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By Patricia Page

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Extra resources for Across the Magic Line: Growing Up in Fiji

Sample text

Mostly the Fijians stayed in their villages and were satisfied with a subsistence life but when needed they made fine policemen, soldiers and house girls. ’ Considered a recently evolved people, they were in need of protection, like children. The Colonial Administration was a father to them. ’ An exception was perhaps made for royals. A crown had no colour and British royalty encouraged royalty in others. King Cakobau (pronounced Thakombau), who handed Fiji over to Queen Victoria was considered the King of Fiji, even though in theory he didn’t have a right to the title as not all the chiefs supported him.

In my diary I make a long list of all the sea creatures I saw. I’d been there many times before, never tiring of exploring it and discovering the workings of its seething watery universe. At high tide it was an ordinary bay dotted with dugout canoes filled with men, women and children fishing, but when the tide went out it left a magic world. Channels crisscrossing the reef became safe sandy paths for bare feet. The ebbing water fell in cascades between the rocks and coral clumps. The pools cupped there held millions of marine creatures going about their eerie lives.

Then they’d do the same to the other nostril. My father decided that this was a good way of blowing your nose. It saved on handkerchiefs and cleared you out nicely. Whenever there weren’t too many people around, he’d blow his nose like an Indian. ‘Ern. Ern [short for Ernest],’ my mother would protest in vain. There were contradictions in this attitude of Fijians versus Indians. An Indian servant was considered more ‘chic’ than Across the Magic Line 31 a Fijian one. When my mother gave a party an Indian in a white uniform and coloured sash would serve while the food would be prepared in the kitchen by an out-of-sight Fijian ‘girl’.

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