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Koroinasolo … A Magical Village

This beautiful new anchorage on the shores of the village of Koroinasolo is definitely remote. We’re the only two boats here. It’s not beautiful water, rather a shade of pea green and it’s a bit cloudy from the run off from the mountains. It’s not a big deal because you wouldn’t swim here anyway as the bay is full of purple crown jellyfish. They just look evil!
After our anchor down libations we drop the dink in the water, picked up Lutz and Gabi and head to shore. We are greeted by a handsome young man named Laisenie. He is maybe 13 or 14. We ask him to take us to the chief and he leads us up this steep and narrow dirt path. It’s hot and I’m really huffing and puffing. Age and a bit of asthma make this trek a bit on the difficult side for me. I had to make everyone stop twice because I was having trouble breathing but I won’t let it stop me.
Eventually we reached the top of the hill where we are greeted by his father, Tom. Tom is the Taraga Ni Koro. He greets us with a warm smile and tells us he will take us to the chief. We snake our way through the usual corrugated metal homes and come across three men lying in the shade. They each greet us with wonderful smiles and shake our hands as they ask where we are from. That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind in the islands when they see the Kepalangi. After a brief stop we make our way further up the hill and finally reach the very top. Thank God…At least I know it’s downhill from here. LOL.
The brush opens up into a grassy area with houses here and there. Right beside a rather large Methodist church is the home of Chief Laisenie. He’s the young boy’s grandfather, hence their names being the same. We are led into a room about 12’ x 14’ where the chief is sitting on the floor with his back against the wall that is covered with bright scraps of material and photographs of him and his family. He’s 68 years old and is showing his age. He is missing the lower portion of his right leg as he lost it to diabetes. Near the wall to my left is a wheelchair. It must be very difficult to get around on these dirt paths in a wheelchair. It makes me feel a bit sad for the chief. He has a distance in his eyes that tells the story of a long and difficult life.
It’s Dan’s turn to present the sevusevu on behalf of our group. We are sitting on the floor and Dan kneels in front of Chief Laisenie and places the Kava in front of him while asking for permission to stay in the bay and visit the village. He graciously agrees. We also give the chief some Frisbees, beach balls and packets of drink mix. He smiles and thanks us for the additional items.
Around us are Tom who is the chief’s son and who one day will become the Chief himself, his wife, a couple of small children, Laisenie and an older woman we believe to be the Chief’s wife. We ask lots questions. It turns out this is a rather large village with over 300 people living here in 48 houses. They have one vehicle for the whole village to get to Labasa (pronounced Lambasa) for supplies. It costs them $200 Fijian to go and come back and only 5 people can fit in the van. That’s a lot of cha ching for people like this.
We also found out that we are the only people to visit their village in three years. Boats come and go but no one comes ashore. It’s a shame because these are such wonderful people who proudly wish to share their village with others.
After our visit with Chief Laisenie Tom takes us over, around and down through the houses where literally everyone stops to greet us. This is a beautiful village with a large valley in the middle. Along the way we stop to talk to some villagers while Tom goes back to ask the chief, if it’s okay to show us the school. He comes back and says it okay and we continue on.
The next person we meet is the schoolmaster. His name is Tomasi. He walks with us to the school. It’s a beautiful little school with lots of colorful painting. And the cool thing is that they have recycled plastic bottles and used them for decoration all over. They cut the tops off of large ones and use them as trash bins. They color smaller bottles with paint on the insides and then string them up and use them as decorative fencing. Others are used as planters. It’s really very crafty and helps the kids understand recycling.
The school teaches grades 1-8 and currently has 58 students. There is also a small building used for kindergarten. Tomasi tells us their biggest need is more solar panels. They have several computers but only enough solar power to run a couple at a time. He’s a very well spoken and knowledgeable man who seems to be doing everything he can to help this village.
Tomasi is originally from Labasa. He tells us that when you work for the Ministry of Education they determine where you will teach. You don’t get a choice. He’s been here for four years and from the looks of things he is doing a fantastic job. The most teachers get paid, if they have a degree, is $26K Fijian or roughly $12K USD. Seems teachers all over the world are severely underpaid!
Once kids are old enough to go to high school they go to Labasa for boarding school. Our new young friend Laisenie will be going next year. When I ask him how he feels about it he seems excited yet a bit sad. Apparently they only get to come home for Christmas and summer breaks. It must be hard for these children to be so far from home and in a much, much larger and hectic environment. I pat Laisenie on the shoulder and wish him well in his continued path to education. He smiles as he looks up at me and says, “Vinaka” (Thank you) as we continue our tour.
After our tour of the school we head back through the village and down to the shore. The tide has risen since we anchored the dink and it’s in much deeper water. Laisenie goes out and gets Sparkle and brings her in closer for us as we are saying our goodbyes to Tom. The respect these children have for others is awesome.
After we returned to the boat we both showered. I was below getting dressed and Dan was in the cockpit drying off when a boat came toward us. It was Tom, Laisenie and Tom’s brother. They wanted to see Dazzler. Here Dan is standing there with nothing but a towel around him trying to assist them with tying their line to the stern of Dazzler. I’m looking out from the cabin and see his man junk dangling in the breeze. I can only imagine the view our new friends were getting. LMAO
I scramble to get the proper clothing on that covers my knees and shoulders and Dan gets them tied off and races below to grab some clothes. Once we are both decent we go back to the cockpit and welcome them aboard. They are in awe as they look around. To them we must look like billionaires. We sat in the cockpit and talked for fifteen or twenty minutes and then they said they were going to visit Lutz and Gabi.
Later we found out they did not board SuAn because Lutz and Gabi don’t allow villagers on board. In retrospect we decided it probably wasn’t the best idea. It’s not that any of us are afraid of them taking things. This isn’t even a thought. It’s that they live a very simple life and they seem truly happy with that. By showing them fancy things and doodads we could be influencing their lives in a negative way rather than a positive one. You know the old saying, “You don’t miss what you don’t know.” We certainly don’t want to be the people who cause the villagers to become unhappy with a life they have enjoyed for centuries. And let’s be honest, all the technology in the world today hasn’t necessarily made our lives simpler or easier. In actuality is seems to have increased the pace in which everyone feels they must move. When you see these villagers and see how happy they are without all this stuff you have to wonder who really has the better quality of life. Hmmmm….
As the moon comes up over the mountains we can’t help but feel blessed for yet another amazing day filled with adventure, wonderful people and beautiful scenery.
Until next time,
Jilly & Dan

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