Another use for old umbrellas – doggie bed of dreams!

A couple of months ago, our neighbours’ dogs had puppies.  About a week after that, mysteriously, all the girl puppies were dumped in our yard.  They were skinny, ridden with fleas, and starving.  I decided that I had not much choice but to bath them, and care for them until they were old enough for me to find homes for them.  People here in Fiji often dump female puppies as they are not wanted.  There is an SPCA here, and they welcome unwanted animals, but animal welfare in Fiji is very much developing, and is at the lower end of the scale.

Snowy and Patch now have new homes with some lovely families who love animals.  Blackie has stayed with us.  She now has commandeered our umbrella cushion as her doggie bed of dreams.  To see how to make a cushion or dog bed from recycled broken umbrellas, click here.

I wanted to post these pictures to show my cyber friend Jo, who makes all kinds of cool stuff from recycled umbrellas and just sent me a tote bag in the mail.  She has a stall in the UK and an etsy stall.  Her bag is so well made and holds about 25kg of shopping!  I use it daily.  Thanks Jo!  To see her stuff including bicycle paniers, bags, painting smocks, and more, click here.  Maybe soon she will be selling dog beds!

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Blackie, Snowy and Patch a couple of days after they arrived

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Blackie on her bed make of recycled umbrellas

How to make a bean bag cushion chair from recycled umbrellas

             IMGP2363 Recycled umbrella bean bag cushions

From this

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Two umbrellas dumped on the ground

To this!

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using a cardboard stencil

Ever wondered what to do with broken umbrellas?  In Fiji, after any downpour of rain, along the roadside, you will see literally hundreds of broken umbrellas – ahh, they don’t make them like they used to.  By the way, one thing I discovered when I was doing this project was why my grandma always told me to buy a good quality umbrella regardless of the cost.  I have often wondered why umbrellas these days seem so flimsy and turn inside out the the slightest gust of wind.  Is it because they are so cheap, and poorly made?  Not really.  When you have to take one apart, you see the enormous amount of effort that has gone into making one.  The IMGP2359umbrella skin is hand stitched very well to the spokes at several places on each spoke, and then hammered into the top of the handle using a metal clamp.  However, when looking at the fabric of two umbrellas that seem an equal size, and then sewing them together, I noticed that not all the triangular panels are exactly the same size, even though they look it when the umbrella is up.  Actually with the cheap umbrellas, the fabric

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triangles are all quite different sizes.  This must create a tension issue when the umbrella skin is stitched to the spokes, and therefore create instability when the wind catches the umbrella.  If I were a scientist, I would do an experiment to see if the part that flies up in the wind, is the section with the biggest piece of triangle fabric compared to the others, and therefore with the lowest tension.  Sadly, or maybe a good thing for the world, I am not a scientist.

Now to the real business of this post.  Seeing so very many broken umbrellas (actually only the frames break usually, and the fabric is intact) by the side of the road after a bit of rainy weather, and needing some more furniture, I decided to see what I could do.

I took a small stitch unpicker (or scissors would do) with me and walked to the bus stop.  On the way I found two or three umbrellas in the gutter, and unpicked the fabric from the frame which took about 20 seconds each time.  I stuffed the fabric in my bag and felt bad that I left the frames where I found them.  I then got the bus 5 minutes down the road to my local market place, and got off.  I collected another 10 umbrellas there, and did the same thing, and went home.

I have since felt so guilty about leaving the frames on the road side that I take them home and use them for trellises for the long beans and cucumber plants.

People thought I was very strange and asked me what I was doing, but now, taxi drivers who have taken me home and seen the cushions I made bring me umbrellas each week when they find them on the road side!

IMGP2365I soaked the umbrella skins in a bit of bleach for a while, washed them and hung them out to dry.  The rest was easy!

Check the umbrella skins for any small breaks in the stitching, sew up the top part where it joined the top of the handle (there will be a small hole in the middle of each umbrella circle).

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Dom spray painting

IMGP2356You can spray paint a stencil pattern if you like.

Sew two umbrellas of the same size together inside out and leave a small opening to insert the filling.

Fill with foam chips or polystyrene balls, or even used and clean plastic bags and old clothes.

Sew up the hole.

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Jone and Samu

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Ellena and Kim

Sit down!

Read the paper,

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Renee having a hard earned rest

watch TV,

relax!

Calling film makers and artists – want to make a documentary in Fiji about art from ocean trash?

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Fiji’s oldest Hotel, the Royal Hotel, Levuka

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.

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Some of the ocean debris in Levuka, including a washing machine

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

 

Rocket Stove – no kerosene needed!

stoveAnother idea for using all the tin cans we have here in Fiji – most people don’t have a fridge, and you can only normally buy fish in a big bundle which is too many to eat at once unless you are having a lovo.  Therefore most fish is eaten from a can.  Also, most people eat beef from a can, oh, and lamb from a can.  Cans everywhere.  Kerosene stoves are usual here, as gas is also expensive.  Here is an idea for a kerosene free stove for heating water and cooking a few things….

With almost half of Fijians living in poverty, this could be one part of the solution.

http://logcabincooking.com/hobo-tin-can-portable-rocket-stove-class/

Levuka Town – Fiji’s First World Heritage Site

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Levuka, the old Capital of Fiji, on Ovalau Island, is now Fiji’s first UNESCO World Heritage Listed site.  Going to Levuka is a step back in time, in the most charming way.  It is wonderful that the town is now going to be preserved.

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1399

If you love Levuka, and want to find out more about how to recycle PET bottles and aluminum cans, then please contact me.  I visited Levuka a few months ago, and will be returning soon.  For photos of Levuka see my previous post at

The sitting room of the Royal Hotel, Levuka, built in the 1860's.

The sitting room of the Royal Hotel, Levuka, built in the 1860’s.

https://alicevstokes.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/levuka-the-old-capital-of-fiji/

I hear that many initiatives are in train, and now, perhaps, lots of people will visit Levuka.  When they do come, it will be imperative that recycling is in place.

Levuka, the Old Capital of Fiji

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Dominic outside the old Wise family home, abandoned many years ago. Home of Vaseva Marama Wise (nee Tamani) of Gau, and Thomas Wise.

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Main street looking towards the sea wall

No-one seems to go to Levuka at all, certainly no tourists. It is the old capital, and a bit off the beaten track. We stayed in the Royal Hotel (circa 1861) which is the oldest hotel in Fiji. The place is amazing. A step back in time.  The hotel is just as it was, filled with old furniture and paintings of Fiji from another time, painted by guests of long ago.

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Painting in the Royal Hotel, Levuka, painted by a guest long gone.

It is easy and cheap to travel to Levuka from Suva or Nausori.  Patterson’s Shipping (contact details for Patterson Brothers Shipping here) has a bus-ferry-bus service for around $35FJD per person where you get on the bus either in Suva or Nausori, pass through Korovou and then after a short wait the bus drives onto the boat (Spirit of Harmony) at Natovi Landing where you get off and can go on deck, and then the bus goes by road from the

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War memorial, with Levuka town in the background

landing point on the other side of Ovalau Island to Levuka.  The trip is about an hour on the bus, 40 minutes on the ferry, and another hour on the bus, but a beautiful journey.

Levuka is on the sea, surrounded by mist covered mountains, with a series of sea canals snaking through the town.

Most of the buildings are from Colonial times, and some old buildings stand as monuments, burnt out during one coup or another.  In the centre of the town stands the shell of the old Masonic Lodge, built in 1913, which was destroyed in a

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The shell of the Masonic Lodge Levuka (c. 1913), destroyed in a previous coup

coup, for fears that the Masons were involved in demonic arts.

In many of the villages they still have some of the traditional bures with walls of woven coconut and thatched roofs.

What is really distressing though is that EVERYWHERE along the beautiful sea shore, and in EVERY stream coming down from the mountains is washed up rubbish.

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Tapa design drawn on the canal bridge, Levuka

The trappings of becoming “developed” as a nation.

The place is choked by it. People travelling on the bus from the jetty to the towns and villages have an odd behaviour: when eating or drinking anything, they nicely keep their wrapper or plastic bottle in their laps until they go over a bridge, or near a body of water of any kind such as creek, river, ocean. At that moment, as one, they fling their rubbish out of the bus window.

All I can think is that they truly believe that the water will wash it away and that plastic is biodegradable. I am not talking the odd plastic bottle, I am talking washing machines, tyres, backpacks, bottles, aerosol cans, thongs, clothing, glass, fans, millions of tin cans, Macdonalds cups (from who knows where -I haven’t done a google search, but I would guess that the nearest Macdonalds is in Suva or Laucala Bay, many, many nautical miles from there).

Visitors may wonder at the number of tin cans, roughly opened with jagged tops.  The reason behind the number of tinned cans is that many Fijians don’t have a fridge at home so they consume an enormous amount of tinned corned beef, corned mutton, and tinned tuna and mackerel.

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Approaching Ovalau Island

While waiting for the boat at Natovi jetty, we started picking up some of the rubbish strewn around the rocks and on the beach.  One man joined us, then the small children selling roti to the waiting passengers also helped.  All of the other passengers seemed frozen into inactivity, until it was time to leave, whereby one adult watched this young children dispose of the plastic soft drink bottles they were drinking from by tossing them as far as they could into the sea before boarding the boat.  The only place to put the collected rubbish was in a massive half burned pile.  I am guessing that there is no rubbish collection, and that it is all burned.  From the boat, we saw a huge plume of smoke rising from the spot about 15 minutes later.

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Rubbish on the sea wall at Natovi Landing

The jagged tops of the cans is because Fijians don’t have or use can openers, but open every in this method: Take a very large kitchen knife, put the point of the knife on the rim of the can, hold the knife vertically, use one hand to bang down hard on the handle of the knife until the point pierces the can, then slowly work the knife back and forwards to open the lid.  Even children do this.  It took me more than a month to even attempt this technique as I was so afraid for my safety, but now it is second nature.

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Inside the old Levuka Club, looking towards the sea.

Right on the sea shore, at a beautiful point that juts into the sea, underneath the war memorial which stands on the hill is the Levuka Club. It is a non-descript building with a lawn at the back, on the ocean, where you can sit and stare at the sea, and the surrounding islands, including Gau where Roni is from.

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The old Chubb safe in the Levuka Club – one of the only things that couldn’t be carried away

The funny thing is that the building is trashed, stripped bare, and open. Rain floods the floor. There are only two items left there which I guess where too heavy to be carried away.

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The old pool table left to decay in the Levuka Club

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Chubb safe in the Levuka Club

One is an old Chubb safe that looks like it is a left over from colonial days and could be over 100 years old, the other is a pool table. It is the most massive pool table I have ever seen, perhaps also left over from Colonial days, with legs as thick as a Fijian lock forward’s thighs.

The whole thing open to the weather. It seems that the owner of the club went to Viti Levu (the main island) years ago for a holiday and died in a car accident. He was renting the building, but no-one at all knows from whom. Apparently there are no records of ownership at all, so the building just lays open to the weather, to slowly deteriorate. People in Levuka believe that they will soon be World Heritage listed, and that after the 2014 election tourists will come flocking back. I am not sure that they understand tourists!

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Family sitting on the sea wall, Levuka

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Jumping off the bridge into the sea

Levuka is also the only town in Fiji where I didn’t see a covered fruit and produce market.  I wonder why the Town Council or the community doesn’t make a ruling that the Levuka Club be utilised on Saturday mornings for that purpose.  It would be the perfect spot!  It actually would also be the perfect spot for the Levuka Club where people could gather for a drink, catch up with friends and neighbours, and share a bite to eat.

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Typical home on the way to Levuka

The town also has a fish cannery which operates 24/7.  The cannery is the major source of employment in the town, and the constant noise is also a tourism killer, so I fear that Levuka is destined to fall into disrepair ever so slowly, and never be seen by anyone except the locals, and the odd tourist who is running out of time or money to travel to another island.

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View of the Old Capital cannery and the sea from the Chinese restaurant, Levuka.

There are only a couple of restaurants in town.  There is a Chinese restaurant where the owner is very hospitable, and will entertain you with stories about the history of Levuka and its buildings.  The food is delicious, and it is upstairs in the old Westpac bank building in what used to be the staff club for bank staff in the colonial days.  It has a great view of the sea, and the cannery! The other restaurant serves a Fijian version of western food which to me was completely unappealing.  Considering that almost half the population of Fiji is Indo-Fijian, it is surprising that there is no Indian restaurant in town, and disappointing as Fijian Indian food has a flavour that is so unusual and memorable.

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Levuka Town

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Whole fish with cassava

Fijians have a view that Westerners will not like Fijian food – I am not sure why.  Fijian flavours are so fresh and the ingredients such as cassava, cumquat, chili, fresh lolo (coconut milk), boiled fish, bele (a leafy plant with a thousand uses), dalo, lime, otta (which is like the leaves of a bracken fern), kai (sea mussels), lobster, raw fish, pawpaw, pineapple, plantain bananas, ochra and coconut are so clean in an Asian way, but so different from any other food in the world!

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Old fountain near the Catholic church, Levuka

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Children swimming, rubbish collection

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Waterfall at Levuka (photo: Elliot Stokes)

If you go to Levuka for the weekend, and want to see the waterfall, be sure to walk to the waterfall on Saturday as soon as you arrive in the mid-afternoon, as on Sundays you cannot walk through the village which is on the way to the waterfall, as they do not allow anyone to walk through the village on Sunday as that is church day.  Apparently the Lord does not want us even to use our legs or marvel at the beauty of the earth which he entrusted to us on a Sunday.  No outdoor work is to be done on Sundays, and no children are supposed to play outside.  The only thing you can hear all over town on Sunday is the sound of church services and meetings or “Fellowships” which go on for hours and hours, and involve a lot of stereotypical preaching in Fijian interspersed frequently with a loud “Praise the Lord”, and singing of Fijian language Christian music which is reminiscent of the kind of songs sung in Sunday Schools in the western world.

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The Royal Hotel, Levuka, with the sea canal on the right

To me, there is a disconnect surrounding Christianity in Fiji – a feeling that the more time you spend at Church, the less likely you will be able to commit sins.  The mother of one of my neighbours explained to me that she tells her daughter to fill the children’s minds with the word of God, so that their mind will be so full that the outside world cannot get in.  Fijian Christians seem to have two selves – a Monday to Saturday self, and a Sunday self.

These two people are completely different.

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Volcanic rocks near the site of the first Catholic mass in Fiji more than 150 years ago. Levuka

On Sunday people get dressed in their Sunday best and

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Catholic church, Levuka

travel mainly by bus or foot to Church.  On the way to Church, they throw rubbish.  Arriving at the bus stand, they buy snacks or drinks, and walk to church dropping litter everywhere they go.  The churches are the only buildings with clean compounds, and are the only buildings that are regularly painted and upkept (this goes for the Hindi and Muslim buildings also).  At the end of church there are often “meetings” which involve men sitting around on the floor drinking kava. Then it is off to the market stalls near the bus stand to pick up some fresh fruit or vegetables, and back on the bus to home, dropping rubbish all the way, and then both at church and at home, stinking fires are lit which choke the air with plastic fumes.  The acrid smell penetrates to the throat, and is the smell of a Sunday afternoon at home.

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Catholic church, Levuka

The first Catholic church service in Fiji was held in Levuka,

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Oustide the Methodist Church, Levuka

and Levuka is also according to the Archbishop of Polynesia and New Zealand, the birthplace of the Anglican church in Fiji.