Monday, October 26, 2009

Trip to Labasa by Tica

(Here is an excerpt from an email Tica is sending to her friends about last week's overnight excursion to Labasa -- pronounced "Lambasa" -- which is located to the north and east of us on the dry side of Vanua Levu. Our trusty photo journalist Ben took the pictures.)

Today we just got back from Labasa, a city on the other side of the island. You would call it the smallest town that you have ever been to but I have been living in Savusavu, which is TINY, so it seemed like the biggest city ever on the face of the earth.

In the morning, we woke up at about 6:00 o'clock and took a taxi to Savusavu where we got on a bus that left at 7:30. On the two and a half hour bus ride, we we went through a bunch of jungle and rain. It was SO awesome! It looked like some show that they might show on Discovery Channel about tropical rain forests. Then we went over a few mountains and saw a bunch of waterfalls, which were really, really pretty. I almost froze to death as we went over the mountains because I was wearing shorts and a tank top with a really light sweater and the bus had no windows.

The scenery changed when we got over the mountains and reached the dry side of Vanua Levu. We saw a bunch of sugar cane and rice fields. We saw at least one mosque. When we arrived in town, we went to our hotel and got checked in. Ian and I had a brief argument over who got the bed by the window but it got resolved (eventually.)

Labasa was not what I expected. It was hot and dusty and busy with the hustle and bustle of a big city. There were also lots and lots of Indian people. We were the only white people there. (Here, white people are called "Europeans" or "kaivalagi" in Fijian.) It was really weird.

We had lunch and walked around town a bit where I got small patchwork rug at the farmers market. The market is much bigger than the one in Savusavu and has seeds, mats, brooms and other household items in addition to every kind of fruit or vegetable that you can imagine.

We then hopped into a cab and drove to the Naag Mandir Temple, where there is a growing rock that looks like a cobra. The stone has grown so much over the years that they have had to raise the roof of the temple four times since the 1950s! People go there to worship the Hindu gods. Many believe that the rock can cure the sick and infertile. It was really cool because there were all of these offerings -- food, flowers, candles, and the like -- to the gods like Ganesha.

When we returned to town, we looked for an Indian costume. They were all sewed by hand and had many beads and sequins on them. I didn't get one because I couldn't find one that didn't have sequins, which I don't like.

We were going back to the hotel to rest because Ian was so so tired when we met this guy, Vikram, that we had met with his family when we were picnicking at the beach last week. When we told them we were coming to Labasa, they offered to show us around and invited us to their house for dinner. We promised to check in with them once we arrived in Labasa but had decided to look around on our own a bit first. Vikram and his family had apparently spent the entire day looking for us, asking the bus drivers from Savusavu if any "Europeans" had ridden on the bus. He appeared disappointed that we had waited so long to get in touch with him. Although we were really tired, we couldn't really say no to the invitation and went along for another adventure.

Vikram got a taxi for us which was built to fit six people. We crammed in up to nine people over the course of the evening, including the four of us, the driver, Vikram, his daughter and a nephew and the driver's employee!! That was really uncomfortable. We went past the sugar mill and a huge line of trucks full of sugar cane waiting to be unloaded. I counted at least 65. The mill made SOOOOOOOO much pollution that I might never eat sugar again. (Just kidding.)

We also went to the fish market where on the ground in the parking lot there was a chicken claw that had been run over by a car. EWWWWWWWWWW!

After that, the driver, who is Vikram's neighbor and brother-in-law, drove us to Malau where there was a really nice view of the sea. We saw a really big holding tank full of molasses, which was 20 feet tall! It smelled so good it and for some reason made me think of home. Then we went down a bunch of bumpy roads to this place where there was another nice view where we could see a big cargo ship that took the sugar from the mill to other parts of the world. The place was a bible school that teaches missionaries from around the world. We watched the sunset from their beach.

By that time it was dark so we went back to Vikram's house and had a dinner of goat curry and fish in "lolo" also known as coconut milk. We figured that these people had probably killed a goat to make dinner for us. They also spent a lot of money on the fish. Even though I didn't want to, I tried the food. The fish was good but it was "too fishy". The curry was really spicy so I didn't really get to taste the goat. (That's okay!) We also had red rice, which is more purple than red. We ate our dinner with our hands. That was interesting! At home I would die to eat with my hands but after doing it I found that isn't all that exciting. If anything it was disgusting. There was a dog there named Blackie who was really nice and was a lot like Nala.
We got home really late and Vikram called us at 6:30 the next morning to talk with Dad. I said "Enough with the Friendliness, already!" Vikram and his family were certainly nice to us and good hosts. Although they are from an entirely different culture than we are used to, we found many similarities. After such a long day and such a long visit with them, we were ready to go home.

Going to Labasa, we experienced what it is like to be in a big city again. We also experienced what it is like to be a minority in a new place. I'm glad that we went. I'm even more glad that we are home again!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is Diwali?

Tica and Ian discuss the who, when, where, why and how of Diwali....

Fiji Wildlife - Flying Foxes

Here is a little more information about one of our mammalian neighbors in Fiji. The insular flying fox or Pacific flying fox is ubiquitous in our area. A large "flock" lives on an island about a mile to the west of us here at Siga Siga. They emerge from their "bat tree" at around sunset, which is happening at just after 6 pm these days. If you own a fruit tree with ripe fruit, you are destined to be kept up at night with their screeching as they fight over the fruit. And yes, they really do have three foot wingspans. Locals put them in soup. They catch them by sneaking up on them as they are eating and smash their heads against something. It is a tricky business as these little guys have a mouth full of nasty teeth.

A flock of Pacific Flying Foxes (look like little dots) leaving Wolf Island. Savusavu, Fiji. October 19th, 2010.

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.

Close up of a Pacific Flying Fox.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Ian's Update Oct 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

Weekend Update

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

Tsunami Warning No. 2

For the second time in as many weeks, we looked out upon our reef and wondered if we would see that dreaded water recession that comes with a tsunami. Last week's earthquake in the Samoa Islands spurred a mere tsunami watch on Fiji. We packed some important belongings -- passports, money, stuffed animals, water filter -- in preparation for a run up the hill behind out house. The watch was soon called off though, serving as nothing more than a drill for us Drury's. Today's warning was one step up from that.

This morning at around 11:15, Geeda our caretaker came running onto our front porch to announce that a tsunami watch was in effect for Fiji after an 8.0 or so earthquake struck in Vanuatu. (They say these earthquakes -- Samoa, Indonesia and Vanuatu -- are unrelated but I have my doubts!) The resulting tsunami waves, if they arrived at all, were expected to hit at 11:40. Geeda offered to drive us up the hill behind a local resort. She'd then come down to get her family. (We made sure to tell her that her family should come first next time!)

Last week's drill was a good preparation so within the span of 5 minutes, we were able to pack our important things, put on some good shoes and head out the door. This time, in addition to the cuddlies, money, passports and water filter, we packed a laptop and charger, the Kindle Ben's camera, water and some "breakfast biscuits" the ubiquitous cracker of choice in the South Pacific.

We sped up the Hibiscus Highway like a bolt lightning in Geeda's little red Honda. Geeda dropped us off at the base of the resort, where we ran up the hill to safety. We ended up waiting out the warning -- which turned from "Moderate" to "High"at around noon -- at a partially-built trophy home overlooking the water. It was hot as all get up but the view was spectacular. It also would give us an eerie birds eye view of any tsunamis that might come in.

Then the waiting began. Folks in vehicles of all kinds kept streaming up the road toward safety. As we watched the reef for signs of receding and the horizon for signs of white, we listened to our neighbors talking on their "mobiles" in Hindi, trying to track down everyone they knew to make sure they were in the know. Geeda said that all of Savusavu was closed down and that everyone had climbed the hill above town. The same situation was going on in Suva and many other of the islands in the Fijian chain. Our hearts went out to the residents of Vanuatu as well as those living on the scores of little islands that make up our temporary home.

Being media-savvy Americans, I think we were all under the impression that the wave was coming that very second and that anyone caught unawares could be the subjects of those terrible stories and videos we saw in Phuket, Thailand in 2004 or, more recently, in Pago Pago, Samoa. We were not so much worried about our own safety as that of the neighborhood friends and acquaintances we've made over the past few weeks. We had no phone and no car, thus no way to make sure that they knew and had time to flee to higher ground. It was a terrible, helpless feeling.

As the clock ticked on and the waves didn't come, our fears grew smaller. More folks streamed up the hill and Geeda told us that she had warned a number of folks along the road as she went back to get her family. She said that no one was in Saruwaia's settlement to the east of us when she went by. Furthermore, we learned that Vodafone, the local cell service provide has a good tsunami warning system -- as you can see by the picture of Geeda's phone screen above. The radio and televisions also blasted the evacuation order. I guess that is the silver lining behind the tsunami events of the recent past.

After an hour and a half of waiting, the warning was called off and people started heading back down the hill. Life resumed its usual Fiji Time pace. Phew!


Fiji Day is October 10th!

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

Snorkeling Logs!

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.

The purpose behind this exercise is to 1) practice keeping a log, which is required of SCUBA divers. It is also a great way to learning about the flora and fauna of the reef. We brought a comprehensive fish guide for Indo-Pacific fishes (Allen, Steene, Humann & Deloach's Reef Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific) and we the "fish of the day" exercise is a great way to use the book for research.

We have told each kid that she/he needs to log at least 25 hours of snorkeling in this way before we can even consider whether they are ready to try SCUBA diving. Snorkeling and SCUBA diving have many skills sets in common such as ear clearing, proper body positioning and gear manipulation. Both of us are convinced that good snorkeling experience will mean Even with the snorkeling, there are other prerequisites to SCUBA diving, of course. These include age -- one must be at least 10 to get a junior certification -- maturity level and ability to correctly and reliably follow directions.

The jury is still out whether the Drury kids will dive anytime soon. They are both making tremendous progress however and we are looking at dive outfits in the Savusavu area who would be able to provide them with a good education. We could aid in the process but as in most cases, it is better not to mention legally required to have someone else do the teaching.

We are hoping that, if done right, the kids will learn to love and enjoy SCUBA diving as much as their parents do. Yes, you could say we have an alterior motive but hey, so be it.

-- Brooke

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ian's Snorkeling Rules

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.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dad's attempt to inspire Tica into writing a poem

Far away
Islands in the sun
Jupiter in the sky

I miss home sometimes
Skype my friends
And cry
Now I feel better
Don't worry I am fine
Sunshine on my face

Brooke Goes to Town

Low on provisions at Siga Siga yet again, I decided to head into town on the bus this morning, while Ben stayed at home with the kids for school. It was an eventful and fruitful excursion, although a very hot one. For pretty much the first time since we've been here, the trades have not started up, making for a very muggy day. As I write this we are waiting for high tide at 4pm. That is our usual snorkeling time and what a nice break that will be!

The Nagigi (pronounced "nah'nyi-nyi") bus was full so I joined a Fijian neighbor Emalia for a walk along the road to a shady spot where we could await the next bus. She was a wealth of information. She and her family live down the Old Road to our left (east). The Old Road is still partially paved and runs about 50 yards in front of our house. As near as we can figure, it was the official road before the Hibiscus Highway, which runs about 100 yards behind our house, came along. Abandoned or not though, the Old Road is a big thoroughfare for the neighbors. All day long we see folks walking, riding or herding their goats up and down the lane. Everyone waves when they go by -- it is really wonderful -- and Ian and Tica have from time to time participated in some pick up soccer games along it.

Emalia is the mother of Sarahwaia (not sure on the spelling), who is 13, Ruth, who is about 9 and four other children. Her husband is a stone worker, who builds rock walls and such for the resorts. Business is slow at the moment so he is mostly at home planting vegetables. (Remember that we are going into springtime down here.) Her husband is also a SCUBA diver and has taken it upon himself to declare "our" part of the reef "tabu" (sacred prohibition) to fishing. Emalia said that the other villagers are afraid of him and so follow his wishes. (I look forward to meeting him!)

I would say that Emalia was very patient and gracious in answering my many questions about the lay of the land and Fijian etiquette. I kept repeating that we wanted to be good neighbors. She confirmed our suspicion that the clump of houses to the left of us is part of a village that lies up the highway a bit. We haven't seen the village itself because it lies up a side street. We will no doubt go visit though, maybe even bringing the kava we bought at the market the other day. She invited us to church on Sunday afternoon. That should be very interesting.

Well, the bus finally came and we parted ways in Savusavu. Emalia went into town to a meeting at her daughter's school, the secondary school in town. I did not see her again. I went about my shopping, but not without first going to visit with Sailosi at the Savusavu Cafe, a beautiful spot overlooking the little body of water between Savusavu and Nawi Island. Sailosi happens to be the President of the Rotary Club, which we visited on Tuesday night. I thought I should say hello and I couldn't help but order a cup of coffee. ' turns out that he makes a pretty mean Americano. Nice!

After coffee, I hit the market, the grocery, the butcher and the baker. (No candlestick makers in Savusavu so far as we've found.) I also checked out the pearl farm store (pricey but WOW black pearls). I went into a store called "Pots and Things" and got some twine for our reef study project. Then I headed back to the bus station to wait for the 1pm bus. By this time, the heat was really getting to me. I didn't have money to stop for lunch -- forgot my ATM card -- so got a Coke (with real sugar!) and sat in the waiting area for the bus to arrive. What a great people watching spot!

The Savusavu bus station is in the middle of town, right next to the outdoor market and taxi stand. It seems to be busy all day, with buses coming and going to all parts of the island. There are two big towns on Vanua Levu, Savusavu and Labasa, which is a three hour bus right to the north east of us on the dry side of the island. People from villages all over come to town by bus to do their shopping. As a result, the bus ride home is always full of people with gigantic shopping bags, boxes and other large items in tow. The Nagigi bus is a local so our bus wasn't all that crowded for my 1pm return.

The bus ride home was lovely, especially after sitting on the bus for a half hour waiting for departure time. On the ride home I heard snippets of conversions in Fijian, many including the words "Samoa". Yes, the news from the earthquake and tsunami is of great interest here, as one might imagine.

Long story short, we are gradually figuring our way around Savusavu. There is so much to explore that I am at this point having a very hard time imagining we'll have it all wired before our departure in mid-January. I am so happy to be here!

High tide is upon us to it is time to awake the troops (!) and head out to the reef. Next time I'll write about our experiences with the Rotary. Moce (pronounced "'moth-eh") for now.