‘I’m Taking the Lead’ & ‘Going Home’

So there is an interesting way people here will say, “Alright dude, Ill see ya there.” or, “sure thing, I’ll meet up with you later” instead we say, “I’m taking the lead”.

If someone just says to you, “Liu” or “Iko lako I liu” it would mean, you go on ahead.

If they say “Au lako I liu” It means I’m taking the lead, I’m going first.


The first time I heard this I was planting dalo (a root crop) up at my friend Samu’s plantation. We were walking down through the bush together to get back to the village and heard people calling out from various places in the bush, “O” or making other types of calls letting their presence be known, etc. So Samu leaned over and told me to say, “Keirau sa liu sobu” or “We are heading down/taking the lead”. After which, the whole jungle erupted in hoots and calls… that was when I first got here and they were excited I “knew” how to  say a lot of things in Fijian.  A lot of language learning here is done by what I call the parrot method. Essentially people tell me what to say, and then after I ask them what it meant. The parrot method can work really well, but typically you get told to say really dirty things during a grog session which causes everyone to laugh hysterically. I know more than enough Fijian now to understand when I am being told to repeat something inappropriate.


Well after I heard that expression, I started hearing it everywhere; people getting off the carrier, people leaving a group in town, someone going to church or the community hall, etc. I honestly think I hear that word 10-20 times a day. Its really common when I get off a carrier from town now, to stand up from my bench in the back of the truck, say “Tulou”while walking past the people sitting down (its extremely rude to stand above or place a hand above someones head and this word ALWAYS accompanies that movement. As I jump off the back of the truck, I will look back at the people still sitting inside and say, “Au sa liu, iko no qai muri yani.” or I’m taking the lead, you follow me later. Literally just saying, I’m getting off the carrier, you will be entering the village after me.


I had never heard this expression before coming to Fiji, and I think it will be a really hard one to break. I say it all the time now. So if you all hear me say that I’m taking the lead, just humor me and respond with, I’ll follow you later.


The second saying you hear all the time is just, “Well, you just come home later” or  some other variation on the “home” concept. At the beginning I was really confused by this, the way they say it makes it sound like they will be coming over to my home, or that these events, etc. are revolving around my home. This is not the case, in fact I have 91 homes and 91 different families. This gets SO confusing! Have you ever had hundreds of siblings, cousins etc? Its crazy, and really hard to remember everyones “relationship” to you. Normally if I had been adopted into one family, as in called them mom and dad, brothers sisters, grandma, grandpa etc. this would be easy to figure out because my relationship to everyone else in the village would be almost identical to my “sisters” there would just be slight differences based on if she was older of younger than me.  But now, I can’t listen to what other people are saying and figure out my relationships to them because mine don’t actually make sense. They are based on how people want to be related to me… so most people my age are my “tavales” which is a joking cousin relationship that is an ideal choice for a marriage partner. Most people with children around my age have me call them Nei and Momo (Auntie and Uncle) because that would make their children my tavales, thus good marriage choices.  I have 1 grandma for sure, Bu Eta. She is amazing and always invites me over for tea and to spy on the people waiting at the shed for the carrier. Her house is right in front of the village but its hidden by plants so we can spy and not be seen.  Her goal in life is to make me absurdly fat. Every time I go over she has some sort of fried pastry cooking and she will set an entire plate of said food in front of me and not let me leave until its finished. I have to prepare myself to go there now, I wont eat all day and then go over so I can actually finish it, and then just eat fruits the rests of the day. So far it seems to be working, but she is getting discouraged by my lack of plumpness recently. I have a few grandpas, but my favorite is Tukai Bis, his real name is Viliame (in English, William) he is hilarious. He wears this lime green zip up hoodie with black stripes on it that reminds me of a 15 year old skater kid. One night at grog, he gave me his salusalu (a garland made of flowers, leaves and woven fibers) which was really nice. He always talks to me in Fijian and is just kind of the coolest old man here.


So anyway, people ask me all the time “whose” I am, as in which family, which clan, which anything and I just respond I am all the clans and all the families. It’s lucky in a sense. I can go anywhere in the village and have someone take care of me as a child but it can also get really confusing. And about going home, I have now just come to realize that every home here is mine and that no one is ever talking about my actual home


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