Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ice cream soup and homemade citrus aid

We sun-bathed on the grassy banks of the sea wall, toying with paper cups of ice cream melting into soup.
Next to us an unwashed man slept under a coconut tree, just one more discarded item in a pile of rubbish.
Back at home Vuaka played in the grass grown tall inside the unused chook pen, barking when he got his head caught in the crosswire.
We laughed when Laura tried to get ice out of the freezer to make homemade citrus aid and the freezer door broke off.
Another Sunday in Suva.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

All the women in saris, all the men in jeans

The bride had mehendi stained hands and sparkling bindi on her forehead - a pair of diamond eyebrows above her natural ones.

Inside the temple had been decorated with coloured balloons and the space was filled with the sound of bells and chanting.

Babies wailed and were shifted between shoulders and little girls tottered between seats in cheap plastic heels. A crowd gathered out front as the groom arrived in a jeep adorned with yellow flowers. All the women were in saris, all the men in jeans.

The ceremony was led by an old man dressed in white – he read from a book in Hindi and every so often would turn his face from the microphone and whisper instructions to the bride and groom.

There was much holy water dripped from the tip of a leaf dipped into a plastic cup. Drips on the floor of the altar, over an offering of flowers, banana and honey, and into the couple’s clasped hands.

A fire was lit in a small bowl and some of the holy water was drunk. Relatives sat behind the couple and fussed with the bride’s red sari or dabbed at her tear streaked cheeks with a bright yellow cloth.

Two pillows and a blanket were passed through the altar, from the bride’s family to the groom’s. The dowry: unwrapped gifts with the price still marked (sale items reduced by almost 1/3 of their original price).

Our workmates waved at us from the car park, beckoning to us to join the wedding feast in the laneway next door. So as the ceremony continued we sat at a long row of tables covered with the plastic of many milk arrowroot biscuit wrappers taped together. A line of men passed each plate to dole out portions of oily curries. We ate our fill of roti, rice, tomato chutney, jackfruit and other delights.

In the nearby makeshift kitchen, a scratchy broadcast of the rubgy was showing on TV. Inside the temple the bells and chanting continued. Back in the car park we found one of our friends who had not yet eaten; the wedding was so long he had gone to sleep in the van during the ceremony.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Palms, then backs, then palms

Somehow turning both hands,
Palms, then backs, then palms,
Communicates a message between Lo
And the shopkeeper we pass in the street.

No words are exchanged,
Beyond his first ‘eh’ to attract attention.

Then it is left to hand signals,
Palms, then backs, then palms
To ask a question
And answer it.

‘Oh, Irava has it waiting for you in the office,’
Lo says.
The shopkeeper raises his eyebrows in reply.
The conversation is over.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Be-le... be-le... be-le..."

(for my friend Tepora)

Walking over water
Along the cable lines -

Jisu clouds and streams of light
On the grey horizon -

Let’s go down the hill
To explore the jungle in Cheli’s garden -

Baby cats climbing
Deb and Thea mountains -

Pleating, wrapping, pinning
Glittering wedding saris -

Josi’s afro bouncing
Blowing bubbles for her to catch -

These are things worth living for.

Breaking chocolate

To watch you
A block of chocolate
Into equal portions
So everyone
Has squares to eat
Inspires me more
Than any quote
I’ve ever read.