Its hard to believe how fast this week has gone and we are leaving Fiji tomorrow. The kids have fallen into a routine as they always seem to-just here they involve early morning walks on the beach to collect shells and watch the sun rise, turning the tops of the waves from blue to pink. This morning we walked all the way out on the point to where the beach ends.
Over the last few days we’ve collected empty coconut shells and use them for our seashell collecting cups. We especially like to find cowry shells because they are smooth and blue-purple in the orange sand so are very easy to spot. At first we wanted to collect enough to make a game of mancala, but now we have so many cowries we are going to use them for playing poker,
Max’s favorite things to find are hermit crabs. They range in size from shells as big as his thumbnail to the big guys at almost 4 inches long. Max has a whole bucket full. He likes to take them out and race them and all the other little boys in the resort follow him around to play with them.
Yesterday we went on a visit to the village. We hiked up and over the mountain. At the top the view was gorgeous-swaying palms, crisp blue and turquoise water, all around and the rugged hills of the volcanic island.
As we walked down the other side towards the village the smell of livestock got stronger and stronger, there amongst the boulders in the path, were pig pens build from sticks. Then onto the village tour to see the sleeping huts made of thatch and corrugated tin roofs, open cooking fires, pit toilets and substantial church. Proudly in the central courtyard was a solar panel array and a large satelite tv dish–all the necessities of modern living!
The town was very welcoming and performed a kava ceremony with us. Kava is a root that is pounded and mixed with water to make a drink that has narcotic effects. So far on our visit Josh and I “missed” the kava ceremony (the resort holds one every night to welcome new guests and we always avoided it because neither of us wanted to drink drugged dishwater-call us crazy). It is a Fijian ritual going back to their tribal days when visitors were allowed to enter the village only after they shared the drink of kava. It is a cultural sign of respect to exchange kava and the ceremony is a serious thing for them.
Our guide asked us to come and sit in the central courtyard where the elders were waiting for us. Men were told to sit in the front and women at the back. I was secretly grateful for this chauvinistic tradition because I thought that it meant that the men would drink the kava and the children and I would only watch. I did feel sorry for Josh because he was feeling sick with a touch of flu. I knew that he was trying very had to think of a way out of drinking it. Round and round the cup went.
“Bula!” Hello and welcome! The village elders were saying. Then it was Josh’s turn and he drank-but not deeply enough and the elder said “it is best for you to finish” and he did the right thing and downed it. Then the man poured more into the cup for the next person and to my surprise he handed the cup to Max sitting in Josh’s lap. I was panicked and indignant-Max is only seven! I didn’t want him to get sick (who knows what dysentery would be in the grey liquid) and I definitely didn’t want him to drink the drug. But Max, without even a blink, held the cup and drank it down! Josh and I exchanged looks of horror and shook our heads.
“Bula!” Hello and welcome! The chanting continued and finished the front row of men. Then to my surprise again-the elder handed the cup of kava to the woman sitting next to me. So women we going to be included and yes, Emma was going after me! I thanked the elder and took the cup and drank deeply in two swallows gagged the stuff down. I wasn’t going to be disrespectful and I could drink it (especially if Max did!) My tongue went tingly in my mouth and then numb. No feeling there. Nothing. I knew I still had a tongue but I wasn’t sure if it worked anymore. I shuddered, but was relived that I was able to swallow and keep it down.
Now Emma looked up at me with pleading eyes. The cup was handed to her. She knew the polite and proper thing to do. She held the cup to her lips and took a small drink. The elder looked at the cup as she handed back to him and said, “it is best for you to finish” and gave it back to her. She was really distressed now. She wasn’t going to be able to do it and was so afraid. I took the cup from her and asked the man “can I drink in for her?” he said ok and I gulped the second cup of the vile stuff. I didn’t care if I got intestinal distress or hallucinated– I wasn’t going to make Emma drink anymore of it! She took my hand and gave me a grateful squeeze as I sat dizzily through the rest of the ceremony.
That’s all for this morning.
We have an action packed day of sitting on the beach planned. I think I will join the group going on a night snorkel this evening.
Bula and love to you all!