Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Some years ago, with a dodgy visa and undeclared currency I set off to visit the Stans of Central Asia.. it turned out to be a fun and at times scary adventure.  Back then Russia still controlled and probably  does even now, the lives of the people I met along the way.  It was quite an education for an Aussie from Queensland.

The series though belongs to the people I met, the women whose lives they knew would change so dramatically as their countries reverted back to the laws of Islam...  while not fully enjoying the Soviet Unions rule of thumb they did still enjoy a modicum of freedom of choice, now they were facing a life where women had little or no say about their future.

I made this journey some 20 odd years ago and I wonder now where these women are ...


Thursday, July 21, 2016


June 2016 Boarding a bus in Suva enroute to Levuka: a lost address.

Do you recognize this charming young lady?

Those of you who have traveled to the Island of Ovalau will know that Levuka was once Fiji’s capital, but that was way back in the 1870’s and 80’s. Today Levuka is justifiably listed as a World Heritage Site, little changed from those long ago days.  It still has a main street of quaint shops fronting the deep blue of the ocean and backed by a steep range of verdant green mountains.  There are still banks of houses dotting the lower hills accessed by steep tiers of  concrete stairways instead of roads and connecting streets.

 There is still in abundance the fragrant perfume of tropical flowers, a profusion of fruit and fresh vegetables.

In fact Levuka hasn’t changed all that much at all since 1877 when my grandmother Maggie McGowan was born there, or indeed since 1900 when she married my Grandpa Chas Brown Parker in the Wesleyan Church,  which is still standing today albeit with a fresh coat of paint.

The entire island of Ovalau itself is still much the same, though now there are cars and buses where once  were only coastal boats and shanks pony;  and you all know that means walking on your own two feet.  The faces of Levuka haven’t changed either, the same wide smiles, the constant cry of Bula, which could mean Welcome or Hello, or even Good day.


But let’s get back to Suva where I’m waiting for the bus to depart.  A young school age girl is sitting in the seat in front of me. It’s obvious she is saying a very sad goodbye to two smaller children and a gentleman who is  her father. They are standing by her open window.  Her hand reaches out to touch them, one last time. It wasn’t difficult to see her tears and the concern  on her Dad’s face.  Sending a daughter off to boarding school isn’t always easy... I know, I'm a grandmother, been there, done that.

It takes a while, this journey from Suva to Levuka;  four hours  north by bus to reach the  passenger and vehicle ship that will take us across to the island of Ovalau, 2 hours at sea and another 2 hours bus drive round the island to our final destination, Levuka. 
No change of vehicle, the same bus drives on and off the ship. Plenty of time to take photos, to chat, to cheer up a sad little girl returning to her boarding school on the island and already missing home and family.

It was dark by the time our bus reached Levuka and the hectic unloading of passengers along with their  myriad bags and goods.   Time only for hasty goodbyes to people we had become acquainted with, and to a now far more cheerful young girl who I had promised to keep in contact with on her Face Book page.


The trouble is, in the fuss and upset of arrival and location,  the goodbyes and the panic of where to go in the utter darkness I mislaid the name and address of this charming and friendly young school girl.

I know only that she was returning to school on the island.   Perhaps some one reading this story will recognize her photo?  The one at the top of the page.

 If you do please tell her my name is Robyn Mortimer, that I live in Australia and she has only to search that name  on Face Book, make a request and I will respond…


That’s me on deck, gazing out at the departing coastline.

In the meantime if you’re planning to visit this glorious part of the Pacific consider spending a few days, or even a few weeks  exploring not only the Levuka of today, but the Levuka of long ago – it’s history is there for you to see and absorb.

Robyn Mortimer 21st July 2016-07-21