Each country has a culture: some more unique than others. Fiji is a country full of culture and traditions. This last week I had the opportunity to be a part of a very unique tradition that does not happen much even in this country.
Death is such a harsh reality on this earth. It does not care who you are or what you have. One year ago, unbeknownst to me, my village chief died. Although I had not arrived in Fiji at that point, I was able to see some of the results of his death. All were prohibited to fish in our bay for one full year after his death. On April 27 we as a village celebrated the opening of the bay with a huge fishing celebration. Preparations began many days before; some were sewing new outfits, others were gathering and cooking, while the men went into the bush to find the vines and branches. Everyone participated in the event. Very early Thursday morning the action began. A team of strong swimmers dragged the ½ - ¾ mile long vine rope to the outskirts of the bay. By 6 AM most of the villagers were on the beach or in the water taking part. The village was divided into two sides and placed on opposite ends of the rope. Commands were given by the appointed leaders in the boats and on the rope ends to pull, wait, and rustle the rope. After hours of pulling in the two ends, the end was coming into sight. The fish were being led into and trapped in a small area. The only thing left to do was wait for the tide to go out and leave the fish imprisoned in the shallow coral reefs.
The time had finally arrived. The excitement was growing as the head leader explained what was to happen: the first fish were to be caught and divided among all in the village. Shouts and cheers arose as the first spears were thrown! All hands were put to work as fish were being speared and thrown onto the uncovered coral. Men, women, children, and grandparents worked diligently to get all the fish into the boat. After the boat was filled to the brim, the waters were opened for personal fishing. Instantly, everything became free for the taking. Some used spears and nets while others used rocks and hands to capture the last of the fish caught in the low waters. Happiness could be heard and seen even as the rain began to pour down upon all. But the festival did not end there. The people went back to their homes to prepare for the afternoon ceremony. Beautiful dresses, tops, and sulus of brightly printed materials were to be shown off. There was an abundance of food and fellowship as the afternoon progressed. Gifts were presented to the deceased chief’s family in honor of his service to the village. The festivities continued on late into the night as stories were told and memories recounted.
This may have been a one-day event, but the memories will stay with me forever. I got to see a village made up of different tribes and religions come together as one united family. This is my family.