Monday, August 01, 2005

Uluivawani Journal

Uluivawani (known to us as Ben and Nie’s Place) (August 1st – 3rd)


Tired from the previous windy night and a long day of sailing, we didn’t head in that afternoon (now Monday, August 1st).  We were anchored in about 30 feet just off a reef that extended a few hundred feet from a terrific looking white sandy beach.  We could see two houses, but no sign of activity [people].

When we went ashore the next morning two young adults (so young and short I thought they were older children at first) greeted us on the beach.  Barely knowing our names they invited us to their home.  Over tea served with bread and butter we learned that they lived here along with Ben’s father (Big Ben).  We think that one of their uncles lives in the other house, but he wasn’t around.  They own and farm (copra to sell and other foods, such as cassava to eat) between 5 and 7 acres of beautiful land.  After tea we continued our talks sitting on a mat under a large tree watching the ocean.  Looking up at some precariously balanced boulders, Chris asked if it was possible to walk up there.  Ben immediately said he’d take us.

Off we went; Chris, Karl and Ben up in the front with Julie, Nie, and myself bringing up the rear.  First we hiked through the muddy banks of the mangroves.  Then over a couple of small rocks, and finally we started up.  The terrain was burnt down grass (they were getting ready to replant), but the hill (dare I say mountain) was quite steep.  Tired and thirsty, it was Chris yelling down “The view is worth it” that inspired the girls the rest of the way up.  And he didn’t lie … the view was spectacular.  We could see for miles; patches of turquoise (reefs) surrounded by deep blue.  360 degrees of inspirational views!  We continued along the ridge towards the boulders … Chris just had to get a look at how they were balanced.  Turns out they were barely touching – it’s amazing the top one hasn’t rolled down the cliff yet.  We came down the other side of the hill through coconut and lemon trees.  Chris and Ben - ‘being boys’ as they heaved into small boulders sending them ricocheting down the mountainside.  Ben picked us some lemons to take back to our boat, and as we’ve been experiencing with the Fijians, overdid himself.  We came away with more than a dozen lemons (per boat).  Although it was WAY more than we needed, we were quite excited about the prospect of Lemon Bars!

Back on the mat under the tree, Ben and Nie brought us small stalks of bananas and a number of oranges … we kept saying no more, and they kept it coming!  In return for everything, we asked them if there was anything we could do for them, anything they needed or work that we could assist with.  After a few “no’s”, they shyly said they would like yaqona for kava.  No problem!  This soon became an invitation for us to come drink grog with them … along with which they also said they’d prepare dinner.  Feeling they’d already out done themselves, we offered to bring in dinner instead.

A few hours into drinking grog (kava) we finally asked if we were ever going to actually eat … we didn’t want to be rude, but we were all starving and it was already past 8pm.  Luckily we were saved by Big Ben who isn’t much of a kava drinker, and therefore wanted to eat as well.  Apparently Fijians don’t like to eat too much (or at all) when drinking kava, because the food is too filling (not leaving room for the kava).  Ben and Nie continued to drink grog while the five us had dinner.  Big Ben was very pleasant to talk to, he was quite up to date on current affairs and spoke terrific English.
Biso - Bowl made from a coconut half that has been shaved out (and sometimes polished).  Used for drinking kava.
After dinner we had a departing biso of kava and returned to our boats.  The next day we learned the Ben and Nie drank grog until one in the morning and then finally ate!  Phew, glad we asked to eat!!  We asked them how they like the “Palagi Food” … it’s hard to get a straight answer because a Fijian will practically never say something rude to a guest, but we got the impression that it might have been too “different” for their taste!  They did however like the printed photograph of Ben and Nie that Chris and I gave them!

When we came in to say goodbye, they piled mounds of food upon us.  We didn’t ask for it … actually told them it was too much … but they just smiled and continued to disappear into the bush returning with coconuts, papayas, cassava, and bananas.  It was an unbelievable amount of food and we really had no clue what to do with it all.  We also got a bit of insight into one of the reasons cassava is so popular … it is tremendously easy to plant and grow.  We watched Big Ben has he took the long stem from an old cassava plant, cut the thin stalk into a number of pieces, and then just stuck them into the ground.  The stalk will then grow the cassava root (underground), and in 11 months they uproot the new cassava and use the bush to plant more.  They don’t have to maintain the bush or worry about feeding and watering it.  It’s pretty much self sufficient.  It didn’t make me like the taste of cassava any better, but I could at least understand why they ate so much of it!

As if the hospitality and food wasn’t enough, Nie also gave Julie and I a sulu.  I still can’t get over it … we had known them only for one day, had stayed in “their” bay for only two nights, and here they were treating us like old friends.

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