Tuesday, September 16, 2008


TALIKING to a school principal is never easy, especially when some have threatening eyes and an uninviting look that make you just want to crawl under the nearest table.

But 57-year old Unaisi Talolo Sitaba Lekenaua is a something quite different altogether. Entering her office at Laucala Bay Secondary one can almost feel the warmth and friendliness radiating from this very vocal woman.

Some people think it is easy to get a Masters degree in Commerce but for Unaisi the event was a double celebration as her graduation last Friday also fell on her birthday.

Born and bred in Keteira Village on Moala in Lau, Unaisi grew up an only child to Mosese Saula Sitaba and Alumita Lomoci. She comes from a family of teachers. Many of her cousins have joined the same profession.

"My uncle Joni Ledua was a headmaster and when I was five years old, I always wanted to be like him, a teacher," she said. "My uncle discouraged me frombeing a teacher because of how badly paid teachers were. "Nearly all of my cousins are teachers and it sort of runs in the family.
"I attended primary school at Uciwai District from Class One to Six and finished my primary education at Draiba Fijian.

"Another uncle was a policeman at Nasova and he brought me to live with him in Suva. "I continued my secondary school at DAV Girls College but when I was in Form Four, I failed Fiji Junior Certificate. "My father came from Moala to take me back to the village but I wanted to continue my education."

In 1968, the University of the South Pacific opened and her father's last wish before he died that year was for her to study teaching at USP. Her father's words remained with her throughout and although she seemed like a lost child after his death, Unaisi was determined to make the most of life.

Given a second chance, Unaisi passed FJC at Ballantine Memorial in 1969 and was one of the first students to sit the New Zealand School Certificate at the school. "When my father died, I lost hope in school and I didn't believe in God. My father was good friends with the principal for Ballantine and when she saw what I was like she told me to work hard.

"I always wanted to be a teacher and I had to work hard to live my dream and fulfill my father's wishes.
"I then went to Ratu Sukuna Memorial to complete Form Six. I failed my University Entrance Exam and repeated Form Six in 1971 and passed." She was a prefect then and during assembly USP representatives came looking for trained teachers.

This was the opportunity she sought and was accepted at USP that same year to study Home Economics. Being carefree and young, Unaisi passed all her units except for Home Economics and decided to look for a school to teach.

"In 1972, I was a licensed teacher at Suva Sangam but I still wanted to complete my education at USP. "I changed my majors to English and Social Science and graduated with a diploma in Education in 1975. "My first posting was to Dreketi High in Macuata and it was there I met my husband Kavaia Lekenaua. "I spent 10 years in Dreketi before I came to Suva in 1986 to complete my degree."

The mother of six was principal at Savusavu Secondary and in 1999, she was the senior education officer for secondary schools in the northern Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata districts.
She became principal of the Laucala Bay in 2007.

After showing interest in continuing her education, she was awarded a Fijian Affairs Board scholarship under which she completed her postgraduate certificate in public administration in 2006.

In 2007, she went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in the same field. On Friday, she graduated with a Masters degree in Commerce majoring in public administration and management.

"I want to set a standard for my children - that anything is possible. I want to challenge my children to reach this level or higher. "My achievement is for my parents and since Sunday was father's Sunday, this is for mother and husband too.

"Teaching is rewarding and I thank to God - my anchor and strength." Unaisi is also a lay preacher and believes that hard work and determination have carried her through the obstacles of life.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, September 15, 2008


LIVING to give is an act inspired by many people. Love and patience is portrayed in the life of Jacqueline Wright (pictured), a compassionate woman who has devoted her time and talents to the children of Hilton hostel.

Jacque, as she is commonly known by the children and visitors to the hostel is a caregiver and has been with the hostel for six years. Mrs Wright built her skills at a very young age while assisting her mother, Marion Sorby and George Wright at the Early Intervention and Hilton Special School.

Her mother is a secretary for the Early Intervention School. She is a mother to six children and a grandmother to three beautiful grandchildren who she loves and adores. The 44-year old grew up in the suburb of Raiwaqa and spent most of her life in Suva.

Jacque is caregiver, doctor and saint to the children at the hostel. This is observable in the work she carries out daily including bathing, feeding, cleaning, training the children to do things for themselves, tidying beds, preparing meals, storytelling, singing and the list goes on.

Jacque believes it is important to talk to children in a calm voice and this has become a school policy where children do not get spanked for doing wrong. Instead, they are corrected in a calm and loving tone. "I was trained at a very young age to have love and patience for disabled children, and it has helped me a lot," she said.

"I was brought up by a single parent and it was not easy. I grew up with a lot of challenges.
"I was the youngest of six and I learnt to live with limited resources. My mum would work hard and although finance was tight, mother did not give up and she worked very hard to educate us."
Jacqueline attended primary school at Vatuwaqa and continued her secondary education at DAV College.

She was not keen on arithmetic and furthered her skills at LDS Technical School where she leant shorthand and typing. She married Harry Bentley and after he died in a car accident, she took on the responsibility of looking after their three children. At times, going through the same experience her mother faced became unbearable.

Despite the circumstances, Jacque continued to work hard and was determined to prolong the work her mother had taught her. "My experience growing up with a single mother helped me overcome my own challenges of being a single parent."

"This did not discourage me from achieving my goals in life. I started work at the Early Intervention Centre six years ago and I have never regretted the decision." Jacque received training through Australian Spastic Centre team who conducted a caregiver workshop at the Early Intervention for teachers.

Jacque received a lot of practical experience with children with different disabilities. Apart from caring for children with disabilities; Jacque cares for old people at the hospital on private arrangements and as a house maid.

"Sometimes the challenges of being a caregiver include sleepless nights, but this does not happen often, only when children fall sick. Because I love and enjoy my work, I don't feel the pinch." Her work has opened up employment opportunities overseas and helped express her God given talents.

"Nursing and loving children with disabilities and who have been abandoned by their biological parents is a blessing for me. "I know God will bless me in his own time, for His words say, 'For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future', Jeremiah 29:11. This profession has taught me a lot; especially having being cared for by a single parent and going through the same experience.

"It has enabled me understand that there are more challenges in life that cannot be solved over night. "Life is full of expectation and challenges and this can only be handled with determination.
"I would like to encourage all single mothers that life is not only filled with sorrows, it has joyful ones only if you're determined to experience them.
Most importantly trust in the Lord for strength and wisdom."
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, September 11, 2008


AN opportunity that came Isimeli Qaranivalu's way back in high school was one he has not regretted taking on. He said in his final year at Lelean Memorial School in Davuilevu, there was an advertisement in The Fiji Times for apprentices.

But at the same time Mr Qaranivalu had also gotten his acceptance letter from the Fiji School Medicine. He hails from Koro, Lomaiviti and is married with four sons.

"I guess as fate had it I went with Qantas," the 58-year old said.
"I was still at school when I was picked by Qantas to attend their aircraft engineering training school.

"I started with Qantas from 1968 where I did my training in Sydney in 1971. Over the years I became the first local engineering supervisor with Qantas. "That was to look after aircraft maintenance at Nadi airport."

From there Mr Qaranivalu said after Qantas had left he stayed on with Air Terminal Services back in 1981. He was then promoted to Quality Assurance Manager in 1988 before taking on his current position as technical services manager.

He said with senior positions came responsibilities where he and his crew would look after the technical aspects of ATS especially maintenance on aircraft, infrastructure and all procurement supplies for ATS except food supplies.

"I was also the first licensed local for boeing 747," he said. "I am very happy to be with ATS since its inception in 1981 till now. "As time draws near for me to finish my career I am very thankful to ATS and Qantas for giving me a very good opportunity to make use of my life.

Mr Qaranivalu said the aviation industry has come a long way where everything has become hi-tech. He said during the days of the propeller planes, they would change cables and wires.

"From the propeller engine aircraft when I first started they have now gone to hi technology airplanes," he said. "The world of aviation is changing. We are preparing our people and have prepared our people.

"I am glad that I have been able to play a role in the aviation industry through ATS. "I have a good team that I work with and the support from the local people."

Besides being involved in his work, Mr Qaranivalu also works closely with the church and the Lelean Old Scholars Association.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Being a referee for any sports match is not easy especially when trying to ensure a game is played fairly and rules are followed. For Nardeo Mishra, having a courageous heart is what makes a good referee.

Born and bred in Sabeto, Nadi, Nardeo grew up in a farming family. His parents were Vishnu Datt Mishra and Phul Kumari. Nardeo wanted to be a pilot when he was younger but a plane accident in Bua sometime in the 1970's discouraged him from flying again.

"I grew up with my extended family and we had a sugarcane farm. Most of the time we did vegetable farming but I enjoyed helping my father and cousins in the farm.

"It was a hard life but my parents made sure we had food on the table and a roof over our heads," he said. "I am the eldest of five and when we started school we didn't have the luxuries many have today. "Back then, we had to walk two kilometers to school everyday on the dusty roads. We didn't have shoes and our school bag was the sack for flour. "I got my first pair of shoes when I was in Form Three. Even the houses then were bure type and there was hardly any concrete house around."

He attended primary school at Sabeto Indian before continuing his secondary education at Shri Vivekananda High.

Soccer career

His soccer career started when he was still in school representing his primary and secondary school at various soccer competitions. After high school and still managing his time well in between school and soccer practice, Nardeo continued his tertiary education at the University of the South Pacific.

He completed a Diploma in Science and began his teaching career at Labasa Sangam College, All Saints and Bhawani Dayal in Nasinu. "At the same time, I continued to play soccer even when I was teaching in Labasa. I was transferred there in 1974 and I started playing in the Bulileka team and was selected in the Labasa team.

"I played with Jimmy Zoing, Gordon Leewai, Hussain Saheb and Brian Simmons. I also represented Tailevu Naitasiri team in 1977 and took up refereeing in 1978. "My first major break as a referee was in 1979 when I refereed at the South Pacific Games in Suva.

"For me, that was my first international exposure as a referee. I like playing soccer and I find that it is a good way to relieve stress, tension and worry." Being a referee never came easy for Nardeo and he started off as a linesman for soccer matches.

Spending three years as an assistant referee as linesmen are called now, Nardeo started his training as a referee from class three level and slowly but surely made his way up to attain a class one level referee status.


Nardeo was considered one of the top local soccer referees at the time. The experience over the years was the kind of exposure he needed to reach the top.

"I had the opportunity to visit countries like Australia, New Zealand, America, Tahiti and other Pacific Island countries. "I managed the national team when they won gold at the 1991 SPG and the Melanesian Cup win in 2000 in Fiji. "I had some very good memories and some very nasty ones during my refereeing career. To be a referee, you must have a courageous heart and you must stand by your actions.

"If you are fit and know the laws of the game, then you should not have any problems. Never try to take sides and listen to the crowd, officials or players. "Be friendly but firm and respect everyone. Try to learn from your mistakes and don't think you know everything." He said using cards is not a good way to control a match.

While the former FIFA referee finds the job demanding, he has left a trail of successes to inspire and motivate those who want to take up this profession seriously.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, September 1, 2008


HARD work and determination are two important ingredients to achieving success even in the banking industry, according to Olive Whippy.

The former national basketball rep is the human resources manager for Westpac Banking Corporation in Suva. Managing work, family and sports commitments simultaneously back then, Olive said nothing beats hard work and time management.

She was born Olive Henning at Waiyevo, Taveuni but raised by her aunt at Vunivalu Road off Brown Street, Suva with her other siblings. Very outgoing and independent, Olive had a normal upbringing like most kids who grew up at Brown Street.

"Growing up was fun and we did the usual things sliding down drains and climbing guava trees.
"I was very active and played a lot of sports such as hockey, athletics, netball and eventually basketball," she said. "I never really thought about what I wanted to do but I was mostly into sports."

She attended Stella Maris Primary School and went to the all-girls St Joseph's Secondary School at Waimanu Road. After high school, she decided to find a job to help out with financial constraints at home. She applied for a job with Westpac and was offered a position as a customer service representative.

"I felt good because I was able to get a job. "I never looked back from there. "We had a training centre at Waimanu Road so we had training there. "I started off from customer service then to savings, examiner, bank teller and later team leader in foreign exchange.

"I always had this leadership role even when I was young. "I moved on to become a foreign exchange dealer then a supervisor in cards to manager for electronic banking." Even though she reached Form Six, Olive worked her way up the banking ranks to become an example of what one can achieve through hard work.

She believes and has learned that to get somewhere in life, one should be steadfast and diligent.
Olive said most people generally thought banking was all about handling money but there were different areas of specialty including marketing, foreign exchange and information technology.
"There's a lot that people can do in the banking industry and it is not only confined to just dealing with money.

"It is a very challenging job being in a leadership role but I don't see these challenges as a hindrance to my job. "I have love for the people I work with and I see that when I can assist the human side of things, business will run well."

In 1992, she attended a managerial course in Italy sponsored by the International Labour Organisation. During that visit, Olive had the opportunity to travel to various countries including Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Vatican in Rome.

Apart from her role as human resources manager, Olive represented Fiji in basketball from 1979 to 2003. She is married to Paul Whippy and they have seven children. Thanks to the help of her extended family, Olive managed to make her country proud and family happy, all this while climbing the success ladder at Westpac.

"I always tell my children hard work kills no man," she said.

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Friday, August 29, 2008


A healthy life is a happy life and 59-year old Raubane Kirimaua has a goal to help people understand the benefits that come from a healthy lifestyle. Raubane is the president of Pasifika Health Reform Ministry, a non-profit cooperation promoting better health amongst Pacific islanders.

Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Raubane said the aim of the cooperation is based on scientific and biblical guidelines. While he may be a certified secondary school teacher with two Masters' degrees, Raubane did not live a life of riches and fame.

Born and bred on the island of Abemama, Kiribati, Raubane is sixth in a family of eight children. His father Raubane Tobinabina was a magistrate while his mother Tekua Kirimaua was a housewife. Growing up on the island, Raubane never really thought about what he wanted to be when he was younger.

He did not even think he would ever leave the island and this was because the opportunities were very limited.

"Life on the island was very rural. I remember collecting just enough coconuts and firewood for the family. "Basically, we used what we needed. My parents were very staunch Seventh Day Adventists," he said. "My father was advanced in his education and he pushed us to get a good education but to move on to the next level was up to us.

"I did not think about what I wanted to do in life. I was like any other kid, just floating around, going with the wind." He attended SDA kindergarten before completing his primary education at Kauma SDA School.

There were no SDA secondary schools at the time so he came to Fiji to complete his secondary school at Fulton College in Tailevu. His first time to Fiji and away from Abemama Island, Raubane was very excited about the experience especially the fact it was away from home.

Raubane completed the Fiji Junior Certificate exam and went on to finish the New Zealand School Certificate exam. At the same time, he managed to graduate from Fulton College with a diploma in secondary school teaching majoring in mathematics and science.

"Boarding life at Fulton was an eye-opener especially when life was away from home. I was very excited but at the same time I learned a lot about being independent. "I had to wash my own clothes because my mother was not there but then again it taught me how to be responsible.
"After Fulton College, I continued my studies at the University of the South Pacific majoring in geography and demography from 1973 to 1976.

"I later taught at SDA mission secondary schools in Fiji including Navesau in Wainibuka and Beulah College in Tonga." He applied to join the East West Centre in Hawaii and worked for the government teaching at an all-boys high school. Things turned out for the better and he was sponsored by the centre to complete a Masters degree at the University of Hawaii.

Raubane first majored in Geography and later switched to public health after a physician relative persuaded him to help the public health department in Kiribati. "I worked for a while with the Kiribati Health Ministry and was later posted to Sopas hospital in the interior of Papua New Guinea.

"This is where I picked up and realised the needs of the people. Some people are illiterate and not well educated about chronic diseases. "It is important for people to understand the kind of food they are eating and the health benefits."

After attaining his doctorate in public health from Loma Linda University in California, Raubane headed a health van clinic moving around the city of San Francisco to do cholesterol checks and other medical checkups. Apart from that, Raubane does regular exercise and as best he can tries to encourage people to stick to local and organic foods.

"It is important for people to maintain natural remedy. Taking up this profession in promoting good health is very satisfying because you will not run out of patients."

To be able to help people live a healthier, happy life is something Raubane finds fulfilling about his profession in public health.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It was August 8 and her eyes sparkled like the blue ocean in the distance.
The Marama Na Buli Raviravi was happy and it was not because the Olympic Games had opened in its brilliant splendour half across the globe in China.

I met up with Adi Salote Ramatai, 96, (pictured) as she sat in her wheelchair atop a hillside having an eagle's eye view of the Integrated Port Development at Wairiki in Bua. The day was special indeed for Adi Salote for the $15million pine chip mill was being commissioned ushering in a new era of development for her province.

"I have waited a long time for this day, to see something big happening for my province, my people at Wairiki and it is emotional indeed for me today," her voice trembled with emotion.

"From the time I was a little girl to now, this is the first time I have seen something big happening for Bua. The only other big thing was when they made the road from Labasa to Nabouwalu. I remember I used to stand by the roadside and watch and wonder where that road would take me.

"Today I wonder about the future and can see a change for the better for my province. Many of the younger generation have left in search of jobs in towns and cities, and some have just left because it is so hard living in Bua because the infrastructure is not that good.

"Many want a better standard of living, they want electricity and proper water supply and that's why they have left their vanua. I really can't blame them." Her voice was a mere a whisper as she struggled to speak while the thick red cardigan she wore seemed out of place in the brilliant midday sun.

"I don't have much longer; while my life declines it thrills me that my province is finally getting developed. It used to hurt me that so much development used to go to the other two provinces Macuata and Cakaudrove but maybe the winds of change are now blowing through Bua," she added.

The machines from the pine chip mill and the port that stretched out to sea gleamed in the sunlight almost an indication of the bright future ahead. With the commissioning of the pine chip mill, logging is set to begin in earnest with landowners participating fully in logging pine, receiving stumpage and lease money all to the value of not less then $10m annually.

Infrastructural changes to road, water supply and electricity are some of the flow on effects of the integrated port development. Adi Salote is the traditional ruler of the area where the Wairiki port is located. Growing up at Nabouwalu Village back in the 1920's was one largely dedicated to service.

"As a young girl growing up in a chiefly family I had my obligations to meet. I never went to school until I was 17. That's the age when I started learning the alphabet and counting and I remember I was so excited when I could say the ABC right through to Z," she recounted.

"Life was also different then. Girls never went out anywhere, but stayed home a lot learning household chores, cooking and sewing. Those are the things that I love to do when I can. "But girls are different nowadays. They are out there competing with men in the workplace and they are tougher in a way. But I don't want to focus on that."

Adi Salote said the best change she wants to remember and live for is the development changes that will happen in Bua. "It's been so long but I'm glad it has begun. It's time for the new Bua."
Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Everything about teaching makes life worth living for 56-year-old Sudha Kant. The secondary school teacher at Vuci Mission has been in the teaching field for about 34 years and has enjoyed every minute of it.

With her bright smile and likeable personality, Sudha was elated when asked to share a bit about her career. Her reaction is what is expected of any teacher who has a lot of love and appreciation for their students.

But Sudha's journey to discovering her hidden passion was a rocky one especially growing up in a family of 13 children. Ninth in the family, Sudha was born and bred in Ba.

Her parents, Ranjit Singh and Ray Mati were both farmers who worked hard to provide for the needs of their big family. Living on a sugar cane farm, Sudha had to help out with family chores in and outside the home. Like her other siblings, Sudha worked in the farm, looking after the animals and even help with subsistence farming.

"Life then was very interesting although at the time I thought it was a hard life. Living on a farm is hard especially a sugarcane farm," she said. "We would work in the field every day and since there were a lot of us, there was no need for hired help.

"Apart from sugarcane, we did subsistence farming. We grew all kinds of dhal and this helped a lot with our big family. We used to get water from the well. Washing of dishes, clothes and bathing was done at the nearby river.

"Sometimes we would ride the horse to the river for a drink. Most importantly, I learnt how to swim every time I went down to the river." The burdens of life never ceased even when she started school. She attended primary school at Vatulaulau Sanatam Dharam before completing her secondary education at Ba Sangam High.

Sudha walked to school until she was in Class Five when her parents could afford to pay her bus fare. "My brothers and sisters used to walk to school too and I still remember how we used to walk in a single file like in school. In our time we had a lot of opportunities. When I was in Form Four in 1968, I wanted to do nursing.

"I was inspired by my friends who joined nursing school but my father said no. He wanted me to continue with school work and get an education. "He died when I was in Form Five and after that I got inspired to take up teaching. My mother was very strict but at that time it was very easy to get into teaching."

After completing Form Five, Sudha became a licenced teacher and started her profession teaching at three schools. She then decided to teach at Moto Sanatan Dharam primary which was closest to home.

She taught for a year before she completed her two-year training at Nasinu Teachers College.
Her first posting after she graduated from NTC was to Balebasoga school for a year. She lived with her sister in Labasa and in 1975 she moved to Nausori. She married Rajni Kant and is a mother of three.

"My two sons are teachers and their wives are teachers too. My daughter is in Form Six. "I taught at Dilkusha Girls most of my teaching life and for me teaching children from different backgrounds is the challenging aspect of this profession. "The future of our children is in the hands of teachers and as teachers we have to ensure that students are learning the right concept.
"My advice for those wanting to take up this profession is to be committed and dedicated especially at primary school level."

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Thursday, August 7, 2008


MATAIASI Tumaitoga, 45, (pictured) bears the telltale signs of a person who spends a lot of time at sea.

Sprinklings of salt trace his sun weathered face and his palms are roughly calloused by a combination of hard labour and the thousands of cuts from fishing lines and sharp fins.

I first saw him as he pulled his outboard powered boat towards the shore at Lakeba Village within the Namuka district, one of those villages that line the coast towards the northern tip of Vanua Levu. Lakeba Village borders Namuka and Dogotuki districts in Macuata and is the last stop for the public bus.

Mr Tumaitoga had just had a great catch and this was easily enough gauged from the brilliant smile that lit his face as he surveyed his spoils, about five 50kg sacks filled to their brims with fish. He calculated his catch for the day at about $200 and he couldn't stop grinning.

"I have been out the whole night at sea laying nets. It was cold, and I was hungry but that is what I do week in, week out. I have no other choice. My family like many other families in this village solely depends on the sea for survival," he said.

Mr Tumaitoga's career as a fisherman began when he could barely finish an intelligible sentence at the tender age of 3. "My father took me along on his fishing trips, teaching me how to bait the line, spin it out and when I could tell a fish was biting on the other side. Sometimes I cried because all I wanted to do at that age was play, eat and sleep but I guess he was only preparing me for the tough life of a fisherman," he related.

Mr Tumaitoga's day begins at the crack of dawn or sometimes it finishes at that time. "Well if I need to lay out nets early, then I start out early but there are times when we need to catch bigger fish so we go out diving at night when fish are sleeping so we tend to bring in a bigger catch which will ultimately mean more money for our pockets."

Companionship on these trips out in the dead of the night is crucial. He says it is for safety, survival and to ease the workload because it can get very lonely and scary being the only human surrounded by the vast blackness.

"That's why we usually dive in pairs because if something goes wrong, there's someone there to raise the alarm." Even though he has made numerous trips out to sea, this fisherman never takes the sea lightly.

"What I do is dangerous. That much I know. The sea is no man's friend. People say 'kaiwai' meaning 'person of the sea' but the only 'kaiwai' I know are the fish and the sharks and other living organisms that call the sea home. If I am not careful of the dangers, than the sea will take me," he said.

"I have had my encounters with sharks and I sometimes feel fear when I spot them, but most times I realise that when you respect the sea and its inhabitants, and just take what you need for your family's needs, the sea respects you right back. That's the way of life my ancestors practised and which I continue."

Despite the hardships and the challenges brought on by stormy weather and the rise in fuel prices, Mr Tumaitoga said he would not trade his life at the village, nor his career as a fisherman for an 'easier' life in town.

"I don't think people in towns have an easier life. I will stay on in the village because I think there are less financial commitments, there's no one to boss me around while I fish, I eat off the land and sea so I have a healthier lifestyle, and I am living out the life that marks me as an indigenous person," he said.

"I participate in the obligations of the vanua, the church and solesolevaki with other villagers for the interest of the community, speak my dialect fluently and know all the indigenous practices that a person from my village or district should know. So no thanks, I prefer village life."

Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, August 4, 2008


FINDING a good job to support his family was all Aporosa Duwai could think of as a boy.

Born and bred in the village of Daria, Bua in Vanua Levu Aporosa is the post master at the Vunidawa post office.

The 31-year-old was brought up by his single mother Kaliveni Dicina who struggled to support Aporosa and his older brother. Life was not easy for him especially when his mother was the only breadwinner in the family.

"It was hard for us and my mother worked hard to make ends meet and put us through school. She would go to sea and fish. She worked in the plantation to put us through school. "It was not an easy life. We even helped out with plantation work but my mother was really the one who struggled to provide for us."

Aporosa attended primary school at Ratu Luke Memorial before going to Bua College.
He then moved to Suva and settled in Lami. He completed secondary education at Saraswati College in Nausori.

"All I was thinking of was finding a job to support my mother. After high school, I completed two units in an agricultural course at the Fiji Institute of Further Education. "I did not complete the course and decided to look for a job. I applied to Post Fiji and was employed as a postman in Suva. My job was to deliver mail to the Suva areas. I worked as a postman in Suva for three years before I was transferred to Lakeba."

His transfer meant a new posting and he took on the role of post master in Lakeba for three years. Responsible for the overall operations and services of the post office, Aporosa grew to love the job he never thought he would end up doing.

He was then transferred to manage the Kadavu post office where he continued his role for four years. He met his wife Mere in Lakeba. Aporosa's job as a post master is not easy especially striving to ensure customer satisfaction and postal reliability.

"From Kadavu I was transferred to Vunidawa. This is my second year and it's a challenging job. My job is to manage telephone payments, Western Union and the general functions of the post shop.

"I am responsible for postal operations at Vunidawa including customer service." The challenging part of his work is preparing and balancing accounts at the end of the month. He said it took up a lot of time as the financial accounts had to be balanced and accounted for.

For someone who has a load on his shoulder, Aporosa loves to spend his time away from work with his family who live just a few metres from the post office. Aporosa is expecting the birth of his second child and believes it was through hard work that he reached this phase in his life. "I never thought I would be in this profession but I have never regretted it.

"I am happy and find it satisfying to be able to help people through our postal services. "My advice for those who may be facing a bleak future is work hard at achieving your goals and dream.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


SHE spends most of her time, seven days a week selling produce at the market. Sushila Devi, 42, (pictured) is one of three Indian vendors at the Makoi Market in Nasinu.

She has been selling vegetables there for the past 13 years and said business was not as good as it used to be.
But Ms Devi has over the years made many good friends with other vendors.

"They are all friends," she said. "We have to look after each other." A few minutes later, she calls out to another vendor. "I've being selling her vegetables for her because she was feeling sick and went to see the doctor (at the health centre across the road)."

Ms Devi said her husband, who sells vegetables with her, had gone to the supermarket so she sat and talked to her friend, Puspha. Among their produce are cabbages, tomatoes, chillies, corn, pumpkin, okra, rourou, bean, cucumber and the list goes on.

They buy vegetables from farmers in Suva or Nausori. Ms Devi's petite size could have you mistake her for a woman 10 years her junior. You would find it hard to believe that she has two sons, Ranish, 23, and Shalvin, 17. Her eldest is a school teacher at a rural school in Ba, while Shalvin no longer attends school because of an injury.

Ms Devi and her husband travel from their home at Naduru Feeder Road in Kuku, Nausori. But Ms Devi is originally from Makoi and her family still lives there. She was educated at Bhawani Dayal primary and high schools. After completing school and at the age of 18, she married her husband.

Every morning Ms Devi wakes up early, prepares the family's breakfast and makes sure that everything is okay for her father-in-law, who is 85. "My father-in-law lives with us so I have to make sure that he is okay and that his meals are cooked because he's old," she said. After all the preparations and cleaning is complete, the couple leave home at about 8.30am on weekdays for Makoi.

"We are lucky that we have a van," she said. "But we are still paying it off. "We leave the market around 6.30pm. We can no longer stay late because it's not very safe. "When we leave in the evening all we do is cover the vegetables and a watchman looks after our stalls."

On Saturday and Sunday, the couple also sells at the market but only this time they leave home at 6.30am. Ms Devi says while the price of just about everything has increased, she still finds the time to sit with her friends, tell stories and make it a point to enjoy the day.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


He is originally from Sawaieke in Gau but has made his life among the Indian farmers in Lokia on the east bank of the Sigatoka River.

He can pass to be an Indian farmer, if he is sitting among them. This is because he is fluent in the language. He is the Lomaiviti Provincial Council chairman Ratu Jolame Lewanavanua. Ratu Jo is more popular to the people in Nadroga/Navosa than among his very own.

He has been living there for the past 37 years and earns his dollars from toiling the fertile soil on the banks of the Sigatoka River. Being a successful vegetable farmer is not a bed of roses.

It involves sacrifice, hard work and a lot of faith in God. It all began when he bought 10 acres of freehold land in Lokia past Raiwaqa Village about 30 years ago and began his life from nothing except his fork and spade. He made the move after he realised that his farming in Narairaiwaqa, an island off Bau was not getting the return he anticipated.

How he went to Bau is a long story. Born to Ratu Filipe Lewanavanua and Makereta Tabuatoga of Vusaradave in Bau and bred in Vunitarawau in Suva, the Gau chief was what you can call a town boy. But he was always interested in farming despite his father's wish for him to be a doctor.

His dad was an epidemiologist who had a vision for his six children but Ratu Jo defied it. He decided to drop out of Marist Brothers High School when he was in Form Five and asked his mother if he could go to Bau.

With his mother's connection he managed to go to Narairawaqa and stayed there for five years similar to English castaway Robinson Crusoe. It was also one of those years that he met his wife Adi Kinisimere from the nearby Viwa Island. While on the island, he used to go to and sell his vegetables at the Suva Market.

"Since I have to go early in the morning, I used to go and have my bath at the public toilet there," he said. Ratu Jo used to be the only male vendor among the women that used to gather there. "My father used to come to the market early on Saturday morning and asked me to come back home."

But Ratu Jo was determined that he was cut out to be a farmer and a successful one too.
During those days at the market, he was impressed with the quality of vegetables from Sigatoka Valley and wished that he could go there.

His wish was granted when he saw a piece of land on sale up there. The rest is history. The man from Gau's contribution to his community, in the province he is staying in and Sigatoka will not go unnoticed. The Sigatoka community had confidence in him and trusted him to lead their Coral Coast Carnival.

He is currently a member of the National Council for Making A Better Fiji. He has four children who all grew up in Lokia and spoke both the main languages fluently.
And their interest also lies in farming. 10 things

l He never worked for anyone
l He has never received a salary in his life
l His father, an epidemiologist, was the one that introduced frog in Fiji from Hawaii
l His father took frogs everywhere in Fiji but not on his island- Gau
l Lived on an island off Bau- Narairaiwaqa for five years like Robinson Crusoe
l Speaks fluent Hindi and is the only Fijian family in the area he lives in Lokia, Sigatoka
l First Fijian meeting he chaired was when he was appointed to be deputy chairman of Lomaiviti Provincial Council in 2004
l He is a lay preacher of the Methodist Church in Fiji
l He loves helping people
l He is retiring, but gives advice to his two sons that run his farm

Adapted from Fijitimes online

Monday, July 14, 2008


FIVE years ago, Leba Tudravu started learning an art she yearned to know from her childhood days.
That yearning was borne out of watching her grandmother weave suits made out of kuta (reed mat).
And because she was too young to learn the art, as she says, her grandmother promised her that when she grew older, she would be taught the magical weaving of kuta an art not as commonly known to Fijian women who are more at home with voivoi mat weaving.
So when she reached her early 20s, Leba's grandmother taught her the basics of kuta weaving and its preparation from harvesting to planting.
"My grandmother taught me how to plant kuta and how to keep the farm clean and how to harvest the kuta and dry it out.
"That's the basics I first learnt before moving onto the actual softening process of kuta straw and piling it together for weaving and other basic preparations before the actual weaving started," Mrs Tudravu said.
She said when she first learnt the art of weaving, it was quite difficult as she had to get used to the twisting and turning of the kuta straws.
"My grandmother taught me how to weave the kuta ... it was tricky and hard trying to put one kuta under another but I got used to it and it was great fun after that," Mrs Tudravu said.
She clearly remembers disappointing her grandmother at some stages of the learning process.
Although Mrs Tudravu believes it was part of her training, she enjoyed it any way because she desired to turn it into a small business to help support her family.
"So after that, exactly five years ago I learnt the trade myself and started weaving wedding suits, table mats and different kind of mats such as the vakabati, delana, coco and small dress suits for the children.
"Ever since starting that trade, I hasve earned enough money to support my family and my husband's farming," Mrs Tudravu said.
She said many orders had come in from overseas Australia and New Zealand and other clients from Viti Levu.
"I earn good money ... more than $500 a month and that has helped me support my family.
"The weaving of wedding suits takes me three days to complete and weaving of table mats takes a day while the different types of mats takes four days," Mrs Tudravu said.


Friday, July 11, 2008


Visits to the museum would leave many in awe especially witnessing the many traditional and cultural materials in Fiji. One of the most popular handicrafts with traditional significance is tapa making and designs.
The person responsible for promoting this artistic work is Selai Buasala (pictured).
She is part of the Fiji delegation to the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts in Pagopago, American Samoa at the end of the month.
During the 10-day event, Selai will showcase her notable tapa designs to talented artists from around the Pacific.
However, the art of tapa making and designing is not easy. Selai had to learn traditional tapa designs when she was a little girl.
Born and bred in Nasau Village on Moce Island, Selai is the youngest of five children. Her parents were Ilaisa and Atelaite Vakaloloma.
Growing up on the island was simple especially when access to food sources was efficient.
"Life in the village was good. Food was easy to get and most of the time we helped our parents with the workload. My mother made traditional tapa designs and we had a tapa plantation nearby.
"As a child, I remember going to the plantation to pull out weeds. This was a chore done every Monday. We use the bark of a tree to make masi or the tapa. Basically, tapa is a cloth made from the bark of the tree after continuous beating and drying."
She attended primary school at Moce District before coming to Suva where she continued her secondary education at Ballantine Memorial.
Selai was used to having her parents around and left school at the beginning of Form Four.
She returned to the island where she continued to help to help her mother with masi making.
Spending time with her mother, Selai was able to make and design her own tapa.
"When we finished with our designs, we would sell these to the co-op shop which would then bring it to Suva to sell. Tapa making is easy money and this is something I am proud of.
"The prints on the tapa I make are traditional designs I learnt from my mother back on the island. There are different designs which mean different things. Usually, one has to beat the tapa, dry it and then print the designs."
She returned to Suva at the age of 18 where she lived with her sister.
Selai spent her time looking after the children and painting her designs on vanguard sheets to sell.
She said tapa was not available at the time and she had to make do with vanguard sheets.
She later returned to her place of birth and took up tapa making full time. In 2001, she moved back to Suva and set up a home in Korova settlement in Nasese.
Since then, she has continued to beat, dry and paint her tapa designs for a living. Her hard work, dedication and perseverance to support her family paid off when she was awarded Artistic Excellence in The Masi Category.
"This event was organised by the Fiji Arts Council during an Art Exhibition in February this year. I was very happy and honoured by the award because I knew my talent was being recognised.
"Whenever I finish a design, I feel proud of where I come from. It is a good feeling knowing that part of your culture and tradition is shown in something you make. That is why I am proud of what I do." This recognition gave her the opportunity to take part in the festival as well as to showcase her designs to other Pacific Islanders.
The mother of eight children never anticipated the opportunity to be part of a regional event.
Although this would be her first time to travel abroad, Selai is looking forward to meeting and learning different cultures and traditions.
"I am hoping to meet and talk to other designers about tapa designs. It would be interesting to know about the different designs in different countries. I am very excited about the trip and I know it will be an eye opener for me," she said.
"My advice for people would be to work hard at your passion. In terms of tapa making, it is important to teach the younger generation this art and craft. It will help them value their culture and traditions." The delegation will leave on the 17th of this month but the Festival of Pacific Arts will start from July 20 to August 2.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008


With the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts approaching, many talented and artistic individuals in Fiji are gearing up to showcase the multicultural essence our country is blessed with. The main theme of traditional dances and songs has widened to include various forms of art and creativity. Reporter
GERALDINE PANAPASA talks to Fiji Arts Council director Letila Mitchell about the festival.
TIMES: When did the arts festival start and why?
MITCHELL: The idea of a Festival of Pacific Arts was first put forward by the Fiji in the early 1970s as part of the cultural component of the South Pacific Games. Then it was taken to another level by the Conference of the South Pacific Commission (now the Pacific Community) in an attempt to combat the erosion of traditional customary practices.
Since 1972, delegations from 27 Pacific island countries and territories have come together to share and exchange their cultures at each Festival of Pacific Arts. In 1977, at the 3rd meeting of the South Pacific Festival Council (now the Council of Pacific Arts), the council determined that the festival's major theme should continue to be traditional songs and dances and that participating countries and territories should be free to include other activities depending on the resources available to them. The festival was conceived by the SPC's governing conference in an attempt to combat the erosion of traditional customary practices.
It grew out of the desire expressed by Pacific island leaders for the people of the region to share their culture and establish deeper understanding and friendship between countries.
TIMES: What is the purpose of the festival?
MITCHELL: To generate pride in one's indigenous heritage, focus on sustaining the transmission of Pacific knowledge, skills and traditions and united as a region to protect and uphold unique cultures but a common heritage that links and connects all Pacific people.
TIMES: How often is the festival held?
MITCHELL: Every four years
TIMES: How many countries are participating?
MITCHELL: The 27 countries are American Samoa, Australia, the Cook Islands, Easter Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Island, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.
TIMES: What is the significance of the festival to Pacific islands?
MITCHELL: The festival is recognised as a major international cultural event and is the largest gathering where Pacific people unite to gain respect for and appreciation of one another within the context of the changing Pacific. Visits of Pacific people from one island to another have always been important occasions.
Trade, social visits and exchange of dances, music, food and crafts have served as opportunities for islanders to learn from one another and have assisted in the dynamic transformation of culture. Today, the Festival of Pacific Arts helps maintain a sense of Pacificness among island communities. There is awareness that, although a group of people may reside on tiny atolls far from island neighbours, they are part of a greater Pacific-wide culture.
Recognition of a common Pacific identity can be a strong motivating force for individual communities to revive and cherish their traditional forms of cultural expression. Young Pacific islanders were traditionally raised in an environment that taught them their language, history and traditional knowledge and skills but many ways of passing on the traditions and skills are disappearing.
A realisation of what has been missing in the more westernised island culture is one of the reasons young islanders train long and hard for each festival, seeking to uncover the secrets of ancient music and chants, costumes, body art and language.
To be part of a delegation to the festival is deemed an honour. The festival has no competition and performers do not seek to compete against others but the festival has stimulated a new sense of cultural pride among islanders young and old, generates excitement, pride and promise for the arts and cultures in the region.
It enables young contemporary artists and performers to express themselves and their talent and helps bridge the gap between traditional cultural expressions and the aspirations of our youth.
The festival makes a significant contribution to the evolution of Pacific island identities. For the region, the festival promotes unity by encouraging mutual appreciation and respect for one another's culture.
It also improves political and economic stability by developing a deeper sense of solidarity and unites the geographically isolated island countries and territories, facilitating inter-regional communication.
The festival is also an important instrument in the preservation of the performing and production skills underlying the broad variety of cultural expressions in the Pacific.
Expertise and skills in crafts have been rediscovered and revitalised while traditional and ceremonial performances have been rediscovered, revived and in some cases updated. Tourism and related industries have also benefited, with proceeds often going to local communities.
TIMES: How important is Fiji's participation at the festival?
MITCHELL: Fiji is seen as one the leaders in the Pacific in many areas such as sustainable development, education, technology, etc. Therefore, it is important for Fiji to participate in strength at the festival as part of its responsibility to the region but in its leadership role being committed to uphold and protect its national heritage. It is also important for Fiji to participate in the festival because of the honour it bestows on our artisans and performers who are given the mandate to represent Fiji at the festival.
There is nothing more important than to represent your nation, your province, your tikina and your family. The festival, like the Olympic Games for sports people, bestows this honour on artists who show integrity, passion and commitment to their art form but also to their cultural heritage.
The festival is also a unique opportunity for our artists to network, generate ideas and exchange knowledge with other delegations. It is important for development as well as to show our excellence in the arts.
TIMES: What categories will Fiji's delegation participate in?
MITCHELL: Traditional dance, contemporary dance, theatre, fashion, woodcarving, weaving, masi making, canoe and navigation, heritage art workshops and demonstrations, fine art, symposiums, photography, film, literary art, culinary art and music.
TIMES: How many will represent Fiji?
MITCHELL: Eighty artists have been selected to represent Fiji.
TIMES: How is the trip to the festival funded?
MITCHELL: By the Government
TIMES: Are there awards given for each category?
MITCHELL: No, it is not a competition. The focus is transmission of knowledge and skills
The major theme has been traditional dances and songs. Fiji will participate in contemporary dance and theatre production.
TIMES: Is this the first time to have these categories?
MITCHELL: No, Fiji is one of the countries at the forefront of exhibiting and performing contemporary art. It is still a new component of the festival so Fiji, alongside PNG, New Zealand and New Caledonia has been a pioneer in contemporary art.
TIMES: Are there enough opportunities in Fiji to express the talents and creativity many people have?
MITCHELL: There are many international opportunities but there has been little support in the past for our artists to reach or to be a part of the opportunities. Things are changing as our governments realise the importance and potential of the creative industry.
Pacific art is a natural resource and something that needs to be developed and invested in. With increased investment will come increased potential for income and sustainable careers for all our people.
TIMES: What are some programs implemented by the Fiji Arts Council to develop art and craft in Fiji?
MITCHELL: The five key projects for 2008 are heritage art exhibitions and workshops, fine art exhibitions, breaking barriers program that focuses on developing creative industries in disadvantaged or at risk communities such as prisons, squatter settlements or youths at risk, skills development workshops and programs, strengthening creative industries and international market development and Dance Fiji.
TIMES: What is the Pacific Arts Alliance?
MITCHELL: It is a network of Pacific artists, art organisations, art managers throughout the Pacific who share knowledge, skills and resources to develop the art sector in the region.
It is a network of organisations such as the Fiji Arts Council, GalleryPNG, Siapo Association in New Caledonia, Tautai Trust in New Zealand and many other collectives or organisations and individuals who serve a common purpose to build the Pacific through the arts, to support and protect each other as Pacific people, empower and develop the Pacific as a collective Pacific voice.
TIMES: How important is it for people to preserve and maintain culture and tradition?
MITCHELL: Culture and tradition are like the roots of a tree. If the roots are embedded in the soil the whole tree will be well nourished, strong in a storm and grow to its full potential.
I believe that a person with a spirit strongly rooted in his heritage and focussed on being connected to his land will be a unique person, balanced and powerful.
Without that connection and without our heritage, we become part of the mass and often have nothing to hold on to in a storm. I am a strong advocate of difference.
TIMES: What usually happens after the festival?
MITCHELL: For the most part there is a lapse of four years but we hope that with increased support and investment in art the festival will become a stepping stone for those who participate, that they come back rooted in their culture, inspired and motivated to continue to create and pursue a path of excellence.
TIMES: Any other comment?
MITCHELL: This is a unique opportunity for our artists and I just want to encourage the media and members of the public to lend their support and congratulations to the delegation.
It is a time of honour for our artists and by providing a launch we hope the families of the artists, friends and the various communities that make up our multicultural country come to show them how proud they are of their achievement.


Friday, July 4, 2008


THE only recording studio in Labasa Town has become a favourite spot for local singers who had previously struggled to expose their singing talents because of financial constraints.
Viliame Rabuka's recording studio, which opened early this year has bloomed and recorded about 10 albums of singers in the Northern Division.
Mr Rabuka who is from Namoli Village in Batinikama outside Labasa Town opened the studio after seeing what he felt was a "great need in the area" when he came for a holiday.
"For me it was about helping the people back home who have great talents in singing and playing music and this was something I saw during my visit back home so with the little money I had, I started the new studio," he said.
"But it saddened me to learn that most of these talents were not exposed because there was no recording studio in Labasa or any town in the north," Mr Rabuka said.
"Groups of singers or musicians could not afford to travel to Suva to record their new albums because it cost them big money and most of them are farmers and not working which made it difficult." Mr Rabuka said after seeing what the people in the north faced especially people from his village, he felt for them and decided to help expose their talents.
"I have experience in this field and after seeing the demand for such business in Labasa, I decided to stay on and I have seen an increase in bookings from music groups on a daily basis," he said.
Mr Rabuka said the first group to record an album with him was a group from his village, known as Suka Vulavula ni Lomai Labasa.
Mr Rabuka plans to expand his studio business and plans to offer more opportunities for demanding customers in the division.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008


THE tourism industry is the perfect place for people to be able to meet and interact with others from all corners of the world.
This is one of the main reasons why people throughout the country are attracted to positions within the industry.
But for a few like Setoki Ceinaturaga, employment in tourism is not just for him to meet people of other cultural backgrounds.
The 30-year-old has a vision of transforming the experience gained during his employment into lasting benefits for the people of his home-island, Naigani, Tailevu.
Ever since the father of two joined the industry nine years ago, he has always worked towards the goal of opening and managing a property on the island owned by the people of Naigani.
Mr Ceinaturaga first joined the industry after securing a position at the exclusive Naigani Island Resort in 1999.
But after working at the resort for seven years, his determination to learn more about the diverse Fijian tourism industry made him leave the island in search of greater knowledge.
Driven by the vision to help his people, Mr Ceinaturaga and his family packed up and travelled across the country where he applied for a position with the five-star luxurious Warwick Resort on the Coral Coast.
Mr Ceinaturaga was offered a position with the resort's activities department that he scooped up with great enthusiasm in July, 2006.
"Working on Naigani was very good but I knew to get a real experience of the different types of people in tourism I had to work for a much larger property."
"In Naigani, the cliental is very exclusive but I knew being employed for Warwick Resort would put me in a position to meet and learn of the cultures of a very wide range of people," he said.
"I was offered a position in the activities department and I was very happy because I would be able to meet and converse with everyone in the resort and learn of what they expect of the local industry," said Mr Ceinaturaga.
"I have enjoyed my time here in Warwick and I feel that I am very privileged to be presented with this opportunity," he said.
Mr Ceinaturaga said even though he enjoys being an employee of an establishment like the Warwick, he always reminds himself of his goal of returning to his island to help his own people.
When The Fiji Times met up with Mr Ceinaturaga at the Bula Fiji Tourism Exchange, he was soaking up the atmosphere and conversing with travel agents from all over the globe.
Dressed as a Fijian warrior, Mr Ceinaturaga said, "I always wanted to see such an event because this opportunity comes around very rarely."
"I have been walking around during the three day event meeting with travel agents and other hoteliers from around Fiji, just learning of the different products that are available and the type of tourism expected of our country," said Mr Ceinaturaga.
"I hope the knowledge I gain from my time with Warwick would be able to help me help my people."
"I have seen about everything in tourism and I hope that in about five years, I would return to the BFTE as a seller to promote the property that I would set up on Naigani for my people," said Mr Ceinaturaga.
Mr Ceinaturaga said tourism was the only industry that the indigenous community back in their various villages could develop to take advantage of the enormous benefits it offers.
He hoped his fellow colleagues in the tourism industry would be able to follow suit and explore their own ventures some day with the hope of helping their people.


Saturday, June 28, 2008


UNIQUE, authentic and great tasting. They are three reasons that Dickson Lum (pictured) stuck with Japanese cuisine for 21 years.
He says the traditional diet is one of the healthiest in the world the emphasis on authenticity, practicality, health and simplicity.
Tofu. Miso. Sushi. Gree tea. Soba. These are terms that even locals are becoming familiar with.
Dickson's first brush with anything Japanese came about in 1987 while working at Sheraton Fiji on Denarau, Nadi.
It was there that he met the owner of Daikoku, a restaurant that specialises in Japanese food. The rest is history.
He is now a supervisor, looking after the sushi bar at the Daikoku restaurant in Martintar, Nadi.
Dickson attended Vatukoula Marist Convent Primary School and completed his secondary education at AD Patel in Ba.
"My intention was never to be a chef or be involved in the food industry," he said.
"After high school I moved on to FIT in Suva, aspiring to become a mechanic. During my second year at FIT I had come down to Nadi."
"That's when things started to change for me. I started working for this Japanese guy Ikeda and ran his business for him."
Dickson said after that stint he found employment with the Sheraton Fiji when it first opened its doors for business in 1987.
He said while at the Sheraton he met the owner of Daikoku Restaurant.
"I was asked whether or not I would like to work at their restaurant in New Guinea," he said. "I saw this as a challenge which I grabbed with both hands. I got to learn Japanese cooking."
"While I was out there in New Guinea I also got to do my cookery courses and other short courses to add to my qualifications."
He stayed in New Guinea for eight years
Dickson, who refused to divulge his age or delve in his personal life, said young people need to outgrow the mentality that being a chef was a third grade job.
He said there were great career opportunities and money that could be earned by people who mastered the craft.
"You are stars especially in the food business because it's you that prepare customers' meals."
In 1995 when Daikoku opened its doors for business in Nadi town, Dickson returned to Fiji.
"When Daikoku opened for business here in Nadi, I came back to work here and been here ever since," he said.
"It's been more than ten years that I have been based with Daikoku here in Nadi.
"Learning Japanese cooking is not very easy as you need a lot of skills to prepare meals.
"Even though I have been preparing Japanese meals for a while, I learn something new every day."



IT was 1979 the nation a mere nine years old when Faimanu Mua first started work at The Fiji Times.
She had taken a roundabout journey to get there first working within the civil service and then in tourism industry at what was then called The Fijian Hotel.
It was the days of stencils, telex machines and typewriters.
Fai who has been secretary to the chief accountant, financial controller and company secretary, and managing director says the 70s and early 80s were a comparatively labour-intensive time.
"We used to type up our material. If you wanted to send anything overseas you had to use a telex machine," she said.
"We used a big telex machine at the office on Gordon Street to send reports to headquarters. Then the first fax machines came in but only at FINTEL. So I used to go there to fax our weekly reports.
"Sometimes I used to stay until 8 pm because of the long line of people waiting. So the trick was to go to FINTEL early. It was a challenge."
On the eve of her retirement from The Fiji Times, Fai smiles as she recalls the days before technology made working life a whole lot easier.
"It was actually our newsroom that got the first fax machine and they kept it in the editor's secretary's office. Later they bought the first computer to use for accounts secretarial work. But it sat in the accountant's office for about six months because nobody knew what to do with it. So they got a trainer in for us," she laughs.
She says the same situation occurred when email was introduced but this time the training was faster and life was much easier all round. She says pre-email a lot more organisation was required to make sure everything ticked.
"Once we were stuck because our ink supplier who was supposed to hold three months' stock on-hand had run out. In fact, we only had enough to last a few days. For a newspaper that's a crisis. We had to organise a special delivery from New Zealand to get the weekend paper out.
"It really tested us. But that mistake never happened ever again".
Then there's the time when The Fiji Times helped out a newspaper in Samoa which ran out of newsprint.
"We had to arrange for them to get some of our newsprint from Fiji so they could get their paper out".
During her 29 years at The Fiji Times, Fai has seen many changes to the company and the nation.
She still has a copy of the letter sent by the managing director in 1987 advising staff they could come back to work (after the military had shut them down for six weeks).
Now Fai says she's ready for a "quiet life" running a little shop at Malhaha in Rotuma and looking after her 94-year-old mother.
"I'm going to take it slow from now on. Things have definitely evolved from when we cut a tape to send telex reports."


Thursday, June 26, 2008


NAVITALAI Gagalia sent his figure juggling skills to the backburner as soon his senses calculated he was a natural in the kitchen.
Decades later, he now considers himself a Jack of all Trades in tourism. He views all hardships and difficulties faced on the job as "just another challenge".
Growing up, Navi, as he is known to friends, always wanted to be a banker. He loved accounting and mathematics throughout his school days.
But his career path took a change in direction while waiting for a response from the first interview for his dream job. To kill time, Navi decided to take up a few classes with the catering school in Suva. There was no turning back once he fell in love with the concept of pleasing the senses with food. By the time the bank called with a job offer, he had made up his mind and turned down the position.
Navi calls it his fairy journey into the tourism industry where he has made a significant contribution during the 20 years of his working life.
While studying at catering school, Navi carried out his practical studies at The Fijian (before it carried the Shangri La name) and Musket Cove resorts.
Straight after completing his education at catering school, Navi secured a position as butcher hand at the Hyatt Regency Fiji (now known as the Warwick Resort).
The lad from Wailoku in Suva worked hard making his way up the ladder into the larder section then into the kitchen main line where he started preparing meals for guests of the five-star property. He was not about to settle with what he was doing as he continued his progress by moving into the pastry section.
Willing to try everything out in the diverse tourism industry, Navi even took a dab at waiting tables in the Food and Beverage Department.
In 1990, he accepted the challenge of manning the hotel switchboard. It was during this period that his "big break" ultimately came through his voice.
"One evening while I was on duty, the then general manager, Giovanni Roghi called for room service and I happened to take the call," he said.
"After we spoke, he asked for my name and said that he wished that I became a receptionist. I became the first male receptionist to work during day shifts, handling the PABX system which was new at the time."
Navi, adorned with his large white hibiscus tekiteki, eventually became the welcoming sight for guests arriving at the property along the Coral Coast.
Motivated to continue with his impressive career at the resort, he moved on to become a night auditor, reservations clerk, reservations manager, duty manager, front office manager and reservations/front officer manager.
During his employment, he was named Employee of the Month three times, Employee of the Year once and has also been the runner up for the Air New Zealand Young Achiever of the Year Award.
Navi was also the first secretary for the Fiji Men's Netball Association. While you may think he has completed his rise to the top of his well rounded career think again because in May last year, Mr Gagalia was promoted to sales manager.
And judging from his highly-motivated, outspoken and energised personality, Navi is bound to reach new heights in his career in the years to come.
He said even though he never thought of a career in tourism during his school days he has never had any regrets since joining the Hyatt Regency Fiji.
He said he could not imagine himself moving and working for another resort especially since he was present for most of the property's transformation including the name change from Hyatt Regency to Warwick Resort.
He said with the resort being only an hours drive away from his family home, his life revolved around the property. He has his sights on managing a property.
He said as his career progressed, there could come a point where he would consider taking up the challenge of managing a property, probably a smaller boutique resort in the country.
He said like him, others could find a whole new dream in the tourism industry especially since one becomes exposed to people of different backgrounds.
Navi said he was fortunate to have worked with people like Jamal Serhan, Jack Stark, Tammy Tam and Petero Manufolau, from whom he has and continues to draw inspiration from.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Whenever one hears the surname Musunamasi, rugby league pops up. However, being actively involved in the sport was something Peni Musunamasi never seriously considered. In fact, he initially wanted to become an aircraft engineer although his older brother and cousins donned the national jumper in rugby.
Born on June 17, 1963, Peni is the youngest of three children. His father was doctor Kemueli and his mother, a nurse, was Alanieta. Originally from Naioti, Yale in Kadavu, Peni had a fairly simple upbringing. His father's hectic work commitments meant a lot of travelling time for the family. Despite this, sport has been a family affair for the Musunamasis.
"The longest place I've lived in is Rakiraki but this was when I was a bit older. Growing up, I have seen how my dad helped people not only in the health aspect but also in sports. He was the rugby coach of the provinces we moved to," he said.
"When I was younger, I wanted to be an aircraft engineer because I thought the role and responsibilities of aircraft engineers were very important. That was my aim but somewhere down the line that did not happen."
Peni believes people should have an open mind when doing anything. He said with dedication and commitment to one's aims and goals in life, anything is possible.
With a vague memory of his initial days in primary school, Peni attended Intermediate school at Adi Maopa in 1974. He then went on to start Form One at Ratu Kadavulevu School.
However, two years later when he was in Form Three, Peni did not go to school. His parents were reluctant to buy him new uniforms after he kept losing them.
Eventually, he was put into boarding school where he spent two years at Queen Victoria.
Peni said life at boarding school was probably the first taste of being independent. He said from the start of Form One, they were expected to pick up after themselves. This meant washing their own clothes and helping out with plantation work.
"When I reached QVS in 1979, my older brother was there. Life at boarding school was a good experience. There were times when we got too independent but the hardships at boarding school made us work hard to live a better life.
"There are quite a number of people who have come out of QVS and have done well in life. In school, I belonged to Bau House and the catchphrase was unity never fails. This is one message I always try to instigate into the lives of our players."
He said education is very important and although he was not able to complete Form Six, he learned the value of hard work. He is glad to have gone through the difficulties of surviving on one's own.
Rugby league
Although he is the chairman for the Fiji National Rugby League, Peni seldom played rugby when he was in school. He was physically small and when he did play the game, he represented the second team.
Peni comes from a family of rugby players. His older brother Ilaitia Naqau is the Fiji Bati team manager as well as a former national rep. His first cousins have also represented Fiji on several occasions. Even his first cousin, the late Kemueli Musunamasi represented Fiji against the British Lions in 1977.
As timid and tiny back then, Peni always had an interest to represent the country in sports. He realised if he did not have the rugby flare and talent to play the sport, he could do something behind the scenes to help in the development of ruggers. "When I first saw the way rugby league was played, I knew this was a game for Fijians.
"At the time, I was the assistant manager for the Nadera Panthers team.
"Rugby league started in 1992 then. I have seen that through this sport, players have been able to get good lives.
"It has helped a few families now overseas. I owe a lot to rugby league. Being part of rugby league in Fiji is a give and take field.
"Since my involvement in the sport, rugby league has taught me a lot especially about responsibilities.
"I noticed not many people care about responsibilities, but being in a managerial position responsibilities are important especially the welfare of the players."
When he is not in the chairman's seat, Peni is the acting advisor technical for the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission.
He has been with the organisation for almost 20 years now.
Fast facts
Married to Ulamila who is from Vanuabalavu.
Has four children, three sons and one daughter
FNRL chairman in 2002, 2006-2008
Bati team manager on six occasions
Was club manager of the year in 1996
2005 FASANOC Volunteer of the Year
2007 FASANOC Administrator of the Year
10 things about him
His father is his mentor
Favourite drink - Water
Loves his wife's chopsuey
Loves to spend time with family
Prefers to listen to Dokidoki Gospel
Favourite movie is Gladiator
Considers Russell Crowe his favourite actor
Believes his cousin Ponipate Naqau is an inspiration for ruggers
His mother is from Mua, Batiki, Lomaiviti
Paternal grandmother is Tongan from Hapai in Hihifo. and his father was born there.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


People do not often get to hear about the lives and trials of people from the Old Capital. For 28-year-old Lydia Taylor feels been born and bred in Levuka is a blessing in disguise.
She is a senior ranger at the National Trust of Fiji Islands office based at the Levuka Community Centre. Life growing up was fairly normal although she spent her childhood days living with her grandparents.
Her father, George Taylor Thomas hails from Udukacu in Taveuni while her mother, Keresi Vai is from Nawaka Village in Nadi. The eldest in a family of four children, Lydia had an interest in art although she also wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps.
"My father was a dock worker and my mother was a staff nurse at the Levuka hospital. My parents worked very hard and made sure we had a good upbringing. Growing up with my grandparents and aunties is something I will appreciate forever.
"I count myself fortunate to be brought up in Levuka. Life was simple and pleasant till today. I remember going to school on foot, making friends with children of different races, playing in the park and not worrying about spending money or taking lunch to school."
Lydia said after moving to Nadi in 1991, life became challenging. She said being the eldest meant she was expected to help out a lot with family chores. The other challenges she faced then were beginning school in the village, learning more about the Fijian way of living, dress code, respect for elders and basically broadening her knowledge on Fijian culture and tradition.
"I attended primary school at Marist Convent from 1985 to 1990 from Class One to Six. The following year, we moved to Nadi because mum was transferred to Nadi. I completed Class Seven and eight at Nawaka District. I spent the first three years of secondary at Shri Vivekananda which is now SVC.
"I completed my secondary education at Nadi College from 1997 to 1999. While at high school, I had an interest in computing and I had very good typing skills. In 2001, I took part in the Nadi Bula Festival as one of the contestants. However, the experience was not only an eye opener but a challenge for me as well."
She was sponsored by Adams Investment and had to face her biggest fear of public speaking. Standing in public was something Lydia was not good at but it became something she was confident doing.
"In that same year until 2002, I completed my diploma in Information Technology at NZPTC in Nadi. In mid 2002, I went back to Levuka to teach certificate and advanced level computing studies at NZPTC branch there. Two years later, a vacancy was advertised for senior ranger at the National Trust of Fiji office at the community centre.
"I applied and was fortunate enough to be selected as a junior ranger. My work involved looking after the public library, school and village visits, typing, attending meetings and to customer needs both local and overseas. I love my job because I get to learn and know more about the history of Levuka and Fiji as a whole."
To her, everyday was a learning day. She said after leaving the shores of Levuka in 1991 and returning after 11 years, her hometown has not changed a bit. She said the old buildings still stand and the hospitality provided by the people is forever over-whelming.
"There is no need to think about what to feed the family tomorrow. Even though the pace is slow, we still manage to catch up with the latest developments and technologies. I am now happily married to Waqa Kabou Bower and have a beautiful three-year-old daughter.
"I am thankful and proud to be a kai loma or part European because our roots run deep into both the indigenous Fijian and European lines. Levuka Town with its fine legacy of old colonial buildings and visually dramatic settings is undoubtedly one of Fiji's finest cultural landscapes. To preserve the historical value of Levuka Town, there is a need for people to hold hands and work together to maintain the history of this town," she said.