Title: Levuka

Author: Virginia Were

In: Sport 1: Spring 1988

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, October 1988, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Prose Literature

Conditions of use



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Sport 1: Spring 1988


page 78


Levuka is the capital of Ovalau, a large volcanic island East of Viti Levu. It used to be the capital of Fiji until the shift to Suva in 1881.

The pioneering atmosphere is still strong in this somnolent town of 1400, a perfect base for excursions into the mountains, along the winding coast, or out to the barrier reef one km offshore. Levuka is one of the most peaceful, pleasant and picturesque places in Fiji.

Ed the American walked along the beach, a small straw hat squatting on his head.

Anne followed him. Anne whose father cut his face out of the only wedding picture her parents had, stuck in the face of Al Jolson, a white guy who painted himself black, sang Mammy. Her mother cried. It was their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Ed said, I want I want I want to be the laziest man in the world, I want to have the biggest collection of Hawaiian shirts in the world.

Anne said, but Ed, this isn't Hawaii, this is Fiji, and you've already got more shirts than you can wear.

You dip you dip you dip dip dip stick, we're tourists, we gotta look like tourists, and see they all wear those shirts; hibiscus flowers on a red background, hibiscus flowers on a green background.

But that's Hawaii Ed and you can buy them back home, this is Fiji Ed and we gotta have something Fijian, this is Lautoka.

Levuka Anne Levuka.

O.K., but it's still Fiji.

Ed took the small straw hat off his head and put it on a rock. He began to take off his clothes. Is it safe to swim here Anne? What did the guide book say about sharks, don't they like to hang just off the reef, I've heard that they like to feed on the small fish that live on the reef.

page 79

Everyday we went swimming everyday. The time we went snorkeling one boy jump over and caught one baby shark. Boy! I can't believe it. Can you believe that one boy just jump over and caught one shark?!

Ed said you have to talk slowly to them, and use lots of sign language. You have to repeat yourself, and then they understand.

They began to wade out along the reef and she took his hand to steady herself on the rough coral. He stumbled and she felt his weight on her arm. Watch out Ed!

The woman in the curry shop said come New Year we'll take action. If things haven't improved by New Year there'll be a bloodbath in Fiji.

She says we hate them. If we grow some food, some taro or cassava on the land, if we grow something they come along and they pull it out. On their land they grow nothing but flowers, all they want to do is eat and sleep. The Fijians get drunk on kava and they go mad.

An Indian will not do this, but if he is pushed far enough he will take out a knife and kill; he will kill someone.

This is the difference.

They were nearly on the edge now, the water was light turquoise. Suddenly there was fifty feet of water below them. They were over the edge. . .

Down there on the pale bottom dark shapes moved.
At first it was frightening, their breathing sounded quick and ragged in their snorkels, then it slowed.

They drifted, hardly moving their arms and legs and they let the current take them down the edge of the reef. Brain coral, sponges, delicate trees grew up towards the light. The fish flickered below them, bathing in the tentacles of sea anemone, browsing in the coral.

Spots, whirling stripes, blue next to yellow, electric blue, curious eyes, long snouts probing the coral.

Nearby a Fijian woman waded with a basket along the reef. She moved with a mesmerising slowness. Her dress was wet and it clung to her black skin. She had a line on a plastic reel which she flung out over the reef.

page 80

Ed said to the woman in the curry shop, if I was to ask you for tea, how would you make it?

The woman was confused.

He repeated it. He spoke very slowly as if to a child. With a teabag and boiling water, in a cup, or with tea leaves in a tea pot...? If I was to ask for tea...?

The tea was fifty cents.
Finally he decided he would have a cup. He sat down.

Anne said to her where will you go?

We will stay here, this is our home. We will send our children to school in Australia or New Zealand; we know that they will nevel come back but they must go, they must get an education.

The woman in the hotel who gave then their keys wore a frangipani behind her ear. Everywhere there were shells, big white clam shells in the garden, in the corridors, in the rooms, on the verandahs.

Sad Pacific music filled the hotel.

Where can I buy a souvenir where can I buy one of those carvings those wooden bowls where can I buy one of those necklaces? Shell necklaces, bones seeds teeth coconuts.

Pineapples are cheap, coconuts just fall from the trees. You can heal them at night. Crash! And the dogs barking the sound of the village drum. Bang!

Did you hear that Ed what is it I don't like the sound of that.

Don't worry dear must have been a dream.

Sounds like drums!

They left on the next flight to Suva. Their suitcases bulged with carvings, shells bones teeth seeds, and Ed's shirts.

Ed started praying when he saw the Indian pilot open his manual and read it, flick some switches and then study the manual some more. The turbulence began and he felt his heart in his mouth. It was going to be a rough ride back to Suva.

The clouds came down the mountains and it began to rain.