Tag Archives: Pasifika

I’M A CELEBRITY… ONE DOG’S LIFE IN FIJI

‘Poppy was originally a pig-hunting dog. Her ears were cut off when she was just a pup, as is the custom with such working dogs. Sadly, this is believed to make them less vulnerable when pigs fight back. Her job was to round up and corner wild pigs for her owner, who would then swipe at them with his machete. But one day, the owner missed the target and instead hit Poppy, cutting off her nose and half her upper jaw.’

‘By the time she was found, Poppy weighed only nine kilograms, about half her normal body weight. Without the happy chance of being discovered, she would have starved to death.’

‘”I visited Kavanagasau in rural Fiji on Fiji Kids charity work. Mr. Pillay told me about ‘a dog with its nose missing’ who visited the playground to look for food.”’

‘Playful Poppy became a Facebook star after staff at the Animal Fiji Nadi Clinic posted her story online. The clinic began to get her to a healthy weight and to raise the funds necessary to take her to Sydney to repair her nose.’

‘”Poppy would never have survived without the amazing help of Animals Fiji. Despite their lack of funds, they took her in and cared for and loved her.”’

Fiona Ingram, ‘The Poppy Project: How Fiji’s Most Famous Dog Got Saved!’

WORKING IN PARADISE: BEST BOOKS (PART 2)

‘An Island in the Autumn’ by John Smith

After spending twenty years as a Commonwealth administrator in Nigeria, John is given a fresh assignment – he is sent to Solomon Islands to serve as Financial Secretary. Although his job is quite fulfilling, he changes it three years later for the post of Governor of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.

This is an enormously interesting memoir you will not want to put down until you reach the last page. John Smith shows and carefully explains the process of decolonization, describing at the same time what life on a Pacific island is really like.

‘Gallivanting on Guam’ by Dave Slagle

When you are offered a really great job in a really great place, there’s nothing that can go wrong. Or is there? After moving to Guam to work as a general manager of Tropical Gym, Dave thinks his life just can’t get any better. Everything changes when he is drawn into a bitter dispute with his corrupt boss, who happens to be a very wealthy businessman, well-known on the little island.

Dave Slagle’s book is a terrific piece of travel literature. A bit controversial, yes, but extremely informative and laugh-out-loud funny. What’s it like to work in paradise for one of the richest men? Read this book and you will find out.

‘A Pattern of Islands’ by Arthur Grimble

In 1913, Arthur Grimble gets nominated to a cadetship in the Gilbert and Ellice Island Protectorate. A few month later he steps foot on the islands he will call home for the next nineteen years.

Not only is Sir Arthur Grimble’s memoir a gripping account of one man’s experiences and adventures in a foreign land, but also a very honest portrayal of colonial administration. As it turns out, it’s not always easy to be a representative of a British government in a small Pacific country.

‘Land of the Unexpected’ by Brian Smith

When Brian sees a job advertisement for an architect in the Daily Telegraph, he packs the bags and together with his wife and two children hops on a plane to Papua New Guinea to work for the PNG Works Department. Trying to revamp the county’s health care facilities, he travels from one province to another. In each of them he learns something new about the country, its people and their culture.

Despite the fact that some readers may find this book a little bit boring, it is a very nice account of an expatriate life in the Land of the Unexpected. Everything is described in great detail, so if you want to get to know Papua New Guinea, this is a title for you.

‘Letters from the Sleeping Lady – The Kindling of Two Teachers and Kosrae Island’ by Malcolm Lindquist, Tarry Lindquist

When Malcolm and Tarry decide to accept teaching positions at the local elementary school in Kosrae, they don’t really know what to expect. What starts as an exciting adventure, turns out to be a life-changing experience.

This written in the form of letters (to the authors’ granddaughters) book is a lovely, emotional, insightful look into the history and culture of one of the most fascinating places on Earth. Terry and Malcolm share with readers a small yet important piece of their lives, and they do it in such a wonderful and engaging way, you’ll probably want to become a teacher yourself right after you reach the last sentence.

PADDLING THE PACIFIC: OCEANIA ACCORDING TO PAUL THEROUX

‘Something about Cook Islanders (there were only 20,000 of them altogether) made them seem special. Even with all the patronage from New Zealand, and their passionate interest in videos, the people remained themselves. They were not greedy. They were not lazy. They were hospitable, generous and friendly. They were not violent, and they often tried to be funny, with little success.’

Paul Theroux, ‘The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling The Pacific’


‘Tahiti has its drawbacks – it is expensive, traffic-choked, noisy, corrupt, and Frenchified – but it is impossible to belittle its natural physical beauty, and in spite of the car exhausts there is nearly always in the air the fragrant aroma – the noanoa – of flowers, the tiare especially, a tiny white gardenia that is Tahiti’s national blossom.’

Paul Theroux, ‘The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling The Pacific’


‘These Tongans were elegant – it was something in their posture, in their features, many actually looked noble – a prince here, a princess there.’

Paul Theroux, ‘The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling The Pacific’


‘Paddling out to the island of Aunu’u I thought again of the pamphlet that had been given to me, with the rules that all visitors were urged to observe.

– When in a Samoan house, do not talk while standing.

– Do not stretch your legs out when seated.

– Do not carry an umbrella past a house.

– Do not drive through a village when chiefs are gathering.

– Do not eat while walking through a village (it seemed to me that Samoans ate no other way, and usually were munching a very large jelly donut).

– Samoans are deeply religious – pray and sing with them.

– Do not wear flowers in church.

– When drinking kava, hold the cup in front of you and say “manuia” (“when drinking Coke” would have been more opposite, since that seemed firmly part of the culture).

– Bikinis and shorts are not considered appropriate attire in Samoan villages or town areas.

– Ask permission before snapping photos or picking flowers.

– Be extra quiet on Sundays.

Paul Theroux, ‘The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling The Pacific’


‘At the very frontier of the Black Islands lies Fiji, the edge of Melanesia – so close that some of its tinier islands, Rotuma and the Lau group, for example, overlap Polynesia. In these transitional straddling dots of land, the people are regarded as Polynesian. There is a strong Tongan influence in the Lau culture. They make and sail canoes in the Lau group. They wear crunchy mats around the waist, Tongan-style. They paddle. They fish. They dance. They recall their great sea ventures. In a village on the Lau island of Lakeba they hold an annual ceremony in which sharks are summoned – a “shark-caller” up to his or her neck in the lagoon is circled by a school of sharks, attracted by the person’s chanting.’

Paul Theroux, ‘The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling The Pacific’

PACIFIC ISLANDS BY TONY HORWITZ

Pacific Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Tony Horwitz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of several bestselling books, one of which is ‘Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before’, gives his recommendations (this week we change The 3s for The 2s – just this week!)

Travel some part of the islands by sail rather than on a cruise or motorboat

I did so in Tahiti, which suffers from over-development and pollution. From the water, however, much of it is still magnificent. Sailing through the reef at Huahine and entering Bora Bora’s lagoon at night were two of the more memorable experiences of my travels. They also gave me a profound appreciation of Cook and his men, who navigated these and many other treacherous waters without maps or modern equipment.

Immerse yourself in all things Maori

Many parts of Polynesia were so ravaged by Western contact that their traditional cultures almost vanished. The Maori did better than most, fighting extremely hard and maintaining their language and traditions, which are a large and vital part of New Zealand society. In my experience, Maori are also eager to share their culture and educate visitors. The beautiful east coast of New Zealand’s north island attracts fewer tourists than other parts of the country and it’s a fine place to see a Maori haka, visit a marae, and learn to hongi.

A CHAT WITH… TONY HORWITZ

Tony Horwitz needs no introduction. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, the author of seven books, and – most importantly – an all-round nice person. His fantastic travelogue, ‘Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before’, is a must-read for every Pasifika aficionado. Do you want to learn more about Tony’s journey across the Blue Continent? You can do so from this interview.

TONY HORWITZ

Pasifika Truthfully: What was first – the idea to write a book about retracing Captain Cook’s voyages or a desire to set sail?

Tony Horwitz: If you mean ‘set sail’ in the sense of embark on a global adventure, then that was my prime impetus and Cook’s travels provided a historical path to follow. However, I’m a woeful sailor and was much happier every time I could explore on land rather than by sea.

PT: Why did you choose Captain James Cook? Was it because of all the incredible places he travelled to?

TH: Initially, I was struck by the places he went and wanted to see them for myself. But as the journey went on, I became fascinated by Cook the man, so what started as a travel adventure grew into a biography as well.

PT: It is not a secret that for Pacific Islanders James Cook was no hero. What do people in the Blue Continent think of the famous British navigator?

TH: Is Blue Continent shorthand for the Pacific? It depends where you are. Cook has admirers in Australia and New Zealand but not many elsewhere in the Pacific. He’s generally seen as an advance man of empire and colonization and all the ills that ultimately resulted.

PT: Do you agree with their opinions? Do you view Cook as a villain or a hero?

TH: It’s undeniable that Cook’s voyages opened the door to colonization, disease, the dispossession of native peoples and other damage to their cultures. But Cook didn’t intend this harm. He was a product of the Enlightenment, on a scientific mission of discovery and, for the most part, expressed sympathy and respect for those he encountered. I don’t think he should be lumped with conquistadors and other Europeans who set out to conquer, kill, convert, and enslave.

PT: You visited various Pacific Island countries after you had read about them in Cook’s journals. To what extent did your impressions coincide with those of Cook?

TH: Obviously, the Pacific has changed tremendously since Cook’s voyages in the late 1700s. After colonization and other transformations came mass tourism, and sadly we’ve loved some parts of Polynesia’s fragile environment to death. But off the beaten track, there were many places where I felt the views and landscapes were very close to what Cook described. I also caught glimpses of the traditional cultures and characteristics Cook wrote about, such as the warrior heart of Maori society, the sensuality of Tahitians, and the deeply non-Western and non-materialistic nature of Aboriginal peoples in Australia.

PT: How much was your journey a journey of self-discovery? What did you learn?

TH: To be honest, I find self-discovery an overrated aspect of travel adventures. I’m more interested in discovering others. But I did learn many things, particularly during my time as a sailor aboard a museum-quality replica of Cook’s first ship, the Endeavour. I realized just how soft we are compared to sailors and explorers in the 18th century; few of us could endure a month of the physical and mental strains they put up with for years at a time. I also realized I can’t tie knots to save my life, and that its best not to look down when you’re near the top of a hundred-foot mast.

PT: ‘Blue Latitudes’ is an interesting book. It’s part travelogue and part James Cook’s biography. Was that your intention from the beginning?

TH: My original intent was to write a historically themed travelogue. But as I read and traveled more deeply, I really wanted to understand this extraordinary man who rose from lowly origins to the upper reaches of the British Navy and kept hurling himself off the edge of the known world. So the biographical component grew to roughly half of the book’s content.

PT: I do consider ‘Blue Latitudes’ a terrific piece of travel literature and one of the best books regarding the Pacific Islands. If you could give one reason why people should read it, what would it be?

TH: The book, I hope, allows readers to grasp what true adventure means. Sailing off the map, and having first contact with remote societies untouched by the West, is an experience we simply can’t have today outside of science fiction. I also hope readers will laugh at my own misadventures in Cook’s wake. I really wanted the book to be as entertaining as my travels were for me.

ULTIMATE PACIFIC ISLANDS BOOKS – TO BUY FOR A SERIOUS PASIFIKA AFICIONADO (PART 2)

‘The Pacific Islands: Environment and Society’ by Moshe Rapaport

Another very good reference book of the encyclopaedia kind that holds a lot of valuable information on the Pacific Islands. Pleasantly (and simply) written, it broaches all the important subjects every Pasifika lover may be interested in. Definitely worthy of your attention!

Bonus: Impressive illustrations, charts, and diagrams that explain the author’s words.

‘Food Culture in the Pacific Islands’ by Roger Haden

It is not a secret that Pacific cultures are food-oriented. This phenomenal publication makes a wonderful introduction to Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian cuisines. Roger Haden not only familiarizes readers with the most popular local ingredients and dishes, but he also explains traditional methods of cooking and preservation techniques.

Bonus: Engaging chapters regarding food history and typical meals.

‘Architecture in the South Pacific: The Ocean of Islands’ by Jennifer Taylor, James Conner

Would you want to have a slice of heaven in your home? Although the authentic Pasifika style is so unique that it’s almost impossible to recreate, Jennifer Taylor and James Conner’s book may be a fantastic source of inspiration. But the authors aim not only to inspire but also to inform – the title is a brilliant study of local architecture, culture, and history.

Bonus: Striking colour photographs!

‘A History of the Pacific Islands’ by Steven Roger Fischer

There are quite a few good books on the history of the Blue Continent, but this one is probably ‘the most pleasant’ to read. It’s rather concise – not overloaded with unnecessary facts, dates, and information – and thus easily absorbed even by those people who are not fans of history.

Bonus: Chapters dedicated to genealogy of the Pacific peoples – immensely engaging.

‘The People of the Sea: Environment, Identity and History in Oceania’ by Paul D’Arcy

This is one of the most interesting books on Oceania ever written. It is focused entirely on the influence the Pacific Ocean has had on the islands’ history, culture, and everyday life. Few authors examine this subject in such detail, and I dare to say that Paul D’Arcy created a masterpiece.

Bonus: Captivating and highly explanatory narrative that presents a different dimension to Pacific Islands history.

ULTIMATE PACIFIC ISLANDS BOOKS – TO BUY FOR A SERIOUS PASIFIKA AFICIONADO (PART 1)

‘The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia’ by Brij V. Lal (editor), Kate Fortune (editor)

This substantial volume is a must-have for those who are interested in the Blue Continent. Over 600 pages cover all the important topics – from geography and environment to history and politics to peoples and their culture. It’s a true mine of information you definitely want to have sitting on your bookshelf.

Bonus: Lots of photographs, illustrations, maps, and tables that enhance the written word.

‘Reach for Paradise: A Journey Among Pacific Islands’ by Andrew Rayner

Andrew Rayner’s memoir-cum-travelogue is probably the most beautiful book on the Pacific Islands ever written. It is a treasure, pure and simple. Not only does it guarantee an enjoyable and insightful reading experience, but it also delights visually. I can assure you, it will hold your attention from the very first to the very last page.

Bonus: Every single page of this title is one big bonus!

‘We Are the Ocean: Selected Works’ by Epeli Hau’ofa

When you think of great Pacific writers, Epeli Hau’ofa’s name immediately comes to your mind. ‘We Are the Ocean’ is a brilliant book if you want to get a taste of the man’s works. It’s a terrific – absolutely terrific – combination of essays, poems, lectures, and fiction that not only entertains but most of all educates.

Bonus: Chapters from Epeli Hau’ofa’s novel ‘Kisses in the Nederends’ – hilarious!

‘Arts of the Pacific Islands’ by Anne D’Alleva

Art constitutes such an important part of Pasifika lifestyles. For those who want to delve deeper into this subject, Anne D’Alleva’s publication is a must-read. It explains the significance of artistic craftsmanship in Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian cultures in great detail, letting you understand the real meaning behind various forms of Oceanian art.

Bonus: Breathtaking photographs that are worth a thousand words.

‘Globalization and Culture Change in the Pacific Islands’ by Victoria S. Lockwood

Cultures around the world are constantly changing, and the Pacific Island nations are not immune to this fact. Edited by Victoria S. Lockwood volume sheds interesting light on globalization and the effects it has on the remote countries scattered around the great blue ocean. A really fine piece of immensely engaging literature!

Bonus: In-depth case studies that offer a closer look at the topics discussed in the book.

PACIFIC ISLANDS BY ALAN BOREHAM, PETER JINKS, BOB ROSSITER

Pacific Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Alan Boreham, Peter Jinks, and Bob Rossiter, the authors of a sailing adventure book called ‘Beer in the Bilges’, give their recommendations

Visit Huahine, French Polynesia

Huahine is an island located just northwest of the island of Tahiti in eastern Polynesia. Going there now is like stepping back in time. It is relatively undeveloped, so a traveler has to be prepared to stay in guest houses rather than five-star hotels and to shop in the local market rather than a big box store or hotel convenience store, but that’s how we like it. There are a few foreigners there, like surfers who came from the USA to seek out its perfect waves and never left, and French public servants, some of whom have retired and stayed on. The beaches, scuba diving, and fishing are all excellent; the people are friendly; and the pace is relaxed. In short, it has all of the beauty of Bora Bora without the cost. What more can one ask for.

Visit Western Samoa

Western Samoa was on the route of some of the famous writers of the 19th century, including Samuel Clemens, writing as Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson lived here with his family, and was much loved by the Samoan people, who called him ‘Tusitala’, meaning ‘teller of stories’. He found his resting place here, on a hill overlooking the South Pacific Ocean. For us, relaxing at Aggie Grey’s hotel in Apia, amid the authentic decorations and artifacts, evokes the romance of that era. While there are more modern hotels on the island, this is still our favorite place to stay, where you can truly drink in the history and savor the culture of the islands.

Visit The Vava’u Group, Tonga

The Vava’u Group of islands, at the north end of the Tongan Island chain, has to be on our list. Not only do the people of the ‘Friendly Islands’ live up to their name, but these idyllic, closely-grouped islands also hold some amazing historical sights. Mariner’s Cave is among the most fascinating places we’ve visited. It is named after a shipwrecked English sailor, William Mariner, who was taken in by a Tongan family, and with whom he lived for four years before being picked up by another ship and sailing back to England. Not for the weak of heart, entering the cave requires you to dive down and swim about fifteen meters through a dark tunnel until you reach a spectacular limestone cave. What is equally amazing is what happens when the water surges into the enclosed space. The water in the air immediately condenses like a fog, only to instantly disappear when the surge subsides and the pressure returns to normal. Depending on the sea condition, this can happen several times a minute. There is also a legend that goes along with this spectacle, which makes it even more special. In the legend, this is where a young Tongan man hides a young woman whose family is destined to be killed by a tyrannical ruler. He visits her daily to bring food and water, until the young man can sail away with her to safety.

A CHAT WITH… ALAN BOREHAM, PETER JINKS, AND BOB ROSSITER

Those of you who have already read ‘Beer in the Bilges’ know that the authors of the book are not only experienced sailors but also very talented writers and all-around great guys always seeking new adventures in life. Alan Boreham, Peter Jinks, and Bob Rossiter – otherwise known as ‘The Professionals’ – were kind enough to answer a few questions about their memoir and, of course, sailing through the Blue Continent.

ALAN BOREHAM, PETER JINKS, BOB ROSSITER

Pasifika Truthfully: ‘Beer in the Bilges’ is an interesting title for a book. Could you explain it?

‘The Professionals’: Beer is an important part of the provisions for many offshore sailors, and they want to keep it as cool as possible. When they aren’t lucky enough to have refrigeration on board their yacht, they follow the tradition that the British Navy established hundreds of years ago – store the beer below the water line, which is the coolest place on the ship. The deepest and coolest part of the hull is called the ‘bilges’, and hence the general practice of keeping the ‘beer in the bilges’.

When we were working on the manuscript, it was Bob’s friend – the actor Hal Holbrook, one of the people featured in the early chapters – who observed that getting a couple of beers from the bilges was a common occurrence throughout the book. The credit for naming the book, therefore, goes to Bob and Hal. I don’t think we could have hit upon another title as emblematic as this. We will have a challenge to find as good a title for the second memoir.

PT: For those who haven’t read your book yet: how did you meet and how did you come together for your great adventure?

‘TP’: It was by chance, really, because it would be hard to find three more different guys than us. And harder still to imagine how we all came to be together in the tropical swelter of Pago Pago, American Samoa. You could say that the encounters in Honolulu that we describe in the book were a lot like the encounters of the ‘gentlemen of fortune’ – buccaneers – of the 17th century. Like pirates meeting in Jamaica’s old Port Royal, Honolulu is one of the places around the world that offshore sailors meet.

So it was no mistake that the owner of the elegant yacht Ron of Argyll came to Honolulu looking for Bob, to entice him to sail his yacht up to Hawaii from the South Pacific for him. Where else in the Pacific would he be likely to find him? And it was natural for Bob to go looking for crew around the Ala Wai marina on Oahu where, by the greatest of chances, Alan was trying to put some distance between himself and an American mob he had run into on Maui. Bob was happy to accept such an eager and capable recruit, and one with such good survival skills.

In the meantime, Peter was enjoying the leisurely pace of the South Pacific while tending the Ron of Argyll for the owner in Tonga, and awaiting a new skipper and extra crew. Bob had crossed paths with Peter and the owner aboard the Ron of Argyll in Fiji, so Peter knew of Bob’s experience and reputation. He wasn’t surprised when he heard that Bob was going to be the new skipper, and he knew Bob well enough to know that he would choose another experienced hand.

Alan stayed in Honolulu to collect some of the equipment that was critical for the voyage and flew down to join Bob and Peter in American Samoa once they had relocated the yacht there.

When all three of us finally got together in Pago Pago, we quickly recognized that we each have knowledge and skills that complement one another very well, and that we all like to temper our hard work with a good amount of fun. Maybe most important, though, was that we found that we all share the trait that allows us to see possibilities, rather than the obstacles to achieving them. This alone was to save our skins in more than one of our adventures together.

PT: The good, the bad, and the ugly of your voyage?

‘TP’: There were plenty of good times – more than we could possibly mention here – but the best part without a doubt was meeting the people of the countries we visited, especially those in the more remote islands. We were fortunate to be able to share stories with them and to learn about their lives and cultures, as they did about ours. And while we all enjoyed the island life, with the wonderful fruits and the diving and fishing, sailing through these beautiful and storied waters was a real thrill.

The bad part about sailing to a new country has to be the bureaucracy. No matter where we went, and how nice the people were, there was the unavoidable paperwork and expenses that went along with entering or leaving a country. For many of us sailors, it is the overwhelming bureaucracy that drives us to seek the freedom of the seas.

The ugly part about sailing is the drama that sometimes comes with it. Make no mistake, sailing can be a dangerous business. While we don’t dwell on the bad times, all three of us have had our own brushes with death while at sea, culminating with a storm that threatened to break up the wooden yacht we were on before making it into port, leaving us only three miles from land – straight down.

PT: You sailed the Blue Continent, which means you visited different islands. However, you don’t write much about the countries or their cultures. Why?

‘TP’: From our reading, we found that there is a lot written on that. While we do talk about some of the customs of the wonderful people in the countries we visited, our objective in writing this book was to highlight the sailing experiences and the unusual characters we met along the way.

It is also an interesting fact that many sailors don’t go far from the port, because they don’t want to leave their yachts unattended. All three of us have explored the South Pacific countries more than most yachties and feel we have a better understanding of the countries and their people than many sailors.

PT: If you could share your impressions now… What could you reveal about the islands? Was there anything that surprised or amazed you?

‘TP’: Yes, we were always amazed at how happy people were, even those with just the basics of life. We traveled to the South Pacific from the 1960s to the 1980s, when things were a lot simpler, even in the developed world, but it always seemed to us that the people we met didn’t have a worry in the world. People from other countries could learn something from the attitude of these seemingly care-free islanders.

PT: As we can read in your book, sailing the Pacific can be an amazing and fun experience. But it’s also a great challenge. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to amateur sailors wanting to follow in your footstep?

‘TP’: You’re right, blue water sailing is not for the novice sailor. We would advise any sailor dreaming of going offshore to make sure they have a suitable vessel and the necessary experience. If they don’t have much experience, or they’re not confident in their abilities, they should take someone along who does. There’s a saying: ‘There are old sailors and bold sailors but no old, bold sailors’. We want all offshore sailors to make it back to a safe harbor.

PT: Getting back to your memoir… It’s quite unusual, as you chose to use the third-person narrative. Why did you do that?

‘TP’: When we were preparing to write the book, we found that the telling of stories from one’s past is usually done from the writer’s own perspective, in the first person, and less often from the perspective of an independent observer, in the third person. In writing these memoirs, we had to decide how best to describe our individual paths that led us to join forces in American Samoa, as well as our shared experiences, while at the same time portraying the remarkable people and events that we encountered along the way. Our choice of using the third person narrator gave us the liberty of collaborating on the description of these episodes in our lives so that we could write in a consistent voice, hopefully making the flow of the chapters easier for the reader to follow.

PT: What was the writing process like for you?

‘TP’: A lot of people have asked us what kind of process we used to write a book with three co-authors. We tell them that it’s just like sailing a yacht with three different characters like us – it all comes down to teamwork.

We know each other well enough to understand our individual strengths, so we just fell into a regular routine. As in offshore sailing where a well-drawn crew has complementary skills, like sail handling or navigation or cooking, we easily found our roles in writing ‘Beer in the Bilges’. We all contributed to the telling of the stories in the memoir, but we each had our specialties. Bob is the best story-teller among us. Peter had the best recollection of the people and places, as well as a few spicy anecdotes! And Alan had the skills to record and craft the vignettes we’ve presented in the book.

We got together every twelve to eighteen months, approaching this project like a job and working about eight hours a day, allowing adequate time afterward for mental stimulation and recreation. Alan worked at the keyboard while we chatted together about a chapter, then we all reviewed the raw product and offered our suggestions. We edited the draft together until we were happy with the final product and then moved on to the next one. We made tremendous progress on each trip.

To help us in writing these memoirs we went back to Marina del Rey in California, to Hawaii, Tahiti, and Samoa, to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, and to Australia and New Zealand. It helped enormously to go back to the ‘scene of the crime’ to sail the waters, talk with people, and generally soak in the atmosphere of these places again. Besides the clarity and focus that those trips provided, they were all part of another adventure. And for us, that is what life is all about.

PT: Do you plan to write more?

‘TP’: Yes. We are doing the final edits to a novel entitled ‘Two if by Sea’, which is based in part on some of the amazing people we met but couldn’t expose in ‘Beer in the Bilges’. All of these people were hiding from someone or something, so we chose to embody their most interesting characteristics or experiences in fictional characters.

We are also working on a second memoir which will be a follow-up to ‘Beer in the Bilges’. The working title is ‘Just One More Round’, and it will certainly require more in-person collaboration like we did for the first book.

PT: And the last questions: have you had a chance to repeat your Pacific journey? If not, is it something you want to do in the future?

‘TP’: We all continued on with more sailing adventures after the events we describe in ‘Beer in the Bilges’, both together and individually, around the South Pacific and Hawaii. We hope that your readers will enjoy reading about those adventures as well.

A CHAT WITH… LEONARD FONG ROKA

Leonard Fong Roka – or ‘Captain Bougainville’ as he is often called – is a proud Bougainvillean, a writer, the author of five books, and a Papua New Guinea’s first Book of the Year Award recipient for his memoir, ‘Brokenville’. In this interview he shares his thoughts on his beloved homeland, the tragic Bougainville Crisis, and – of course – his (magnificent) works.

LEONARD FONG ROKA

Pasifika Truthfully: For those who are not familiar with Bougainville history, could you explain the Bougainville Conflict in a few sentences?

Leonard Fong Roka: For many the Bougainville Crisis was a 1988-1989 affair over unequal distribution of mining benefits from the Australian owned Panguna Mine in Panguna, but this is not true. The sources of conflict go back to the colonial era, when Bougainville was removed from its rightful place in the British Solomon Islands and placed under the German New Guinea. Bougainville is geographically and culturally a Solomon island. Colonization just [drew] a line between Solomon Islands; [the colonists] said: ‘Bougainvilleans, you are New Guineans’. What an insane act! Racially you can see the difference between Bougainvilleans and Papua New Guineans. That [was] the Bougainville problem that built up slowly over the years and culminated into the armed struggle in late 1988. I talk about all these in my other book, ‘Bougainville Manifesto’.

PT: You were only a child when the war erupted. What are your most vivid memories from that time?

LFR: The most vivid memories I have from that time should be in my recollection or the book, ‘Brokenville’. Killing of my father is one strong feeling that still exists [in] me. [I also remember] all those troubles my family faced, the many good and bad things, and life I went through. They are a scar in my life.

PT: Bougainville in the late 1980s / early 1990s was… If you could describe the place.

LFR: [I] should say that Bougainville in the late 1980s and the early 1990s was booming economically as papers, BCL, or the government then claimed. But to me, we – the indigenous people – were enslaved on our own land. Money from Panguna was not sealing our roads, was not building bridges over our rivers, was not financing our school fees, [so we could] attend schools and universities. We were exploited by PNG and BCL, but still they celebrated in the media that we were on top and the best economically. Liars they were.

PT: In your opinion, how did the conflict change not only Bougainville but also the whole country? What impact did it have on the native Bougainvilleans?

LFR: Bougainville Crisis gave us – Bougainvilleans – the power to screen decisions and to deal with our ruler – the PNG state – as we feel [is] right. We showed the PNG people what a mine does to our lives, and today we hear their every Tom, Dick, and Harry is running all over the place asking for compensation for their land and so on.

I think that we – Bougainvilleans – will build a better country soon despite setbacks and continuous PNG’s political aggression on our ambitions. We are learners, and we will pursue our freedom.

PT: What was your motivation for writing ‘Brokenville’?

LFR: My motivation for writing ‘Brokenville’ [came from] my little nieces and nephews. They need something to know that Bougainville and me had gone through a hard time in history; that [it all] had happened because of this and that.

PT: What lesson, if any, would you like readers to draw from your book?

LFR: I think ‘Brokenville’ has a lot for readers. One big lesson is that no matter what, we have to pursue our rights to freedom. We – the people of Bougainville – [must] go on.

Bougainville needs to move forward and attain freedom from our rulers – the PNG government and its people – the New Guineans and Papuans – [whom] we call ‘redskins’ or Erereng in my language (Nasioi) or ivitu in my wife’s language in Buin.

PT: You are a very talented writer. Do you plan to write more?

LFR: Yep. I am working on two books now, which are my 6th and 7th. One is due in December 2015. It’s called ‘Valley of Tears’, and it explores how Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA) infiltrated our land and started the Panguna Mine to finance Australia’s buffer state, that is PNG.