Monday, June 26, 2006

Return to Naviqiri Village

Current Location: Naviqiri Village
Current Position: 16°39.4' S 178°35.7' E

One of the main reasons we came back to Fiji was our love of the people, their smiles, laughter and good nature is thoroughly infectious. Our arrival in Savusavu felt like a homecoming with greetings from our old local friends and cruisers alike. The most amazing thing is how all the locals remember our names. We were constantly surprised by the "Bula Chris Bula KT" calls as we walked around town, even the woman at the local vegi market remembered KT. We received a couple of VHF calls from local cruiser residents who have started businesses there, "Welcome Home", and it felt like it.

We spent the first couple of days recovering , sharing war stories over happy hour and cleaning up the wet gear around the boat. Bobulona was getting ready to head north to Hawaii (via Samoa) so I spent a couple of days setting him up with some fishing gear. He really wants to catch a Yellowfin Tuna and I've got enough gear to outfit a fleet a fishing vessels so why not. KT and I were both amazed at the fresh vegetables at the market, yum! After dealing with air freighted or even worse ocean shipped veggies in Majuro, the fresh from the earth kind was much appreciated. Little things like mint and cilantro, fresh with root stocks still on them. KT even tried to get some to grow so she could add them to the basil she actually kept alive during the trip south.

She was excited to start testing the Solar oven that Red gave us to give to a local Fijian village. It only took a day to get it out and cranking and soon we had fish, bread, eggplant and roasted chicken all cooked to perfection in the solar oven. It was a little difficult to get the position right in the tidal river of Savusavu but it worked great when we moved out to the point for the weekend to relax and enjoy the nice breeze. KT even saw a Lion fish while she was snorkeling.

We headed back to town, because we could, for more fresh veggies and a nice sushi dinner to say goodbye to Bobulona. We spent the rest of the week enjoying the laid back atmosphere of Savusavu, it's fresh food and cheap beer during happy hour. It's a nice balance between small town atmosphere blended with the cruisers, not too much of either and if you get sick of one you can hang out with the other. KT cooked more things in the solar oven and, hold the phone, the cockpit cushions were made. It's kind of been a standing joke between KT and I because she has been threatening to sew them since we left. They turned out great but we both realized that the light gray color would show every piece of dirt brought aboard Billabong. So we had a happy hour complete with Ginger snap cookies and invited Indra over so we could get them dirty and get over the fact that they wouldn't stay clean forever.

KT joined a couple of our cruising friends another session of Cooking with Luci and made an amazing Tamarind Chutney before we headed out the point for the long weekend. I spent most of my time working of some fishing designs so that I could get Curly (the local rascal who helps the cruisers) to help me test them. I wrote up some "spec sheets" for all the things we've been using successfully but Curly has been out of town for weeks buying a new boat (to him), so I'm not sure it will happen. We returned to Savusavu which was filling up VERY quickly and decided it was time to head out of town. We spent a couple of days getting some supplies for the solar oven (that we could leave with the villagers), checked out and headed out to the point for a quick stop so we could leave early in the morning.

We were both very excited to see our old friends at Naviqiri Village. We had a nice beam reach (hey after 1700 miles of beating we weren't sure we remembered) down to the pass and a reef sheltered sail around the point before the wind died. We fished and caught a large barracuda, which in hind site we should have kept but threw back, and watched as a large shark stalked our lures for about half an hour. We had a choice, we could anchor and get up early in the morning to continue our trip or we could keep going (using our GPS track from last year) and arrive at the village at 10pm. We decided to keep going so that we could surprise everyone the next morning. We anchored just as the almost full moon rose above the clouds and went straight to bed so we would be ready for our exciting day in the village.

We walked in early and went to Sera and Freddy's house only to find out they were both gone!!!! Sera's now baby sits for a school teacher and Freddy was in Nadi. Grandma was there and she was soooo excited to see us. Of course she can't speak a lick of English so she just sat there smiling, laughing, hugging and punching us.. and boy that woman can hit!! Luckily we were greeted by Aquila, Freddy's nephew who spoke fluent English who could explain where everyone was. We walked around the village saying hi, watching in amazement at the expressions on their faces. "Chris, KT you came back like you promised".. it was kind of funny to watch.

Right away they would ask, "Where's Julie and Karl" like all Amercans who have ever been together have to stay together. Of course the kids were the most fun, some of them having grown significantly in the eight months since we last saw them. We said "qito qito" "play play" and they all ran up to the playing field. I pulled out a bunch of Frisbees and threw them as they went screaming across trying to catch them. One kid even grabbed one, held it to the sky and then kissed it and came running back with the biggest smile I've ever seen. KT got out some jump ropes and we all caught up by playing and laughing. Sera arrived after work and invited us back to her place for tea and to explain the big happenings.

Sera said she has a child now named Peter, and that he was white like us. Whoa this was HUGE news because Sera and Freddy have been trying to have a baby for a while. Then it came out that she had adopted the baby and then later that she gets paid $F40 (60 American cents an hour) a week to watch him and cook meals for some local teachers. We knew something was up when KT asked how the parents learned to speak Fijian (being White and all), and Sera gave KT a strange look, as if duh of course they speak Fijian! Anyway we were told we would be able to meet him the next day at the Big party. It turns out Freddy's son (that we didn't even know about last year) was on the Fijian Sevens Rugby team that won the world championships in London recently. This was HUGE!!

Fijian's love rugby and to have a world champion in their presence was beyond comprehension. The plan was to go in and help prepare the feast the next morning, maybe even in the solar oven, and then await their arrival around 1 o'clock the next day. When we went in there wasn't much cooking going on. We sat around waiting and willing to help but the only thing happening was they cooked the Cassava, in the biggest pot I have ever seen. We spent the afternoon killing time by making balloon animals with the kids, which was pretty funny because we didn't have a clue what we were doing.
Heck we still don't. This was going to be a HUGE party, they built a shade structure and decorated it with fresh greens and flowers. This is when we started to realize that even though we are speaking the same language there was a lot that was lost in the translation. Things that we thought we clear weren't. 

First Peter was pretty dark (certainly not white) and both his parents were about as Fijian as you can get. Then Freddy and his son arrived at around 4:30 with a bunch of other people. We were told to wait in the ceremonial building as we watched, not having a clue what was going on. First, all the new guests went to another building and then came over to sit with us in a VERY structured way. There was an older couple, Freddy and then his son Oressi. At first the village women (and KT) presented the older man with lots of mats and oils, all laid out in front of him. One of the village elders spoke and the older couple and Freddy were all in tears, the older gentlemen saying "Vinaka" (thank you) frequently. This went on for about five minutes. I thought that this must be someone returning after losing his wife and the village was welcoming him back. Then he gave a speech and Freddy and the other lady were crying hysterically. What on earth is going on? Then Freddy's son was welcomed to a very special mat where Boxing Grandma was sitting. As she went to sit down grandma grabbed KT and pulled her to the mat so that it was this rugby world champ, grandma and KT sitting at the head of the ceremonies. KT kept looking at me like help .. and I was thinking she was going to be presented as a sacrificial virgin to the champion. Anyway there was more crying, grandma was having a fit, hugging Freddy's son and the two Ki-palagi (white) people were confused beyond belief. I think the son was scared out of his wits as well, as he kept chain smoking any chance he got, the weird thing was Freddy or his son didn't say anything.

So this is where we figure out that they do things a little differently in Fiji. Turns out that the older
couple was Freddy's sister and her husband and that they had raised Freddy's son and another daughter.. yikes. It also began our investigation into the strange nature of brothers and sisters. Turns out they also call anyone who is actually a first cousin, brother and sisters and people who share the same parents are "real" brothers/sisters. This kind of threw a wrench into everything we thought we knew about all the relationships of the village, but we are slowly clarifying the "real" parts so we can get it all organized in our minds again. Now that I had a slightly clearer explanation for all the emotions I could relax and enjoy the kava and watch the recorded rugby games on the DVD player. Freddy came over and gave me a huge hugs and kept saying "Chris Chris" as he gave me huge hugs and held my hand. It turns out that all the gifts were actually for Freddy's son but they are passed/received through an intermediary.

The next day, of course the sun didn't cooperate so KT cooked the chicken and fish curry on board, made some Pawpaw (papaya) cake and we went in for Church. The party was after church and it was a huge feast where the table of honor rotated as people finished their food. KT got a couple of complements on her Ki-palagi food which was a little too soupy to be eaten by hand but that didn't keep them from trying. We also found out that Freddy's son was going to be leaving that afternoon instead of spending the week, another hiccup in our communication. I felt bad because I thought we would have some time to get to know him; we did have a good time hanging out with his sister. KT also noticed a VERY strange behavior between certain people, especially considering the lack of deodorant; they place their faces next to each other like a kiss to the cheek and then sniff violently. Hmmm!!! We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and sharing some more Talanoa (stories) and Kava (grog). When the generator came on KT got out our DVD and played their part for the village. They laughed and giggled and felt like movie stars as we explained that all our friends and family in America watch them on TV. They watched it three times and all wanted copies.

We spent the rest of the week hanging out in the village and playing with the kids when they got home from school. Luckily we only played rugby a couple of times, most of the village men have gone to Labasa to cut sugar cane, so that I've had a chance to recover between games. We went to the school on Friday to hang out with Sera, Peter, Freddy and the parents. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with the kids and teaching them how to play a modified version of Ultimate Frisbee. It was rather amusing to watch the kids take advantage of the rules as we made them up. First we thought since they're not really good at throwing well or catching we'll make the rule the first person who gets to the Frisbee gets to keep it. Well the boys treated it like rugby and tackled the girls or pushed them out of the way, so we had to change that. Then the boys would throw the Frisbee way down the field and run after it to get across the line, and most wouldn't even catch it in the end zone. So we added a couple rules and then all had a blast. The girls were much better because the basic netball, which they play a lot, one girl even asked KT if she could "pivot". In the end we came up with a good set of rules that worked and everyone enjoyed. Even some of the mothers came out to play, maybe it'll be the new village sport.

On Saturday KT planned a cooking class to teach the locals how to make banana bread, pawpaw cake and use the solar oven. About 20 people showed up, surrounding KT as she explained everything, they didn't even know about vanilla or cinnamon. She modified the recipes to have oil instead of butter and got rid of some of the extra stuff, and even showed them how they could make zest with a coconut grater. Of course it was overcast so we had tocome up with an oven. We thought a pot within a pot would work good, especially if we put some fire on the top (they use aluminum pots) and raised the bottom with some tin tuna cans. Well I think it would have worked but there were way to many cooks in the kitchen. They kept opening it and looking, then burning the top with too much heat, then removing the outer pan and burning the bottom. Oh well they enjoyed the bread and even liked the burnt parts. The pawpaw cake was even more of a disaster because they completely took over, doing it the Fijian way, without two pots using only ash to insulate the pot from the fire.. it was even more burnt than the banana bread. Oh well it didn't stop a couple of ladies from trying to make it on their own the next day.

The first visit made us feel like what it must be like to be a rock star; with all the attention. The second visit has been even more amazing.. The people of the village who knew us from our first trip are amazed to see us again, some not believing their own eyes. The people who had only heard stories of us, greet us with open arms and are in awe that they get a chance to meet us. It's nice because we've been treated like one of the family, a little less focused on and able to relax and blend in a little more. We just hope we've been able to show them how special they are.

1 comment:

  1. Hey you two! Just catching up by reading your posts. Fiji sounds awsome, still wish I could dissapear from my life and appear out with you guys. Congrats on the solar oven and spreading the frisbee skills around the world.

    Take care,