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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

My first week as chief of Tribewanted.com, September 2008

FIJI | Saturday, 6 September 2008 | Views [1290] | Comments [2]

Blowing the conch for morning meeting, outside of the chiefs Bure.

Blowing the conch for morning meeting, outside of the chiefs Bure.

Looking back now, sat in the ecotricity hut on a Sunday afternoon, the week behind me is a bit of a blur!

I've been in the enviable position of being installed as chief for the first month of the third year of this unique project, and all just in time to have the official handover on the 2nd anniversary of the project, which is a huge milestone for Tribewanted.com and a very special day for myself.

Before I tell you about my week I'd like to pay tribute to the two chiefs that I've seen in action during my time as a tribe member for July and August, Mariah and Dan. They have shown me so much and shared their ideas with me from day one, which has helped a lot. I've also been lucky enough to have met Kaz this last week, chief from April and long-time supporter of the project, and her advice, support and energy has also been an inspiration for me. Not to mention the great team here on the island, and the opportunity to hang-out with, and pick the brains of, Ben Keene for my whole stay... my timing could not have been better in coming to Vorovoro!

As preparation for my month as chief, the team invited me to their monthly meeting, on the 31st August, to help me understand what happens behind the scenes on Vorovoro. Becoming chief gives a fantastic insight into the running of the island from day-to-day and month-to-month. Once you become chief, you are part of the team, so certain other responsibilities befall you... such as heading up the weekly meeting of all the team members on the island (an adventure in itself when you're thrown in at the deep end with that one!), joining the weekly rota of toilet and kitchen cleaning, shutting down the kitchen and village lighting of an evening, heading up off island visits, representing the tribe when visitors arrive and of course having some input in all of the planning and running of tribes time and activities. We talked about the continuation of Dan's mammoth project, the new showers, and about my September project of strengthening and tidying the bure roofs in the village for the rainy season and building a new bure for community manager Tevita. It's nice to have some exposure to the accountability of the business and to discover just how tricky it can be to negotiate with service providers or product suppliers in Fiji, something which isn't entirely evident as a member of the tribe. A huge amount goes on behind the scenes, which is largely unoticed, testament to the effort and good team work of the people that work here.

And so to my first week... Monday morning I awoke in my comfy bed in the old Vale to the greetings of my fellow tribe members of "yandra chief!". I'd prepared my bags the night before for the short walk to the chiefs bure, and was looking forward to moving in! I had breakfast with the tribe as usual and then started to move my things into my new pad. Emma gave me a hand to sweep it out and kindly pointed out to me the many huge spiders living in the roof, thanks Emma! Next came the blowing of the conch shell to gather the tribe in the great bure for my first meeting as chief... even after some practise blows last month, this did not go well! I had the added pressure of Moya and Emma taking photo's of me doing this, which produced much laughter as all I produced for three or four attempts was a loud wet fart of a sound! I nailed it fifth time though, and it was loud and clear... it takes a bit of puff and has a tricky technique, and left me a little light headed afterwards, lol.

I sat at the head of the mat in the great bure and everyone filed in, the tribe was quite big this week, and all of Team Fiji came in too. I'd met with the team before the meeting to make notes about the week and todays format and was ready to start the week. Talking has never been a problem for me, as many of you reading will already know(!), but today I was a little more nervous than I thought I'd be, which passed as soon as I got going and started to tell the tribe what would happening in the next two days leading up to the party. I opened by offering congratulations to Jim and Dan on their new appointments, which officially began today. The meeting went well thanks to the support of the team, and the tribe were soon splitting off into groups to help prepare the village for the 2nd birthday party on Tuesday, raking the paths and greens, collecting leaves for decorations, etc. The Karmic Duties board was also full of willing volunteers and everyone was busy today. The tribe also had two meke lessons with Save today, in preparation for the party tomorrow where we would be performing in front of our guests after the ceremony was finished.

I spent much of the day floating around between all the projects, keeping up with as many of the tribe members as I could and keeping abreast of everything happening. It felt like I didn't sit down all day! In the afternoon lots of new tribe members arrived in the boat from town, and so I took them for my first tour of the village. Afterwards I'd remembered a few things that I'd not told them, so I need to improve with that! I did manage to catch up with everyone later though and hopefully they weren't too bored or badly informed!

During Monday evening we had a mahuuusive grog session with the team, who deserved it after their efforts and were pretty excited about the party tomorrow... midnight came and went before we retired.

Tuesday was epic to say the least! I've written a seperate blog about the whole day, you can read it by clicking here...

Wednesday I had to go to Labasa to see the doctor as my ear infection was now unbearable, which was a shame and a waste of nearly a full day as chief! Ben Katz headed up the meeting in my absence, and after a tough Isa Lei, with some big characters and long-term tribe members leaving, some heavy rain clouds came in and kept the mood low, even though we needed the water. After the rain cleared the tribe took down all of the shelters built for the celebrations and set all the fronds out to dry in the sun ready to use for something else. Meanwhile in town I met with the new tribe members and after a village tour shortly after getting back on the island, we prepared for yet another monster grog session for Pupu's 69th birthday. I've bonded really well with Pupu over the last couple of months, so it was nice to have him sit as wingman (no dondo's!!) and to be able to present one of the new Tribewanted postcards with his picture on, signed by the whole tribe. Dan had made him a giant birthday flapjack which was presented in the morning along with a singsong with the whole tribe. This evening I also presented some grog to Team Fiji on behalf of everyone in the tribe for their hard graft this week in preparing the village for the party and to thank them for their support for me in my first week. I think I will give them some grog each week that I'm chief, which is something the tribe used to do some time ago, as it is a nice gesture.

Thursday was another bleary eyed start and after the morning meeting the tribe broke up the palm fronds to lay them down as a new floor in the great bure to put the mats on, it was really comfy after this!! Marau and Tale started on a new floor in Eramoni for Jim and the team worked on improving the rain catchment on the hill. We had meke class in the morning and song lessons in the afternoon with Save, singing Daru Mai Lele, which is a nice song to learn and sing around the grog bowl with the boys on an evening. The reef trip was full in the afternoon and all of the tribe mucked in with Karmic Duties and general help around the village, it really is ship-shape this week! On Thursday evening I had the most bizarre business meeting of my life... Tevita had two of the heads of the youth organisation from a local Mali village coming over to negotiate a price and do a deal for the reeds I need to get the bure roof project done. Tevita spoke to them in the Fijian village to arrange a price and then they came down to meet myself and Jim to shake hands on the deal. We met under a coconut tree, in the pitch black night, shook hands agreed on a deal (including feeding them while they work here and a grog session when they're finished) and then said goodbye before they hopped on a boat home. If I saw them in daylight tomorrow I wouldn't recognise them, lol! Anyway, we got ourselves a good deal of 300 bundles of reeds, delivery and their help installing them for $600, which I'm happy with (this won't include the great bure, as that will be a one off job afterwards, which I hope to stretch my budget too this month if possible).

Friday saw the Tribewanted giftshop open its doors (well, setup on the dining table) after the morning meeting, and lots of the tribe got stuck in buying sulu's, bags and postcards. Team Fiji split their forces as Marau and Tale were finishing installing the floor in Jim's new home, Leavi was gardening and the rest were working on the showers. The tribe all lent a hand and brought up some rock slabs for the shower flooring from the beach and an other good mornings work was done. In the afternoon we took our trip to the Mali District School, where the tribe presented themselves and some gifts to the class and enjoyed some songs from the children. We arrived a little late unfortunately, and so there wasn't much time for working in the classroom with the kids before they wanted to race outside to play. There was netball/basketball, rugby and football with the shiny new footballs that Rob and Holly kindly donated to them. The lads there from the tribe lined up against the kids for a game of full contact rugby, it was five versus twenty kids and they weren't messing around! Full head-on shoulder tackles from the crazy little guys... it was great fun and they knackered us all out in the sun and made us look silly with their skills... :) In the afternoon we had a little grog session as normal to bid Moce to team Fiji as they leave the island for the weekend, and it was nice to chat about the week and the success of the party and have a final sing-song and a laugh with them all. The tribe had a pretty quiet night with a couple of bottles of wine and a fire, which was interrupted with a decent downpour for half an hour which Emma and I stood in for a while, should've taken some soap it was that hard a rain storm! I had a little 'moment' late on in the evening where I suddenly missed my dear family and friends from home... its been a long time since I left home in January and this place is such a joy and inspiration, I'd love it if they could come and see it for themselves!

Saturday morning started out with more people leaving, including the sustainability manager, Ben Katz for a months well earned break. This is a bit of a blow as his imput is huge on the island, and he is a close personal friend now... I'm looking forward to his return already. I've waved some good friends off from this beach these last couple of weeks... good job it is easy to get so immersed in island life and that there are always good people arriving, there's no time to be depressed! ;)

Sunday was a nice day of relaxation and recuperation after a hectic week, with a meeting with the team in the afternoon to discuss the week ahead. It was also Sarah's birthday today, so we had cake, songs and a present organised by her traveling companion and friend Liz and a bit of a grog session on the beach near Api's house.

I'm looking forward to a good second week, albeit I'll miss the Monday morning meeting due to having to go back to the doctors to have the ear checked out again! Hopefully we can get the showers to a stage where they are operational and start using them, plus my project of starting on the bure roofs should kick off...

Thanks for reading, cya next week.
Tui Paula.



we wish we could see it too!! Jodie at work said she dosnt want to see sunshine on your blog again!! Julie at work said she wants to join the tribe but can she bring the kids!

  mum Sep 9, 2008 5:10 AM


Kids come to the island regularly! We have had two young families here in the two months I've been here and they have had the holiday of their lives!! :)

  sl0ggs Sep 13, 2008 8:16 AM

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