Moana-i-Cake is the main village on Fulaga, and its inhabitants quickly adopted us as one of their own. After presenting our sevusevu to the 93 year old chief, we were assigned Tai as a host.
Tai is one of the older men in the village, and like many who retired there he spent about 20 years working in Viti Levu. He worked at Musket Cove Resort, driving boats as he taught tourists to waterski and windsurf. A Japanese cruising boat anchored with us overnight—the first yacht from Japan we've seen out cruising—and Tai impressed all the pelangi (white people) around by conversing with them in Japanese.
Tai was a dutiful and gracious host, giving us a tour of his garden, and Dominic a tutorial on how to use the village phone at the local school.
Tai did not speak Spanish, however, so we all had a good laugh when I explained that the writing on the back of his rugby shirt translated to 'I am beautiful.' He took us into his home, offered us lemon grass tea and papaya, and showed off the panadus mat being woven.
Tai explained that the primary trade for men in the village was carving and they are considered masters. Many of the kava bowls and sea life souvenirs for sale in Fiji's tourist centers come from Moana-i-Cake.
Below is Alfreddi, the senior carver, in the process of making a turtle we commissioned for Helios.
Tai invited us to services as the village church on Sunday morning. We haven't yet attended services in the South Pacific, but Tai was so generous with his hospitality and looked at use so imploringly we couldn't say no. He fitted Dominic for his sulu at 0930 on Sunday morning.
Then we heard the sound of the summoning drums and made our way into the church for a Methodist service.
The church had a linoleum floor and tall windows on either side of the building. The altar was a simple series of tables covered in green damask with a white lace overlay. The children occupied the first rows of pews on the left side of the main aisle and were closely monitored by a village elder roaming the aisle with a four foot twitch, keeping the young ones in line. There was a panadus mat behind the final pew so toddlers and infants could nap. Adults seem to come and go from the service on Fiji time; our host mom, Witey (who was a good friend of Tai's, he being a devout bachelor) was present for about the central 20 minutes of the service.
The service was entirely in Fijian, but even if it had been in English we probably wouldn't have understood much as the speakers seemed to have little concept of enunciation and vocal projection. The singing, though, was sublime. The core group of female sopranos were accompanied by a deep baritone, Simon, the chief's nephew. All were seated in the pews across from the children, and Simon passed around a triangle to provide some instrumental accompaniment.
And after church, a feast. Witey and her husband Suka (which means 'sweet' in Fijian) fed us fried fish in coconut milk, greens in coconut milk, and a variety of cassava and other root vegetables prepared lomolomo style: barbecue pit in the ground.
Feasting was a theme throughout our stay; if Tai even heard a rumor that we might be cruising through town, he prepared a feast for us. Anytime we crossed paths with a villager on the beach, coconuts and papayas emerged and filled our pockets. That is Solote in the lead photo, jubilant after gifting Dominic a coconut she had husked and hacked open with her machete. Check out the vessel behind her: it is the traditional outrigger the village uses to cruise around the lagoon; they usually pole themselves gondalier style through the shallows and sail downwind back to the village.
On one of our final walks to the village we met up with Joe (who had likened me to the male soccer player) on his way home from working in his garden. He opened coconuts for us and spent much time convincing us that we were leaving much too soon. "Why leave at all when you are already home?" he wanted to know.