Fijians are Christians these days and they enjoy freedom of religion. In most villages the villagers share the same religion and in Viseisei they are all Methodists. Thus the village church is named after John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church.
The church is very simply fitted out and looks very much like a little Methodist Church would look anywhere else on the earth with one exception. Standing alone on a section of the floor which is elevated higher than the altar is a chair for, you guessed it, the Chief. I guess even God has to take a lower position when talking about the Chiefs of Fiji.
In Viseisei there are two monuments to the fallen in wars gone by. They each stand in very prominent positions in close proximity to the chief's house. The larger of the two features the three main weapons of war used by the fijians in early times. One was like a mallet used to hit the enemy over the head. the second was a "neckbreaker" which should be self explanatory and the thrd i s vaguels similar to a fork in as much that it has a handle and four prongs. Its purpose? - to gouge eyes out.
The "lali" is the message drum of Fiji which is used these days mainly to call the people to church. In Viseisei, the lali is housed in a little grass hut in the village square.
In days gone by this was the only way of sending messages which could be heard for miles around, right to other villages. Today you can still see and hear the lali in operation in the villages and at weddings etc.
Traditionally, the lali is mounted on a base made from coconut palms but in Viseisei they are very modern and have their lali mounted on an old tractor tyre.
The chief's house stands in pride of place in the middle of the village. It is usually marked with a circle of stones around it. The house is always elevated in keeping with the tradition that the chief is higher than anyone else. All the villager's houses are low to the ground. When the chief dies, his brother (if he has one) becomes the chief. The next generation become chief only when all of the older generation of sibling males is exhausted.
Every one in the village is related to everyone else.
Before you enter any Fijian village and Viseisei is no exception, you will be asked to remove your hat. The Chief of the village is the only one permitted to wear a hat.
You will also notice that in any part of the village that is in plain view of the Chief's house, furniture etc. must be lower than to the ground than that owned or used by the Chief. Thus in Viseisei for example, the ladies selling their wares as you enter the village have normal height tables to display their goods. As you leave the village however, there are more ladies selling their handicrafts and their display tables are quite low to the ground as they are in view of the Chief's house.
Visitors, who are regarded as honoured guests, are often welcomed to take part in these solemn occasions.
In March 2007, I stayed in the Fijian village of Viseisei with a lovely family; Lusi and Momo were my hosts. They have 4 sons and a daughter and Lusi minds their 2 year old grandson, Api.
Lusi was absolutely charming. She took me around the village, showed me where the chief lives (the village chief, by the way, is the President of Fiji). Best of all, she took me across the road to visit the Vuda District School, where I spoke to the Grade 2 and Grade 7 children. It was a wonderful experience; one I would never have had staying at a hotel.
One of Lusi's sons operates the village bakery, in the back of the house. He provides bread, not only for the village, but for a tourist resort on one of the islands.
I was treated just like a member of the family; ate my meals with them, and sat with them watching TV in the evening. Don't expect luxury in Viseisei. But do expect to be welcomed with a warmth that you cannot find in a hotel.