Fresh fruit in Fiji

Trip Start Dec 13, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Fiji  ,
Wednesday, December 29, 2004

It is an amazing moment when you stop and realize that the sight of a street corner that contains one off kilter bus careening around a corner at high speed, trying to pass a car stopped near the side of the road, two people carrying bunches of dead fish who are manouevering through traffic and flocks of adorably sweet curly haired children running around half clothed and barefoot doesn't even make you blink an eye.

This is what happens after spending a couple of weeks in Fiji. Quite extraordinary events become one of your everyday sights and quite quickly become normal enough that you don't even flinch. Fiji is full of these extraordinary moments. That is what makes it so beautiful and special. Fiji makes people feel more welcome in a completely relaxed way than any other place I've been. When one is leaving somewhere, be it a village or a resort, all the staff, or the villagers gather together and sing Fiji's national farewell song, Isa Lei, to the people who are leaving. Picture leaving a picturesque tropical island. The sun is beating down on your mostly bare skin and you are walking through ankle-deep crystal-clear turqoise water that is the temperature of bathwater towards the wooden boat that waits to carry you away to another island. On the beach all the staff are smiling and waving, singing in the most pure and beautiful voices, the touching song of Isa Lei. It is such a lovely song and is one of my favourite parts of Fiji. I still remember it from whenn I lived here and always sing along quietly. It is such a special moment for me.

Fiji was a fantastic two weeks of memories. I loved the resorts... the beaches... the tropics of it all, but for me the most amazing part was all the memories that came back. The sensual feelings, the smells, the tastes, the sounds... all of it swept over me and took me back to a carefree time when I was 9 years old. I suprised myself with how much detail I could remember or how important a certain place had been to me. I also suprised myself by realizing that some of the memories had been slightly changed in my head and weren't quite right anymore. Most of the memories happened for me in Suva, Fiji's capital. That is where I used to live. Suva was our third stop in Fiji, so I'm not working chronologically here, but it was a really important time. It was one big walk down memory lane. We spent the whole three days driving around to places that we used to go, including our old school, the pony club, our old house, friend's old houses... and so on. We went to this absolutely pristine park that we used to always go to, called Colo-i-suva Forest park. It is a series of pools connected by a continuous stream of water and the surroundings are a true jungle and rainforest. Well, I'm not sure if it is a true jungle but it is the closest to being in one that I've ever been. The plants just drip off eachother and cover the ground and the water. The only sounds are the cicadas and the water rushing by. Every few hundred metres there are perfect little swimming holes or waterfalls. There are so many colours of green and plants that I have never seen before. The plants I have in my house that are simply called 6" tropical suddenly were huge trees. Vines and other plants would cover those and the entire effect was this amazingly vibrant, lush, living place that takes you to a completely different world. We used to go there all the time and it was every bit as magical as I remembered it.

The other most amazing part about Suva was seeing Lavinia. She was the woman who worked for us and lived with us the entire time we lived in Fiji. She was like my second Mom. She is absolutely one of the most spirited women I have ever met. And when I say spirited I mean that in the best sense possible. She is just bursting with life and with spirit. She laughs hysterically all the time and is always smiling. She has such a great sense of humour and sees the good in absolutely everything. It was such a treat to see her again and spend an entire day with her looking at our old life. She invited us to spend the next night with her entire family participating in a traditional Fijian Lovo. A lovo is an underground pit that is heated by hot rocks and used to cook traditional foods that are wrapped in banana leaves. We joined her family for this event and had a true Fijian experience. The feast was delicious and the people were so friendly and welcoming. I was actually quite sad when the night came to an end.

To backtrack... before getting to Suva we arrived in Nadi airport. Getting off the plane was the first moment that the memories came rushing back... the heat and the humidity swept into our lungs and the smell of freshness reminded me of life there. We didn't spend long in Nadi.. it isn't much to see at all.. but headed straight out to Beachcomber island, a backpackers destination filled with young people desperately trying to get a tan and have some time to relax before the head home from their trips. We had a really fun time there and watched some amazing sunsets as well as a traditional Fijian dance.

There were two highlights for me at Beachcomber and in a way they were similar. One was going above the island (parasailing) and the other was going below it (scuba diving). Both of which I had never tried before. The similarity they shared was that they both seemed like they would be really scary, but once I was actually doing them they were in fact the opposite of scary and felt so peaceful it could almost be described as zen-like. Peaceful and magical are two words that can describe both experiences. Being underwater and using a tank of air you have to really control and monitor your breathing, so it ends up feeling almost like a yoga exercise. And it feels like you are floating through a completely surreal world and suddenly you are one with that world. I found Nemo, and his dad... and lots of their friends. :-)

We returned to the mainland and drove over the top of Viti Levu which is not touristy at all and ended up finding a beautiful villa on the sea to stay at for a few nights. There, like everywhere, we had fresh fruit every morning and ample time to lie around in the sun or shade. Next stop was Suva. The drive there was amazing. We drove through a village and bought some fresh coconuts from the locals who then wanted us to take photos of us with them. It was such a great chance to get some photos of the adorable curly haired kids. I went a bit crazy. Yay digital. The next bit of excitement on our way was a torrential tropical rainfall. Lara, Pex and I jumped out of the car and danced around in the warm juicy drops of rain. We were soaked within seconds, it was great.

After Suva, our last stop was Naigani Island, a small island with a beautiful small resort that we used to go to all the time when we were locals. This was where we chose to spend Christmas. We couldn't have picked a better place. It was beautiful and perfect. It had a cute little pool which it never used to have. It had a long gorgeous beach. Beautiful sunrises. Delicious food. Friendly people - guests and staff. A steep hill for Dad and I to run up every morning in what I think some people thought was attempted suicide. Gorgeous shells for mom to find. And an absolutely exquisite little bure for us to stay and play in. We made a beautiful little christmas tree out of natural items and decorated it with flowers. We had a wonderful Christmas together, eating lots, playing games and lounging by the pool. I couldn't imagine a more beautiful and perfect Christmas. It was so special.

Fiji was such a treat. I am so happy to have finally returned to what I consider to be in some way my roots. Most of my first major memories are held there and were uncovered when I went back and dug them up. I loved the warmth, the breath of the sea, the jungle-like flora, the fresh fruit, the beautiful fish, the sunrises, the sunsets, the time with family and the old and special friends. I love Fiji.
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