Trip Start Feb 11, 2006
Trip End May 27, 2006

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Flag of Fiji  ,
Monday, February 27, 2006

I've posted pictures on a separate website: http://photos.yahoo.com/amandainfiji I refer to some of those pictures by number in the following post. If you go to the album called "Levuka" on that site, you should be able to see the corresponding pictures.

I don't even know where to begin explaining this past weekend. All I can say is that I'm glad we had the experience in the old capital of Fiji in Levuka, but I don't think I ever want to do it again. We started our journey to the island of Ovalau at 1:30 on Friday afternoon. We packed (and I mean packed ) ourselves into a bus at the depot in Suva. It was hot and crowded and people smelled and we all had all of our luggage sitting on our laps. The bus would take us to the jetty where we would catch a ferry to Ovalau (picture 004). On the way there, we stopped in a little town for a bathroom break and the bus driver proceeded to back the bus into a parked van. It gave us more time to use the bathroom, but as soon as I saw the toilet, I decided I didn't have to go so badly anymore... I don't consider myself to be a high-maintenance person, but if I can avoid using a pit toilet, I most certainly will! The bus accident didn't hold us up too long so we were back on our way shortly. Soon after that town the road went from pavement to dirt. With all the rain we've had the road was a big muddy mess. I was just waiting for the moment the bus driver was going to ask us to get off and push. Luckily we made it to the jetty without further incident. We got off the bus and onto the ferry for the 45 minute ride to the island. We were supposed to land at a jetty on the opposite side of the island and a bus would take us across the island to Levuka in another two hour ride. We had to ride a smaller ferry than usual because the boat that normally did that route was held up elsewhere in stormy weather. As it turned out, the high winds would prevent us from docking at the usual jetty on Ovalau so we got to take the boat right to Levuka. The sea was pretty choppy, but the extra long ride allowed us an awesome view of the coast of Ovalau that we wouldn't have had if we had taken the bus.

We finally docked in Levuka around 7pm at the fish factory. Fish isn't usually a pleasant smell but believe me - when you're really exhausted, the fish smell multiplies. Luckily we didn't have to hang around the jetty for very long and we were able to get a cab to the vicarage where we would be spending the night with an Anglican priest and his family (picture 019).

We arrived at their house and had dinner and then presented our sevusevu. We were all pretty exhausted so we only had about three rounds of yaqona drinking. That night, Becca and I shared a double bed in the main house and the other four girls each had their own bed in a little room on the verandah. Around 4am Becca and I both woke up to the snores we were convinced were coming from a large bear. As it turns out, they were coming from our program assistant, but they still drove us out of our bedroom to go sleep on the floor with the other girls. When we all woke up, we discovered that the phrase "don't let the bed bugs bite" is founded in truth - the girls who had slept in the little beds had been DEVOURED by bed bugs during the night. Alison and Liz had them so badly that they looked like they had the measels. Becca and I had a few bites too, but not nearly as bad as the others. They don't itch right away like a mosquito bite does, but they get pretty itchy later.

During the day, Father Tomasi took us on a tour of his church and we had a tour of the village of Levuka. We saw the site where Fiji was ceded to Great Britain in 1874 (picture 021). At one point during the day, we passed a building that was shaped like the Pizza Hut buildings in the US and it had a thatched roof. I made a comment that that building could be the Fijian version of a Pizza Hut - we ended up having lunch there and ironically enough they only serve pizza!

In the later afternoon, everyone was pretty tired. Becca, Liz and I didn't want to hang around and sleep with the rest of the crowd so we went with Father Tomasi to see the waka (the root we present during the sevusevu) be pounded into yaqona. We went to his neighbor's house where the Indian man who lives there will grind it for a price per kilogram. The man is quite the engineer - he designed and built his own machine for pounding the root into powder. It's a really scary, dangerous machine (it chopped his wife's pinky finger off) but it definitely gets the job done (pictures 036, 037, 039). While the wife was feeding the waka into the machine, the husband gathered us around to hang out and (what else) drink yaqona. Indians drink it much less ceremonially than Fijians, but I wouldn't say they drink any less. This man was just sipping off it as he worked; I don't think you'd ever see a Fijian doing that without the formality of gathering around the tanoa (the big bowl) and passing it around.

When we got back to the house, Liz and I went to help prepare dinner in the kitchen with the Father and his wife Terese. I think we impressed the Father with our curiosity and willingness to help out, so later he called the two of us outside to come meet his friend. His friend had come to drink yaqona and the Father asked us to join him. He called us his Fijian daughters and gave me the priveledge of mixing the yaqona (picture 043)! I had been really curious as to how you mix it (I had seen it done lots of times, but not actually done it myself) so it not only satisfied my curiosity but I was very honored. You pour the pounded yaqona (the consistency of flour) into a little cloth sack that has had water poured over it to make it wet. Then someone else starts scooping water from a water container into the tanoa with the boli (coconut shell cup) the mixer kneads the yaqona in the bag. Eventually the tanoa gets filled up and most of the yaqona dissolves out of the bag into the water. When it's ready, you put your hands together, make a circular motion around the bowl and say in Fijian "The yaqona is ready!", clap three times and begin serving. It was a really amazing experience!

Later that night, the youth of the church came over and played guitar and sang and (yet again) we all sat around and drank yaqona (picture 048). Our group went to bed at 11 because we had to be up at 4am to catch the bus home, but the yaqona drinking and singing went on verrrry late into the night. When we woke up at 4am, they were still sitting around the tanoa.

The trip back to Suva was the biggest personal challenge I've had here in Fiji so far. We took the bus from Levuka to the jetty on the other side of Ovalau like we were supposed to on the journey to Levuka. We were all tired and dirty and bug bitten and I woke up feeling sick. I threw up right before I got on the bus. The ride over ovalau was so incredibly bumpy. I threw up again on the bus and was still feeling sick and tired and dirty and bug bitten. The two hours on the bumpy bus was the longest two hours I've ever experienced. I was able to sleep on the boat (no bumps!) and for most of the 2.5 hour ride back to Suva once we made it back to the main island. We were back in Suva at 9am and we all just crashed. We had a pretty lazy day and went to see a movie in the evening. Today I'm definitely not feeling 100%, but hopefully after another night's rest I'll be ok by tomorrow. It especially stinks to be sick when it's so hot out.

There's nothing particularly special on the agenda for this week. We're continuing to have lectures on the different historical, cultural, political etc aspects of Fiji from 9-11 in the morning and language class from 12-2 in the afternoon. I know enough Fijian now to hold a very basic conversation, so that's pretty exciting.

I think that's all from this side of the world for now! Keep sending emails! I love to hear what's going on back at home! Moce mai Viti! (Goodbye from Fiji!)
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