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Supper at  Sowanna’s

As soon as Thursday morning rolls around at the camp on Beqa, the day’s activities are often an obstacle course to get through to make it to dinner. Supper at Sowanna’s (title chosen for the alliteration and nothing more) is a semi-regular tradition on Beqa and it is something to behold.

Sowanna is the wife of Mac, one of our boat captains. Members of the local Mataqali people who we share the land with on Beqa, the whole village thrums with laughter and easy living. The kids run around, swinging from vast container ship ropes, jumping on and off of the sea wall into the pacific while the parents, grandparents and, in some cases, great-grandparents sit around and seem to do little else besides make each other roar with laughter. Such a setting, amongst such people, on these islands at sunset, is an idyllic way to spend your time and eat a meal.

It does come with its own challenges though, all of which are based in the differences of culture.

Wikimedia Commons | Jared Wiltshire | Fiji Palace Guard in the Sulu SkirtFor starters, everyone wears a Sulu, a native Fijian half skirt-half kilt that is traditional dress. This is fine for the women in the group, most of which are used to relatively similar garments. For the men though, not so much. It’s comfortable enough, but flexibility isn’t at its highest. You soon get used to it though.

The main culture difference, which to the uninitiated westerners was quite uncomfortable after the fact, was that our Fijian hosts simply sit around and watch us eat, then feast themselves on the leftovers. The portion sizes are such that no-one in the house will go hungry, but imagine having a meal with your friends and serving them and waiting for them to finish and leave before you have yours, made up of what they didn’t eat. No problem and no angst for the Fijians, perfectly customary, but for the English brought up on table manners and etiquette for everything, it takes some getting used to.

It is manners though, it is etiquette, just not our own. As soon as you get your head around that it’s all OK.

So, on to the food. Sausages, mashed potato, chop suey, veg and all followed up with a banana pie. Every single part of it was delicious, in quantities that you can’t image outside of a dock yard canteen. Home cooking at its very finest.

It was an amazing night from the moment we arrived in the village. Sunsets, food, company, culture and overall enrichment. Super splendid Sowanna’s sumptuous supper.

By Guy Bezant - Fiji Operational Support Coordinator

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