief it was, to finally get called. I had to travel to Suva for the interview. I have to travel for four hours in order to attend interviews in Suva. I hate sitting still in a bus for four hours, it’s exhausting. 

I have made the mistake a couple of times of travelling early in the morning for 4 hours, getting straight off the bus and then straight into the boardroom for the interview. Tired, my mind slows down, desperately needing rest and refuel. I remember once looking at the interviewer funny, thinking; ‘Is that a true question? Sorry, I dont know anything about your organisation. I had other pressing things to do while travelling here, like watching You Tube videos and reading BrainPickings articles – which to be honest, is more interesting than reading your companies website.’ There goes the interview and the four hour commute down the drain. 

This special job interview on the other hand was the most fun I have ever attended. I enjoyed it so much. They were very interactive as interviewers. They knew which questions to ask and how to follow that question up with another interesting question. 

Some interviewers just stick to the script that they have. Sometimes I feel that they are more nervous than me. Some interviewers blankly stare, looking and talking in a very bland way, atleast from a few that I have endured. Like seriously, I get bored sometimes. I get to imagine what the job will be like, thinking that this would be the same group of people I will work with. In these situations I fear that I would suffer from prolonged exposure to uninteresting people and end up having some sort of brain death. 

Now back to this job interview. I applied for this job basically trying out my luck. Initially, I didn’t want to become too invested, expecting to get a call back, because the Organization is a huge one, a prestigious one and the position is a very promising one too – it requires people of high calibre. I didn’t know if I would be considered and I was okay if I wasn’t. But then, hey I did get a call back and I felt so proud. 

I exclaimed to my mum, “Na they called! I am so proud that they considered me for an interview but I dont think I’ll go, I’ll just bask in the glorious feeling of being considered. It feels good.” My mum thought that I was being ridiculous, whereas I thought that it was admirable of me. She ensured that I went. And I did go. It was worth it!

I went a day in advance, so I had rested well prior to the interview. Everything was perfect. Don’t you feel that sometimes, things goes smoothly, there is a perfect flow, well that was the case in this interview. I didn’t make too much effort, it just all happened naturally. This time I did my research of the organisation in advance. The organisation is of great interest to me, the work that they do, their vision, mission and core purpose just aligns with my own. A small but significant part of my interest in life links with the work that the organization does. It was very interesting reading up on the organization. I really felt like this is where I wanna be, climbing up the career ladder, this is where I wanna spend a good portion of my work life in. 

On my way to Suva city, I stopped at Nausori town, roamed around there for a bit. My uncle, who works at the Nausori Airport – as a Pilot – was supposed to pick me up from there and take me up to Suva. Fortunately, he was still tied up (probably flying the plane off somewhere unexpectedly) at work so I had a little bit of time to roam around town. I wanted to check out the small lovely town with the iconic bridge. I checked out their second hand shop for books and I found Reading Jackie by William Kuhn selling for only $1. Its an account of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as a reader, writer and a intellectual. I can’t wait to read that one. I will read it after I finish Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I had lunch at Nausori town, I roamed around that small town and then caught the bus back to Suva. 

So I had learned everything that I wanted to learn about the organization which left me with enough time to catch up with my relatives in Suva. My favorite Aunty, who used to be a party girl, the scandalous queen of the West, who was also my best friend, adventurous partner in crime and confidant, is now married with two kids. She is lovingly settled yet she still has that sense of fun in her and her husband is a cool man – eventhough he is a bit older than her. 

The interview was scheduled for 10.45 am. I went early because of early morning traffic and also buses in that area of Suva likes to swirl around the neighbourhood for 45 minutes before it finally flings itself off to Suva. I was not taking any risks so I went early. Suva was still the same old Suva that I left. It was great to go back and I hope to go back next year – getting back into the system of buzzing and happening city life. 

Walking into the building, I remembered how when I was still at University, passing by, on my way to school, I used to daydream of a chance to work in that building. Atleast Financial Career wise, it is the organisation that interested me along with this other organization where I had that interview flop. Inside the building, it is so amazing. It has a large work space. Everything inside is modern. Also the people working inside look so professional, so smart and intelligent in their dressing and in the way they walk about. 

As soon as I got out of the elevator on the office floor, I went straight into the washroom, freshned up for I had walked quite a considerable distance from the bus stand to the building. I was sweating. I also rehearsed in the washroom thinking it was empty, but I was was caught by surprise when a toilet flushed from a cubicle and someone came out of it. No awkwardness passed between us, I just ignored him and I continued neatly adjusting and parting my frizzy hair into place. 

I went out and sat in the cozy warm reception area – with dimmed romantic light – for a few minutes, smiling at the receptionist and asking the lovely lady whose name I remembered over the phone how many people were interviewing. Its not a very large number, so the probability of my success is okay. I had a friend who I applied with and he was also shortlisted for the interview. I checked up on him and also had to encourage him to come fast and not to be alarmed by the beautiful, competitive diversity of the other candidates also interviewing. 

Then as I am sitting there, calming myself, a lovely Itaukei woman who I later learn is the Human Resource manager peeps out of the doorway – from the inside of the work space where the boardroom was in – and asked the receptionist where the relieving panelist is and if she was coming anytime soon – all said with a big, genuine welcoming smile. She also asked me if I could just wait for a few minutes. I smiled back at her and told her that it’s okay and I hadn’t any problem with waiting. I learned from the receptionist that I was the fourth candidate to be interviewed.

Few minutes later, the HR manager lady opens the door out for me and then accompanying me into the boardroom. She warmly led me into the boardroom with a huge bright smile. And the other panelists also had their genuine warm ‘bula’ smiles on. They even stood up and shook my hands when I entered, introducing themselves. It felt so good, I felt so welcomed. When I am writing this and recalling it, I realize how special that moment was and how very warm the panelist reception to me was. They were kind and friendly. I took to them instantly. They are the people who I want to work with, they were amazing.  

The questions started with the usual first question; “Please tell us a little about yourself.” Now that question, as simple as it is, is one the most difficult questions for me to answer. Good thing was that I had rehearsed my answer to that in advance, and it started off the interview on a good note. Then the interview just led into a great deal of interesting discussions. We were laughing and we shared enthusiasms and interests. I shared an interest in Elon Musk with the main panelist, who could potentially be my supervisor if I am succesful. I enjoyed the interview so much and I had a great time.

Now, I am awaiting the result of the interview. Next process is an interview with their super intelligent and charismatic CEO. I am positive about it. I am getting invested in this. All my expectations and emotions, I am heavily investing it in. I want it so bad. I wanna cry getting it or I wanna cry if I don’t get it. This job means so much to me. I want it so bad, for so many reasons. Its perfect for me. This is it – the make it or break it. I am intentionally investing all of myself, emotionally and mentally into this. 

I feel that at times we need to take chances and throw all of our hope and effort into something. To take the great emotional risk for something, once in awhile. So now, I am crossing my fingers and waiting, hoping and praying that I go through. But heyy, if I dont get it, I might be disappointed an confused for a short while but then I’ll adjust my sail and set off again. Life goes on, eventhough at time’s we don’t know how it will do so after an ending. 

Wish me luck, I need it! I am wishing you all the best too in whatever you are hoping and praying for. We are all in this together. 

The Village Sign Board | Flash Fiction

Picture from Pinterest

A passenger in a black – posh looking car – travelling back to his busy life in the City found himself seized by the laid back look and content air of my village. The young man who ‘was’ not proficient at Itaukei language read the big sign board that said ‘Welcome to Nakoroya Village’, trying to pronounce the Itaukei word. The village was a congregation of neatly arranged, multi-coloured – Brick, corrugated iron and wooden – houses, with a single thatched Bure standing amongst them proudly.

As the car respectfully crawled by to cross two road humps, the young man dreamily looked out taking in the village passing by before his eyes. The green grass and leafy tropical plants that bordered houses and pathways. The tall Lemon tree with a wooden bench underneath, standing beside an outdoor corrugated iron kitchen and cooking on its fireplace was a black-based pot with steam seeping from the little slit opening of its silver iron lid. Three piglets ran around freely. Few dogs lay sleeping underneath a mango tree and above it – Mynah birds screeched and pecked away at ripe – red and yellow – mangoes.

Two small brown naked children stood beside a tap splashing water at each other from a blue plastic bucket, while a young lady, probably their mother, hung her newly washed laundry out on the clothes line. He giggled warmly seeing the children laughing with water glistening on their faces and dripping through their fingers.

He snapped out of his reverie when the car slowly came to a hault beside the concrete village bus shelter where two young women from the village sold mangoes.

This black car came upon us when our faces were fresh with laughter. I was laughing at Miliana’s jokes about Tai Kisitoni, disrespectful jokes, but ones that we enjoyed so much because he was a mean man of all sorts who made our lives miserable in the village.

When the car parked in front of us we stopped our conversation and smiled at the passengers of the car. Miliana stood up to greet them.

“Bula, how much?” the large fair man in the front seat asked.

“Five dollars,” answered Miliana who knew little, but enough English to understand and answer. She showcased her wide welcoming smile as if her teeth were also on display and ready for sale.

My attention was immediately drawn to the young man at the back seat, the daydreamer with dreamy eyes who looked at me with friendly interest. I smiled and turned my attention away to Miliana instead who waved flies off the mangoes beside me, eagerly waiting for them to tell how many mounds of mangoes they will take.

“Do you have change for $50?” the driver finally asked.

“No,” Miliana answered softly, we didn’t even have change for 50 cents because they were our first customers.

Carefully looking back into the car I found him smiling. He had light brown eyes and a fair creamy complexion. This attention that he continued to pay me, made my heart flutter and I felt this foolish feeling of losing touch with the cement pavement at my feet.

Mr Dreamy eyes with creamy face moved at the back. “Oh don’t worry,” he intervened. “I got $10 and we will take two mounds of those mangoes,” he titled slightly to get the money out from his pocket. Miliana looked at me, smiled a knowing smile and then began packing up the ripest looking mangoes into the plastic bag.

He got out of the car and came over to our table.

“Bula, I am Steven,” he introduced himself.

“Bula, I am Rusila,’’ I answered and likewise Miliana also replied with her name, taking the money from him. She continued packing in the second mound of mangoes while stealing small mischievous glances at me.

“Nice names, Miliana and Rusila. And this is a beautiful village. How do you pronounce the name of your village?” he asked me in particular, looking back at the two sided sign board.

“Nah.Koh.Roh.Yah,” I replied, smiling, feeling more comfortable with his dreamy, out of the village presence.

“Welcome to ‘Nah.Koh.Roh.Yah boys’’ he said to his friends. “I invite you for a grog session at Rusila’s house”, he told them, not in a pervy mocking way that some boys do to flirt with girls, but in an innocent joking way which was respectful at the same time.

“Yeah right, Rusila’s brothers will warmly welcome you with their fists before they make you sit down with them for grog”, the driver said and they all laughed in the car. “Sorry Rusila, this kid here likes to welcome himself to other people’s villages. He hasn’t even been to his village,” the driver further added, and the two other passengers continued to laugh, even adding in their funny remarks to Steven who also laughed along with them.

“Don’t listen to them girls, they don’t even have a village”, he retorted while taking the plastic of mangoes from Miliana.

We both laughed at his joke, matter of fact we laughed at all their jokes, not deciding whose joke was funnier, not even trying to understand them, we just kindly laughed along. It felt good to be included in their city conversation. In that small moment we felt like the cool city girls on TV, chatting with smart, sophisticated city boys.

“Vinaka for the mangoes Rusila and Miliana,” shaking both our hands.

We both smiled and said ‘vinaka’ back.

“Right,” he paused taking another good look at the village.

“It was really nice meeting you two lovely ladies, till we pass by this way gain, vinaka and moce,’’ finally making his way back to his seat in the car.

The driver and the two other passengers also waved and bid us their ‘moce’.

It was in passing by that Steven performed a small salute gesture like some cool cowboy from the movies and I in return giggled the most soft girlish giggle ever.

We sat smiling and in silence, watching the car drive away, waiting for it to be out of visible sight, holding in our rising excitement.Safely out of sight, we both burst out in a crazy fit of laughter, laughing at what we both understood and needs not to be said outright.

“Steven, Steven, Steven please don’t go. Take me with you to Suva. Take me with those mangoes. I am sweeter than those mangoes. Please I beg you,” Miliana putting on a grand act, mocking me.

“You are crazy Miliana, he was just being nice to us.”

“And did you think he was nice?” she winked at me.

“Oh he was Nice,” I widened my eyes and we both burst out laughing again not noticing the incoming old white Four Wheel Drive with the man inside who started to narrow his eyes and shake his head in disapproval of our loud raucous laughing. Miliana noticed the car first as it got close and rapidly said “FS! FS! FS!”

We both collected ourselves and acted proper, waiting for my granduncle Tai Kisitoni’s car; FS 800 to pass by. Tai Kisitoni was a pot-bellied dark man with the distinct shiny bald head. He was feared and respected by most villagers for his deep thundering voice and slicing bitter tongue that ruthlessly humiliated and insulted those that dare cause him any dismay.

We knew we were in trouble because we were obviously acting inappropriately as per standards that girls like us should maintain as female members of the village. And as expected, he stopped right in front of us and fearfully we both looked into his eyes.

“Pack it all up. Pack the mangoes up. Come on, pack it up Now!” he roared.

Silently with trembling fingers we both started packing it into the buckets that we brought the mangoes in.

“Is that how girls are supposed to be acting by the roadside? Laughing loudly. What were you doing there? Calling boys and men driving by to sell them mangoes or were you two trying to sell yourselves.”

We both looked at his eyes meekly, holding our breaths while collecting the mangoes, for nothing irritated him more than a person who doesn’t look at him while he or she is being counselled.

“And I don’t think so you should be sitting there Rusila. I’ll have a word with your father, you should be at home helping your mother. And Miliana, make sure to tell your father he should be ashamed of himself for letting you sit on the road side selling mangoes. Where are your brothers, they should be doing this, not you. Now hurry up, I don’t want to see you both here when I drive by. Fast! Pack it up!”

His car entered into the village changing the scene from peaceful village bliss to our typical village life where we tiptoed around my unstoppable granduncle Tai Kisitoni. In the brink of crying I helped Miliana pack in the mangoes. After awhile she softly whispered, “Steven,” with a mischievous smile in her face. That night we came back and threw soft ripe mangoes at the village sign board leaving yellow marks and dried mango skins on it. Miliana wrote in dark bold capital letters ‘Welcome Steven’. 

‘A Year of Marvelous Ways’ by Sarah Winman

I had just finished reading A Year of Marvelous Ways by Sarah Winman and goodness it has to be one of the most beautifully written book I have ever read. An absolute favorite and this is the first time where my need to read more things by an author is independently based on my good experience with the authors work. It has never happened to me before. Usually, I depend on critics review of an author. My preference would based on suggestions by reviewers, critics, their popularity and credentials – the more awarded, the more respect and attention I pay to it. 
While reading this book, I felt like I finally found something that I personally preferred and enjoyed, also something that I can proudly suggest for other people to read. This book is my cup of tea and Ill drink anything made by the author whether critically acclaimed or not. Sarah Winman is great story teller. This book just oozes with sweet syrupy story telling that gentally flows through a bubling fountain. To read this book is to dip your hand in that fountain and taste something so deep and rich that makes you feel warm and sentimental. But it does not give you a sticky sensation, the only thing I believe will stick is the story in our minds – definitely for me. The book made me fall in love – with life – and made me a believer in love and magic. Its a feel good book.  

I know I am babbling on and on about how good AYoMW is , which again I assure you, it really is, and if you find the book, I highly suggest that you pick it up and read it. Okay going straight to it now – so here is a small run through of what the book is about. I am aware that spoilers are a major crime in writing book reviews or even a reading reflection, so Ill give you the basics of the book; why you might like it and also what some might find offputting in the book – which for me, a slightly snobbish reader, I actually thought made the flow of the book better. 

AYoMW is a 2nd novel by Sarah Winman after her best selling debut novel – When God Was a Rabit. I havent read her wildly succesful debut novel but AYoMW really did it for me, and I am eager to read WGWaR. She also has a new novel out, released last month titled The Tin Man. I am going to have a real good time catching up with Sarah Winman books. 

This is novel about an 89 year old lady called Marvelous Ways who has lived beside a Cornwall creek for almost all her life. She lived a remarkable life alone – an independent woman who planted, fished, cleaned, fed, dreamed, fell in love and swam by that deep and wide creek. She has this very magical presence with her and she talks alot about magic because her life has been filled with so much magic. She collected things and made a home for herself, which overtime, you could imagine it must have become something to marvel at. While reading I can smell the mustiness and feel the warmth of her caravan by the creek, filled with lovely ornaments, antique furnitures, tattered brown books, wooden jewelery boxes, dried herbs & flowers, old glass bottles, sea shells, beads and a few jewelleries on a dresser table with an old oval mirror at the foot of an old cozy bed.  

At the 89th year of her life, she found herself waiting for something which she hadnt a clue of what it was. That thing she was waiting for came in the form of a person – a young soldier damaged in spirit by the war, who was out to fulfill a promise he made to a dying soldier he met and very briefly got to speak with before he continued his journey. I have read quite a few books about the great World Wars this year and the experiences by people who fought is similar – they witness the worst and it leaves a lasting impact on them. Drake was raised by a single mum and she died when he was still young. After which of course he recruits and joins the army. 

The present day for this book is after the war, when the rebuilding is slowly taking place and life slowly returns to normal with remanants of the way still lurking about in the air. Actually Drake became more gutted and torn apart into pieces after the war when he meets a childhood sweetheart and has a very brief but intense randevouz with her. You should read the book for its juicy details. He found her years later, and she had grown into an outstandingly beautiful young woman. They caught up with each others lives and after a night together, Drake decides that they should just stay together but she disappeares very dramatically leaving him in great shock and pain. He drinks his pain and sorrows away, unconscious of where he is headed – even without a care because the guy was in so much pain, he was falling in love, he found something and so quickly he lost it. All of a sudden we find him washed up on the shores of old Miss Marvelous Ways creak. She nurtured him back to health and housed him by the boat house. When he was back in good health he continues on his journey to delivering the letter of the dying soldier. Obviously he returns back to Cornwall and thus continues the great stories. 

Marvelous Ways has some great stories, she is 89 years old and its a great treat to listen to stories of life shared by people who have lived it the longest. There is so many wisdom we can take out of it and it can also make us less impatient. I believe stories from older people can strip down life to the essential stuff for us – what matters the most in life and also it makes us take a sit, be less fidgety, anxious and be more accepting of all that comes our way. Marvelous Ways had a normal father but a perculiar mother. She lost her mum very young because of that uniqueness. She moved in with her Aunts in the city as her father went in mourning and he came for her again and on this great trip – sort of a prilgrimage where they healed and helped people on the road along the Cornwall peninsula. She learned a lot of skills which became useful to her, making her sort after by the locals later. Marvelous ways fell in love a number of times and she talks about it beautifully with Drake and the new girl – Peace, a baker who came back to town to open up her grandparents old bakery. They share stories after meals with sloe gin – the only alcahol beverage being served throughout the whole book. It aids the storytelling I bet. Their lives intertwine, you have to read the whole book to figure out how and the centre of all the magic was Marvelous Ways. They share stories of love, loss, yearning and adventures. I loved this book. 

It has a consistency about it. There wasnt a point in the book where I rolled my eyes over some thing in a book. There was a flow. It was like being rushed through a series of events that captures the beautiful essence of life. A week ago I came across a post on Instagram that highlighted the need for great character development in a novel by a Kenyan reader and I have to say that for this book, character development is strong and all the characters are very interesting, even the two who came near the end – Peace and Ned Blaney.

The bad bits, some might consider is the magical realism – magical events, superstitious beliefs and a mermaid in the book – might put some people off.  Also the missing talking points “..” to mark conversations, none of that in this book. But as we read on, we get to see how it all fits together and I believe that Sarah Winman is a genius for pulling it off effortlessly. She is a very talented story teller for being able to do what she did in this book, while taking a few risks. When I noticed these I was a bit sceptical of the book, almost never read it but to have picked it up and read it was worth it. I really enjoyed this book and I cant say enough how much I do. So yeah, I am leaving out plenty juicy details of the book but I am declaring my great enthusiasm of it. She is now one my favorite writer and this is a favorite unique book I have read so far. And that was my slightly scattish reading reflection of it. 

I am going back to my reading now. Vinaka. Moce! 

Proudly Narrate the World Around You – The World You Know 

I have collected a lot of interesting things along the way in my blogging journey. Some from writing but mostly from reading. Recenty I came upon this article shared by the WordPress team titled ‘Magic can be normal‘ by the site Hazlitt. In the article an Asian writer talks about her great joy and other thoughts on seeing a fellow Asian actor play a significant character on a Shakespeare play. She felt proud and was happy that her child could also experience the same joy years on, when an all cast Asian Shakesphere play was performed in a nearby city. The article highlighted the importance of representation in mainstream media, how it can help young peoples confidence in life. How representation can help young people of color feel normal and believe in endless possibilities – that they can be hero’s and heroines in their own lives. I urge you to read it and feel the same magic I felt while reading the article.  

Reading that article I became very inspired and it urged me to have some pride in who I am and where I come from and to proudly narrate it for the world to read it. To make my stories part of the new normal. Which is what we should all do more of. I always felt intimidated being in this blogging world, I felt like I dont have a story to tell and part of the reason is because most of the blogs that I follow are not from the region that I come from, there is vast differences in lifestyle and culture. So I felt like I couldnt be actively part of the conversation, because to be part of the conversation I would have to know what they are actually talking about. 

But I do enjoy reading other blogs, really, especially for the general universal truths they talk about which breaks down all boarders and boundaries. Two blogs I am loving at the moment is a poetry blog by Robert Okaji, and the narrative blog On BeingBut writing becomes difficult if you are literally from an island of your own where your story is in abundance but may seem unrelateable to others around the world. After reading that article by the website Hazlitt, I felt really empowered, like, oh my goodness, yasss, I have a story to tell, its all around me, my life, my everyday existance in this place in the middle of nowhere is worth telling because it is unique. No one else is telling this kinda stories from this region and I will tell it as authentically as possible – very importantly. 

I am from the Pacific Islands, South Pacific, Fiji to be more specific. I am not going to sugar coat or glamorise things and make it sound like some tourism brochure. No our life is very different from what is presented to tourists. We have a life,  a real life, just like that of people who are escaping theirs by coming for holidays in our islands. We love our tourists and are greatful for them visiting our islands and we all do work together to keep you coming back to our shores. For real. But my point is that our life, its not tropically glamorous, we do not eat from coconut shells or beatifully crafted spoons and bowls. We eat from silver spoons and plates. We dont always eat healthily, going backyard with our woven baskets to fetch vegetables and rootcrops – matter of fact Non Communicable Diseases is a major cause of concern – its at an alarming the rate. And then there is climate change which we are regarded as victims of. However I choose not to see ourselves as victims, we are victors and we will fight back by being a smarter generation, economically sustainable, growing and advancing – thats my fight. I am of the view that ‘we dont need handouts,’ we can do things by ourselves. We have universities breeding scientists and business students that will protect and propel our countries to greater heights. 

We are a beautiful places with beautiful smiles that is authentically welcoming. We also have an interesting way of life. We have our own hustles and we try to keep up and be on the same page with the rest of the world. For me I represent the dreamers from where I come from. We dream normal dreams as other young people do. We consider ourselves modern millenials pushing envelopes, creating new pathways. We aspire to be Actors, Singers, Writers, Models, Fashion Designers, Business Moguls, Influencers and so many other things that the imagination can conceive. Very importantly we have our own stories and I am a blogger who will tell a part of that story. Welcome to my side of the world. 

First and Foremost: Stop being dishonest with ourselves! 

“Now comes the harder part, Nick. I need total honesty from you, it wont work any other way. So tell me everything about your marriage, tell me the worst. Because if I know the worst, then I can plan for it. But if I’m surprised, we’re fuck#d. And if we’re fuck#d, you’re fuck#d.”

 ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn

It is indeed the hardest part to have to admit things – problems, weaknesses, threats, failures and defeat. It’s uncomfortable having to not only admit to other people (totally unnecessary if it is none of their business) but also having to admit to our ourselves. In the above situation before Nick can give as honest as possible to his Lawyer all the raw truth, he needs to be aware of the raw truth in the first place and acknowledge it. Choosing to be oblivious to our raw truth or being dishonest with ourselves is often the ‘easier and comfortable’ alternative – which mostly presents us a short term or immediate satisfaction yet breeding long term consequences.

Do you at times feel like you lie to yourself? Because I sure as hell do. I prefer to be more irresponsibly optimistic. I lie to myself that everything is alright and their is no need for concern. I hate the thought of wrecking my brains delving into my problems, I fear that I might become too stressed out and depressed. It’s also hard having to analyse things about myself and I am not good with another person doing it for me either. I am very laid back which could be attributed to me being a 24 year old Fijian living in the land of sand and sunshine where life  is idyllically laid back. I often find that it is easier to say “Oh I am fine,” or “Its no big deal,” or “Its not that serious at all, nothing that cant be fixed,” – without a care and a clue of how to fix it.

Reading the book ‘Gone Girl’ has taught me one thing and that is the importance of being honest with ourselves. We don’t need someone else to come and coerce the truth out of us or maybe to actually capitalize on our weak areas and use it against us. We need to take ownership of our ugly truths and use it to fix things about ourselves that we know needs fixing.

It’s totally a personal decision if you want to reword the truth, make it colourful and tasteful for other people but when it comes to telling yourself the truth – you say it as it is – in its ugliest, yuckiest true state. But it doesn’t have to be a demeaning activity where we drain out our self esteem, we should see it as a way of giving ourselves constructive criticism. Not only identifying the areas where we lack in but also thinking of solutions and creating a very strategic action plan for ourselves.

Like what Lawyer Tanner Bolt says to Nick Dunne in ‘Gone Girl’ – if we know the truth than we can plan for it. Being very honest with ourselves give us an opportunity to have a proper insight and perspective into our own flawed life. Having a good understanding of just what we are dealing with helps us to manoeuvre ourselves better around problems making sure that we have control on our life. We are also able to prepare ourselves for the worst and in countering risks. By taking full responsibility we can challenge ourselves to make some changes. We will posses a foresight that should help us to create a game plan – a game plan to play the game better.

So friends let’s stop being dishonest with ourselves. Stand up, be brave and accept your truth. No one can attain perfection but we can do little things to improve ourselves. Let’s be responsible and be honest with ourselves first and foremost. Philosopher Lao Tzu says that “Mastering yourself is power.” You got the power!! Claim your power!!

Reading Reflection: ‘Mr Mac & Me’ by Esther Freud

It’s a lovely book about friendship, life during the war, life in small communities and artistry. Reknowned Artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh moves to the beautiful coastal village of Dunwich and develops an unlikely friendship with the young local Thomas Maggs who has a small disability – a twisted leg – but posseses a great ambition for sea fairing adventures. 

The only dominating difference between Thomas and Mr Mac lies in their age, besides that, they have so much more in common which naturally united them. The book has a first person narration, told from the point of view of young Thomas Maggs. It takes place in 1914 during the great world war in the village of Dunwhich on the English coast of Suffolk. It’s a fishing community and Thomas is from a family who has lost a great number of its men at sea. They were the sort of brave sea men who were naturally drawn out into the sea – it was in their blood – and it is that natural inclination that took them to their early grave. 

Thomas has brothers who never survived, they died early due to illness and the only ones to survive were his 2 sisters. He was the only boy to make it and the youngest in the family too. Being the only surviving boy child, both the parents especially the mother became determined to keep him alive, to have Thomas outlive them unlike the other 3 brothers. They forbade him from going out into the sea and tried to extinguish any interest – which naturally ran in his blood towards – towards sea fairing activities. However that yearning to be out in the sea roared within him like the sound of waves hitting on the reef.

Charles Renneie Mackintosh is a real iconic artist and this book provides a fictional narrative on his brief stay in the village of Dunwich which I assume produced some of his greatest work. He grew up with the natural interest and inclination towards the art however this was greatly shunned upon by his father who insisted on a more economically practical career path. Luckily he came upon the field of Architecture which balanced his artistic enthusiasm and the promise of financial stability. He melted into the field of architecture naturally, the money came and he was touted as a great talent, his works were of great success. However as a young artist taken under an agency, he was wasn’t given the credit that he rightfully deserved for his art. He was unfairly treated and a single act of defying the big bosses had him cast out and he struggled to find work. Plus his art was sort of unconventional and revolutionary for that era, so as you can imagine it was not easily accepted by everybody and there was always tough resistance present. However there was a niche market who were appreciative of it. I have to mention that his wife was an artist too, a great artist and together they moved to Dunwich and worked on separate passion projects. 

Life was hard for people and behind these hardships were a lot of factors, some referenced mildly in this book. There was poor health care and a significant number of people died due to this and the most vulnerable being young children. The young men were going out to war leaving behind heartbroken mother’s, wives and girlfriend also those men who were left behind felt disheartened and resorted to drinking developing a drinking problem resulting in battered wives and battered families. 

Life was difficult for both the characters. Thomas had an abusive father and they were struggling to get by and their business of running the Inn was not doing well in that time of war, they struggled to pay the rent and make ends meet. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was having a hard time financially too, he was actually painting to make ends meet. Also he was strongly plagued by the strong feelings of injustice he felt he had been dealt being an architect. 

They had there own unique set of suffering but what was very similar about them was their ambition and there yearning to realize it. They were both ambitious individuals and had a flair for art. The least of their troubles was what the difficulties that arose from the war but their concern had more to do with their personal dreams and all that stood in their way against. 

What I loved about the book was the description of both Mr and Mrs Macs commitment and focus to their work. They moved to Dunwich for the beautiful scenery and the variety of flowers that grows there. So Mr Mac would go out, pick out a flower and make a real life impression of it. He was focussed. They even built a shed to carry out their work and hold all their artwork. So when they are in there they are in the zone – just going for it with an intense focus. 

Thomas often visited them and they encouraged him to also paint. Thomas drew about what he was most passionate about – he drew the Ship that he wanted to be a crew on. He did draw other things too like a girl he had a crush on. He had a fondness for the couple. The couple garnered curiousity of the locals and young Thomas slowly unfolds the mystery in the book. I also liked the book mostly for the work that people were engaged in like the Highland girls who come down to gut fish; how skilled and graceful they were in carrying out the task, Thomas’s  mum who stoically managed the household and the inn despite having an abusive husband. 

Books about rural life appeals to me and I especially like it when it’s described in careful details. I feel that rural life is the soul of any country and you haven’t trully visited a place if you haven’t visited it’s rural places or country side. All in all I think that this book was okay, it requires patience. It’s not of high action and there are no great twists. It’s not exciting but mellow and it does feel like how life would be beside the sea. Life is influenced by the sea breeze and it dominates the pace of everything. The pace of life being like how the story in this book unfolded, very slowly yet beautifully. So yes, that’s my reading experience while reading this book, sorry if it may lack much enthusiasm but then this book does not create any room for that and I didn’t find it memorable. I wasn’t sad that the book had ended but I am proud to have had the patience to finish it.