Archive for the 'Fiji' Category

Bula Fiji!

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Karolin says she has never had a week in which so many different things happened all together. And it’s very true - this week has been a mash of a whole host of things together. I’ll try to keep this post snappy, because it’s going to be long and I don’t want you to lose interest.

First off, I need to come clean. I haven’t been entirely honest with you back home, out of fear of worrying my mother. About 2 weeks before our planned trip to Fiji we learned that there was a potential for a military coup in Fiji. The government and the miltary leaders were fighting, and Karolin wanted to cancel the trip and go to Tonga instead. I convinced her to wait and see what happens, and as no coup actually happened by the time we left and I was firm in my belief that if a coup were to happen it would have happened by now and the parties concerned would certainly not be talking to each other still. And so we went to Fiji. Turned out it was a much better choice than Tonga in the long run, as this happened the day we arrived in Fiji. (Also, notice in the Fiji news link how the title “warns of renewed violence in Fiji”, while if you read into the article you see that it’s only “renewed threats of violence” in the capital. No actual violence in Fiji.)

So that was the exciting lead-in to our trip. But charmed Martha’s lucky star has shone through, and Fiji ended up being the correct holiday choice.

Karolin and I flew in to Nadi, and the following day set out on a catamaran ferry to the Yasawa Islands. We chose to stay at Barefoot Lodge on Drawaqa Island. It was a very wise choice in the end. Karo and I had the island almost entirely to ourselves (and the staff) for about half the time we were there. It’s a stop with the Captain Cook Cruise ships, and we got to join in with the Cruise visitor’s activities when they were around. The food was fantastic! And our days were otherwise divided between snorkelling over the surrounding coral reefs and lounging in hammocks reading novels.

Our last night at Barefoot it was just Karo and I and the staff, and the chef really outdid himself with dinner, showing us that even though us two backpackers were the only people on the island, we’re still important enough to have a dhal soup & rice starter, with fish, potatoes, carrots, salad and pineapple for dinner and dessert. After that we drank kava and played cards with the kids (there were 3 children on the island, staying there for a month. Usually they live in the nearby viillage). They taught us a new card game that’s something of a mix of Euchre and Hearts. It was very good, and interesting just to see what Fijians do on their own time, when not entertaining tour groups.

After the idyllic paradise of Barefoot Island, we caught the cat back to the Mamanuca Islands, down near Nadi again, and stayed at the Bounty Island Resort. A much younger crowd, a bigger crowd, and fun just to chill and do some more exciting activities during the day. We did some island hopping, Karolin went water skiing (and then had a rather necessary massage the next day), and I convinced people to play Scrabble on one of the nights we were there. James, the history and philosophy major from England, won. I also met a girl from Waterloo at Bounty, and Karo met a girl from her small home town in Germany. Small world, eh?

Our last night we spent in Nadi again, but in slightly different circumstances. At Barefoot I sort of made friends with this girl named Mili who worked on the Captain Cook Cruise ship. She invited Karolin and I to stay at her place in Nadi when we went back, instead of going to a hotel. She said she would meet us when we got off the cat, and to our surprise she did. And so we went home with her.

Mili lives in a small ‘house’ on the outskirts of Nadi, in a sort of village community. It’s about a 10 minute walk from town, and is surrounded by cane fields and mangrove swamps. There are free range cows wandering up and down the ‘road’, and chickens running about the place. Mili’s house is made of wood framing and corrugated steel walls and roofs. There are 4 rooms - a kitchen, a living room area, and two bedrooms - and a sort of outhouse building out back with a toilet and shower. And there were about 10 people living there, somehow related or friends in some capacity. It was like being back in Ghana. But the house was quite nice, don’t get me wrong. Despite outward appearances, the house had electricity - tv, dvd player, fridge - and running water - kitchen sink, flush toilet, working shower. And the people were fantastic.

One of the reasons I felt it would be safe to stay with Mili was the way she invited me to her house - she asked if we would like to stay with her, drink some kava, meet with some other people our age, and sing Christian songs. Ghana throw-backs again. As soon as I heard we would be going to a church group meeting, I knew we were probably in good hands.

We went to the church meeting that night. We were late and so missed the sermon, but were in time to try phonetically singing along to some Fijian hymns. Then we had tea and kava with the church people. Karolin started talking to one of the guys there, Sky, and he seemed normal. I was talking to him later and he learned I was single (stupid, stupid Martha! Forgetting her Ghana lessons! Repeat after me: I am married and have 2 children, I am married and have 2 children, I am married and have to children!) so he asked Mili if he could take me home with him. Augh! So anyway, rural Fiji, just like Ghana.

Eventually we left the church meeting and the dirty man behind and went back to Mili’s where we continued to drink kava, and then Karo and I went to bed (we had a queen-sized bed in one of the bedrooms for our use). The others were up until about 2am drinking kava.

So what is kava you ask? It’s only the central pillar of all Fijian culture. Kava starts as a root, also named kava, that is dried and ground up, put in a bag, mixed with water in a bowl, and then becomes a drink. Fijians drink bowls and bowls of this stuff every night. It looks like dirty dish water, tastes like dirty dish water, makes your mouth tingle slightly, and is a mild narcotic that makes you sleepy. Eventually people just pass out around the kava bowl and go to bed there. It’s very bizarre.

The next morning Mili took Karo and I shopping in town for gifts and food for the plane, then took us to the airport and waited with us. It was truly an excellent time.

And those are the latest adventures from Mars. Stay Tuned from updates from Sue, who is currently touring New Zealand, and yesterday climbed Mount Doom!

I’m in Fiji!!!!

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Bula! Hello!

Yes, today I left the freezing cold (there was hail in Melbourne, sharp temperature drop in Sydney) land of Oz for the tropical island paradise of Fiji. On the plane the pilot announced the temperature in Fiji (29°C) - Karolin and I breathed sighs of relief and smiles broke out. After a rather intense period with Margaret the travel agent, expert on the eastern islands, we settled on an itinerary and got a lift to our hostel.

I love the smell of diesel and humidity! It is the smell of pure happiness! It is the smell of Ghana, and I guess of most other developing countries. It reminds me how to be friendly above all other things, if that makes any sense at all.

We had an excellent dinner here at the hostel. I sated my insatiable appetite for pineapple juice - no pineapple has come close to satisfying me since I left Ghana. Here it is wonderful again. We ate bananas with our desserts and felt rich.

Tomorrow Karo and I are heading out to the Yasewa Islands, then to the Mamanucas. We probably won’t have internet access until the day before we head back to Oz. But I’ll be sure to send post lots of photos when I get back.

If you haven’t checked in a while, there are some new photos in the gallery. A few from Sue, and a bunch from last weekend’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibit. The sculptures were pretty amazing, and the photos aren’t that shabby either. It was also Budi and Ziv’s anniversary of becoming friends. Budi gave Ziv chocolates. Ziv said he was going to give Budi flowers, but then didn’t. He bought him lunch instead. It was very cute.