A day’s work in Fiji starts with scrubbing clothes on a washboard, and ends under a starry sky

Why I love living in... Nakoroboya, Fiji

Moving to Fiji was ‘a new chapter, a chance to start over, and this we did in a beautiful settlement close to Nakoroboya village, nestled in the highlands of Ba.’

Moving to Fiji was ‘a new chapter, a chance to start over, and this we did in a beautiful settlement close to Nakoroboya village, nestled in the highlands of Ba.’

 

The open air bus is packed to the rafters with giddy school kids and market sellers clutching their sacks of cassava, guavas, lemons, chilli, mandarins, bananas, coconuts, sasa brooms and trembling goats. They are all making their way to Ba town, along dusty gravel roads surrounded by folding hills and majestic mango trees in the highlands of Nakoroboya in Fiji.

To accompany this spectacular sight, reggae, pop and country and western pumps out from the bus’s worn stereo system. Chivalry is very much alive here as men promptly give up their seat. With a glance out the window, you could see cowboys on horseback galloping through fields at high speed, bamboo spears in hand and packs of dogs at their side as they chase a wild pig to its final resting place, an open fire. To travel in this bus is a wonderful experience, a treat for all the senses. It is just one of the many things I love about living in this tropical paradise.

It’s been a year now since we waved goodbye to Ireland and boarded the long haul flight to Fiji in the South Pacific. For my husband, it was a return home after 20 years in Ireland, and for our two children, aged 9 and 11, it was the beginning of an adventure. For me, it was a new chapter, a chance to start over, and this we did in a beautiful settlement close to Nakoroboya village, nestled in the highlands of Ba in the west of Fiji. Our home sits overlooking the pine covered mountains, with glorious views of the Yasawa Islands.

With solar for lighting we busy ourselves preparing kids for school, before starting our day’s work. For me, it’s off to the outdoor washboard where I scrub the clothes, before helping at the plantation.

One of the most satisfying jobs for me is digging kumala (sweet potato). It is a slow and laborious process, as the soil is rock hard from a prolonged drought. But it’s so exhilarating when those shiny purple beauties raise their heads to greet the daylight.

I think back at how painfully difficult it was in the beginning, ploughing this land without any machinery, just two aging bulls. Now, months later, we are finally reaping the fruits of our labour. It has been a true test in perseverance and patience. After a sun-drenched day and an early rise at 5am, the magical sunsets and moonlit sky provide welcome respite.

Nakoroboya is a chiefly village where the chief’s home is called a Bure. In this open plan room, all the village meetings, ceremonies and religious services take place. There are protocols to adhere to in village life, and we are all obliged to respect the many rich customs and traditions which is part and parcel of Fijian life.

The natural beauty surrounding us here is astounding, but villagers have suffered greatly under the yield of cyclones and adverse weather conditions. But their resilient attitude for survival is truly inspiring.

It’s been a year of highs and lows, tears of joy and sorrow, mistakes made and lessons learned, but as I recall my childhood dream to live with the Ingalls family in the TV series Little House on the Prairie, I can’t help but smile as I write this under a bright starry sky, with a lantern to light my page.

In May, The Irish Times invited readers abroad to tell us about their relationship with the place they have made home, and why they love living there. This story is one of the entries we received. Read more here.

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