Saturday, May 28, 2011

Finally, Fiji

I'm baaaaack! Fiji was so fantastic it will be difficult to tell you all there is to tell. I'm tempted to fall into the "we did this and then we did this and then ohmygawd there was this oooh and also that and ohholycrap then there was this" sort of narrative so I don't miss a thing. But that won't be too terribly interesting for you. Nor would it really convey Fiji--which is a peaceful, beautiful place where it seems folks just may have gotten the living right. Even I could get spiritual in a place like this.

So instead, I think I'm going to tell and show you about first the people, then (in the order the mood strikes me) the beauty of the landscape, the animals, the food and...okay, maybe a few things we did (although that will be well covered by the aforementioned). With no further ado: The People of Fiji

The happiest most content people in the world live in Fiji. Okay, I haven't explored the entire world (yet) but as I do, I will be on the lookout for a people more content and happy than the Fijians. And why not? The weather is perfect year round, there are 12 hours of daylight year-round, food is abundant (hence, everyone eats--which means you don't see homeless, hungry or begging people), the water is clean and plentiful, the land is stunningly gorgeous, there's no pollution, everyone walks everywhere and no one is in a hurry.  In the interest of full disclosure, we were on the second largest island--Vanua Levu (the biggest island--Viti Levu did seem more crowded/urban and thus may have more "issues" than Vanua Levu). Fiji is about 35% Indian (or Indo-Fijian as they call themselves) and the cultures seem to have blended well. Although there is not, apparently, much if any inter-marrying among the Fijians and the Indo-Fijians, they seem to get along well and we never detected any racism. We were told that at the school the children of Sunil and Rhada (more on them later) attend the Indian children are taught Fijian and the Fijian children are taught Indian. And they all learn English--which makes it very easy to travel there as well, although some accents are harder to decipher than others. (In fairness, I think they may have had a difficult time with my dad's Georgia accent as well. ;-))

The Fijian greeting is "Bula!" and one is greeted with that exuberant expression everywhere. Driving down the roads we'd pass pedestrians and they'd all smile their huge smiles (and they have phenomenally white teeth! we were told it's from chewing sugar cane...huh??), wave and say "Bula!" or, if they were particularly happy, "Bula-Bula!!" Even in the market when we were greeted we always felt it was genuine and not just a ploy to get us to buy. They aren't pushy about that at all. And although bargaining is the norm, it isn't done in the aggressive way it is in other countries (no one accused us of trying to take food from their children's mouths, for example). It's all very polite. Well, it was for me, but of course, I can't bargain for items that are already so ridiculously low-priced! The best I could do was "how much for two?" when my step-mom and I both wanted sarongs at the same handicraft shop. [We got them for $15 each (that's Fijian about $8 US dollars) down from the $20 price tag. Later we saw the same ones for $8 (Fijian). Oh well. I told you I can't bargain.]

They are also very warm, genuine, open and welcoming folks. And so, I give you...our Fijian friends:
On our first day driving around we drove by this group walking home from church. We stopped to take a photo and they obliged. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip.

 On another day we were fortunate enough to be taken to one of the villages where we went to their church service (Methodist--although all done in Fijian). It happened to be Mother's Day so the women were conducting the service. The most beautiful singing I've ever heard. First photo is the cantor and his daughter.

 The reception line after the service. So warm and friendly!

 We were invited back to the home of the village chief (above, left--in the orange pants)

 This is Sami (left) and Sunil (right). Sami was the caretaker and tour guide supreme for the Natewa Bay home we stayed in. Sunil was the caretaker and tour guide uber-supreme for the home we stayed in at the Maruvu estates (just outside Savusavu).
 Sami and Sunil at the waterfall they led us to (hacking a trail with their machetes and even cutting down a walking stick for each of us!). You'll just have to trust me that we also climbed up to this waterfall. (I'm not posting bathing suit pictures. Sorry.)

 Sunil and two of his brother-in-laws who led us out to the world's only floating island.
And these are Rhada's sisters and one of their sons at their home, where we stopped on our way to the floating island and then after--so I could change clothes after falling into the island. Yes, into the island. A blog post for another day.
 We bought bananas ($1 Fijian--50 cents US for a whole bunch) from this woman who had this stand set up roadside in what we thought was the middle of nowhere.
 Rhada--Sunil's wife and our cook. And man can she cook! Fijian or Indian food--it was all fantastic. Here she is preparing the taro leaves for the Lovo meal on our last night (which I think will have to be it's own separate post).
 And this is Wyse. He used to bartend at one of the resorts so he came over and bartended for us one night. He whipped up several island concoctions which were so good I can't remember their names.
 This is Wyse again with his wife, Tetsch. It was their village we went to.

We passed this little boy enjoying his papaya on horseback as we drove across the island.

I have hundreds and hundreds of photos (and a few of these--like the one above--are my step-mom Nancy's photos; apparently no one person can capture it all. It took two of us photographing constantly! And I don't know why that photo rotates--I've tried and tried but it stays sideways no matter how many times I rotate it). It's hard to edit. But...I hope these gave you an idea of the beauty and kindness of the Fijian people.  Next up...the scenery and landscape of Fiji!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seamus is More Famous

I've been meaning to post pictures and tell tales of our Fiji adventure--because believe me there is so much to tell. It's a magical, wonderful, gorgeous place. But I also have 700+ photos, and my step-mom Nancy just sent me her 700+ photos, so there's a lot of culling to do. Plus, we returned home to one funeral and no sooner had we come home from that then we learned that Chris's aunt had passed away from metastasized breast cancer. We arrived at her home about an hour before the mortuary did. Her funeral was Friday.  Needless to say, things have been sad and busy and well...keeping me from the blog. Fiji stories and photos will be soon.

In the meantime, Seamus is feeling a little jealous of Bob over at Daisy and Bob's blog  because Bob, the pit bull, is having quite a week. So Seamus would like me to let you all know about the award he received this week. He got a plaque with his portrait and signatures from the staff over at Ruff House Pet Resort at the celebration of their 5 year anniversary. See, Seamus was their very first customer and after 5 years, is still their best customer. (He got a plaque; we got a free weekend of boarding for him in one of their new island-themed suites along with a bath....wait...I guess that's sort of for him too! But we get to get away...don't let him know that.) The photo is of Seamus (who hates being picked up; hates it!) and me getting the award from owner Marti. Thanks Ruff House.

Chris's Aunt Susan was an avid animal lover herself. She passed away after a six-month battle with breast cancer (metastasized to her brain and elsewhere by the time it was caught). She loved Seamus (who doesn't?) and all animals and she will be greatly missed. RIP Susan.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fiji Favs

I'm home. Safe and sound. Fiji is fabulous. So much to tell! But, I'm also tired. So just as a "Bula! let's talk soon" note here are a few favorite photos from the first few days:

Tough, tough vacation.

How have things been with you all?