Alan ma Jan Literary Competition 2005

Short Stories

First Prize


John Muaror
Sydney, Australia

For the last few years, our family have been regular visitors to that small island Paradise we call Rotuma, for Christmas holidays. The kids enjoyed every moment of it and so do we parents. On two or three occasions, mom took the children alone so they continue to learn the language and custom.

Christmas time in Rotuma was always special. There were lots of fun, laughter and merry making. There were also plenty of “fara” to join in the village, and food and fruits in abundance. The children loved singing and dancing and learned the lyrics very early on. Oh, and who could forget our popular swimming spots around the island. Their favourite seemed to be “Fuli`u” for they go back to it again and again.

They rarely complain about the numerous flies of the day, and the annoying mosquitoes of the night, or even the heat for that matter. They adapted to such conditions very well. Everything would be Heavenly blissful if it could be fun and more fun forever. But unfortunately, it could not be so as it defeats the very purpose of our existance here on earth.

On a particular visit in Christmas of 1995, when the children were older, Lisa at ten years old, Kamoe nine and Mere seven, disaster almost struck us.

One morning as they finished their assigned chores, including sweeping “hifau” and “fava” leaves, they jumped onto the back of the ute for our daily swimming trip to “Fuli`u.” Our neighbours happily joined us too for the bumpy ride. And as we sang along the way, potholes, small ones and big ones did`nt seem to bother us any more. The weather was fine and not a cloud in sight, and not even a breeze. We knew we were in for a long swim at the swimming holes of “Fuli`u.”

On arrival, we decided the kids were better off inside the “fuli` mea`mea` ta,” for safety precautions. There was objection at first, but soon the children were enjoying themselves, with laughter and singing and screaming oblivious to what was about to happen next.

Suddenly, a thundering, roaring noise and a gigantic wave crashed over rocks and filled up the swimming hole in no time at all. There was no time, and no warning to gather the little ones. Debris were everywhere, froth and an eerie, scary feeling hung over the waterhole. Heads were bobbing up everywhere as the children struggled for breath. We pulled them on to rocks and accounted for all, except for a nephew who seemed to take forever to surface. He was unconscious when dragged out of there, so I turned him to his side to clear his throat and he just cried and coughed and cried some more.

Our fun swim was short lived as we decided to head home and settle the kids who were shaken but thank God unhurt.

After about a week or so, we decided to visit other swimming spots such as “Ana te Fapufa” and “Joro.” It was rather late when we left for the long ride home. As we passed “Fuli`u,” the kids begged to stop just for a little while. A couple of us adults went down with the children to the waterhole to keep watch.

As the kids settled and began to enjoy themselves, a freak wave roared and rumbled over rocks quickly filling the “fuli` mea`mea` ta” like before. And worse still another wave followed bringing with it all flotsam and debri it could collect along the way causing havoc and panic amongst the children. And not like before, these waves seemed to come with purpose and vengence. We all managed to scramble on to rocks amid screaming and hysteria among the kids.

Thankfullly, all the children were accounted for this time, but there was no fun anymore as the children refused to swim. I was reminded that perhaps we should have asked permission from the caretakers first. In any case,we made several promises to ourselves that in future, we would seek permission first before taking to the water,as a third visit without doing so might be fatal.

I thank my Heavenly Father for his love and protection on those two separate incidents. To this day, whenever we return to that small Paradise we call Rotuma, for Christmas holidays, we made sure to ask permission first so as to apeace the caretakers, both the living and the dead.

Second Prize


Hannah Marie Bennett
Itu'muta, Rotuma

It was a beautiful Saturday morning with the sun peaking over the horizon. I felt compelled to begin singing, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…”. It was the perfect day to explore the lonely waters of Rotuma.

There were only three of us, my friend Marie, my Dad, and myself aboard our launch. Wet out on our journey and found ourselves soon following a flock of seabirds flying over the deep blue ocean. I knew from father’s experience this a sign of tuna below. We headed toward the outlying island of Uea where we were sure we would be lucky enough to find fish feeding early. As we got closer there was an eerie feeling in us as we rode in silence over the calm waters which were as smooth as glass. Suddenly the silence was broken as my friend stood up and shouted as she saw an enormous school of dogtooth tuna beneath us. Immediately the trolling line sang out as one of the fish below struck our Rotuman red chicken feather lure. My Dad began reeling in the line. He struggled as it seemed to be of great size. Just as he began pulling it alongside of our boat to our surprise a huge shark swam up from underneath us and attempted to eat the large dogtooth which then broke free from the lure and headed directly down into the deep blue water. With mouths ajar and eyes full of fear my friend and I couldn’t say or do anything as we contemplated the ferocity of this sea creature below us. But this wasn’t the end of our adventure. As my Dad steered the boat closer to the adjacent island, Hatana, we were shocked to witness a cluster of sharks very close together with their fins glistening from the morning sun’s rays. The glare of the sun made it difficult to identify what kind of sharks they were. Suddenly the sun hid itself behind a puffy grey cloud and it was when we could clearly see they appeared to be a cluster of five bronze whalers with their heads out of the water and their eyes giving us a piercing, menacing look. It was then that my Dad instinctively revved the motor so we could put these terrifying creatures behind us. As my friend and I sat there looking astonished by what we had just seen, not a word was passed between us.

With still enough determination left in us to catch something we headed further out around the eastern, turbulent end of Hatana. Not having any luck there we shot back around the windward side of this island and headed back toward Hof’haviunglolo Rock and Uea. As we approached we decided to stop the boat, take a deep breath, and try hand lining for emperor fish, which we call Rona in Rotuma. It was incredible as instantly, as though the gods had cast us a blessing, we began catching fish. We caught one fish after the other. It wasn’t long before we had a boatload at which time we decided to head for home and have a long awaited breakfast.

As the sun rose high in the sky we realized we were exhausted and hungry. It had been such an adventurous fishing trip I knew I would never forget every little detail of what had happened that morning. After that experience I gained more courage and now I often go out with my Dad on his voyages of discover and adventure on the lonely seas surrounding our island of Rotuma.