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Fiji 2017



Ruth sat quietly at the small kindergarten table practicing her penmanship. Our interest in each other was mutual, but she was too shy to respond until I broke the ice with my elementary Fijian. When she realized we could communicate, a broad smile spread across her face.
Ruth is now in third grade. When I visited her school again last year, she beamed when she saw me, realizing that some foreigners don’t just visit once—some return again and again.
Joy Patman ©2014 | PCV Fiji and Ecuador 1988–1991 | Education, Natural Resources

Republic of Fiji
Western South America

Area 18.3K km²

Population 909K (50/km²)

Gov’t Republic

Capital Suva (176K)

GCP/capita $8,800

Unemployment 9%

In poverty 31%

Life expectancy 72 yrs

Infant Mortality 10/1K live births


Literacy 94%

Languages English, Fijian, Hindi

Religions Protestant 45%, Hindu 28%, other Christian 10%

Labor Force Agriculture 70%, industry and services 30%

PCVs 1968–1998, 2003–present CURRENT: 77; Health, Youth Development; TTD: 3,420

Adult Books

Dodging Machetes: How I Survived Forbidden Love, Bad Behavior, and the Peace Corps in Fiji
Will Lutwick, 2012

Publisher: Peace Corps Writers (January 4, 2014)
Format: Electronic
File Size: 1301 KB / Print Length: 266 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
ASIN: B008KWN034

Summary: Will Lutwick, a quirky misfit, gets an MBA at 22, but soon realizes he and the American corporate world are a horrid mismatch. He joins the Peace Corps and is sent to the Fiji Islands, the quintessential tropical paradise. Will finds himself attracted to prohibited pulchritude when Rani Gupta, a beautiful, rebellious 20-year-old from a traditional Hindu family, begins working in his office. Dating is taboo in Fiji's large Indian community, and an interracial couple would be unprecedented. But Rani and Will soon discover their mutual attraction impossible to resist. Their liaison is clandestine, but word gets out, and a cultural firestorm engulfs Rani's community. The two lovers are under constant threat of attack, and violence ensues. Will must confront his personal demons about courage and commitment, while Rani is treated like a pariah by her people. Will the besieged lovers stay together, or will a hostile world tear them apart?

"In his beautifully written memoir...he relays these memories with neither bitterness nor self-serving pity--just a good dose of humor and intelligence...He shares thoughtful insight into Fiji's exotic history and society...Off-the-charts hysterical. An unabashed, candid memoir that continually entertains and educates."

"An eye-opening story about love, loss, and discrimination...Not only is this an exciting memoir, but it's a great modern day Romeo and Juliet tale. You can tell that this book was a passionate labor of love. Each page is as addicting as the last, with great emotional elements driving the story. This is a great book for those looking for a well-rounded love story with a few laughs and a lot of heart." Five Stars.

Winner of the 2012 USA Best Book Award for Multicultural Non-fiction

Finalist, 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards and the International Book Awards


Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu
J. Maarten Troost, 2006

Publisher: Broadway Books (June 13, 2006)
Format: Paperback: 239 pages
ISBN-10: 0767921992
ISBN-13: 978-0767921992

Summary: Getting Stoned with Savages tells the hilarious story of Troost’s time on Vanuatu—a rugged cluster of islands where the natives gorge themselves on kava and are still known to “eat the man.” Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles against typhoons, earthquakes, and giant centipedes and soon finds himself swept up in the laid-back, clothing-optional lifestyle of the islanders. When Sylvia gets pregnant, they decamp for slightly-more-civilized Fiji, a fallen paradise where the local chiefs can be found watching rugby in the house next door. And as they contend with new parenthood in a country rife with prostitutes and government coups, their son begins to take quite naturally to island living—in complete contrast to his dad.

Kids' Books

Turtle Songs: A tale for mothers and daughters
Margaret Wolfson, illust. Karla Sachi, 1999, AGES 5–8

Publisher: Beyond Words Publishing, 1999
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
ISBN-10: 1885223951
ISBN-13: 978-1885223951

Summary: Based on a Fijian myth, a princess and her daughter are captured by intruders from another island. They sing in harmony and call to the sea gods, who transform them into sea turtles so that they might escape.

Publishers Weekly: In this story based on a Fijian myth, a princess and her daughter are saved from kidnappers by a storm that destroys their canoe and transforms the mother and daughter into sea turtles. As turtles, the pair returns to their island and promise to come whenever the villagers sing to them. Wolfson's (Marriage of the Rain Goddess) verbose retelling is competent, but does little to develop the relationship between the mother and daughter. The princess and her daughter's connection to the sea, before their transformation into turtles, also seem tenuous (the only clue the author offers is the princess's glancing wish, at one point, that she and her daughter were giant turtles). An afterword hints at the importance of sea turtles in the Fiji islands, but their mythical associations don't come through in the story itself. In her first children's book, Sachi uses bright South Sea colors, from the princess's flowing pink dress to the intense colors under the ocean's surface. But the illustrations do not always contribute to the narrative. The real strength of the artwork shows in the spreads of aquatic life: the sea turtles, dolphins and tropical fish seem to swim off the page. Ages 5-up.

School Library Journal: Kindergarten-Grade 3-A charming Fijian folktale is brought to life in this story about a brave Princess and her daughter. The ocean figures so centrally in their idyllic lives that the two wistfully fantasize about transforming themselves into "a pair of giant [sea] turtles." Their daydreams turn out to be hauntingly prophetic as ruffians from a neighboring island kidnap mother and daughter shortly thereafter. Huddled on the deck of their captors' boat, the Princess remembers her grandmother's instruction that song could conjure the magical sea god and she and her daughter begin the melodic incantation that will summon the ferocious elements. Soon the water and sky begin to churn and the canoe's passengers are tossed overboard. The Princess and Rani, however, are miraculously transformed into-what else-giant sea turtles, and they return to the shore to ask the women of their village not to mourn their loss. From that day on, the women summon the sea turtles with song to give themselves hope and consolation. Light-filled, lushly colored illustrations accompany this well-told tale. Folklore collections will benefit from this unusual addition, the origins of which are well documented in both the author's and artist's notes.


Film: The Land Has Eyes (Pear ta ma 'on maf)
Director: Vilsoni Hereniko, 2004
Languages: Rotuman" target=

About the film: Pear ta Ma ‘on Maf / The Land Has Eyes (87 min., 2004) is a visually stunning film set on the remote island of Rotuma in the South Pacific. Directed by Vilsoni Hereniko, it is the first indigenous-made feature-length film from Fiji. Its making is an admirable example of how the process of producing a movie can be as important as the finished film.

“I wanted to give something back to my community; I wanted my people to take pride in their language,” Hereniko, a professor at the University of Hawaii, told an audience as he introduced the film during the fifth-annual imagineNative Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario. “Today, people no longer live in traditional thatched-roof houses. The whole movie set had to be constructed, yet after we were done, people moved in and are living there.” The film also encouraged the people of Rotuma to relearn traditions such as mat weaving and canoe-making.

Summary: The Land Has Eyes centers around Viki, a young girl who fights to clear her family’s name in the face of the island’s corrupt colonial administration. Strong, independent, and smart, she is inspired by the Warrior Woman from her island’s mythology as she enters womanhood amidst cultural and family challenges. The lush beauty of the island contrasts with her struggle for justice as she follows her dream of leaving the remote island to pursue further education in Fiji.

Viki adores her father, a patient, traditional Rotuman man named Hapati, and listens intently to his stories. When she becomes angry with her mother and sister for keeping her from learning how to cook and weave mats, Hapati encourages her to develop her scholastic abilities. Viki excels in school, where she learns English quickly, but her world begins to crumble when Hapati is wrongly accused of stealing coconuts by their wealthy neighbor, and their community turns against them. Because Hapati cannot understand English, his neighbor is able to frame him and only Viki, hiding under the court window, knows of the injustice. The movie’s title comes from Hapati’s reassurance to Viki of the ancient Rotuman belief that the land is vigilant and will eventually avenge wrongdoing.

When Hapati’s overwork to pay off his court fine overtakes him, Viki enters into her own inner, surreal realm, as the village people gossip about her mental instability and rebellious ways. The end of the story proves that her father was correct about the land’s vigilance.

The beautiful visuals, haunting music, and realistic characters lend honesty and simplicity to this story, which is based on Hereniko’s own life story. The director lived on Rotuma Island until he was 16, when he won a scholarship to complete his secondary education in Fiji. In the 1960s and 1970s, administrators for the former British colony had no knowledge of the local customs or language, and often allowed corrupt members of the community to take advantage of fellow islanders. The importance of knowledge both old and new are woven together throughout the film, as the heroine bucks tradition and uses her modern education, along with her respect for her cultural beliefs, to win justice for her family.


Isa Lei, sung by ACS Girls Choir, is a traditional Fijian song of farewell

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