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On the Friday, March 11, the Fiji Students Association—KaiFiji—held a fundraiser to help out with tropical cyclone Winston relief. In typical island fashion the night included food. Curry to be exact. You see, when the British brought indentured labourers from India to work on sugar plantations in Fiji, the demographics and the palette changed forever. Dhania (coriander) is now liberally sprinkled through Kokoda (Fijian ceviche), banana chillies take pride of place at any respectable Fijian function, there’s Fijian roti (a lot more butter added), all thanks to the folks that came over onboard the Leonidas.
If you’ve ever walked through a Fijian village you’ll hear cries of “mai kana”—come eat. Sharing and food go hand in hand. Food is the focal point, the gatherer of people. I have found at uni communal eating is often restricted to awkward pizza lunches organised by over-zealous class reps, or at the end of an event whose flier tantalisingly exclaimed FREE FOOD. A soqo, as I knew it, it is not.
Over two hundred people spilled into the Student Union building that Friday night. They were all there to do their bit for the victims of Winston and experience a little bit of Fijian hospitality (albeit flustered and overwhelmed hospitality, but hospitality nonetheless). It felt a lot more like an Island function, people were sprawled on the floor eating, Pasifika languages were being spoken, everyone seemed to know each other, it was running late.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a Samoan event without sapa sui, a Fijian event without curry, a Cook Island event without their (in)famous potato salad. These dishes were all initially introduced by foreigners and then re-packaged by each country, adding their own flavour to it. Uni is sometimes like that. We all get introduced into it, feeling foreign and out of place, but by the time we leave, we feel like Victoria has added their flavour to us.