Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
I read the book Savvy by Ingrid Law for my book report. It is a book about a girl named Mibbs short for Mississippi. Mibb’s family is not really what you call normal. Each person on her mom’s side gets a special gift for their 13th birthday. It’s not like a new set of colored pencils or a new iPod, it’s a gift called a savvy. Every savvy is different, for example it could be being perfect at everything you do or brewing up big storms when near a large amount of water, along with many other things. When Mibbs wakes up on the morning of her 13th birthday, on the next bed over her little sister Gypsy bounds out of bed. Now you have to understand that Gypsy could sleep through anything, even if the house caught on fire or a car alarm went off right in her ear, so this was very very unusual. In the next couple of days Mibbs figures out that her savvy gives her the ability to wake people up and to read the thoughts of people who have any kind of ink on their skin; like tattoos both permanent and temporary or doodles and writing. Here are some Photos of drawings I made of tattoos that she could talk to. In the book she uses her savvy to solve a family crisis.
By Tica Drury
Here is some information about the practice of drinking Kava in Fiji. We hope to share some with our Fijian neighbors in the near future as we ask for their blessing to explore the reef. This is an important custom which we hope will put us in good stead with the folks in our area. We've heard that it is a lot of fun as well. - Brooke
Yaqona (Kava) Drinking
Yaqona drinking is a very important aspect of the Fijian culture and one of the favoured pastimes of the Fijian people. Yaqona, or kava, is an infusion made from the root of the kava plant (Piper methysticum – a type of pepper plant). Referred to as “having a grog”, drinking yaqona is done by villagers and urban dwellers alike. Local healers use kava to help cure ailments such as tooth decay and respiratory diseases. It is a known diuretic.
Ancient Fijian cultures used the drink in religious ceremonies and only chiefs and priests partook in the special drink. The traditional preparation was done by young women who chewed the root to blend it with their saliva and make the mildly narcotic effects more potent.
While kava is not an intoxicating drink, it does have its effects (ranging from light-headedness to a mild feeling of euphoria). It is a social drink and a social experience. Today, kava is made without the addition of saliva, and instead is diluted by pounding the kava root in water in the tanoa (a large wooden bowl designed especially for this purpose) until the water becomes muddy looking. There is a certain etiquette to drinking kava and there is still much ritual attached to it, especially in the more remote areas of Fiji.
When the kava is ready to serve, guests (who sit cross-legged facing the tanoa) are offered a drink from a bilo (half a coconut shell). When offered the bilo with kava in it, guests clap once, accept the bilo and say “bula!” , drink the contents of the bilo all at once, then clap three times to show appreciation of the drink. The drink is shared until the tanoa is empty. While it is not necessary to drink every bilo offered, it is considered very rude not to accept the first one.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
We have now been here at SigaSiga Sands, our home away from home for a full week. As expected it has been a week of discovery with ups and downs, laughter and tears, sun and rain, but mostly it has been a week our family will not soon forget.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Settling in is a process not an accomplishment, a journey not a destination. It reminds me of adolescence somewhat, in that your state of mind changes on a regular basis. One minute you think you have it all wired, the next you feel like you are truly the clueless foreigner who will never fit in. It is to be expected, of course.
The process continues here in Fiji. We have slowly started to form a routine for school. (Homeschooling in itself is a process!) We’re figuring out the food thing – no small accomplishment with two American children with finicky tastes! Thank goodness for corn flakes, ramen, peanut butter and a lovely little invention called breakfast crackers. And so far, the coffee and chocolate supplies are plenty.
As hoped, we’re spending a lot of time on the reef, seeing new critters everyday and honing up on our snorkeling skills so we can venture into more challenging areas. We’re also learning how to tap into the local community and possible volunteer opportunities (Rotary!) so we can be of some use to the community and get to know people. And, in what was perhaps the highlight of our week, we located a wonderful garden bar with cold beer and warm hosts, who can give us the scoop on a lot of the local lore and personalities.
We will all take the bus into town this morning and then another one to the Cousteau Resort, which in typical Cousteau form has reputedly one of the best reefs around for snorkeling. We’ll see. The Cousteau name and the reputation of the resort was the initial impetus behind our checking out Fiji. The research kept pointing back to Savusavu so here we are.
In my wanderings on the reef this week, I’ve come to realize how lucky we are to have places like Fiji in the world. It is still so wild, beautiful and relatively undeveloped still. The people are beautiful and ever so friendly, making us want to get to know them better. Whether we will return or not, I don’t know yet. It is an awful long way from our home in the Pacific Northwest and there are so many other islands to explore. I’m glad we have such a long stretch of time to get to know it and to make a decision!
Friday, September 25, 2009
Fiji is a chain of islands just below the equator in the South Pacific. Fiji has a large amount of wildlife including 87 bird species. These creatures range through Fiji’s 332 islands. The Fiji Islands contain many habitats for birds such as shoreline, mountains and the tropical rain forests.
The threats to Fiji’s birds are varied. Some of them are:
- The Indian Mongoose, an introduced species, eats the eggs of ground birds.
- Logging takes away the birds’ habitat.
- Cats, rats and pigs along with the Indian mongoose eat the eggs of ground birds.
- People cutting down trees for farmland reduces the birds’ habitat.
- Ants, disease, and invasive plants are also a danger.
- Small-scale farming will eventually do much harm by reducing habitat.
- Fires to clear grass, for fun or by accident may wipe out entire Old Growth forests where birds live.
- Birds are taken from their homes in the rain forest for people to have as pets.
- People hunting sea bird eggs for food affects seabird populations.
- Roads for construction of cell phone towers make it easy for cats and other species get to remote mountain tops and other areas.
- Commercial fishing takes food away from seabirds.
Bird Life International, an international bird conservation group, suggests these different ideas to help Fiji’s birds:
- Prevent the mongoose from going to different islands in Fiji where they have not yet arrived.
- Work to make sure that land is managed in a way that is good for birds by adopting such measures as best practice logging and good wildfire management.
- Don’t cut down rainforests to make new plantations.
- Try to keep healthy parts of the rainforest together so the birds can have more space.
- Promote eco-tourism and other ways to make money from conservation of the forests.
- Keep new invasive alien species out areas where they have not yet arrived, like the mongoose.
- Help the Fijians’ understand why it is important to protect their rainforests and teach them how to do it.
- Study how rats, cats and pigs threaten birds and figure out how to lessen those impacts.
- Urgently find out how to save the endangered birds such as the Fiji Petrel and the Red-throated Lorikeet.
We have seen lots of birds already including the Fiji Goshawk, reef herons and the Fiji Parrotfinch. I hope that these Birds of Fiji stick around so that they can be seen by generations to come.
Source: I got my info. from Important Bird Areas in Fiji : Conserving Fiji’s National Heritage (ed. Vilikesa T. Masibalavu’s Guy Dutden,2006
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
- The Fiji Islands became independent from Great Britain in 1970, which was 39 years ago.
- The Fiji Island group is located in Oceania, 2/3 of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand.
- The highest point in Fiji is Tomanivi at 1,324 meters.
- Fiji includes 332 islands. 110 of them are inhabited.
- The official languages are English and Fijian. Hindustani is also spoken.
- The capital of Fiji is Suva, which is located on the island of Viti Levu. Viti Levu is the biggest island
- Independence day is a national holiday and is celebrated on the second Monday in October every year.
- The annual income per person in 2006 in Fiji was $6,200. The annual income per person in 2006 in the United States was $43,800.
- Some of Fiji's many crops include sugar cane, coconuts, cassava , and bananas. Other natural resources include timber, fish, gold, copper, off shore oil potential and hydropower.
- There are 28 airports in Fiji but only 3 have paved runways.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book 2007)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
It was a good day here at SigaSiga (pronounced singasinga) Sands. After a couple of days without internet service we were all getting a little worried that our lifeline to the rest of the world was going to be too short to reach us here in Fiji. Enter Pete (pronounced PeyTey) from Fiji's internet service provider, he got us all configured and now our lifeline reaches us here in our home south of the Equator. Now we can update our BLOG, facebook, check email, SKYPE friends and family and to the kids chagrin access ALEKS their online math curriculum. Hopefully this will help us get our daily routine smoothed out.
Monday, September 21, 2009
We made it to Fiji ok and it is so fun. We have are own private beach, a lily pond with a stream and 119 acres around us. There are cows, goats, and lots of coconuts.
We went snorkeling yesterday. We saw parrotfish and cone shells, which are poisonous. We saw money cowrie shells, tiger cowrie shells, and 3 crown of thorns starfish, which eat coral. It was very cool.
I was not expecting to not have Internet access but at least we have an Internet café here in Savusavu town. We are 11 km out of town and have to ride a bus to get there.
I met some kids and I play soccer with them. They are very nice and I like them a lot. I don’t know their names but they call me “the guy from the US.”
It is so big here! The flight was so long but at least we had little TVs in the backs of our seats.
Fiji is probably one of the best places I have ever been to. On the first day I was a little home sick, but I’m over it now. It is so pretty here; I am sending some pictures of the house. It’s so topical and green here. There are tons of palm trees that I hate to walk under because I am scared that a coconut will fall on my head. There are also lots of brightly colored flowers that are great to use in fairy houses. The water is so warm. We have a coral reef in front of our house, how cool is that! There is a Lilly pond, 10 cows, 4 goats, a swimming lagoon and a stream all in our yard. There are four buildings on the property; one is our house, the other is for the lady who takes care of our house, her name is Geeda. The third is for some people whom I don’t know what they do, they are really nice though. The fourth one is a bure that is like a hut, it has a thatch roof and no sides, and it is down on the beach. The last one is a really small house that they also rent out. This is where my uncle and aunt will probably stay when they come in December.
It is really weird, but it is the beginning of spring here, because we are in the southern Hemisphere. It is cooler here than I expected. I thought it would be really hot and humid because we are almost on the equator. I’m not saying that it is cold, the highs in the day are about 80 or 90 degrees. I love how the people here are so happy even though they don’t have much money, which goes to show that you don’t have to have be rich to be happy.
The kids here are really really good soccer players. Ian said that one of the kids was playing soccer, when one of the goats got away. Then he passed the ball and ran and jumped over a three and a half foot high barbwire fence, he landed on the goat’s rope and then tied it to a tree. That tale was told by Ian, so the truth was probably stretched a little bit, that is still pretty cool though.
On the first day we went to Savusavu town, it is about the size of down town Winslow, but there were so many people. It was so crowded, because when we went it was market day, there were so so so so so so many people. It felt like all the people from Seattle came over to Bainbridge on the same day to do their shopping. It was chaotic! There were about a million people shopping and getting stuff for the week. On the bright side, I found my new favorite food; it is like a cinnamon roll but instead of cinnamon inside there was coconut. It was so good.
We are still having Internet problems so please forgive the broadcast character of this email. The Internet is apparently down for properties along the Hibiscus Highway, which our road is called. We are unsure when it will be taken care of but hope soon. So, for now at least, we only have Internet access when we go into town. We’re doing that tomorrow (Monday) after schoolwork is done. Luckily we have the laptops so we can pre-compose email and use Skype to our hearts’ desire.
So the adventure has officially begun. The airplane rides were long as you might expect but we managed to make it to our destination with our wallet and ourselves pretty much intact. We packed well, it would appear. In fact, judging from the scene at baggage claim and customs in Nadi, we brought about as much or even less than a lot of vacationer couples brought for just a short stay.
Fiji is absolutely gorgeous. It is wild, green and much larger than we thought. We look forward to getting to know the place during our stay. Aside from the Internet problem, our lodging situation at Siga Siga Sands (aside from the Internet challenges) is everything we’d hoped it would be. The property itself is gorgeous, with acres of grass and scattered coconut palms and other tropical shrubs. There are cows and goats (aka the lawn mowers) and lots of different kinds of birds, including mynahs. Ian seems to have a mental block with the name though and is calling them “myrnas”, “mayas”, “minas”, among others. It’s pretty amusing.
The house is perfect for us. There are two bedrooms, a bathroom and WC, a kitchen and L-shaped living room/dining room, which empties out onto a covered porch. The kitchen is straight out of the 1970s, with lovely red Formica and wood grain Formica cabinetry. There is no dishwasher and, as often the case in the tropics, sugar ants abound. What great motivation to up the level of responsibility in the dishwashing department! There is a nice big dining table, perfect for meals, family meetings and game nights. The tablecloth we brought from home (our “couvert”) fits it nicely.
The living room faces the beach, which is about 100 yards from our door. The main furnishings are a leather recliner couch and chair in a lovely shade of electric blue with a matching oriental rug. There are two desks (nice), two entertainment cabinets, a futon and a few more chairs. There are lots of chairs in Siga Siga for some reason. The owners have also provided us with a tv and entertainment system and games, movies, puzzles and sports equipment.
Ben and I hit the jackpot with our bedroom. It is just right in size and has a spectacular view out onto the lawn and water. I woke up to the dawn this morning, which was hands down the best one I’ve ever witnessed.
Tica and Ian have already started taping posters and pictures to their respective walls in their bedroom, which is on the northwest side of the house. They each have a twin bed with a bedside table between them. The dresser and closet seem to fit all their clothes and so far the fighting over space has been minimal.
We have already met some of the neighbors – Fijians with kids. Yeah! This afternoon as I cooked dinner, Ian and Tica are playing soccer with two of the boys from “beach right” (neighbors to the right as you face the ocean). At dinner, they voiced that their skills would probably improve tremendously during the next few months.
We are still looking for the best snorkeling spot. There is a lot to choose from. All spots require quite a hike over hard pan, up to a ½ mile. We tried beach right yesterday morning, which yielded a little stuff far out. We managed to locate the drop off, which looks very interesting but is too challenging at this point for the smaller humans among us. We ventured beach left last night and this morning, where the pickings were a lot more enjoyable. The hard pan gives way to a shallow area of sand and coral formations, which harbor a lot of critters, including some cowries. We’ll be doing some more exploring of the spot tomorrow morning no doubt. As part of school, we’ll set up a grid in different areas to survey the wildlife and monitor fish behavior.
Okay, it hasn’t been all wine and roses since our arrival. We, well Tica, did have had one rather tough moment yesterday upon our return from Savusavu. Stores are closed on Sundays here and there was not a scrap of food in the house aside from our handful of Clif bars and a 2/3 full jar of peanut butter. Leaving Ben and Ian at home to unpack the gear, Tica and I struck out for Savusavu Town by taxi. The object was to explore and get a few days’ provisions. This was the site of Tica’s and my first “We’re not in Winslow anymore” moment.
Savusavu Town (population 5,000) is the size of our hometown of Winslow. Like Winslow, it is a strip of stores about a ½ mile or so. Tica and I only explored about a third of it. Unbeknownst to us, Saturday is Market Day. People come from miles around to do their shopping. It was sheer mayhem, with Indian music blasting from speakers everywhere and people bustling around trying to complete their errands before the 2pm closing time. Oh the Humanity! We think we might’ve seen one other white person there but otherwise we were the only haoles in town. How strange it felt to be the minority for once. Eye opening….
The food situation was another discombobulating experience. We checked out the farmers market and were relieved to seem some familiar items – rice, carrots, cucumbers, garlic, onions and even tomatoes – among the mysterious fruits and vegetables. There were lots of spices too, which made me wish I’d gotten a good Indian food cookbook before we left. (Time to get Epicurious!)
The grocery store, one of a few in town, had some items that looked familiar. We managed to snag a big bottle of olive oil, some pasta and a can of kidney beans. Cereal is available along with lots of crackers. Protein was another matter though. It looks as though we’ll be eating lots of chicken, maybe some lamb and lots of peanuts. We tried a can of corn beef but it did not even make it to the taste test phase. (I think it was the visible beef veins that did it.) And, surprisingly, we didn’t see much fish. We saw a couple of people carrying around small skipjack tunas in plastic grocery bags but that’s about it. Clearly we have to do some more exploring.
Anyway, back to Tica. Upon our return, the poor girl, who has been a trooper through all of this – getting her room ready for someone else to live in for a year, having been on the road for six weeks already, and dog tired from the trip – poor Tica just burst into tears when we got home. It was all so overwhelming. She said she was disappointed that things weren’t perfect the moment we got here. What’s more, she felt guilty feeling that way because she was getting to do something that so few others will get to do. Poor sweet girl! It was heartbreaking to watch, even though we were pretty sure that being tired and hungry had a lot to do with the outburst. Sometimes you really just need to have a good cry.
Tica recovered very quickly after a peanut butter sandwich and some cuddling. Such a trooper she is! The episode gave both Ben and me pause though. We’ve known all along what a monumental undertaking this is. We’ve known what we have signed up our children for this as well. We’ve known that there would be difficult moments. To come face to face with the reality of it all, especially on very little sleep, was jarring to say the least.
But what a difference a good night’s sleep makes! We went to bed at 7:30 last night and got up with the sun this morning. We spent the day checking out “our” reef, visiting the local resort (Koro Sun) and playing with the neighbor kids. We learned that Ian is a crack “finder” of interesting things on the reef. Tica and I sat under the shade beach bure and did some reading. Ian and Ben went exploring and found the lily pond. Ben and I discussed tomorrow’s school plans. Ian played with the Ipod Touch.
We’ll see what tomorrow’s trip to town brings in terms of emotions and feelings of homesickness. With such a peaceful place to return to though, I feel like there is a good possibility that it will go better than the last shopping expedition. We’ve also done a little more research into town and realized that Tica and I completely missed the “yachtie” aka expat shopping mall down the street. Maybe we’ll find some goodies to help ease our way into the Fijian diet. Maybe we’ll find some dominoes. Okay, and some fish….We’ll look for some fish.
Vinaka (thanks) for reading. I’m going to send this in email form but we will likely post it on the blog as well and—if I can figure out how to do it – on Facebook. Feel free to pass it along as well.
Much love to all of you. Write if you feel like it. It may take us a while to respond but we’ll do our best.
If you would like to write to us, here is our address:
c/o Siga Siga Sands
PO Box 393
Savusavu, Fiji Islands
Note that there is no zip code. Our landlord further tells us that it is important to write “Fiji Islands” as mail marked for “Fiji” alone sometimes goes to Fuji, Japan.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Please check back for more postings and updates as we approach the big departure day.