Natalei Eco Lodge – a hidden treasure

Images Of Fiji

IMG_2616 Last weekend, we went to Natalei Eco Lodge.  Contact information, maps, activities here . The website seems to indicate that it is in the Yasawas, but it isn’t.  It is on the main island, Viti Levu, not too far from Suva and Nausori (where Suva airport is located).  IMG_2416

It is amazing!  Out of all of the places I have stayed in Fiji, this is one of the best.  Not in terms of luxury, but in terms of being a real Fiji experience.  If you only get to stay one place and want to leave Fiji with a feeling of what Fiji really is about, then you should go to Natalei.  It is only $75 per person per night including all food.

I took so many pictures, I couldn’t decide what to leave out, so I have added a few too many really.

IMG_2436Natalei is one of the only places that…

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Two Cousins

Two Cousins

Two cousins enjoying the wind in their hair. Boat ride from Ovalau Island to Leleuvia Island, Fiji. Whenever I am away from Fiji, I look forward to coming back. I can always tell when I am close to Fiji after flying over open ocean as the first thing you notice is the clouds that go up and up. It looks like another sea, but up in the sky.

Indo-Fijian Wedding guest – I was so blessed

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The bride accepting gifts

On the 14th of September 2013, we were invited guests to a very special celebration – the wedding of the son of our old neighbour from Koronivia Road, the home of my friend Sabita.    I have never been to an Indian wedding before, and it was such a great privilege to be invited.

I will let the photographs speak for themselves, and here are a few of my observations.

IMGP2499 IMGP2494 IMGP2500At the beginning of the evening, as guests are being seated in a temporary structure set up for the occasion, the ladies leave the venue, and walk together to the nearest cross roads.  They carry sweets on their heads, and eat and talk all the way.  At the cross roads, they collect some mud, and say prayers, and take it back to the wedding to be prayed upon and to bless the couple.  This symbolizes the cross roads that the couple have reached, and the decisions that have led them to their decision to marry, and all of their many future decisions and cross roads that they will inevitably face as a couple.  They then return to the venue, where the bride stands beneath a decorated canopy with a basket on her head and dances as the women come and give small cash gifts.  You have to hold the gift over the basket, wave your hand three times, and then place it in.IMGP2468

IMGP2780After that, the mother of the groom (the hostess also) stands in the same canopy, and the other mothers and grandmothers bring bowls of food prepared for the occasion, wrapped in colourful sulus and present them to the mother.  They receive a dance from her in return.  The last to make the presentation is the couple to be married.  The mother each time pours a little blessed oil on each bowl.

There were two long trestle tables set up, and people sit and eat, and then make room for the next guests, so that there is eating almost all night long.  The men and boys are completely responsible for food service.  When you sit down you are given a plate and a cup, and boys come with bowls of food, and serve little bits of curry and roti, and dahl over and over until you are sated.  This is the only time I have seen Indian men involved in food, and was told that they only do it at the wedding.

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The bride and Sham’s daughter

IMGP2571The women all wear saris or salwar kameez (dress with tight pants under and a veil) and the room literally shimmers with the beading and sequins.  The way it lights up the faces of the women is incredible.  Women who I normally see farming or serving in the store are transformed literally into godesses.

There are musicians too.  If you like the song, you also make an offering to the singer of $2 or $5 by waving it over his head three times, then putting it in his bowl.  It is best to give a note rather than a coin.

Recently, Fiji got rid of the $2 note, and replaced it with a coin.  This has caused an enormous problem in the Indo-Fijian community, as now the smallest note is a $5 note, and to give that at a wedding or funeral is a burden on many families who live on $60 a week.

The entertainment is always varied and often multicultural at Indian events.  At the wedding, the girls danced, and they had a female impersonator from the Solomon Islands who did a wonderful dance in hula style.  His half-man-half-lady (as they are called here) friends came to collectIMGP2475 him at the end and were welcomed.

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Sham (centre) and Nilesh’s father (right)

Everyone is catered for, my friends Sham and Nilesh who are both in wheelchairs after a car accident many years ago – Sham is a very successful insurance agent, and Nilesh has just found a career as an artist supported by social workers from USP; Nilesh’s father who has just had two toes amputed from diabetes but always has a joke about it (Fiji has

the number one rate of amputation from diabetes in the world); the transvestites; everyone!  My friend Sivnila who is fifteen years old and does our lawnmowing.  He attends school and works the 8 acre farm with his mother, and makes money selling vegetables and lawnmowing to support the family as his father is bedridden after a heart attack.  Jason and Sonam, whose father has been lying in bed at the back of their house with body weakness for many years, and whose mother, my friend Agnes (a gardener) has now joined him after a severe stroke.  She is now almost immobile as there is

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Sivnila and Nilesh

very little treatment here except for massage and family visits.

There is always a place where the men can be served Kava (yaqona) but there is no alcohol.  Ladies do not drink at all, except for during the meal, and it is only cordial.  Maybe it is so difficult when so many ladies might need to use the bathroom with saris so they just avoid liquid intake.  I am not sure, but I am always struck by the difference in culture.  In my culture, it is always polite to offer a drink of some kind to guests, but not here, so I often am very thirsty at events I attend!

The young men do go and buy beer, but they do not drink it at the wedding, they will drink it outside, and Nishant and Sanila’s shop stayed open til midnight especially.

The atmosphere is electric and calm at the same time.  There is a sense of family that runs right through the community that brings a deep contentment.  I am humbled to be included in that large family, and love dearly my family on Koronivia Road.  IMGP3312 IMGP3308 IMGP3283 IMGP3275 IMGP3268 IMGP3185 IMGP3085 IMGP3087 IMGP2908 IMGP2944 IMGP3023 IMGP2902 IMGP2868 IMGP2850 IMGP2730 IMGP2659 IMGP2656 IMGP2605 IMGP2601 IMGP2576 IMGP2571 IMGP2511 IMGP2509 IMGP2497 IMGP2494 IMGP2489 IMGP2471 IMGP2456

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The groom’s father, my father in law, my husband

How to get from Levuka to Suva – water taxi option

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On the water taxi

A few weeks ago, I went once more to Levuka, the old capital of Fiji.  I had the opportunity to stay in a

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Leleuvia

wonderful home at the top of the hill owned by a colleague.

Traveling back, I got the water taxi from Levuka to Bau Landing, near Nausori with a stop over to visit a friend at Leleuvia Island resort.  From Bau Landing, there is a bus to Nausori which costs $1.60, and from there you can get the bus to Suva.  Otherwise, you can organise a taxi to collect you from Bau Landing, and the trip to Suva will cost about $30.

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The water taxi parked at Leleuvia

Usually, I take the bus/ferry service run by Patterson Brothers Shipping, but the trip from Levuka to Suva means getting to the bus

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The water taxi pick up at Kings Wharf, Levuka

stop at 4am.  This time, I took the water taxi, which was much better, and really fun!  The pick up was at 10am (much more civilised), and the cost is about $90.  If you stay at Leleuvia for lunch, there is an additional cost, but you can also swim, snorkel, and relax on the beach.  The details for the Leleuvia to Suva island transfers are at the Leleuvia resort web site http://www.leleuvia.com/island_transfers.html#.

You can also arrange to get picked up from Levuka, or Moturiki.  Leleuvia is really beautiful with accommodation in traditional thatched bures on the beach.  It is a small island that has only the resort, and is what people would think Fiji is if they had just one picture in their minds.  The lunch was served in a massive traditional bure that has the dining area and bar, and is open to the beach.  The cost to stay at the resort is surprisingly cheap and I am told that all the watersports are free, and that there is a special rate for kids.  Anyway, I can’t believe I didn’t know both about Leleuvia, and also about this excellent way to get home!

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Joe, the water taxi driver

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Moturiki Island

While in Levuka Town, my driver, Mr Ram took me along Beach Street to the tomb of Tui Levuka, near which is a stake that marks the centre of Fiji.  Levuka is on Ovalau Island, an easy trip from Suva or Nausori which are on the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu.  The island is part of the Lomaiviti group which means “heart of Fiji” so I don’t know why I was so surprised that there is a spot in Levuka which marks the actual centre of Fiji.  I am not a navigator, so I am not sure if this is gospel truth, but many friends from Ovalau assure me that what Mr Ram told me is true!  Mr Ram can also take you on a taxi tour all around the island which is a great day trip.  It is well worth the trip, as Levuka was the old capital of Fiji until the capital was moved to Suva in 1874, and as such was the hub of activity.  It is the site of the first school in Fiji, the first newspaper, bank, the first Town Hall built to celebrate the 50th year of the reign of Queen Victoria, the first masonic lodge, the landing site of the first indentured labourers or “Blackbirded” people, the first electricity in Fiji (which was privately funded by Reg Patterson the founder of Patterson Brothers shipping).  In fact Levuka had electricity three days before Suva.  Levuka is also the site where Fiji was ceded to Britain, marked by the cession stone.  It is the site of the oldest hotel in the South Pacific that is still standing (The Royal Hotel).  The longer I am in Fiji, the more Levuka is a fascination for me.

Levuka is also the site of the first Catholic church service in Fiji, I believe the first Anglican church, and the first Catholic Convent (Loreto), and the first Methodist Mission.  Levuka also had a pigeon post which is marked by a water fountain near the Post Office (also the first Post Office in Fiji) on Kings Wharf (formerly Queens Wharf).  Levuka is one of the three ports of entry for Fiji.

In Levuka, if you get a chance, visit Baba Settlement which is the settlement behind the town where the descendants of the blackbirded people from the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Gilbert Islands, Ellice Islands were brought to work on the cotton and sugar plantations.  Next year is the 150th centennial of the first recruits.  A lot of them were actually stolen from their homes or tricked into boarding the boats as the traders posed as missionaries.  Plus below, I have  included a pic of the rubbish dump at Levuka just out of interest.  Might have to push my recycling efforts to cans!

Baba settlement is one of my favourite places to visit.  To get there, go along Bath St, beside Levuka public school.  Keep walking and you will see some steps.  Go up the steps, then you will see that the path branches out into three different sets of steps.  All steps lead to Baba.  If you take the fork to the right, you will get to “the Baths” or “Bower’s pool” which is a concreted swimming hole with steps at the base of the waterfall.  If you cross the bridge, you can go up the steps to the top of Baba.

When you go there, be aware that you are walking close to, or through people’s front yards, and be respectful and polite.  If you would like to have a look at the waterfall, or have a swim, then make sure you ask to be shown to the Kaivika pool.  The water hole there is easy to negotiate, and lovely, especially after a downpour.  If you ask to go to the waterfall, you will be shown to the source of the waterfall, which is at the top of the extinct volcano core, and it is very slippery and hard to get to.  People in Baba are so friendly, and if you act nicely, they will be happy to show you around.  The gardens are divine, and truly permaculture, with flowers, pineapples, yaqona (kava), cassava, dalo (taro), beans, aloe vera, watercress, lilies and bananas all riotously growing in harmony.

Make sure you take your rubbish with you when you go, as there is no rubbish collection in Baba, and it has to be taken back to town.  If you have plastic bottles or aluminum cans, drop them at the Town Hall for recycling.

Cultural note:  If you walk north of town you will go through Levuka Village.  This is a traditional village, and as such, cultural protocols apply.  A few tips:  as you cross the bridge towards the village, please remove any hats, sunglasses, beanies, and backpacks.  Also, it is polite for ladies to wear a sarong or suli to cover any short pants, and to wear a shirt with sleeves.  If you want to look around the village, you must have permission, and go with a guide from the village.

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Baba settlement, Levuka

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Tin cans as far as the eye can see, rubbish dump, Levuka

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Mr Ram

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Waterfall at Baba settlement, Levuka

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Staying on the Coral Coast, Fiji – Things to Do, Getting to Suva, Finding a Toilet

A lovely lady called Emma contacted me through the Facebook site Clean Up Fiji after listening to the 4BC Australia Radio Interview last month where I was asked about recycling in Fiji and what I am doing personally to combat the issue.  She is going to be staying at the Fiji Hideaway Resort on the Coral Coast, Fiji shortly and has offered to help by taking some photographs and doing a blog post or Facebook post of her experiences.  I recently went to the Hideaway to visit some other friends, so thought I might give Emma my tips.  It seems the tips might be useful to others, so here they are with some extra bits added for clarity.  For more travel tips click here:

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Hare Krishna Temple, Sigatoka

Things are moving along here now. My husband and I are organizing a recycling program at Fiji National University,, Koronivia Campus and also Levuka Town, Ovalau Island and some of the other islands. Community support is growing. I visited Hideaway recently when some other friends were there, and found out that they do recycle there, which is great. My friend said that she asked about the coral planting project and it is no longer going. I believe at Hideaway resort that they used to have a program where you can replant coral http://marineecologyfiji.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Micro-reef-building.pdf . Also, just to let you know, if you plan to swim or dive, take care as there could be nutrients from sewage in the sea which you can’t see as it leaches from the resorts and villages. It can be a  real problem on the Coral Coast. My friend went diving and really enjoyed seeing the fish.  She also went on a reef walk which she enjoyed.  The best time for diving is at high tide so you may have to get up early!

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ecoCafe
Source: Facebook ecoCafe

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Horse riding, outside ecoCafe, near Korolevu

My suggestions to you while you are there – visit Kula Bird Park which is nearby and apparently lovely. My friends went there. Sigatoka Sand dunes is also good – an archaelogical site (ask at the hotel). Sigatoka town is nice to wander around, and you can visit the beautiful Iskcon Hare Krishna Temple there. If you go in the other direction (towards Suva) on the normal bus (just wait by the side of the road – it costs about $1 each) ask to get off at Votua Village near Korolevu village. I have a friend there who might be able to meet you if you like. Anyway, once you get to Votua village, then just walk (ask anyone) about 3 minutes down the road towards Suva and you will find the ecoCafe. It is run by a German lady and a Fijian man. They have a nice deck over the beach where you can eat and have a drink, and you can walk on the beach and your daughter can paddle around. They also cook a Lovo (earth oven feast) there sometimes. They sell some nice handicrafts there at the cafe also (better than the ones I saw at the resort).

There is also a waterfall near Korolevu but I have never been there.  You could ask at the hotel if there is anyone who could take you.

A great site for local activities near Korolevu (which is close to Hideaway) with contact numbers and websites is https://sites.google.com/site/fijibeachcottage/local-activities.

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Dining room, Beach Cocomo

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Sign outside Beach Cocomo

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Marie cooking dinner

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Marie at Beach Cocomo serving breakfast

You should also see if you can go for dinner at Beach Cocomo (contact details and pics here).  It is run by a Korean lady, Marie, who cooks the most delicious Fijian/Korean fusion for about $35 a head for 5 course dinner and you eat in a traditional bure with a sand floor, overlooking the ocean.  It is about 10 minutes drive from the Hideaway by taxi and Marie can order a taxi to take you back after dinner.  Tell her I sent you and give her my regards!  It is really not to be missed.  She may ask for a deposit by credit card so that she knows you will come.  Don’t be concerned by that, as she has to buy the fresh food and if you don’t come it will be wasted!  She also does breakfast which is lovely and you can go for a walk on the beach there.  She makes the best babakau. (Well actually, I think I make the best ones, but hers are second best!)

If you have any room at all in your suitcases to bring over some stuff, my friend at The Gap has been collecting donations of second hand sheets, towels, clothes etc that are much needed here. Maybe you could bring a few as she has too much to bring with her? I can come and meet you, or you can leave it at reception with my husband’s name and he can collect when he passes by for work.

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Volavola at home with our Tanoa

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My husband and his father and
our nephew cook the lovo at home

The big bus stand is also right next to the big vegetable market which is interesting and there is a women’s section inside where you can buy some nice patchwork bags in Fijian fabrics. I bought one a year ago and use it every day for shopping and it still looks great. Also, go upstairs, as that is where they sell the Kava (Yaqona pronounced “Yangona”) If you want to visit the museum, then get a taxi from outside the flea market or vegetable market. It will cost about $3.50. The museum costs about $7 each to go in. It is surrounded by a botanical garden and is next to the Presidential Palace where you can see

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Suva Museum, Thurston Gardens

the guard who is there 24/7 in his white sulu with the zig zag bottom. It is also next to Albert Park. If you want to eat, across the road from the museum, on the sea wall is the Bowls Club. They are members only, but will most likely let you in and serve you if you say that you are new in town and it was recommended. Just ask if a member can sign you in. If you are a member of any club in Australia such as a football club, bring your membership and ask to be signed in as an affiliated club member. It is a nice walk back from that area past the Art Deco government buildings towards town. Once you get to the

Suva City Libarary (also a nice building to go inside) and Olympic Pool, turn towards the sea wall which goes behind MacDonalds and IMGP7389you can walk all the way back to the big bus stand over the bridge past the fish market. Once you go over the little bridge, you can see the vegetable market. Cut straight through the vegetable market and it takes you out to the bus stand where you can get the Sunbeam bus back to the Hotel. The trip to Suva is about 2 and a bit hours by bus, so leave early in the day and come back in the afternoon about 3pm to avoid the rush hour. It is a lovely bus ride and you will get to see a bit of Fiji. A few tips regarding

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Mats and Masi at Suva Flea Market

finding toilets: Make sure that you take some toilet paper and wet wipes with you as most of the toilets will not have toilet paper or soap as you are expected to bring your own. If you want to go to the toilet when you get to town then you have to be strategic. There are some pay toilets (50cents each) which are very clean, and you can find toilets most of the way along the route to the museum if you know how. I will put the details and a toilet map in my next message as I have to go and do some gardening now before it gets too hot!

This is Fiji – my day off from blogging!

Yesterday, I took a day off from blogging, and researching the effects of beverage plastic PET bottles and other plastics on the environment here in Fiji.  I have a wonderful friend who sent some stuff from home with her friends to Fiji.  My friend collected up some old footy jerseys, footy socks, some solar lights (thanks, and if anyone else is coming to Fiji, please ask your friends to pack a couple of sets of solar fairy lights in their luggage and I will collect from wherever they are!).  Solar fairy lights give enough light to eat, do evening stuff as a family and stay on all night until dawn.  They seem to stay lit a lot longer than the other types of solar bulbs for some reason.

Anyway, so I arranged to meet Katie and Tony Hiller who run the Mount Glorious Butterflies near Brisbane, Australia (www.mountgloriousbutterflies.com)

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Village near Korolevu, Coral Coast, Fiji

They arrived a week ago and leave today so yesterday was my last chance.  With one thing and another (got my wallet stolen, no cash, no cards, no transport) I kept putting off our meeting.  Yesterday, thinking I had money in the bank, I got a bus to Nakasi.  I tried my ATM, but no joy.  On to Suva.  I was lucky enough to get in a return cab for $1.50 (same price as the bus) and met a fellow passenger who is the team manager for the Davuilevu Knights Rugby Under 16s League Club.  Now my son can finally go to footy training!  The club is affiliated with the Newcastle Knights in Australia, but they are still waiting on training jerseys, balls and other equipment.  Apparently the old contact has now left, and things seem to have broken down.  If you have any spare football jerseys, boots of any size, shorts, socks, balls, pumps, or spikes, let me know and I can arrange to get them here.  There are very few clubs outside of schools, unlike in Australia, and this is the first one I have found.  I gave the guy my number, he said he would call.  I got to Suva and they guy (Andrew) offered to walk me to the minivan stand, but I told him that I was ok, as am used to finding my way around in Suva.

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The ubiquitous Coke truck – Coca Cola has basically branded Fiji – it is everywhere!

The cab dropped us off outside the Flea Market. From there I had planned to go to the ATM, get out some cash, buy them a gift as a momento of Fiji, and then travel to the Fiji Hideway Resort on the Coral Coast by minibus to meet my friends.  Well, I had made a boo boo on my internet banking, so when I got to Suva, no cash.  I only had $25 in my wallet and the return fare to meet them and get home was $23.  I decided to make the trip.

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Katie in the traditonal Bure (hut) that is on display at the Fiji Hideaway

I got in the Suva to Sigatoka minibus for $10 and enjoyed the ride.  As always, I was constantly thinking about the mangrove reclamation (a euphamism they use here for the destruction of the mangroves where they cut, then burn, then cover in hessian or similar, then cover with dirt, then build industrial areas) outside of Lami, the Coca Cola, Fiji Water and their other brands and the thousands of bottles on the side of the road, in the creeks and river mouths etc, but decided to give my mind a rest and let some thoughts collect.

For Katie and Tony, on their first overseas trip in nine years, they were literally forced to relax.  Tony did so much at home before they left that he gave himself acute sciatica and could not go anywhere at all.  They did make one trip to the Kula Bird Park which they really enjoyed as Tony breeds and studies birds and Katie is an insect lover who breeds butterflies.   Luckily, they were in the perfect place to relax – a resort in Fiji!  Katie joked about the need for a wheelchair, but in Fiji, I know that any of the Fijian lads who work at the hotel would have happily carried Tony where ever he wanted to go – life is just like that here.  We want every one to be happy – really and truly.

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View from the truck on the ride home

I had the nicest day with Katie and Tony, who are on their way to Nadi airport right now.  By the time they get home, they will be on the internet – as promised!  What an interesting couple.  Katie was born in Aruba, and when she was growing up, she remembers there being only one hotel which the locals called “The New Hotel”.  Now apparently, Aruba is a tourist mecca.  Katie then moved to the mainland USA and then went traveling.  Forty years ago almost to the day she sailed on a yacht to Fiji and landed near Suva.  She loves diving, and still had a hankering to see and dive the Great Barrier Reef, so she traveled to Australia.  Tony, who used to work at a Zoo in the UK (the name escapes me but here is a list of UK Zoos, and Tony might fill in.  He says that the Zoo he used to work at has really come ahead since he has left – I pointed out that that might not be a coincidence!  Anyway, Tony, forty years ago had gone to Heron Island to collect samples of insects or birds, and as he tells it, he collected an extra specimen, Katie.

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Katie, me and Tony

They are a young and vibrant couple, Tony is 71 and Katie is 62.  We talked and talked about rubbish in Fiji, rubbish in the ocean, country life, travel plans for the future, their butterfly and bird park, and my obsession with plastic trash. I even stopped and asked the hotel garbage collector staff what happens with their waste.  They tell me that at the Fiji Hideaway, all rubbish is taken to the back area and sorted into plastic bottles, glass wine bottles, cans and paper, then the rest, and the recyclables collected by a company called

Waste Recyclers(Fiji) Ltd
Phone: 336 1055/992 1056 (Lot 26 Wailada Subdivision, Lami),
Email: wasterec@connect.com.fj

This has to be a good thing!  Suva City Council states that

A total of 1,954,120 kg of rubbish(house garbage, green waste, general refuse) were disposed of at Naboro Landfill. Source: http://suvacity.org/home-composting/

It is not clear whether this is a yearly for 2012, or a total figure since the landfill was established.

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Bele flower – the first time I have seen one, at the Fiji Hideaway display food garden. We normally eat the leaves too fast and the flowers never get to form. Bele is in the hibiscus family and really delicious

I finally tore myself away at about 5pm, to give Katie and Tony some time to enjoy their last night in Fiji, and went across the road to wait for a minivan.  I met a taxi driver who hailed a truckdriver friend.  The driver was not going to Suva, but was going all the way to 9miles, which is a $2 taxi fare from my house!  What a great trip.  Along the way, other passengers got in and out, and we all talked.  In Fiji, everyone is happy to talk.  Everyone wants to know about you, and wants to share information about themselves.

Katie was mentioning that at the resort, everyone says “Bula” which is kind of loosely translated as “Hello” but in a happy way, sort of “Happy Hello”.  I think she wondered whether it was just a tourist thing, but it really is genuine.  Fijians as a nation (including all Fijians, whether iTaukei, Indo-Fijians, or the quaintly named “Others”) are to me at least, very genuine.

Sitting up in the cabin of the truck, I had a great view, a seat to myself, with my big bag of stuff from home stored comfortably at the back!

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Deo, the truck driver

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Deo’s boss who found me a taxi

On arriving back in 9miles, the driver, Deo, gave me his number and invited me to visit at home with his wife.  His supervisor, Suresh, immediately got my bag, helped me jump out of the truck (I literally did have to jump), and insisted on hailing me a taxi to make sure I got home safe.

When I told the driver where I wanted to go, he headed to my old house, remembering me and where I used to live before we moved a couple of weeks ago.  I got home, and still had $5 left in my purse.  I came home happy.  Half an hour after I got home, guess who called – Andrew from the footy club, as promised!

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Katie outside the Fiji Hideaway, saying our good byes

So nice to see and hear from people from home, and so nice to meet new people here.  I know that Tony and Katie will be back to Fiji – they have to come – my husband wants to cook them a lovo!  One week in Fiji is really not enough – if you come, please come for at least 10 days.  We would have been so honoured to have Katie and Tony as guests in our home for a night or two, and show them some of our little part of Fiji, and hope that next time, as they only have to save for the air fare, and not the accommodation, that they will take us up on it, and that it is not nine years from now!

Rural Fiji – labour of love

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Sunrise over Koronivia

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Sunrise Koronivia

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Harvesting rice

Sometimes I know that I may sound negative with some of the posts I put up, complaining about or documenting rubbish and PET bottles, burning plastic fires and so on.

Part of the reason I am so saddened by it all, is that I love Fiji so much.  I have really come to love rural life – I never thought I would.  I am a beach girl by nature – the thought of not being able to access the ocean normally terrifies me – really.  I remember years ago, I had the opportunity to move to Botswana.  I am ashamed to admit that the reason that I held in my

“secret heart” and not one of the many reasons I ever voiced, was that I could not do it, as after looking on the map, I realized that Botswana was landlocked!

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Rice harvesting, Fiji

Fiji is a nation of islands,

hundreds and hundreds of islands – and I live on the largest one.  I am not that far from the sea really, and see it every time I take the bus to Suva but no one really swims in the sea here.  If they do, they often swim fully clothed for modesty and cultural reasons, and there are no surf beaches on this side of the island at all (or in fact any place in Fiji that I have been to).  Note to self – must visit surf side sometime.  Even though we live on an island (a big one), we live in a rural setting.  I have once seen some people swimming in Suva near the bowling club, which was wierd.  The water is so filthy that the sand is black and the water is often blackish grey also.  There were rusty cans and

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Rice paddy, Fiji

plastic bottles everywhere, but a mother watched as her two young kids had a ball in the water.  The water in Suva Harbour is so contaminated, and it is widely documented and known, but many people here don’t read the paper, so I guess how are they to know.  I have also seen people daily catching fish in Nubukalou Creek in Suva and in the Harbour.  Maybe they are not aware?

toxic creek

 

Of particular concern is Nubukalou Creek which drains a major area of the city that is without sewerage. The National State of the Environment Report states that “with faecal coliform levels thousands of times above an acceptable level it should be regarded as a sewer. The continued sale of fish along the creek bank, with the consequent use of its water for washing them, is a serious health hazard.” Source: http://www.unescap.org/drpad/publication/integra/volume2/fiji/2fj02c03.htm

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Cattle, Fiji

Anyway, enough about Suva…..What has made me love it here in Rural Fiji so much I often ask myself?  Is it the sunrise over the coconut trees – some days red, some days golden?  Is it the sight of a hawk flying low (a sign that bad weather is coming)?  To me, when I think of Fiji, I don’t think about beaches at all, I think of the country side.  I think of the beautiful rural places and people.  Most of Fiji is rural and people live off the land.

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Mother and son take a walk in the morning mist

Is it the peace and quiet? Is it that every where you look it is green and whatever you put in the ground grows like wildfire?

It is all of those things, but mainly it is the people.  Life here has a different pace.  A friend of a friend is here in Fiji for a week at the moment and she has kindly brought some donations from home.  I am so looking forward to meeting her, and will travel by bus tomorrow to the Coral Coast to collect the donations, and have a conversation.  A week goes so fast here, not because you fit a million things in, like in the developed world, but because you don’t!  I started wondering how I would ever find the time meet with them, and that if I don’t do it tomorrow, soon the week will be gone, and so will they.

The pace of life is often determined by the task at hand, and the tools available.  My task right now is to write this blog – I have a working computer in my home – not many people

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Farm Road Fiji

here have that.  I have a working internet connection – also not common.  Once I hit publish, the job is done, and all my typos and immature thoughts will be out there for the world to see.

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Grey herons stalk the rice paddies waiting for fingerlings

Here, much is done by hand.  Many hands, over long hours.  Yesterday, I needed some milk powder, so I took a walk down the farm road about a kilometer to my friend Sanila who owns a small shop in Koronivia.  I could have gone by bus to the nearest supermarket which would have taken about 10 minutes, but I felt like a chat and seeing a friendly face.  So, I got my cloth shopping bag (also an oddity here as this is still plastic world where service means double bagging!) and my camera and took a walk.  On the way, in the field, some men were harvesting rice from a research paddock.  They were doing it all by hand.  Cutting each bundle, walking it over to a pile, and then the piles would eventually be put into a tiny threshing machine and then the rice bagged into 50kg bags.  After that, the rice straw will then be carried to a big pile.  Sometimes we use the rice straw on the garden and it is a great weed mat.

I stopped for a chat and asked if I could take their photo for my website.  They happily agreed, posed, and then went on with their work – all day. Each of the men probably earned between $10 and $20 for the day’s work.  That is not much, but bread is 75 cents a loaf so the money they made (less their bus fare) will pay for the family meal.

A lot of work here is manual, and people still have time for a chat.  Even though I sometimes get lonely, I am never really alone as everyone I meet is keen to talk, and share and find out about each other.

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Working bullocks, Fiji

Ploughing is often done by a team or working bullocks, or a horse.  Cassava, dalo, corn, ochra (bindi), bele, bananas, coconuts, limes, everything seems to be harvested by hand.  Milking is often also still done by hand.  And all these tasks are seemingly, to my western eyes, done with pride, love, laughter and happiness, and always in groups.

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Teenagers enjoy juice after working together clearing our yard

It is the love, laughter, togetherness and conversation that has made me love rural Fiji.  Everyone asks us to come to the village for holidays, and they mean it.

There is a calmness to Fiji rural life that I find comforting.