Monday, May 28, 2012

This Place Where We Are

No, it doesn't get much better than this...

Krister and the Piko's lounging pool-side with a few Fiji Bitters- the local beer.

They say when in Rome do as the Romans do. When traveling anywhere it is a good idea  to follow the cultural customs of the place where you are. With that in mind, I want to share a few things to keep in mind next time you're traveling through  Fiji.

Fijians are more reserved and conservative in their dress- no matter how hot and humid it is. For ladies that means covering your shoulders and thighs/knees. For the guys, it means keeping your shirt on, preferable a button down, short sleeve "Bula" shirt. Also no hats or sunglasses around the cheif. It's seen as disrespectful. We're in a more touristy town so they let us slide a bit. But once we're out in the villages, we'll run the risk of offending the locals if we're not dressed appropriately. Also no public displays of affection, touching a Fijian's head is considered an insult as it is a sacred part of the body, take your shoes off when entering a building... and come bearing kava.

The Lauren's from Piko, Bill and Sue from Diligaf and Krister enjoying the ICA rally welcome.

Amanda accepting a welcome basket of local fruits and root vegetables.

We'd heard about this kava stuff when we were in Tonga, but it wasn't until Fiji that we tried it.  We took part in  a sevusevu ceremony as part of the rally and welcome events when we first arrived. We sat crossed legged in a circle. They mixed ground kava root with water. Then they said something in Fijian- like welcome to Fiji and stuff. Then one of the boys delivered a bilo, or cup, to each of us, one at a time. When presented with the kava, you clap once, down the whole cup and clap three more times. It tastes like herbaceous dirt and it numbs your lips with the first bilo. Men start drinking it around age 18, and it can become an all day, all night activity; sitting around talking. Kinda like some of us with our tea or coffee drinking.

Mixing up the pulverized kava root with water in the kava bowl (called a tanoa)

Lauren-girl accepting a bilo of kava during the sevusevu ceremony

It sounds like we're in for much more kava time. For every island and village there is a chief or mayor that you must get permission from before you go tramping about and anchoring in their "backyard." Proper etiquette is to present the village elder with kava root as a gift for sevusevu. If they accept, they will welcome you to the village, offer assistance and invite you to drink and talk with them.  You must accept the first bilo and from what I've heard, stay until the kava bowl is empty. Seems like a great way to get to know the locals and have real cultural experiences.

We'll be on our way soon. The plan is to head east to Taveuni, then hop through a few islands in the Lau group, working our way clock-wise to the Moala group, Kadavu, Lautoka, and finally the Yasawas. That's a lot to do in the next four months- I think we're overly ambitious, but here's to kava and paradise dreaming!


Sunset over the fleet in Savusavu 

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