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!

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