We come in peace

I'm sitting in the cockpit as we careen down the West Coast of the Yasawas in flat water and 25-32 knots of wind. We have a hankerchief of sail out. It's blowy and going to get blowier. And this is a shame, because the Yasawas are our cup of crusing tea but we need to find calmer winds.

The Yasawas are a tall (in Fijian terms) archipelago chain of islands that run along the west of Fiji. They are long and skinny, less than a kilometre wide kind of skinny. They are dotted with remote villages, many with boat access only, where chiefs still oversee village life and the world has a different pace. 

Cruising here means taking part in the traditional ceremony of Sevusevu in order to be granted access to the land and the water belonging to each village. Sevusevu is the real deal of "take me to your leader, we come in peace".  It's an eye-balling, sharing moment.  A sizing up, I suppose.  And once it is done visitors are considered family, free to respectfully enjoy the domain of that chief. 

Sevusevu consists of taking a pre-parceled gift of Kava root (wrapped in newspaper and ribbon - my family will appreciate how much joy this gives me, being a staunch long-time protester against wrapping paper, but that's for another time) to the village to gift to the chief, who sings and claps over it before making it clear that you are now part of his clan. If you're unlucky you might get invited to drink the Kava.

Our first Sevusevu was with an ancient looking, toothless wise-man who seemed from another age. If I could draw, and someone had asked me to draw a chief before I came to Fiji, I'd have drawn him. Our second Sevusevu, in Somosomo, was sombre, It's possible the chief had already been indulging in a Kava moment (it is a sedative) he was slumped under a canopy and his song and clapping were a little unenthusiastic. To be fair, there were 13 boats parked at his village hiding from wind. He was probably over it.

Our most recent Sevusevu was in Sawa I Lau where the "chief" (he was standing in for either his dad or his brother) was very young, Sione is his name. Sione Bruce. Sione Bruce had just had a son, and called him Donald. Donald Bruce. Baby Donald Bruce - here, in the middle of the Pacific in a village of 26 people on a remote island a very very very long way from Scotland, hanging in a basket out of the sun. It transpires that the Bruce family have a fascinating history involving an American Scottish Donald who worked as a shipswright and found himself married to a local Fijian girl,

who he initially took back to Scotland before returning to the Yasawas to embrace island life in its entirety. And here they are still, generations later, the Bruces. Mind boggling. All of it. I can't help wonder how the original Mrs Donald Bruce felt about Scotland. I wish I could ask her.

Sevusevu opens doors into the worlds of the people here. There's no room for introverted avoidance, which I know I can be guilty of. Here people greet people. It's wonderful. Whether it's the full lunged BULA BULA from literally everyone who is old enough to speak or the up close and personal Sevusevu, people greet other people with their eyes, their hearts and their huge wide smiles, and I really like it. 



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