A friend sent me this link about a man in Japan who has made a simple machine which converts plastics back to oil, or kerosene (many Fijians use kerosene for cooking). Since then I have seen a whole lot of back yard versions on youtube.
This great idea would be perfect here in Fiji! Solar panel, composting toilet, and folds down to handle extreme weather.
So many un-used shipping containers here. Mountains of them sitting around in “container parks” for sale. Each one costs about $5000 FJD (about $2500 USD) yet the habit here is to build corrugated iron homes for more than ten times the cost which are not cyclone resistant, let alone flood tolerant.
If these homes were also on wheels, they could be moved to higher ground in the event of cyclones and floods, often caused by tidal surges, or even the rising water of the ocean due to climate change which is as we speak, causing villages to relocate to higher ground.
Yesterday I got the sad news that the brother of a friend took his own life and his body was found in the river. Today I am preparing to go down to the house and help with the funeral preparations. I have been emailing another friend about this, and remembered how differently death is treated here from in my home in a developed country.
I wanted to share this with anyone who is interested, as it means a lot to me, and I will post updates out of respect for my friend, and for his loss. I have taken out names for the sake of the family.
I have just copied some of my email text below:
Me: In any case, you can all get a bit of a rest from me today, as sadly I have to go and help a friend prepare their home for a funeral. His younger brother took his life after having an affair and his body was found yesterday in the XXXX River so I had better get showered and get moving.
My friend:Oh my goodness, how awful. Good luck xx
Me:Weird that people can actually set out to commit suicide by drowning themselves, but here so many people can’t actually swim. Fiji has one of the highest drowning rates per capita in the world
My friend: Yes, I remember reading some on your blog about swimming. Seems so strange as I thought it was all about the beaches! That was until you told me otherwise. Suicide is a terrible thing. Can’t understand it. So hard on the people left behind. To be so sad is tragic. So is the funeral today after only finding him yesterday? Much quicker than here. No autopsy or investigation?
Hope you’re ok today, and all the family involved.
Me: No, the funeral will be some time next week I guess when the wife and the mum return from xxxx (overseas). They have just been told that he is sick in hospital and wants to see them so that they are not too distressed to travel. The man lived in xxxx(overseas) with his wife and the mum just travelled there last few weeks to visit for 2 years (also how it is done here). He came back to Fiji to check on the farm, do some planting and then go back. The cassava and dalo crops are planted and then harvested after a year, so many people do that. Just plant and forget, maybe get a caretaker to do some weeding and look after the house.
Anyway, he took up with another woman for a month while he was here and it has somehow all gone pear shaped!
His brother is my taxi driver, Mr XXXX, who is one of my two real friends here in Fiji.
I am going to help the ladies (cousins, aunties etc) to clean the house, clean the compound, start cutting firewood, digging up cassava and dalo for the funeral. Here, death is very real, and burial is very down to earth. You really know that the person is dead when you stand beside the grave which is dug in 6 feet of clay mud, and watch people actually pat down the earth by hand and with shovels. It sounds horrific, but actually it is quite calming, and there really is a sense of closure for people.
Often the inmates from the prison do the grave digging and filling as part of their community service, so there are also prison guards sitting on nearby graves with guard dogs. The inmates wear their orange jumpsuits, and the ones I have witnessed are really kind and sensitive in their treatment of the gravesite and the relatives, and do it really “nicely” as they say here. People always say, “do it nicely” for anything important which translates to “put your whole heart into it, as if it really matters, and go over and above what you are expected to do”.
After the funeral they all get together and have a big feast to remember the passing and as they say here “cover the person’s footsteps”. A bit like a wake, but more a feeling like a huge casual Sunday BBQ at home, as all of the relatives from all over come and it is often the biggest celebration the person has in their whole life, even though they have passed.
Anyway, I am actually off to shower and prepare as my friend is collecting me soon in his taxi to take me down to the house. This is a sombre topic, and my thoughts and apologies go out to anyone who is reading this and currently dealing with loss of their own.
Tonight I couldn’t sleep and I came across this short National Geographic film about a group of artists and ocean debris specialists (weird that we now have a profession listed as that!) who traveled to remote beaches in Alaska, collected tonnes of ocean debris that washes up there, and are making art from it. The exhibition will tour the world and opens in 2014 in Anchorage.
I know some of my readers are artists, photographers, great writers, activists, yachtspeople, and travellers. It would be great to make a similar documentary in Fiji, maybe starting with Levuka, the old capital of Fiji which is remote, almost forgotten, and the landing place of an amazing amount of debris. Is anyone interested. Perhaps people could send in clips from each part of Fiji and we could compile?
Sorry I posted the link on facebook before felt compelled to write this post, so apologies if you get this twice! To view the film: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/08/21/filmmakers-document-the-weirdness-of-marine-garbage/#comment-281943
A lovely lady called Emma contacted me through the Facebook site Clean Up Fiji after listening to the 4BC Australia Radio Interview last month where I was asked about recycling in Fiji and what I am doing personally to combat the issue. She is going to be staying at the Fiji Hideaway Resort on the Coral Coast, Fiji shortly and has offered to help by taking some photographs and doing a blog post or Facebook post of her experiences. I recently went to the Hideaway to visit some other friends, so thought I might give Emma my tips. It seems the tips might be useful to others, so here they are with some extra bits added for clarity. For more travel tips click here:
Things are moving along here now. My husband and I are organizing a recycling program at Fiji National University,, Koronivia Campus and also Levuka Town, Ovalau Island and some of the other islands. Community support is growing. I visited Hideaway recently when some other friends were there, and found out that they do recycle there, which is great. My friend said that she asked about the coral planting project and it is no longer going. I believe at Hideaway resort that they used to have a program where you can replant coral http://marineecologyfiji.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Micro-reef-building.pdf . Also, just to let you know, if you plan to swim or dive, take care as there could be nutrients from sewage in the sea which you can’t see as it leaches from the resorts and villages. It can be a real problem on the Coral Coast. My friend went diving and really enjoyed seeing the fish. She also went on a reef walk which she enjoyed. The best time for diving is at high tide so you may have to get up early!
My suggestions to you while you are there – visit Kula Bird Park which is nearby and apparently lovely. My friends went there. Sigatoka Sand dunes is also good – an archaelogical site (ask at the hotel). Sigatoka town is nice to wander around, and you can visit the beautiful Iskcon Hare Krishna Temple there. If you go in the other direction (towards Suva) on the normal bus (just wait by the side of the road – it costs about $1 each) ask to get off at Votua Village near Korolevu village. I have a friend there who might be able to meet you if you like. Anyway, once you get to Votua village, then just walk (ask anyone) about 3 minutes down the road towards Suva and you will find the ecoCafe. It is run by a German lady and a Fijian man. They have a nice deck over the beach where you can eat and have a drink, and you can walk on the beach and your daughter can paddle around. They also cook a Lovo (earth oven feast) there sometimes. They sell some nice handicrafts there at the cafe also (better than the ones I saw at the resort).
There is also a waterfall near Korolevu but I have never been there. You could ask at the hotel if there is anyone who could take you.
A great site for local activities near Korolevu (which is close to Hideaway) with contact numbers and websites is https://sites.google.com/site/fijibeachcottage/local-activities.
You should also see if you can go for dinner at Beach Cocomo (contact details and pics here). It is run by a Korean lady, Marie, who cooks the most delicious Fijian/Korean fusion for about $35 a head for 5 course dinner and you eat in a traditional bure with a sand floor, overlooking the ocean. It is about 10 minutes drive from the Hideaway by taxi and Marie can order a taxi to take you back after dinner. Tell her I sent you and give her my regards! It is really not to be missed. She may ask for a deposit by credit card so that she knows you will come. Don’t be concerned by that, as she has to buy the fresh food and if you don’t come it will be wasted! She also does breakfast which is lovely and you can go for a walk on the beach there. She makes the best babakau. (Well actually, I think I make the best ones, but hers are second best!)
If you have any room at all in your suitcases to bring over some stuff, my friend at The Gap has been collecting donations of second hand sheets, towels, clothes etc that are much needed here. Maybe you could bring a few as she has too much to bring with her? I can come and meet you, or you can leave it at reception with my husband’s name and he can collect when he passes by for work.
The big bus stand is also right next to the big vegetable market which is interesting and there is a women’s section inside where you can buy some nice patchwork bags in Fijian fabrics. I bought one a year ago and use it every day for shopping and it still looks great. Also, go upstairs, as that is where they sell the Kava (Yaqona pronounced “Yangona”) If you want to visit the museum, then get a taxi from outside the flea market or vegetable market. It will cost about $3.50. The museum costs about $7 each to go in. It is surrounded by a botanical garden and is next to the Presidential Palace where you can see
the guard who is there 24/7 in his white sulu with the zig zag bottom. It is also next to Albert Park. If you want to eat, across the road from the museum, on the sea wall is the Bowls Club. They are members only, but will most likely let you in and serve you if you say that you are new in town and it was recommended. Just ask if a member can sign you in. If you are a member of any club in Australia such as a football club, bring your membership and ask to be signed in as an affiliated club member. It is a nice walk back from that area past the Art Deco government buildings towards town. Once you get to the
Suva City Libarary (also a nice building to go inside) and Olympic Pool, turn towards the sea wall which goes behind MacDonalds and you can walk all the way back to the big bus stand over the bridge past the fish market. Once you go over the little bridge, you can see the vegetable market. Cut straight through the vegetable market and it takes you out to the bus stand where you can get the Sunbeam bus back to the Hotel. The trip to Suva is about 2 and a bit hours by bus, so leave early in the day and come back in the afternoon about 3pm to avoid the rush hour. It is a lovely bus ride and you will get to see a bit of Fiji. A few tips regarding
finding toilets: Make sure that you take some toilet paper and wet wipes with you as most of the toilets will not have toilet paper or soap as you are expected to bring your own. If you want to go to the toilet when you get to town then you have to be strategic. There are some pay toilets (50cents each) which are very clean, and you can find toilets most of the way along the route to the museum if you know how. I will put the details and a toilet map in my next message as I have to go and do some gardening now before it gets too hot!
This is one of the best documentaries that I have watched for ages. It is about consumerism and sustainability from a psychological and evolutionary perspective, and has left me with a positive feeling that what I am doing is actually going to make a difference somehow, and that I must do it…
If you like documentaries, and wonder why your latest purchase that you simply had to have hasn’t made you happier by the end of the week that you bought it, and have a feeling of confusion as to why, then this is a good film to watch.
It also put into a bit of perspective for me as to how I managed to live such a consumer driven life in a Developed country for 48 years without doing much, and why I have had a change of heart since moving to Fiji, and have said “enough is enough”. I am more driven here by the simpler challenges of life such as planting our food, wondering how to get from A to B, what the weather will be like, and why did the goats eat all my crops!
Here’s an idea! So many bottles dumped in Fiji every year and thatching is also now hard to come by as the land is cleared and unsustainable farming practice leaves little room for growing traditional building materials.
Thatch can be made from plastic bottles cut into long strips – this man has made a machine, but it is really quick to do it by hand. My son loves doing it just for fun when I am trying to make other useful stuff from the bottles – he does one in about a minute.
Perfect for tropical climates.