Sunday, October 14, 2012

Making a coffin at Waitui Marina

September 18, 2012 - We've been here two months now.

A local Fijian is sawing and hammering the wood for his grandmother's coffin tonight at Waitui Marina. He is not a young man, so I asked Owen, how old his grandmother was. "She was 97," he said. The carver, that is how he spends most of his days, is just one of the gang at the marina where locals are as common as yachties. It's a little like Cheers, if you need to do something, it's OK to do it at Waitui Marina. The decaying building owned by 4 people who hate one another and won't speak to each other houses a laundry, a meat market (frozen meats), a bar, a bistro, a DHL courier, Bebi Electronics (who sell LED lights world wide), and a dive shop where you can organize a tour, rent a kayak, or take diving lessons. And of-course there is the marina staff who watch the boats, maintain the moorings and help the yachties.

 There are showers which generally have hot water. They are decrepit, the building is falling apart, not sure if it is the ants making the most inroads or the mushrooms. (There is a shelf mushroom in the shower stall.) It's not exactly clean in there. But the competing marina, Copra Shed, with well maintained buildings / docks and higher prices doesn't have a Cheers atmosphere, doesn't attract locals (unless they need a job) and doesn't dive it's mooring balls regularly. Most yachties moor with Copra Shed with it's cleaner facilities, art gallery and restaurants. If you come from NZ or OZ it will feel most like what you are used to. When you hook up to a Waitui marina mooring ball, Asseri, a tall friendly neatly dressed Fijian, will welcome you to Fiji while you wait for customs. He will hand you a sheet with the Waitui Marina Rules:

    1. Life is short, relax.

    2. If you need something, please ask. If we don't know the answer, we'll try to find someone     who does.

    3. If someone does you a favor, pass one along.

    4. Try not to get drunk and fall off the dock.

    5. If you fall off the dock, please try to float face up.

    6. If you see someone floating in the water, please fish them out. Their family may thank you.

    7. Smile and laugh as much as possible.

At Waitui Marina your first experience in Fiji will be not only positive but humorous and you will begin to relax. (The officials here took nothing off the boat. I was worried after our New Zealand encounter, that they might strip the boat of food stores.) We have used the dock at Waitui Marina for haircuts, washing clothes and grocery carts. We have only one dinghy (a one car family) and often find ourselves trapped on the boat while the other adult is off visiting other yachties or getting supplies. Thank God for Asseri, he happily taxis Griffyn to shore when his local friend Bligh calls for him (with the assistance of Casa, Waitui Marina staff and their VHF radio.)

It's been two days now of hammering and sawing and tonight when I went to take a shower, the coffin was finished. It was sitting there next to 20 or so adults sitting on chairs and benches in a circle drinking kava from a kava bowl. At the sink, near the showers, a woman I didn't recognize asked after Griffyn, "He is asleep," I said. Then she offered me a cup of kava. I declined, I was tired and remembered how sick Owen got after the wedding from drinking kava. The coffin is small, she was apparently very thin and only 5 feet 3 inches tall, like me. The entire thing was bordered with lace both black and white. There was a little window on the lid near where her head would be. And the cross, the carver has been working on for the past two weeks, was varnished and attached to the lid just below the window. The cross was raised, it sat at an angle to the lid so that you could see it plainly standing near the coffin. There was such care in all the details. He said the coffin was ready for tomorrow (the funeral).

Once I was back on the boat, I could hear the whoops of laughter coming from Waitui Marina as the kava drinkers finished another bowl. They would all leave around 10PM as the building and grounds will be locked up. I feel a sense of gratitude to have seen one more aspect of Fijian culture up close.  I will miss these gentle people.


Here are some pictures of Savusavu and the marina.

Waitui Marina   

Owen walking in front of Copra shed

Local transport

Indigo from S/Y Blue Lotus on a sleepover

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