I am in a little village outside Nausori, which in turn, is outside of Suva (which I am sure everyone knows of), and staying with my partner's family (Mum, older brother, his wife, and their little son) and are here for ten days.
A little bit of background of the village. It is a village, consisting of houses, grog shop, DVD store, general convenience and petrol store, Police Post and community centre (to which the grog shop is attached). From what I can tell, the residents are either Fijian or Fijian-Indian background. One family owns the grog shop, DVD store, and convenience store... and that's my partner's family (Fijian-Indian).
Their house is more than 100 years old, and has been through 3 generations of their family (originally built by my partner's great grandfather). In fact much of the immediate land was, or still is, in the family name (no longer farmed by the family, mostly on agistment with other farmers).
Sam (my partner's father) built the convenience store, DVD store, grog shop and community centre. The Community Centre consists of a room, amenities, covered large open room and lean-to for more room, and has a pool table.
It was by his influence within the local government that he was able to get the main road from his store to his neighbours bitumen (when asked why he didn't continue with the bitumen from his store to the main road (Suva - Nausori) he replied simply that he only got the bitumen done where his customers come from.
His lasting legacy (he passed away about 2 years ago) was not the bitumen road, but the Community Centre, and more importantly, the pre-Christmas get together, to celebrate Christmas within the little community. Basically, every parent provided a present for each of their children, which would be given out by Santa. In the meantime, lots of Christmas music would be played over the speakers, and Kava flowed freely.
This year, of course, was the first time I experienced the pre- Christmas community get together, and I noted the following:
- The Christmas music was both loud and very happy (no escaping it within the village)
- A good solid mix of Fijians and Fijian-Indians were present, and sat amongst each other, not segregated
- The MC of the event conducted a communal prayer (Christian based), ensured a Fijian chant was done, but most importantly explained to the children the importance of community spirit, respect for your neighbours, and helping each other.... in other words, he paid it forward.
- Santa had an amazing tan, a wicked pair of Oakleys, and 2 missing teeth :)
- Santa arrived on a back of a ute, in convoy with a couple of cars
- Santa liked Kava
- Every adult male was offered Kava by the local Fijians, and I had a couple of coconut shells worth (yes, it does taste like muddy water, it doesn't make you sleepy like say beer, and t does numb your mouth)
- The level of respect my partner, her older brother, and most importantly, their Mum (Sam's widow) received by all and sundry was truly incredible, and a sight to behold. As a tag along, I too was offered and given great respect; something totally unexpected. It was very obvious that Sam's presence was still very much among them all.
- I knew I was safe having some Kava with the locals, even with a well known ability of not holding my own with alcohol
- I tried to learn some of the customs with Kava (saying Bula first, clapping the hands (cupped) once, drinking, and then clapping cupped hands twice)
- Every child had a present (my partner made sure we had purchased a number of presents for some of the less advantaged families' children)... yep she understands the concept of paying it forward
- A few families (Fijian and Fijian-Indian) provided the curry chicken and rice for everyone
- The store provided the lollies for Santa to hand out
- The night went on to 10:30pm with lots of music, and beer (the Kava ran out early evening) but promptly stopped so as to not annoy the neighbours with children.
- The following day, a group of locals cleaned up the community centre, and life returned to normal.
- This little aspect of life in a village is one that our world leaders should take heed of when dealing with the international and localised problems:
- Two races interacted with each other, in the same way long term friendly neighbours do (and of course that's just what they are)
- Religion did not impede on the day's events, with both Christians and Hindus peacefully enjoying their day together (yes, I know Hinduism is more a way of life, but you get my drift)
- Regardless of wealth, or lack thereof, a community, with the right spirit and sense of respect, can be both wholesome and fun to be a part of.
So, on this Christmas Eve, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a safe, rewarding and relaxing break.
Please take some time to pay it forward to someone else...
You never know where it will lead.