Fiji and The Tui Tai Charitable Fund

Trip Start Dec 09, 2007
Trip End Jun 14, 2008

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Flag of Fiji  , Vanua Levu,
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Go to this blog  to see more photos interlaced into the entry.

Fiji was amazing and mostly about a fascinating adventurous cruise on the Tui Tai yacht en-route to the island of Cikobia to deliver supplies and water to the inhabitants there after being ravaged by a recent Hurricane.

I arranged my first couch surfing experience for Fiji. I was looking for a person or people that would be associated to some humanitarian work I could help out with for the week that I was there. I found Suzie and Peter who work with Rotrary and they agreed to have me stay with them for a couple days in Savusavu. There are two main islands in Fiji the major tourist destination Viti Levu and the less developed Vanua Levu where Savusavu is the main town located to the South.

After arriving in Nadi I then took a puddle jumper (see photos) to Vanua Levu. Then a taxi to Suzie and Peters. I was greeted by 3 or 4 barking dogs and then Suzie made her way to me in a lovely Sarong. Apprently she and Peter kind of take care of some of these neighborhood dogs and just have one of their own. Savusavu is a local town, quite rustic with a bustling farmers and fish market. There are a few touristy bars and such in and on the outskirts of town. I was instantly struck by the sincerity and genuine feeling of joy and welcome from nearly all the Fijians I made eye contact with.

Suzie and Peter's place is simple and beautiful if nothing else for it's perfect location overlooking the expansive bay and Ocean. The dirt road travels just along the bay and their house is a steep hike about 30 meters up on the other side of the road. I could tell they were an interesting couple as well as individuals with a rich and dynamic history. Suzie is a Kiwi and Peter is a Russian, so before you even hear their stories their heavy differing accents fill a room with cultural richness. My "couch" was there spare bedroom...very nice. I was greeted with kindness and after an open air outside shower they made me some fresh banana smoothies picked just off their porch. Paradise!!! We went snorkeling the next day at some great reef a short hike from their house.

I had arrived just a few days after a massive hurricane just missed Fiji. Or so I thought. It turned out, I learned later at the Rotary's meeting, that there was one island that was hit hard on the outskirts of the group of island called Cikobia. One of the board's members was the manager of a tourist adventure yacht called the Tui Tai that becuse of it's expansive itinerary, and also the generous ethos of the operators and staff, often delivers supplies to these far reaching islands when needed. As I learned later this kind of humanitarian work is actually a core value of the Tui Tai's mission and they have set up a fund for their patrons and others to provide money and labor for such emergency aid or planned projects for schools and other infrastructure.

Rotary had agreed to make a substantial donation of Fiji water to the island of around a few hundred cases. They needed at least one representative of Rotary to take the journey and everyone had jobs or previous engagements that prevented them from going. including the manager. That is everyone but yours truly and the always adventurous Suzie and Peter, now retired. We happily volunteered to join the cruise a couple days into their itinerary. We would join them for about 4 days along with the patrons enjoying the island of Rabi before heading out to Cikobia. We could join them at this time because the ship would be anchored in the bay to the East of Vanua Levu and West of Rabi. From here they could take their dingy to pick up the water on the East of Vanua Levu.

On the day we were scheduled to leave the transport truck that was suppose to bring the water from the shipping port in Labasa to Savusavu had broken down. Peter and Suzie went with some staff members to the boat. They'd get to enjoy the day on the island with dinner and customary dancing on Kioa and I went to work right away. I was instructed to hop in this big old truck with a beat up green canvas covered Trailer. Looked like a military vehicle out of the 70's. Inside was a big ol' rugged local who spoke some words of english and his two slender teenage hands who were bursting with vigor and anticipation at asking this yank some questions about American girls. They also didn't speak very much english which meant after the initial intro's we spent a lot of silence together on this long day covering nearly the entire expanse of Vanua Levu. I didn't mind...just being around the joyful vigorous energy of the Fijians more that makes up for anything words can do.

After an hour or so on the highway we made it to the broken down truck. We were on a tight schedule to make the boat before dark so I was surprised to the see the two drivers making small talk before we started to move the water to our truck. Lesson one about fiji: There is no tight schedule. There is never a rush. If it happens it happens if it doesn't well...chill out and drink some more kava! I grew impatient and along with my teenage mates made a chain to pass the water. After a few minutes our driver joined us and we made fast work of it despite the heat and weight of a few hundred 2 liter Fiji water bottle cases.

On the way back one of the boys motioned to the driver to stop at the top of the hill. The vistas here were amazing you could see in almost 180 degrees over jungle and sharp mountains and green and blue bays. I just breathed it all in before being handed a piece of freshly cut pineapple the boy had just purchased for us to cool down from the labor. Then he pointed to the other side of the road where a few kids were filling their canteens with mountain spring water coming through a rough piping system in the rocks. I got in line and filled my bottle with this wonderful clean refresshing nector. The children asked me to move to the front of the line seemingly to witness this fascinating anomly of a westerner engaging in their local daily practice and of course to be generous and kind (I was swiftly falling love with these people).

We were at some kind of stop for the locals and travelers who come through here. I couldn't imagine where these children who were retrieving the water and selling pineapple could live. Accept for the road we were in dense mountainous jungle without any signs of inhabitants as far as the eye could see. I was so thankful for the boys kindness to ask for the break and I had no idea how much I would need this repreave for what was to come.

For the next 4 hours, maybe more, we made our way over the roughest road I've ever been on. It was all dirt and in most places especially in the inclines and declines the, road now dry and hard, was mangled and bent out of shape from when trucks tried to make the pass when it was raining and muddy. The old military truck had a tough time of it but pulled through even without apparent shocks. There were several times when all 4 of us were in mid air after hitting a bump. And we were usually traveling around 15mph. The four of us were packed in shoulder to shoulder in the cab and the only way I could take anything but short breaths was when I could let the window down and get my arm and shoulder outside. But that wasn't often on this dusty road.

What made this jarring trip more manageable was all the glowing happy people we saw along the way. I got the impression that this crew made this pass often and new most of the small villages and many of the inhabitants along the way. It was common for people to leave their shade structures and sometimes their homes and come jogging out to wave at us or yell some greeting. The young boys put on huge smiles and would energetically wave back.. I'd never seen anything like it. It was so wonderful! I felt like a movie star and to think that these guys might get this kind of reception on a regular basis made me think of offering my services as a third hand permanently. I had moved beyond love, to considering choices of living with these people. A couple of the villages had volleyball games going on next to the road. We'd pull over and the driver would make some friendly exchanges. Some paperwork might change hands for a job and we'd be off.

It was getting dark and I was starting to get anxious but these guys were as cool as cucumbers. We finally made the pier for the delivery. But it as now after dusk. And the boat was no where in site. It started to sprinkle......

OK... now at this point I'm going to have to wait a bit before finishing. You see I just wrote a wonderful conclusion to this story and was typing the very last word when something happened and I lost it all. It was long detailed and splendid and I'm really bummed! I've been waiting and anticipating months to revisit this memory and write this. So let me lick my wounds a bit before daring to rewrite it all again.

The Mp3's I have posted, "Rabi Kids" and "Recovering Cikobia" are apart of my Sonic Nomad Project as stated in my profile page and the first entry. It is my hope that people will enjoy them and download them so that I can in turn give these financial gifts to The Tui Tai Charitable fund.

To download the songs and to donate to the cause go to:

Here's what the Tui Tai staff say about their work:
Because Tui Tai regularly visits remote islands not frequented by any other ships, the company recognized that it could offer important assistance and contributions to the well-being of villagers living far from population centers. The Tui Tai Charitable Fund was established because our passengers wanted to make contributions to assist people they'd seen during their visits. In the last year, the Tui Tai Charitable Fund has provided medical support, advanced education, student housing, community development, building repair, new construction, delivery of important medicines, and emergency transportation.

The first song, "Rabi Kids" (right) is just a uplifting funky island house song utilizing vocal samples from Banaban children who in a dance interpret their forced diaspora at the hands of the Japanese Navy and their relatively recent settlement on the Fijian Island of Rabi.

"Recovering Cikobia" (below) is something different. It's an experiment in composition just using samples of the sounds from an environment or interviews. The first part of the song emerges from an interview with some locals talking about the effects of the hurricane. The second part is sounds of a Kava ceremony with some of the villages men relaxing after a day of fishing and rebuilding homes. As it's a fresh experiment for me it's probably not finished, but I hope you'll at least find it interesting and at most inspiring.

Please enjoy them and if they inspire you at all, at least through their intentions, then go to the "Sonic Nomad Project" and give something (nothing is too small or too large) and tell others about it to raise awareness for the causes. You can make a difference 100% of your donation goes directly to the beneficiaries in the villages.

On behalf of the island inhabitants, Tui Tai Staff, and me...Thank You,

In the last year, the Tui Tai Charitable Fund has
provided medical support, advanced education, student housing,
community development, building repair, new construction, delivery of
important medicines, and emergency transportation. In addition to these
on-going services, The Tui Tai Charitable Fund is currently collecting
donations specifically for:

Medical Supplies and renovation of clinicsA new classroom for the students of KioaSchool suppliesA new community building for the people of Koro IslandPurchase of critical equipment (generators, hardware supplies, agricultural tools)Scholarships for students in secondary school; technical, and vocational trainingEmergency medical careDelivery of supplies to areas not serviced by other ships

*To download the Songs "Banaban" and "Recovering Cikobia" in high quality 320kbps mp3 format and to make a donation go to:
The Sonic Nomad Project home page

You can also go directly to their website if you want your contribution to be tax deductible (the foundation is a certified 501C3) If you choose to make a donation directly to them please let me know how much you've donated so I can assess how this project is helping and continue finding ways to make it better.

Go to this blog  to see more photos interlaced into the stories.

* Learn More about the tragic history of the Banaban People of Rabi Island
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