Monday, October 26, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Some more background.....
Order : Chiroptera
Family : Pteropodidae
Subfamily : Pteropodinae
Species : Pteropus tonganus
Bats of the genus Pteropus, belonging to the Megachiroptera sub-order, are the largest bats in the world. They are commonly known as the Fruit Bats orFlying Foxes among other numerous colloquial names. They live in the tropics and subtropics of Asia (including the Indian subcontinent), Australia, Indonesia, islands off East Africa (but not the mainland Africa), and a number of remote oceanic islands in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Characteristically, all species of flying foxes only feed on nectar, blossom, pollen, and fruit, which explains their limited tropical distribution. They do not possess echolocation, a feature which helps the other sub-order of bats, the Microbats, locate and catch prey such as insects in mid-air. Instead, smell and eyesight are very well-developed in flying foxes. Feeding ranges can reach up to 40 miles. When it locates food, the flying fox "crashes" into foliage and grabs for it. It may also attempt to catch hold of a branch with its hind feet, then swing upside down — once attached and hanging, the fox draws food to its mouth with one of its hind feet or with the clawed thumbs at the top of its wings.
Friday, October 16, 2009
We are doing fine in our first three weeks in Fiji. On Friday, we helped the Rotary Club in a clean up of Savusavu and we cooked lamb sausages and gave some juice to the school kids who did all the work. Tica, dad, and I cleaned up a field that some people play rugby and soccer on. There was a lot of trash including a pair of large underpants, two or three cans of rum and what seemed like 5,000,000 pieces of broken glass, and some ribbon. I even found $.20 Fijian. I think we should have a clean up day on Bainbridge island.
Later we went to a village, which was quite an adventure. We played the Fijian version of baseball, which is called “Rounders.” We played with a stick of bamboo, a small piece of plywood and a tennis ball. I made a diving catch and, unfortunately, I got grass down my pants. I liked some of the kids but the only problem was that everybody wanted to hit at the same time and instead of calling you out they called you "dead." At the same time, the older kids were playing rugby in the middle of our game! Then we went in and had dinner with the chief and his wife. I didn’t want to eat the stuff including prawn soup, taro root, and noodles wrapped in taro leaves. Then we walked home in the dark. We saw lightning bugs and an oven which people from the village dry copra in. Copra is dried coconut shavings that are milled and made into oil used to make soaps and other products. Fijians from the village harvest it and sell it to make money. I also met a dog-named Texas. They also have ten baby chicks and a very small kitten and dog.
Here is some video footage of our game of Rounders last week in Waivunia, the village we visited.
On Saturday, we stayed home and made necklaces, bracelets, and earrings out of beads with Tica’s friends, Seruwaia And Ruth. On Sunday, we did the same thing. Monday was a holiday so we didn’t do school. Instead, we beaded and got a pet caterpillar named Francis from our friend Nai’s brothers. Francis lives on our porch table in a bowl with a colander covering the top. He poops so so much and we feed him lots and lots of leaves his colander has holes in it so air can get in.
I got bitten by an ant or something two times but we are having lots of fun going snorkeling almost everyday. On Sunday we went snorkeling and I saw a sea snake! It had to be at least three feet long. It was kind of scary!
On Tuesday, Tica and I cleaned Francis’s bowl. Even though we have only had him for one day he pooped like ten times. Then Dad went into town and went shopping. He got good food that we needed. Then we did are Fiji test and I got ten out twelve on the test to make a long story short I got 80% Tonight we will go to the Rotary meeting and go to the Internet café because we don’t have Internet right now. We will go to the bakery, which is called the “Hot Bread Kitchen.” They have fruit bread, buns, coconut rolls, and bread sticks. Then we will go have dinner at the Captain’s Café. I am going to have a hamburger and fries. Then we will go home. I actually had a chicken burger because they were out of beef. They were also out of pizza. On Wednesday we woke up and had toast and a bun for breakfast. And then we started school.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It has been a spell since we’ve posted due to some Internet problems at the house. As I write this, we have been out of email and other contact since Thursday. It is now Monday. Argh! Of course our problems would happen to fall on a holiday weekend! To make matters worse, we have been without a phone for going on three weeks. For a while we could receive calls but now not even then. This all has made for some very interesting living conditions over the long weekend. It was a real test of our “family togetherness” that we fared – more or less – pretty well.
This weekend also marked our further delving into relations with our Fijian neighbors. After a successful visit on Tuesday, we were invited to return to Waivunia, the local village, to have dinner with the chief and his family. The visit and Ben’s and my first kava tasting went well, although someone wore a skirt that was too shortl and was issued a cover cloth by none other than the chief – quite embarrassing. Next time I definitely need to wear the long skirt! Luckily, our new friends seem to be quite forgiving of such social gaffs.
Kava was kind of a let down to be perfectly honest. I was issued a much smaller dose than my spouse so this may have been the reason, but I felt no different after the experience. Ben, who stopped counting after five or so, reported that his tongue and lips started to feel numb after a while but that was about it.
The process of it all was quite interesting. It seems to be an adult men’s past time, a sort of Fijian Happy Hour. The kava (yaquona) was prepared in a large plastic bowl in the middle of a sort of circle on our host Isei’s upper porch. Isei is Seruwaia’s (yes, I finally got the spelling) uncle and one of the Chief’s five sons. A stone worker by trade, he seems to have the nicest house in the village, complete with indoor plumbing, a kitchen like the one at SigaSiga, a TV/DVD combo and furniture. He learned his trade at the local resort, Koro Sun.
To make Kava, the roots of the yaquona are ground and mixed with water, then served in a half coconut shell. The chief was served first, then our host, then guests (Ben and me) and then everyone else. After drinking, you are to clap three times and hand the shell back to the “mixologist.” This process started before our 3:30 pm arrival and continued probably well past the time of our departure at 7. Drink, chat, drink, repeat. It seemed a very pleasant – and peaceful – way to pass the evening.
I definitely felt out of place as the only woman there so, after two “woman-sized” portions of Kava and making small talk with the men between a few rounds, I excused myself to watch the kids – Tica and Ian too – playing in the field behind the house. They played rugby and a version of baseball with a tennis ball, four bases made out of two pairs of flip flops and bats made out of small plywood boards and a couple of pieces of bamboo. Outs were made as in kickball, by throwing the hit ball back to the pitcher. The kids ranged from 5 to older teenagers and all had a blast.
Dinner was soon called and what another interesting experience that was. Our cook was the Chief’s wife, a lovely woman named Bose (“Boh-se”) who doesn’t speak a lick of English but has a smile and laugh big enough to fill a ballroom and a manner that would make the shyest of guests feel right at home. She made us the most delicious meal of prawn and coconut milk bisque, boiled taro root and wacipoke (“whathi-pokey”), an unbelievably delicious packet of cooked ramen noodles wrapped in taro leaves and then steamed/braised in coconut milk. Our host had a table and four chairs (rare in Fiji homes) so we got the “first seating”. While everyone sat around on the floor waiting for us and to frequent exhortations of “Kana!” (Eat!), we began our meal.
It was a little tricky as we were not sure whether to eat all the food or leave some for another seating. Would we be insulting if we didn’t eat enough? Or would be considered pigs by finishing it all? I still don’t know but we did manage to enjoy our meal. The kids – Tica especially – did amazingly well. She got it that it would be incredibly rude to not eat what the Chief’s wife had cooked for us. Ian needed a little more coaxing but finally ate a few bites. We ended the meal with tea. (Did I mention that Tica is now a budding tea drinker? I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that she takes it with LOTS of sugar.) We also watched a bit of a movie (with English subtitles) based in Paris about some daredevil burglars. Surreal.
After dinner, we returned home to Siga Siga. We were all pretty much exhausted already from the morning of working the Savusavu Cleanup (look for an upcoming entry). Trying to put on our best manners in an unfamiliar culture and surrounded by folks who speak a language very different from our own, well, that left us utterly pooped! We were so appreciative of our welcome though and enjoyed getting to know these lovely people. We look forward to going back next week.
Internet-less and car-less, we stayed home for the weekend. We had many visitors, mostly children who came to play. It felt at times like we were living in an aquarium and we emptied the larder feeding snacks. All in all though it was a positive experience. Highlights included teaching Seruwaia’s “first brother” (cousin) Bals and a few others how to type, taking Seru and her sister Ruth (who sings through her snorkel) for an explore of the swim lagoon, making lots of beaded jewelry and trying breadfruit for the first time. We had our first dinner guests, Elayne and her son Scott, some “Europeans” we met through one of the people at the Rotary. We Drury’s also ventured back out to the drop off once and to our favorite snorkeling spot a couple of times. The fish spotting of the week was probably the spotted eagle ray that we saw out on the drop off. Cool.
Fiji Day by the way was pretty much a non-event. Perhaps it is because Fiji became a colony and gained its independence on the same day, I’m not sure. The “celebrations” were more akin to what goes on over Labor Day weekend in the States. There are sales in town, picnics and family gatherings everywhere but that’s about it.
All in all, I’d say we did pretty well without our electronic umbilical to home. It will be nice to get re-connected. In addition to schooling and getting in touch with everyone, we need to start planning our next adventures.
Coming up….. This week marks Diwali, the Indian celebration of lights. Tica and Ian will be doing research on that for school so look for an upcoming posting.
And pictures too!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
This week marks Fiji Day, when Fijians celebrate their independence from Great Britain. We spent the week studying Fiji history so that Tica and Ian have a brief understanding of what we will be celebrating when we go into town on Saturday. The following is a summary of their notes on the subject. -- Brooke
Fiji: A Brief History
>> People came to the islands from Polynesia in 2120 B.C.E. and settled along the coast for fishing. They called their land and themselves “Viti.
>> In 500 B.C.E., natives started moving inland and engaging in farming in addition to fishing.
A growing population led to more and more intertribal conflict, with no one chief or tribe in charge. Cannibalism became a ritual for humiliating defeated foes.
>> Europeans passed through Fiji in the 1640s when Abel Tasman sailed through and charted part of the archipelago but treacherous reefs and Viti’s reputation as “The Cannibal Isles” kept mariners away for the next 130 years.
>> Captain Cook arrived 1774 and changed the name from “Viti” to “Fiji”, probably what he heard when he asked the natives the name of the islands.
>> After the mutiny of his ship the Bounty in 1789, Captain William Bligh and 18 crewmen sailed the waters between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, now called “Bligh Water”. (Our home at Siga Siga Sands looks out on these waters.) Bligh’s boat was 21 feet long and they sailed more than 3,600 nautical miles from Tonga to Timor.
>> Europeans traders eventually started trade routes from Fiji for sandalwood (1804-1813), bêche de mer or sea cucumber (1830-1850), cotton (1860s, especially during the American Civil War years), sugar cane, copra and pine.
>> In the 1830s, missionaries (mostly Methodists) came from Tahiti to convert Fijians to Christianity with some success. Fijians melded the religion with their worship of ancient ancestral gods.
>> On October 10th, 1874, Fiji became a colony when Chief Cakobau and 12 other chiefs ceded Fiji to Queen Victoria. They thought that Britain could help them to consolidate their rule over all of Fiji. The colonial capital was established in Levuka on the island of Ovalau.
>> The colonial government did two things to try to make the Fijians happy. These two things would have a major effect on Fiji’s future up until the present.
>> First, the colonial government forbade the sale of Fijian land to foreigners. Even today, 83 percent of land is still owned by Fijians.
>> Second, the British also forbade the use of Fijian natives as laborers on copra, cotton and sugar cane plantations. Instead, the colonial government brought in Indians or “Girmitiyas”, indentured servants from India to do the work. Most were Hindu but some were Muslims and Christians. They came to Fiji on five year contracts and, once the contacts were fulfilled, they stayed. Many brought their families over to join them.
>> Indenture ended in 1919, by which time there were 60,000 Indians in Fiji.
>> Relations between Indo-Fijians and native Fijians were restricted. Indo-Fijians could not buy land so they went into small businesses and leased land from Fijians for farming.
>> In 1882, Suva, on Viti Levu, became the new colonial capital.
>> On October 10th, 1970, Fiji gained its independence from Britain. They adopted a British Parliamentary model of government with two houses. A “House of Lords” was comprised of Fijian chiefs.
>> The problem remains of relations between Indo-Fijians and Fijians. Today, 51 percent of Fiji’s population is made up of ethnic Fijians; 44 percent is made up of Indo-Fijians. The Fijian government has struggled over how to fairly take into the account the interests of the competing groups. They have had so much trouble that there have been three coups d’etat since independence – in 1987, 2000 and 2006. The government that took over in 2006, that of Frank Bainimarama is still in power and to date has not held democratic elections. On September 1st, 2009, a little more than two weeks before we arrived, Fiji was kicked out of the British Commonwealth because they have not held democratic elections.
>> Fiji remains an independent country however, and on Saturday, we will celebrate its 39th birthday.
(Sources include the Moon Handbook on Fiji by David Stanley and the Lonely Planet Guide to Fiji by Dean Starnes and Nana Luckham. We also planned to visit the Savusavu town library this afternoon in order to do some more research. The trip was put off due to the tsunami warning spurred by the earthquake off Vanuatu. We’ll try and get the tomorrow but wanted to get this posted.)
Monday, October 5, 2009
Attached with this posting are examples from Ian and Tica's snorkel logs. Every time we go snorkeling, they must keep a log with information about location, times, conditions and other highlights of their skin dives. Each dive they must also pick and describe a "fish of the day", complete with common name, scientific name and a colored drawing. As you can see, the kids are doing a great job complying with our requests.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Ian’s Snorkeling Rules
We have learned a lot about snorkeling in the last two weeks. Here are three things we have learned so far.
The first thing we have learned is to never go snorkeling alone unless you are experienced. Even if you are experienced you should buddy up if you are far out in the ocean or in a current. If you get hurt your buddy can go get help. You can also see more, because there are two more eyes on the lookout.
The second thing we have learned is to try to be as quiet as possible, because you will scare the fish away if you flail around too much. And if you move your arms too much you will get cold faster.
The final thing we have learned is to never kick or touch live coral. Coral is a very important part of a healthy reef. It provides homes for the fish and the many other inhabitants of the reef. It also provides food and hiding places for fish. If coral gets kicked or touched it can die and it takes a long time to re-grow.
Snorkeling is a fun thing to do and if we follow these simple rules we can be safe and have lots of fun.