It’s kind of hard to see in this photo, but what I’ve done is place two images side by side: the one on the left is a photo I took a few days ago when I first arrived on Bau island; the photo on the left is from a video on YouTube showing when the Queen of England visited Fiji.
You may notice that the photo on the left is of the exact same spot where the Queen sat. But what you probably don’t know is that dark figure standing with a club over his shoulder behind the Queen is my grandfather.
When the Queen visited, she came to Bau because it’s the island of the chiefs. And as she walked from the boat landing and through the courtyard, my grandfather walked in front of her, escorting her. More on why later.
Now, the guy sitting to the left of the Queen was the late Ratu Sir George Cakobau, the Chief of Bau. His son, Epenisa Cakobau, is the current Chief (seen below).
Now, by absolutely no effort of my own, I am a direct descendant of the original Vusaradave warriors who, as I mentioned earlier (in another post), were very much like the Knights of the Round Table in terms of status. And only Vusaradave descendants were allowed to act as escort warriors to the Queen.
Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of genealogy work while I’m here. I can now trace my ancestry back seven generations — which, you need to realize, is really darn good for a culture like this. I mean, for one, Fijians don’t take on the last name of their father and brothers are often given different last names from each other. Usually children are named for someone else in the family — a namesake. So at least there’s that.
Now, as far back as I can go in genealogy, I’m the only patrilineal (male-line) heir of my family group, the Rokoiri. That’s seven generations, and my son is now the eighth generation patrilineal heir. If we don’t have any more boys, then he will be he only son, of an only son, of an only son, of the only son to have a son, of the only son to have a son, of an only son to have children, of an only son, of an only son, of an only son. (Go ahead, check my math.)
Interesting side note: if the United States installed the draft again, I wouldn’t be eligible and neither would my son. You see, only sons of only sons cannot be drafted.
Anyway, for the most part, I’ve been able to meet all of the cousins I have. I have even met some of the step cousins. See, my grandfather was married three times, two of which were to women who already had children. And I realize now that there would have been absolutely no way I could have archived this family history without actually coming here and meeting cousins, staying with different aunts, hearing stories, asking questions, and writing it all down. There’s way too much of a language barrier and technology deficit to attempt this through email or regular mail.
Funny side story: my closest relative here is my Aunt Ani, my dad’s sister, who we actually thought was dead for about two years since there was just no way to know otherwise. Well, let me back up a bit, someone visiting from Fiji told my dad at the International 7s Rugby tournament in Las Vegas about three or four years ago that Ani had died. And since she doesn’t write letters, we thought she was dead. It wasn’t until one of my cousins contacted me on Facebook that we finally asked about her. My cousin said, “No, she’s doing great.”
Let me further explain that Bau doesn’t have addresses, mail doesn’t come here. The villagers here go to a larger city nearby (another island, mind you) to use PO Boxes there. And on top of that my aunt is a bit old, doesn’t have a phone, doesn’t leave the island, therefore contacting her usually requires the help of a number of different people.
But as you can see she’s a live and well — Oh, and do I see a redish tint in the hair? Absolutely!