Dare to Dream

mailife - - Content - By MELA KATONIVUALIKU Pho­tos by JONE LUVENITOGA

‘IM­POS­SI­BLE is not a fact - it is an opin­ion. Im­pos­si­ble is not a dec­la­ra­tion - it is a dare. Im­pos­si­ble is tem­po­rary. Im­pos­si­ble is noth­ing.’

These are the words of wis­dom inked on the wrists of 23-year old Bu­lou Sala­seini Lel­e­vakawalu Mataitoga. For Mataitoga life comes with chal­lenges in many forms, with many faces. She mo­ti­vates her­self with life quotes on her body to re­mind her that life is worth it and so is she. The Lakeba vil­lager from Lau who now lives in Cal­i­for­nia was in the coun­try last month play­ing rugby for the Strid­ers Women’s team.

“Sadly I did not go to Lakeba be­cause I left Fiji when I was six years old,” Mataitoga said. “I had just started pri­mary school in Suva when my par­ents de­cided to mi­grate to the United States and I have been there since.” The young woman heard about the Mana Whey Fiji Co­ral Coast 7s 2018 tour­na­ment via the in­ter­net – and proudly be­came part of it. “It’s a pretty fa­mous tour­na­ment and I had met Fiji na­tional women’s rugby rep Tal­ica Vodo, who also plays for Strid­ers.” “I played for the US Women’s team in Dubai, Ve­gas and Ja­pan and I met Vodo there. We dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity

of play­ing for Strid­ers dur­ing the MWFCC 7s.” she said. Mataitoga also plays rugby for her lo­cal club Berke­ley All Blues in the fly-half or cen­tre po­si­tion. As a first timer to the MWFCC7s tour­na­ment, Mataitoga found she likes the way rugby is played in Fiji. “It is less struc­tured to how we play back in Amer­ica. It’s more free and that’s what I like about it. I like the happy at­ti­tude on the field, like if we make a mis­take dur­ing game time, its ok and we carry on. “Fiji has a style of play where the game flows com­pared to how we play in the US. I en­joy it prob­a­bly be­cause it’s dif­fer­ent and some­times learn­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent is good.” Mataitoga came to Fiji with her par­ents to cel­e­brate her grand­fa­ther’s 80th birth­day and de­cided to ex­tend her stay so she could be part of the rugby fest in Si­ga­toka. “My par­ents left but I told them I would be in this tour­na­ment, so I think they were watch­ing me play via livestream.” She said her par­ents are wor­ried with her in­volve­ment with rugby be­cause it is a con­tact sport. “I have an older brother Vuli and there is just the two of us. My par­ents of­ten won­der why I chose rugby when my brother doesn’t have any in­ter­est at all in the sport that is nor­mally re­ferred to as a ‘man’s game’.” “Dur­ing my first game, I broke my cheek bone and then my tibula so yeah, they are just wor­ried about my health. But I al­ways re­mind them that it is all part of the game.” Al­though play­ing in the na­tional USA Women’s Rugby Team, Mataitoga said she would be hon­oured to rep­re­sent Fiji be­cause this is where she was born. “If called upon for na­tional du­ties to rep­re­sent Fiji in women’s rugby, I would gladly do so with­out a doubt,” she said. With the ex­pe­ri­ence she gained dur­ing last month’s MWFCC7s tour­na­ment, Mataitoga now hopes to make an an­nual trip to Fiji timed for the tour­na­ment. She and her fam­ily al­ready travel to Fiji for Christ­mas and New Year ev­ery year and since the MWFCC 7s is sched­uled af­ter New Year, she in­tends to stay longer each trip to be part of the next rugby fi­esta. In Cal­i­for­nia Mataitoga drives an Uber car. Uber is a tech­nol­ogy plat­form that con­nects driver-part­ners and cus­tomer-rid­ers by smart­phone app. The ser­vice is be­come im­mensely pop­u­lar in many coun­tries. “Uber lists all its lo­cally avail­able cars at the tap of a but­ton and in­tend­ing rid­ers se­lect the most ap­pro­pri­ate one nearby. There is no need to try and hail a cab from the curb.” Apart from her work, rugby is the next best thing for Mataitoga, and she also loves her tat­toos. She said they re­minded her that life is worth living and help her tackle each day as it comes. “I don’t show off my tat­toos be­cause they are more for me than for other peo­ple.” How­ever an­other that caught our eye was lo­cated on her left wrist and reads: ‘Sur­round your­self with dream­ers and do­ers. The thinkers and be­liev­ers. But mostly those who see great­ness within you.’ “This say­ing mo­ti­vates me to choose wisely the com­pany I keep be­cause my friends or those whom I as­so­ci­ate with shape me to be­come the per­son I am,” she said. “The quotes give me con­fi­dence and de­ter­mi­na­tion in reach­ing my life goals.”

Mataitoga with the Iri Tro­phy the Strid­ers Women’s team won dur­ing the MWFCC 7s.

Mataitoga shows off some of her tat­toos

Fam­ily is ev­ery­thing. Mataitoga with her grand­par­ents and cousins at their Nadera home.

Mataitoga re­lax­ing at her Nadera home.

Mataitoga with her Strid­ers Team that took part dur­ing the MWFCC 7s.

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