Jennifer Chan

Our Elephant House

By Jennifer Chan

Jennifer Chan is a Columban lay missionary assigned in Fiji. Here she shares with us what it is like to live in an “elephant house”.

It’s true! Home is an elephant house for me and my fellow lay missionary, Cynthia, for 11 months now. This unique, architectural wonder is called a ctesiphon (pronounced as tesifon, a type of thin-shell catenary-curved concrete building). My parish priest told me it was patterned after the low-cost housing in Iraq. Back in the late fifties, Columban Father Dermot Hurley built several ctesphons and ours is the lone surviving elephant house in Suva. Its historical value is increasing and becoming an unusual conversation piece of both locals and foreigners alike.