Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Also Island to Navaqiri Village: It's all about the People

Current Location: Baulailai Bay
Current Position: 16°44.88' S 178°29.02' E
Next Destination: Bua Bay

It is impossible to find the words to describe our recent experiences …they are unlike anything we've ever imagined and it is all due to the wonderful natives of Fiji. These people have opened our eyes and hearts to way of living that we can only hope to keep with us when we (someday) return to America.

As we prefer to keep the BLOGs short (and since we are four weeks behind), we'll save the details for a future website update and just give you a brief summary in the BLOG (guess you'll just have to wait for the really good stuff!).



Our next extended stay was three nights at Malau Point which provided bus access to the "big city" of Labasa. As with the States it seems that large cities change everything … we could quickly feel the good moods of weeks past draining away as we battled traffic, noise, trash, and some less friendly Fijians. On the bright side we were ecstatic about hitting an internet café and browsing the HUGE fresh veggie market. Meat and Veggies at last!!!


We truly lucked at when we landed here … After leaving Malau Point we spent a windy night anchored at Nukubati Bay, so windy that the following morning (now August 1st) we picked up anchor and went looking for a more protected spot. Uluivawani is not listed on the charts as an anchorage, but as we motored by we noticed how calm it was and thought the sandy beach looked like an added bonus.

There were only two houses ashore, so we weren't sure what to expect when we went ashore with Shadowfax (who we'd been traveling with this entire time). What we found was one of the nicest couples we've met (Ben and Nie) who live with their father and work/farm the surrounding land.

Ben and Nie took us on an amazing hike, to the top of rocks overlooking the bay, with a beautiful view that still sits in the forefront of my memory. They offered us food & tea and opened their home to us without a second thought. In return (although they wanted & expected nothing) we offered to cook them dinner and held a potluck at their house. We aren't sure if they really liked our Palongi dishes, but they would never say otherwise (we did noticed they seemed to take extra rice!).
We only stayed two nights and when we went in to say goodbye and thank-you, they sent us back to our boats with so much food (coconuts, kasava, bananas) that we nearly sunk the dinghy!


If the last two months in Fiji hadn't yet convinced us that there is something quite special about the Fijian People & their culture, Naviqiri Village alone would've done so! It is with tears in my eyes that I think about Naviqiri and what to write, as it was just today that we departed after a two week stay. We can't believe it was only two weeks, it felt like at least a month, and the people touched something special within Chris and I.

We shared meals … everywhere we went lunch or tea was offered. We had a few visitors on Billabong for tea & snacks, and one couple out for dinner (who later reported to her sister that the food was "like in the magazines"!!!). It also seemed that we were beckoned into way too many grog (kava) parties - it is just impossible to say no! A couple of the days we brought in some special treats, attempting to make enough for the entire village - it was quite the mob scene as we handed out cakes,
cookies and lollies (they sure do love sweets!).

We shared games … Chris nearly killed himself playing rugby with both the kids and adults, but there is no doubt that sports can unite where language might fail, and no matter how old he might feel the next morning (or same evening) he played just about every afternoon. I stuck to Frisbee (which we introduced them to), volleyball and children games (jump rope, three legged races, wheel barrel races, leap frog, and duck-duck goose). It got so the children (and I think some of the adults too) would come looking for us after school … I think we spent EVERY afternoon of our two weeks hanging out and playing, staying until the very last bit of light left the sky!

We shared crafts and work … Chris pulled his back helping a few of the men build a house, while I gained a sore bum sitting on hard floors discovering that weaving & broom making take a lot of time and patience! We learned the process of coconut oil making and yaquona drying (for kava). I shared some of my cross-stitches (just to prove that Palongi's can be creative too!).

As with most the South Pacific, they LOVE getting their pictures taken and looking at the resulting photo on the LCD screen. It seemed they were even more enthusiastic then most we'd come across. If we had had enough paper and ink (and time) we would have tried to print a copy for everyone; instead we put together a visitor's book for them, including five color collage prints of photos we had taken during our visit. I was first amazed at the elegant words Chris used when he presented our
loloma (gift) to the village (during Church service), and then even more amazed with the smiles and tears of the villagers as they crowded around the book later in the day, pointing and laughing at the various pictures.

We also enjoyed some terrific walking/hiking. The views were outstanding, and we were always accompanied by a local or two which made it all the more enjoyable. It felt as though we truly got to know many of the villagers and they got to know us. It seemed there was never enough time in a day and the two weeks went quickly. We said our goodbyes (on August 16th), stopping by each house (nearly 40 of them) to give handshakes, hugs, and Vinaka Vakalevu's (Thank you very much's). We had become especially good friends with Sera, Fredie and their family. Even Fredie (and just about Chris) shed tears as we said goodbye. Grandma (as we call her) hugged me so tight I thought I might
pass out!

As we motored out of the bay, they flashed us using the sun's reflection off of mirrors (we of course flashed back) … and kept flashing … and kept flashing … and kept flashing … I kid you not, it went on for a good 30 minutes while we got farther and farther away. Already I am looking forward to our return …

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