Saturday, September 29, 2012

A house in Fiji

July 21 - 30

I could live in Savusavu.

In Fiji, my heart grew, my world view grew. When you have a child your heart expands to make room for yet another human that you will love with all your being for the rest of your life. The Fijians have an openness unmatched by any other pacific island culture that we have visited. People are people yes, but you have to get to know them to believe that each time you are introduced to another culture. Cruising around the Pacific Ocean as a life style is made up of passages and visits to remotes places with the occasional visit to a well developed country (New Zealand). 

Unlike European Kiwis, highly religious Tongans, and the proud Marquesans and French of French Polynesia, the friendly Fijians want to get to know you, to share something with you. If you follow the cultural norms when you are off the boat in Fiji [guide books suggest that women wear knee length skirts with a shirt that covers their shoulders;  men wear a shirt and may wear shorts; children imitate adults but the norm relaxes, i.e. girls can wear shorts,] you will be met with smiles of approval, "Bula" (Fijian for hello) and a genuine desire to meet you. 

Most cruisers make little effort to follow cultural norms and are seen only as rich tourists and their experience of Fiji is similar to their experience of Tonga or any other remote Pacific Island - except that the Fijians seem friendlier. But if you make a little effort with your clothing and do not display affection towards your adult partner (do not hold hands or kiss in public) you can easily bridge the most obvious cultural barrier, the color of your skin. Fijians are black and Indo-Fijians are brown while cruisers are predominantly white of European descent.

Our experience of Fijian life and cultural exchange began in the house Grandpa John rented for us near the city of Savusavu, between the Savusavu airport, and the village of Nukubalavu. Staying in that house for nine days cemented a friendship with the caretakers of the house that has affected our entire stay in Fiji. Every amazing experience we have had here had its roots in the friendships we made with Sisilia and Andrea. Sisi cleans and cares for the interior of the house and may be hired as a cook. Andrea is the grounds keeper, maintenance person and holds the keys.

The house is beautiful, every exterior wall is at least 60 percent windows while the interior walls display large carvings made by indigenous Hawaians, large Tapas cloths from Fiji or Japanese antiques. The curtains are made from brightly colored Polynesian fabrics. The walls, ceiling and floors are all lightly varnished wood similar to knotty pine. Griffyn and Tamsyn had their own rooms and their own bathroom. Owen and I shared our own suite of rooms on the opposite side of the house. Of course for us everything felt incredibly spacious and luxurious after living in such tight quarters for the last year and a half. 

It also felt simple and easy compared to living on a boat. I didn't have to dig for anything, I didn't have to move four or five items to get the one I needed (and put them all back before I could begin making bread for example, ) everything was within easy reach. The kitchen was large with lots of counter space, a six burner stove and large oven. Even the silverware was memorable - an antique silver plated service for 8 to fit the dinning room table, a glass octagon. I loved the huge bouquets of flowers - one a center piece to the round living room, another on the dining room table and each bathroom had a small arrangement. All the flowers were picked from the gardens surrounding the house. 

The whole piece of land felt like a huge tropical paradise. Everyday Andrea brought something fresh from the land - papayas, passion fruit, bananas, oranges, lemons, limes, breadfruit, lemon grass. I would then offer him tea and he would sit at the table on the veranda talking with Owen until the tea was brought out. 

Sisi or Andrea would scape the coconut and squeeze out the coconut cream for lemon grass tea while I found an ornate Japanese tea pot, china tea cups and saucers and a small pitcher for the coconut cream. The tea was served with brown sugar, from the local sugar cane plantation. 

The drive to the house.

View from above the house.

Andrea and Griffyn and "Lucy"

Pineapples along the road.

We would have have tea while sitting on the veranda looking out across the yard at tiny red and yellow flowers, pinkish red (stems), blue bells, orange bird of paradise flowers, to large leafed breadfruit trees, majestic mango trees, stalky papaya trees, vast rain trees with enormous canopies, and towering coconut palms surrounded sparsely by ferns and creeping passion fruit vines, to the bay with its blue, green and brown waters full of coral and tiny mushroom islands, to the crashing white surf beyond where we had sailed past the reef surrounding Vanua Levu - an island in Fiji where we moored our boat in Savusavu. 

Vinaka John
(Thank you in Fijian)

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