Saturday, October 24, 2009


Auburn haired mongooses are shy and quick. Imported many years ago to control Fiji's snake population, they rustle into foliage at the first sight of a human. They're cute but are known to steal chicks and eggs from the hen houses. When I see them, I think about brave Riki Tiki Tavi, the story of a mongoose in India.

Also the mynah birds. Their bright yellow beaks striping back to their yellow eyes are creatures from Riki Tiki Tavi, as well. They were an exotic creature when I read about them as a child. But they are ubiquitous in the Pacific Isles. In Fiji, there is a second type of mynah that is mostly black with three tiny feathers sticking up above its beak, like a mustache.

Yesterday, we went to the Indian squatter camp outside of Nadi (pronounced "Nandi"). It's been there for a few decades. Navakai is the place we went on the last tsunami scare. We were going to dig out the ditch behind the house of an ancient couple when we heard the warning. We left with promises to return. And we did. It was much better organized this time. We had more strong males, more shovels, supplies to patch the corrugated tin roof, and Rena was with us to translate. All Fijians over age 5 speak English but also speak either Hindi or a couple dialects of Fijian. Most are more comfortable in their non-English language.

When we showed up, the ancient Indian couple was not home. We were surprised because we'd called ahead. Nevertheless, we set to work. Brian, a boy from Kid's Club, and another lightweight young man went up on the precarious roof to look for leaks. The whole structure could have been pushed over with the strength of one or two men. The rest of the crew went out back to start digging. At first, a handful of neighbors gathered to discourage us from digging the ditch. Luckily, Brian had warned the team about this very possibility.

Because I had planned to be in the house with the couple, helping with inside projects, I didn't have anything to do. So I designated myself team photographer. After some pictures, a very curious and chatty neighbor called me over to sit next to her house to talk. Soon, it was myself and about 5 neighbors asking me questions about why we were there, what group we were with, where I was from, life on the sailboat, etc. The fact that the YWAM crew were volunteers providing the supplies with their own money made a big impact on one man.

A young woman called me over and put a chair next to the outdoor cooking fire. She proceeded to tell me her story. told me about living with her in-laws who hit her, her husband hits her, and she wants to leave but has two young girls and can't support them. He wants her to leave, also but let him keep the girls. It's not like at home where you can find ways to work if you have kids. The mothers are dependent on the men. She used to go to a Christian church but married a Hindu man and he won't let her go to church. There are so many needs. It makes me feel tiny. I guess that's good. God wouldn't want us trying to put our fingers in the God sized holes in people's lives. All I was able to do was pray with her, encourage her there were people to help, and put her in contact with Rena's church which is nearby.

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