Monday, August 18, 2008


Proving that anything is possible including cooking, Hibiscus King contestant Aseri Makutu took on the challenge of expanding his cooking horizon.

For some one who has spent years watching others cook while lending a hand with preparations, Aseri was all natural when the request came.
Proud of this one dish he can finally call his own, Aseri like most his age seldom cooks but enjoys helping out in the kitchen whenever his services are needed.

He decided to cook kai vaka soso and the miracle in all this is that he did not need his aunties in the kitchen telling him what to do. The recipe kai vaka soso means mixing something with kai or mussels. In this case, it is frying fresh vegetables with kai topped with creamy lolo and garnished with coriander and grated carrot.

Aseri prepared this rather delicious recipe with a smile all the way through not only because it was going to be his first ever cooked product but for him a tasty meal is one that is made with a happy heart.

"My cousin's wife used to do this so I actually learned this a few days ago. All the ingredients are from Sigatoka, right down to the kumala," he said. "I chose this recipe because it is a fairly simple dish to make and it has health benefits with the vegetables included. "It doesn't take long to prepare and make and it's very tasty. This is one of many recipes with kai in it. "The stock from the boiled kai is mixed with grated coconut to keep the taste and flavour of the kai."

The support from his family was overwhelming especially for a little cooking op like this.
His aunt went to Sigatoka over the weekend to get him the ingredients needed for this dish and mind you the taste of home grown vegetables from the 'salad bowl' of Fiji is like no other. His final touch and presentation of his recipe was flawless and Aseri most definitely would have passed home economics if he took it in high school.

The 22-year old is originally from Cuvu in Nadroga and is a second year student at the University of the South Pacific. Born and bred in Sigatoka, Aseri is the eldest of five and although he wanted to be a doctor when he was younger, he has decided to set his sights on becoming a marine scientist.

"I am doing a bachelor of science majoring in marine science and chemistry. I never thought I would be in an event like the Hibiscus. "I used to be a really shy person but with preparations over the past few months, I have become more confident and open to new challenges. "I thought Hibiscus was all about glamour and just sitting up on stage with lots of people looking at you.

"It is more than that. It is more about people and charity and the whole experience has been an exciting one."

Aseri is sponsored by Lala's Menswear and is grateful for the support received from both his sponsor and family members.

Aseri's kai vaka soso

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 people

1 heap kai or mussels
2 diced tomatoes
1/2 diced onion
1 grated carrot
Crushed garlic, ginger
Diced coriander
Diced celery and capsicum
1 tbsp soya bean oil
3 grated coconuts or ready to cook lolo

* Wash and clean kai or mussels. Leave to boil for 10-15 minutes. Once kai is cooked, pour leftover kai stock accordingly with grated coconuts and squeeze out lolo or coconut milk, strain lolo and leave aside.
* Dice kai into small pieces. Heat a little oil in frying pan, add onions and garlic and fry until golden brown.
* Add and stir celery, capsicum and tomatoes.
* Add diced kai into the pan and fry.
* Add salt according to preference.
* Squeeze ginger juice over mixed ingredients and leave to simmer for about 2 minutes.
* In a separate pot, pour in lolo and leave to boil for about 2 minutes on medium heat. Avoid over boiling the lolo.

Final touch:

* Wash and clean kai shells and place on a plate or in a serving bowl.
* In each shell, place a spoon full of fried kai with vegetables.
* Coat each shell with boiled lolo cream and garnish with grated carrot and coriander.
* Enjoy with a plate of sweet potato or kumala and a glass of orange juice.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Most people enjoy snapshots of a person's outside appearance, taking clicks here and there. Unlike normal photographers, George Sargun Stephen (pictured with wife May) takes 'pictures of people's insides' or radiography to be exact although the common term is medical imaging.

For those who are not familiar with what radiography is all about, just know it is an X-ray photograph of something, especially a part of the body. George was born on May 20, 1930 and brought up in Votualevu, Nadi. His parents, Prem Masih and Eva Stephen were teachers.

His father was also a marine engineer and a coastal captain but being a teacher was his first profession. Growing up in Nadi, George wanted to become a marine engineer although his mother was not keen on the idea because it meant time away from the family for long periods.
"My father was a headmaster. We were not affluent or filthy rich when growing up. We were no better than cane farmers," he said.

"But my parents worked hard to provide us with a good life. "I was home schooled by my mother in the kitchen most of my life growing up. It was only when I reached Class Eight that I had to sit for the Fiji Secondary School Entrance examination.

"They did not have those for private students." He attended Class Eight at Saint Joseph's Primary school in Naililili before completing his secondary education at Marist Brothers High.

Path to radiography

When his mother did not want him out at sea as a marine engineer, George decided to take on a profession in radiography. He moved to New Zealand where he attained his English membership with the Society of Radiographers of London.

After returning to Fiji, he began work at the Colonial War Memorial hospital where he moved from tea boy to radiographic assistant in the X-ray department. "I used to be clean and mop the hospital too. Being a radiographic assistant was a pre-requisite for an Australian course in the same field.

"I became a qualified radiographer and was the first local in Fiji to attain membership with the Society of Radiographers in London. "For me, this was the highest I could attain in the profession and I am proud of what I have achieved. "My parents supported my education financially and I am very grateful for that."


He was also a radiography lecturer at the Fiji School of Medicine. From an early age, George was adamant and determined to reach the top of his career. He spent his professional life working at the hospital and upon retirement on January 14, 1989, George joined Saint Giles hospital as a volunteer.

At the same time in the early 1990s, he felt he still had much to contribute to Fiji and joined the Diabetes Centre. "After retirement, I volunteered my medical skills to various organisations. I wanted to give back something to the nation.
"I always felt I had something to contribute. "Helping people is where I find joy. I joined the board of visitors of St. Giles and every three months we would tour the hospital and present our recommendations and report to the Ministry of health."

With minimum media awareness on mental health issues, George believes the stigma associated with mental health and those suffering from it should be done away with. According to George, people tend to forget about patients at St. Giles who need a lot of help especially the support of the community.

His interest in caring for the welfare of the sick especially patients at St. Giles is commendable.
If there is one difference George can make to change the perspective of people on St. Giles patients, it is that mental health illness is not infectious and transmittable.

"Mental health is a non communicable disease but if people find their close friends or relatives behaving in an odd way, they should be taken to St. Giles immediately. "The quicker they are brought in the better it is to help them get better." He is married to May and recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary.

The father of two believes hard work and determination are the underlying values to anyone's success in life.

10 things about George

* Has an interest in young people playing sports;
* Does not drink alcohol but prefers tea and coffee;
* Likes gardening and fishing in his spare time;
* Loves anything his wife cooks and prepares;
* Considers his parents his role models;
* His older sister inspired him to take up radiography;
* Likes to listen to soft music;
* Was one of three people in a team that conducted the first haemoid dialysis at the Lautoka hospital in 1977;
* He was a volunteer at the Wellington hospital during the polio epidemic in 1956;
* Favourite quote is 'In time take time while time does last. For time is no time when time is past.'
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, August 4, 2008


Entering the ancient ruins of Naikawakawalevu in Tailevu is like walking into a picture of an old village setting in history books. It takes at least 45 minutes to get to the village from Suva and once there, the outside looks like any other village.

A church hall to welcome visitors sits on the right as one enters. Concrete and wooden houses nearby with vegetation and chicken running around complete the village-type impression.

But this village is different. Originally called Molituva in the days of tribal wars, the area has a lush green environment and hidden relics of what used to be a prehistoric fortified ring ditch where its ancestors sought refuge away from hostile tribes. While those days may be part of history now, the natural village setting has remained to show and tell about the life of the early settlers.


The history of Molituva even received air time on local Fijian television program Na Noda Gauna.
The hope its significance will never be lost is once again rekindled in this feature. Eco tourism
Descendants and villagers of this settlement have kept their dream of turning their historical village into an eco tourism venture.

But like all business ventures, financial feasibility is a much needed asset and something the village lacked to boost their tourism reverie. Government attention turned to Molituva, Kuku in Tailevu, after the story was aired on television and with a new sub program of the Ministry of Tourism called Community Based Tourism targeted at developing tourism projects within local communities Molituva is on its way to becoming one of the first eco tourism businesses under the CBT program.

The underlying focus of the CBT program is to work with resource owners from local communities to develop sustainable tourism related ventures that will provide jobs and opportunities for the unemployed in the area. According to CBT project manager on site, Semi Buwawa, the ring ditch fortitude was discovered in 2004.

Mr Buwawa attended a funeral where the body was buried at Molituva. It was at this particular event where Mr Buwawa inquired about the history of the area and eventually the prospect of turning Molituva into a tourist attraction site was practical. A survey was conducted within the Tailevu South district and Molituva was picked for its abundant natural resources and the villagers' enthusiasm to see tourism thrive.

"Discussions were held with the villagers, the Turaga ni Koro, Roko Tui Tailevu and other stakeholders to turn the ancient village into a tourist site," he said. They were enthusiastic and welcomed the idea. They saw it as an opportunity to revive old cultures and traditions. "CBT is meant to empower local communities, assist villagers in their own development and raise their standard of living.

"A proposal was written after the discussions were held and this was submitted to the Ministry of Tourism for approval. "After we were given the go ahead, we started working closely with the villages. Work started in April this year." Mr Buwawa is the architectural engineer for the tourism site which is located behind the village where the original settlement was established.

He said work was almost complete on the five traditional Fijian houses including the bure kalou (Fijian temple) and five small bure each expected to showcase traditional handicraft like mat weaving, traditional cooking and entertainment.
Beam of hope

After presenting our sevusevu to the Vunivalu (chief) of Molituva, Iferemi Boginitu the tour of the old village began. Apart from the superb bure construction taking place on a piece of land surrounded with a ring ditch, the landscape of the old site where the village was located is amazing.

Clear pathways leading to the left and right lead to dead ends and while the village was said to have been located in the middle of the area, one wonders how villagers got there in the first place. According to Turage ni koro Mitieli Bainivalu, the people of Molituva originated from Verata and settled in Delaidamanu.

"There are a lot of ditches and in ancient times these were used to keep the enemies away. "The ditches were dug almost 10 feet and at the time they did not have machinery or technology so they dug by hand. "Wood spears were stuck inside these ditches which were filled with water from the river.

There were different paths leading to different places and only the villagers of Molituva knew the right path to take to reach the middle." He said the area was now used as a burial site and with the eco tourism scheme underway youths in the area were helping with the cleaning and clearing of forest and overgrown trees.

Mr Bainivalu said the tourism initiative was equally important to tradition as it revived the ancient art of bure building and cultural handicraft, cooking and weaving. He said youths were also able to learn new skills and appreciate the significance of culture and heritage.

Mr Boginitu believes the efforts and collaborative work between government and local communities is a stepping stone to foster good relations in future. He said it was vitally important for people to realise the significance of ancient Fijian villages whose history should not be lost through time. Mr Boginitu said the people of Molituva are proud to have an ancient site

The next step

Work on rebuilding the old village fort at Molituva began in early April and is expected to finish within the next month. Present at the site were youths and men of Molituva working side by side on perfecting the bure kalou which stands a towering 60 feet.

CBT human resources development manager Sakiusa Sokotukivei said five bure building experts were brought in to help the villagers with the construction. Youths in the village are also attending training courses in tour guiding at the Training Productivity Authority of Fiji which will help them show visitors around the place once eco tourism begins.

"I help coordinate and facilitate all CBT training. Youths in the area attended a one-week training session at TPAF and this will be helpful whenever tourists come to the site. "The tour guiding training is mainly targeted for unemployed youths. "The women are also keen on handicraft training and would include women who are not working.

"Some would even be able to start their own small businesses. The youths in particular will learn the importance of team building, communication, assertiveness and self awareness." The main target market for this one-day cultural excursion are passengers from cruise ships, tourist groups and local schools.

Similar projects on community based development by CBT include piggery and vegetable farming at Naduru and the establishment of an industrial kitchen at Vunimono where people are taught how to cook. If there is one point to stress in all this, it is the lesson learnt from turning an age-old village into a booming development where the whole community benefits in terms of tourism, employment, learning new skills and trade.

The most important of all these is reviving long lost Fijian tradition and culture while at the same time appreciating what is left of an era that brought us where we are today.
Leaders express pride

For both the Turaga ni Koro Mitieli Bainivalu and the Vunivalu of Molituva, Iferemi Boginitu, re-establishing the ancient village is not only a boost for the tourism industry but also a memoriam of the lives lost during tribal wars fought on the very same ground.

Mr Bainivalu said he was happy and proud to be part of the eco tourism development because of the opportunities it gave the people of the village. He said they were able to share the stories passed down through generations about the village.

Mr Bainivalu said Molituva was part and parcel of the identity of the people in the area and it was equally important to participate in something that would benefit the people both traditionally and economically.

Mr Boginitu agreed people should learn to appreciate their culture and heritage and felt it was something their ancestors would have wanted. "They want us to succeed. They want us to improve our lives. I am very happy with this initiative and it will benefit our people," he said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online