Tag Archives: Fiji

‘BULA: AN ENGLISHMAN IN FIJI’ BY BEAU BOSWORTH

‘Bula: An Englishman in Fiji’ is a collection of short stories written by Beau Bosworth. All the tales are based on real-life happenings, however the author’s involvement in these events is often fictional.

BULA

Summary

After being transferred to Fiji, Beau Bosworth tries to adjust to his new environment. He meets a variety of people, both local residents and foreign tourists, with whom he shares his Pacific experience.

Sanjay, a very nice taxi driver, is the first person Beau encounters upon his arrival, when he gets mistaken for Mr Bobo Worth at Nadi Airport. After that, he becomes a witness to a theft, an ‘expert translator’ of the German language, and a temporary guardian of his boss’s son – ever-so-charming but extremely trouble-prone Duncan.

Review

Let me just state something here: the book is short; very short; too short. It comprises six stories (yes, only six short stories), so the truth is, it ends before it really starts. And this is very unfortunate, because Bosworth’s narratives are so engaging that you definitely wouldn’t mind a double (or even a triple) portion.

Some of the tales are obviously better than the others. The most compelling one is, without the slightest doubt, ‘The Charmer’. It follows the adventures of Duncan, a young man completely unaware of local customs, who happens to be Beau’s boss’s son. Not only is this story highly amusing but also extremely educational. It explains Fijian traditions, ceremonies, and practices, giving you a fascinating insight into the world of unknown culture. If the author had made an effort and added more little-known facts regarding Fijian etiquette, the compilation would have been a dream come true for any Pasifika and/or travel literature lover.

Now, even though short, the book is nicely written. It is not mind-blowing but decent enough to be regarded as worthy of attention. Bosworth’s prose is clear and simple and thus very inviting. It has a really good pace and rhythm – as a reader you are not bored even for a split second. It doesn’t lack vivid descriptions (some parts do capture the imagination), it doesn’t lack sense of humour (a few stories are hilariously funny) – basically, it has all the vital ingredients a nice travel book should have.

Taking the above into account, I would say it is a neatly constructed, lucidly written page-turner definitely deserving to be read. You won’t regret engrossing yourself in Beau Bosworth’s tales. I’m quite positive that along the way you will not only have a great time but also get to know a few interesting things about the islands of Fiji.

‘NEW TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC – NO PLACE FOR DREAMERS’ BY GRAEME KENNEDY

‘New Tales of the South Pacific – No Place for Dreamers’ is the second book penned by Graeme Kennedy. The compilation contains six stories, all of which are set either in Samoa, Tonga, or Fiji.

NTOTSP 2

Summary

While visiting his beloved Pacific, Graeme Kennedy decides to go off the beaten path and explore the islands outside the tourist resorts.

Starting in Samoa, he reminisces about Aggie Grey who overcame massive obstacles to develop her now famous Apia waterfront property. A well-known hotelier and a legend, often called the Queen of the South Seas, is still believed to have been James A. Michener’s model for his outrageous character, Bloody Mary.

He then moves to the islands of Tonga, where Sione Tupou dreams of nothing more than a boat large enough to take him into the deeper waters beyond the reef. But as the man soon learns, every dream has its price.

In the Fijian village of Vitogo, he meets Indian cane farmers living barely above the poverty line. Despite many adversities, they do whatever they can to provide for their families.

Back in the Samoan Archipelago, he visits a dying man who dares to fantasize about his little resort being packed with tourists. Fantasies do not always come true. But Jack cannot stop dreaming because dreams keep him alive.

On the same island – together with other palagis (foreigners) – he spends his time partying by the pool while two mates from New Zealand wait for death.

Review

This book is somewhat similar in tone to the first volume of Kennedy’s tales. It is, however, a little more serious and not as light-hearted as you would expect.

All the stories are based on certain characters and their usually tragic experiences in the region many believe to be paradise. Instead of five-star resorts and pristine lagoons you get to know places full of dashed hopes and shattered dreams. Here is true Polynesia revealed. Graeme Kennedy makes you forget about that utopian fantasy that tends to linger in our minds. He shows the good, the bad, and the ugly. He exposes all the dark secrets people desperately want to hide. Everybody, welcome to the real world, where life is equally pleasant and hard. The sun may shine, but clouds are never far away. This seems to be the message the author tries to get across: there’s no such thing as a perfect place; but even if something’s not perfect, it doesn’t mean it cannot be loved.

Kennedy’s writing style is, again, absolutely amazing. The eloquent prose, almost completely deprived of humour, makes the book delightfully authentic. The effect is further enhanced by vivid descriptions that stir the imagination and arouse emotions. You feel as if you were actually there. You feel as if you actually knew all the characters – you laugh with them and you cry, you share their emotions, you experience their pain.

I must say that this book is, like its predecessor, very engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. It is also quite inspirational as every single tale paints a bigger picture – this is not just an account of someone’s adventures in the South Seas but a true representation of reality. If you are interested in the Pacific Islands, you won’t be able to put it down.

‘SAILING TO JESSICA’ BY KELLY WATTS

‘Sailing to Jessica’ is a modern-day adventure book as well as a memoir written by Kelly Watts. It tells the story of an amazing voyage Kelly and her husband set out on in December 2001.

SAILING TO JESSICA

Summary

At 35 years old, Kelly and Paul feel they need a change in their lives. A breeze of fresh air, something new and exciting. Something that would help them forget about their ongoing fertility struggles. Inspired by Tania Aebi’s book, they decide to sail across the Pacific Ocean. So they sell their house in Philadelphia, quit their jobs, and buy Cherokee Rose – a boat destined to become their new home. But, as they soon discover, sailing with no experience is not always an easy task. Nevertheless, Kelly and Paul are determined to succeed. And even the forty-knot gale they get caught in just two days after purchasing their sloop is not a discouragement.

Along the way, they visit quite a few interesting places. They encounter sea lions in Galapagos, buy black pearls in French Polynesia, and meet the sole inhabitant of the remote Suwarrow atoll in the Cook Islands. They drink kava in Fiji and enjoy the raw beat of drums in Tuvalu. Sailing up north, they stop in Kiribati. A short visit to this equatorial country turns into a lifelong adventure when Kelly and Paul meet their daughter Jessica. The miracle of adoption brings new meaning not only to their voyage but most of all to their lives.

Review

This book is exceptional for many reasons. To begin with, it is the most beautiful tale of love, family, and hope – it shows that everyone should chase their dreams and fight for their happiness despite any obstacles that may arise. Because ‘impossible’ does not exist. If you really want something, you will – sooner or later – find a way to achieve it. You just have to believe and dare to take the risk. I don’t think anyone would expect such wonderful words of inspiration from an adventure book. But I guess once in a while we all can be pleasantly surprised.

In addition to being a powerful ‘motivator’, it is also a fantastic read for all those people who dream of or are interested in sailing. Packed with technical terms as well as detailed and accurate descriptions of a nautical life, the story can be a great source of information for cruisers in all stages. There are some useful tips, there are some guidelines, there are some tricks that can make somebody else’s journey a worry-free (at least to some degree) and pleasant adventure.

Of course, the Blue Continent is also a prominent subject. Paul and Kelly’s route took them to places like Tonga, Fiji, Tuvalu, French Polynesia, Kiribati, and the Cook Islands, and I must say that all these beautiful locations are vividly described. Some of the countries are portrayed more cursorily than the others, nevertheless all of them do appear in the book. And there is one, absolutely fantastic piece on the sole inhabitant of the Suwarrow atoll that simply tugs at your heartstrings.

The memoir is, without a doubt, worth reading. It’s hard to find an attention-grabbing, action-packed adventure story that inspires and makes people think about their own lives. But this is exactly what Kelly Watts did. She wrote a lovely tale about sailing. And that’s not an easy thing to do because ‘lovely’ and ‘sailing’ simply don’t go together. Yet, she managed. She shared her experiences, thoughts, and emotions. The result? A well-written, funny, absorbing, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable book. Read it, and you will feel like a member of the crew.

BEST BOOKS BASED ON PACIFIC MYTHS, LEGENDS, FOLK TALES

The Telesa Trilogy by Lani Wendt Young

This highly acclaimed series is a modern take on Pacific mythology, which makes it a perfect read for teenagers.

The thrilling story of Leila Folger is a passionate romance based on the legends of Teine Sa, the spirit women of Samoa. The popular ancient beliefs are masterfully incorporated into the narrative – they constitute a considerable part of the story, yet they are not overwhelming.

The trilogy may be perfect for juvenile audiences, but you’ll love it even if you’re past your teenage years!

‘Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam’ by Tanya Taimanglo

The story of Sirena, Guam’s legendary mermaid, is so well-known in the Pacific region that there is probably not a single person who wouldn’t be acquainted with it. This is one of the reasons why every Pasifika aficionado should read, and possess, Tanya Taimanglo’s book.

This particular retelling of the famous folk tale is a real beauty. Embellished with the most gorgeous illustrations – created by the author’s brother, Sonny Chargualaf – it will be an absolute treasure in your home library. Plus, it will definitely draw children’s attention!

‘Princess Hina & the Eel’ by King Kenutu

This is another wonderful book, especially for older children and teenagers.

The story of genuine, eternal love between a princess and a commoner is one of the better-known folk tales in Polynesia. It is captivating, thought-provoking, and timeless in its message. King Kenutu’s version is not only beautifully told but also full of passion that can be felt in each and every word.

The Niuhi Shark Saga by Lehua Parker

Lehua Parker’s saga is a brilliant example of engaging middle grade/young adult literature that’s deeply rooted in the local Polynesian mythology.

Although the series is not based on one particular myth, legend, or folk tale, it draws inspiration from old Hawaiian stories of a shapeshifting shark-man, Nanaue. It is not a retelling of the legend, but you may certainly find some similarities. Who knows, maybe Zader’s adventures will encourage you to delve into ancient tales from the Aloha State…

‘Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters’ by Margaret Wolfson

This book tells the ancient Fijian myth – especially popular on the island of Kadavu – about the Turtle princess and her daughter.

It’s a classic retelling, gracefully narrated and adorned with lovely – absolutely lovely – watercolours. The illustrations make the story come alive before the reader’s eyes, so even young children will read or listen to this tale with great interest.

A CHAT WITH… JACINTA TONGA

Jacinta Tonga, the author of a memoir called ‘A Remarkable Rotuman Woman’, was born and raised on the island of Rotuma and now lives in Suva, Fiji. She works as a Registered Nurse with the U.S. Peace Corps. In this interview she talks about her late grandmother, her book, and her country.

JACINTA TONGA

Pasifika Tales: Your book is quite an intimate memoir. Why did you decide to write and publish it?

Jacinta Tonga: Well, I promised my grandmother that one day I would write her stories. She was my role model and I want my nieces, nephews and their children to get to know her through my book.

PT: Was it difficult for you to relive your past?

JT: Yes, it was quite emotional, so I tried to be positive and reflect only on her funny stories. I had a wonderful upbringing. I understand each family have their own closet issues.

PT: And what was your family’s reaction to your book? Did they like it?

JT: (The book received) a mixed reaction. Some (people) were surprised, others curious, and a few were disappointed. I did not inform them in advance. I remember one of my close cousins, Sharon Morris, who is more a sister said, I quote: ‘Jaz, I am proud of you. This book is really positive and I enjoyed it so much’. My mother is not really enthusiastic about the book, but she said that the old lady would be happy.

PT: Tell me something about your grandmother, Petera Veu. From what I can tell, she was a truly amazing woman.

JT: Yes, she was amazing and a role model to me. She was known to a lot of people to be an entertainer, and to an extend some people have commented that she was a very arrogant and mean old lady. As we are all aware, people who speak their mind and are upfront with their opinions are known to be very rude at times. She was all that, and I had never known her to say or does anything that she did not agree with.

PT: You two seemed very close. How would you describe your relationship?

JT: My grandmother was more a mother to me then my own mother. My mother is there, but the old lady brought me up. She fed me, put clothes on my back and paid for all my expenses, even my school fees. I would not have been where I am today if not for her. I wish she could have lived longer so I could have given her back a little of what she has given me.

PT: Do you think you are a lot like your grandmother?

JT: Not really, my sister Mareta and my cousin Sharon are a splitting image of her in every way. Personality wise, I am very sensitive and definitely a follower, not a leader. My grandmother was a born leader. She was friendly, kind, domineering but definitely not sensitive. She seemed to thrill in a heated argument and she was pretty good at convincing people to follow her ideas. I do not know how she did it. Maybe people just got tired of trying to prove their point.

PT: Let’s focus on Rotuman culture for a moment. Would you say it shaped you as a person? I’m asking because, as a child, you didn’t always follow the traditions of your country…

JT: Yes, in a way. I did not always follow the Rotuman culture or pay particular attention to it because my grandmother had a culture of her own. It made her happy when you did what she wanted and to me, she was everything. Before I broke any rules, even without her physical present there, I could actually see her face. At that time, if you asked me who I feared the most – God, teachers, parents or my grandmother – my answer would definitely be my grandmother. Anyway, sorry I am drifting away, but our culture did shape me in some way, especially when I left home to move to Fiji and then finally to Tonga. My identity is Rotuman, so I learn to associate myself with my heritage.

PT: Rotuma – your true home?

JT: Yes, my true home even though my grandmother’s ancestors are from Wallis and Futuna.

PT: If you were to say what places are worth visiting in Fiji, what would you choose?

JT: I would say visit Rotuma for its amazing beaches and friendly people, Savusavu to see the hot springs and Taveuni to see their famous waterfalls. If you happen to be travelling to Fiji make sure you coordinate your trip to fall during the Hibiscus week, which is around August 3rd, so that if you are bored with nature you have a carnival to attend.

‘A REMARKABLE ROTUMAN WOMAN’ BY JACINTA TONGA

‘A Remarkable Rotuman Woman’ is a very personal memoir of the late Petera Veu written by her granddaughter, Jacinta Tonga.

A REMARKABLE ROTUMAN WOMAN

Summary

Petera Veu was born out of wedlock on the Fijian island of Rotuma in 1919. She was a very rebellious child, difficult to keep up with, who didn’t quite fit in with her surroundings. As she grew up, she became even more independent. She married a man that had been chosen for her by her family. They settled in Juju and had seven children: five boys and two girls. One of them was Jacinta’s mother, Faga.

When Faga got pregnant with her second child, she wasn’t able to take care of her eldest daughter, so Jacinta went to live with her grandparents. Petera was determined to raise her granddaughter as a strong, confident lady who wouldn’t be afraid to express her opinions and assert her rights. And so she did. The two women maintained a close relationship until Petera’s death in 2000.

Review

Let me tell you something, this is not your ordinary book. Reading it doesn’t feel like reading at all. It feels like listening to an amazing story narrated by your dear friend. It is personal; very personal even. And that is why it might not suit everyone’s taste.

At this point you may be wondering, what’s so fascinating about this tale? It’s just a story of one woman’s life. That’s it. Nothing special. Actually, it is special. First of all, it is a story of a truly incredible person who was a fighter, who was brave enough to go against the tide, and whose actions spoke louder than words. Second of all, it’s a beautifully written, heartfelt memoir in which Jacinta Tonga pays tribute to her dear grandmother – her guardian angel, her teacher, her mentor. The author’s love, respect, and admiration for Petera can be felt in each and every word. There aren’t many books with such a high level of unaffected honesty. It is a rare thing to find.

Now, you may say that personal memoirs aren’t for you. And that’s quite all right. But believe me, you don’t have to enjoy reading them to like this particular one. The book, apart from being a detailed account of Petera Veu’s life, is the most compelling cultural study with vivid depictions of Fijian society and its traditions. With the focus on Rotuman customs, Jacinta paints a broad picture of the South Pacific country she proudly calls home. Her book provides readers with fascinating, profound, and extremely valuable insights into the peculiarities of Fijian culture, both past (!) and present. If you are interested in gaining such knowledge, this is the perfect (and I mean perfect) title for you.

Now, the memoir is aimed (I’m not quite sure if intentionally) at readers who find more value in a book’s substance than style. The story itself delights, the manner in which it is told – not so much. I could write, of course, that the narration lacks creativity or the author’s distinctive mode of expression, however, I don’t really feel this is needed. Sometimes you just want to go beyond aesthetic qualities and focus on what’s most important. In this case that’s the message the tale conveys.

All in all, I would say the book is worth reading. Not everyone will like it – as we all know, tastes and preferences vary from individual to individual. Nevertheless, give it a try. I did and I definitely do not regret doing so.