“Do you want to come spear fishing with us tomorrow?” Timothy asked. Of course we do Timothy, sounds like fun. “Ok then. Tomorrow morning we will pick you up in our fiber and we’ll dive in the pass.” Sounds like a plan. See you tomorrow.
The next morning we woke up early and met with Timothy and about 6 other guys from the village. “Ok, we’ll go spear fishing now. Do you have 25 liters of pre-mix fuel.” 25 liters?!?!?!?!? You’ve got to be kidding Timothy. There’s no way we can spare 25 liters of dinghy fuel. “Oh, how about 15 liters then.” No, that’s ok Timothy. We’ll just take our own dinghy and you take yours. “Ok, how about 10 liters?” Timothy, we’re not a big boat and we don’t carry a lot of fuel. We can spare 5 liters and that’s about it. “Ok, we’ll go to a closer place for 5 liters.”
Showing off the catch from spear fishing.
Apparently very few cruising boats come to Totoya. In fact we are only the 2nd boat to visit this year, and the boats that do visit are much larger than us. Usually 2-3 times larger. The last boat here before us was 120 feet long. To them sparing 25 liters of pre-mix is a drop in the bucket. To us that’s about 1/3 of what we carry in total.
The only other boat we saw while in Totoya sailed in just before we left. It was 150 feet long and had a helicopter onboard. They ended up going to the village inside the lagoon. I bet they had plenty of pre-mix to spare…..
150 ft. Plan B dwarfing Delos as it motored by.
It took a while to get this idea across, to communicate that we were different than most of the other boats that visited. We did not have a rich owner that paid for everything. We only had limited fuel and a few things to trade. Still, Delos was seen a treasure chest filled with unimaginable goodies.
Over time I began to understand the point of view of the villagers a little better. As a village they depend on all the resources available to them. They share boats, they share land, they share food. Anything that helps or hurts one of them effects them all. Delos was also a village, just a lot smaller. When they welcomed us to their village as their guests we became part of this mindset if only for a short time. If they shared their land, homes, and food with us openly shouldn’t everything on the boat be available to them as well? If only pre-mix grew on trees…….
We were firm and held our ground when Timothy asked us to give him something. We explained that we didn’t have much to give away, but would be interested in trading. It seemed he was always trying to work some angle, to get one more thing. An older villager presented us a huge box full of banana’s for nothing more than I smile. Another lady traded us a huge woven mat for a few dollars, some costume jewelry, and a few kitchen utensils. Timothy took us to dig yams out of the ground, but then asked for money, clothing. and sunglasses.
The yams we harvested with Timothy.
The other villagers seemed a little put off by Timothy’s behavior and jokingly called him Jim-ka-le-le. It seems his nickname is Jim in the village and one night his wife got upset at him for drinking grog too late. She walked into the grog hut, broke a ukulele over his head, and stormed out. So now they call him Jim-ka-le-le much to his chagrin.
Just before leaving we found out that Timothy’s house was completely destroyed in the last cyclone. He lost all his possessions and was trying to recover as much as possible before his wife and child returned from Suva. This helped to put things in perspective.
Jim-ka-le-le sporting the new shirt and shorts we traded for a machete.
In Totoya they make their money in two ways. The first is selling dried copra, which is the dried coconut meat used to make lotions, ointments, etc. They sell it for $.50 a kilo, or $1,500 a thousand kilos. This is a HUGE amount of coconuts. By the time you ship it to Suva you lose about 1/3 of the money for shipping, and make out with around $1,000 FJ for 3 months of hard labor. That’s around $200 per month US. They don’t have much so spend money on except outboard fuel, kava, Tabaco, flour, sugar, rice, and typical household items so it works out ok. The land and sea provides everything else.
Coconut meat drying into copra.
The second way they make money is through weaving mats. These sell for about $60-$70 FJ a piece in Suva but the ladies need to travel to Suva personally. By the time they travel on the cargo ship, rent a stall in the market, and feed themselves during the trip they’re lucky to make $20 a mat, which can sometimes take 3 days to complete. Also not a lot of money. But they do have lots of time and know nothing else so that’s what they do.
Mat being woven in the women’s weaving hut.
After spending a few more days in the village I began to understand them a little better, and they began to understand us. They understood that we were traveling around by sailboat purely for the experience. Not for profit, not for someone else, but just for our own adventure and experience. When we first asked Timothy if we could camp on top of the island he was puzzled. Why would we want to sleep in the bush when you had a perfectly good boat or hut? Why hack your way to the top through the jungle to sleep for a night? I explained sometimes we do things just for the experience, just to see what it was like. Sometimes you’d climb to the top of a mountain just for the view or to take a picture.
Camp for the night.
The view from the top of the volcanic crater.
It was a novel concept to Timothy. He only does what he needs to eat and provide shelter. All other leisure time is spent resting or socializing in the village. He did escort us to the top and diligently hacked a trail for us as we climbed up and up and up. The next day he said he understood, that experiencing different things was good even if you didn’t have to do them. Small steps I suppose.
Playing volleyball with the villagers.
During our stay I donated some time to help the villagers set up a computer that had arrived a month before. It was donated by China Aid but no one knew how to set it up or plug it in. They had absolutely no idea what to do with this thing. It took me all of 10 minutes to plug it in and create a few user accounts for them. Good old Windows XP is now running in Navesi village.
We set it up in the school building and I asked them what they wanted to do with the computer. “Oh, I don’t know. What are computers used for?” Oh wow, where to begin here. Do you like to watch movies? “Yes, of course!” Bingo! So I spent the next few hours copying various movies from our 3TB collection over to their internal disk. I also installed the latest version of VLC for them.
The Navesi primary school.
Our donation was an old pair of external speakers that Darren found in the rubbish pile outside is apartment in Auckland. Now they even had sound. You can just imagine a group of villagers huddled around a glowing screen inside a school room, with a generator humming in the background while the likes of Mel Gibson and Lethal Weapon entertain them. Seriously, they asked for all the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard movies.
Brian setting up the computer and copying movies.