Suva, Fiji, 17 October 2011.
Fijian pronounciation guide: q = ngg, g = ng, c = dth, b = mb, d = nd. Once you figure that out, it’s pronounced as written.
Fiji is the most exotic (for lack of a better word. Rejected alternatives: foreign, different, interesting) place Twister has taken me so far. Yet it’s easy to get around and interact with the locals as they all speak English. In Fijian (ie native Fijians as opposed to Fijians of Indian descent) society, family connections are everything. When two Fijians meet, it appears to me that the first thing they do is ask what village they hail from and try to establish some sort of family or at least regional link. Confusing to me is that almost everyone is referred to (in English at least) as brother, sister, father, mother, uncle or aunt (occasionally cousin) no matter how distant the relationship. There are rules for which type of cousin one ought to joke with or not and with in-laws, whether one is supposed to talk to them at all. This is all my very superficial and very incomplete understanding—possibly everything I just wrote is completely wrong.
I have participated in several kava (yagona in Fijian) sessions. Kava is a mildly intoxicating drink (made from the root of some plant) enjoyed in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and several other places. Most westerners say it tastes like mud. It looks like muddy water, but I actually find the taste refreshing. The immediate effect is a slight numbing of the mouth. After several bowlfuls, I notice a mild sedation, similar to the effect of a beer or two, but without the stimulant/euphoric aspect of alcohol. The most I’ve had in one sitting is around 15 bowls (made from ca 1/3 of a coconut shell). I definitely felt something, but only a mild buzz. It appears to me that Fijians like nothing more than sitting around and drinking Kava—they’ll do it all night if there is time and enough Kava. Perhaps it just gets better and better the more you have (like beer). One other effect I observed is waking the next morning a bit groggy (which is funny because they also call the stuff “grog”).
|LT and Greg at Frigates|
I finally got some surf in Fiji. My friend, Greg, was in Fiji last week to work on his NGO, Pacific Blue Foundation, but he managed to take a break for surfing. We surfed Frigates Reef on the southwestern end of the Beqa Lagoon barrier reef. The break is maybe 4 miles from the nearest land (Yanuca Island)—definitely the farthest away from land I’ve surfed. We had two days of nice shoulder to head high waves and one day of mediocre surf. By coincidence, one of the villages Pacific Blue Foundation works with, Yanuca Village on Yanuca Island is one of the villages I had visited the weekend before Greg arrived. Pacific Blue Foundation has organized a traditional sailing canoe (Drua) race in Suva the last two years. I was able to attend this years race which took place on Saturday the 15th after being postponed due to squally weather the previous Saturday.