Living on the Earth in Fiji

Caroline Cottom is an American woman who has been living on a remote island in Fiji with her husband for several years now. Here is a section of her prize-winning essay on their observations and interactions with Fijian villagers.

Everywhere is Home: Rhythms of Native Life in Fiji

Article and Photos by Caroline Cottom

Communal living means the villagers divvy out the bounty of an abundant papaya or lime tree. Many a tuna, walu, or red snapper caught by starlight is cooked alongside a pig in a lovo (an underground oven made of wood and rock) and shared at a village meal. The villagers invite us to eat lovo on special occasions, serving up taro leaf cooked in coconut cream and other delicacies new to our western palates. We feel honored to be invited in and bring the roots of yaqona, a plant of the pepper family, to offer respect.

Each village has a designated tree under which they pound the yaqona roots into powder, later to be mixed with water to make kava, the relaxing national drink. In most villages we pass tonight, a designated convener pours water and powdered kava into a large wooden bowl, swishing the cloudy liquid with his hands. The kava is then poured into a cup made of coconut shell and passed among the men. After each round, the men tell stories and jokes. The women, meanwhile, lean in the open doorways of their houses, relaxing with the children and sharing stories of their lives.

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