Real Estate and Culture

IMG_0214One of the main reasons I came to Fiji is to help my dad establish a presence for our family on our land. And to repair the roof on one of our family houses.

On Bau island we have about a half acre with three houses on it. The one my aunt lives in (and that I’m staying in) is pictured here. I would say it’s “beach front” but there are no sandy beaches here; just coral.

We also have some a few hundred acres on two other islands, but the thing you need to realize is it’s not real estate in the American sense of the term. I couldn’t sell it if I wanted to. I could lease it maybe, but not sell it. Basically it has to stay in our family in one way or another. And If we all die, then … I’m not sure.

IMG_0186Anyway, the house you see here was built by my grandfather. By Fijian standards, it’s really nice inside. Well, except for the water damage.

There’s a lot of history on the wall. I’ve really enjoyed seeing old photos of my dad, grandfather, old chiefs long gone, and a drawing of my grandfather that my mom (who is a very good artist) drew about 35 years ago. It’s pictured below.

IMG_0182Aside from the roof there’s a few issues: the power and water were both off. After I landed I spent two days doing the proper ceremonies. I’ll explain more about that later. Anyway, after those two days I’ve spent every day since just trying to get the house repaired and the utilities running again. That, in itself, was an experience. Let’s just say I’ve had way more fun at the DMV than dealing with Fijian utilities. Things are coming together, though, and so I can’t complain too much. Everyone that I’m staying with has been very helpful, and there’s no way I could have done anything without their help. Help isn’t even the right word; everywhere I’ve gone I’ve had one to three cousins with me everywhere I went.

IMG_0180One of the biggest problems that I keep running into is the language barrier. So even though everyone speaks English I often find myself turning to my best-English-speaking cousin to deliver a message to someone using Fijian so that I don’t have to repeat myself three times.

Anyway, home repair. So I spent all morning with a carpenter/contractor that will be doing/organizing the repairs for me. He’s a great guy, and I think I can trust him to continue on other repairs after I leave. But the only regret that I have is that it took me the better part of the week to get to where I am now — which isn’t even close to where I hoped I would be. I mean, the repairs will maybe start Monday and hopefully be completed before I finish.

And even though I’d say that this is the main reason I came (as well as family history and relationship building, which is also coming along nicely), I’ve had almost no time to myself to read a book while sitting on a beach. I haven’t even gone swimming once. All in good time, I suppose. :-)

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