October 4, 2011

Hanging with Cannibals

Maia with our kava for sevusevu

We’re sailing through the Yasawas—a dazzling group of 20 or so islands that stretch away from the civilization of Fiji’s two big islands and offer up great diving, villages without electricity (or roads, or cars, or stores, or banks), a few old backpacker resorts, and a few newer high-end resorts (I guess word got out…)

Actually we’re threading our way through the poorly charted reef-strewn waters of the Yasawas--admiring welcoming looking coves (that would be awesome if there was a way in) and imagining what it must have been like for Captain Bligh when he sailed through these waters with 18 men in a 7 metre open boat after the mutiny in 1789. He must have looked hopefully at those same lush coves--where there was sure to be water and fresh food—then despaired when two war canoes filled with cannibals gave him the chase of his life.

Bligh almost ended up in a cooking pot, although it’s hard to imagine it now. Fiji is easily the friendliest place we’ve been and yesterday when we anchored off of Gunu Village we were treated to even more Fijian hospitality.
Rajieli, Chelsea, Maia and Marica
Gunu is one of eight villages on Naviti Island. There are about 300 people in the village and there is an elementary school for about 100 kids (the school serves three villages.)
We quickly learned the school is the heart and pride of the village. And after giving a (very quick) sevusevu where we asked for permission to visit and were made part of the village we were led to the school by Marica and Rajieli—two adorable girls who are in the 3rd and 5th grade. Along the way we were greeted, and thanked, by everyone—our visit and our interest confirmed their quiet pride: this was a good village.
On the path to the school we stopped a few times and learned how the house mats were woven and shown what a home was like. Then the girls toured us through their classrooms where we saw cobbled together desks, very few books or resources, but enthusiastic signs of learning. They invited us back for school the next day. On our return to the boat we stopped in again to see the progress of the mat—then the family asked us if they could prepare us a lovo (a meal cooked in an earthen oven). They explained there was a school fundraiser coming up and anything we donated for the meal would help the school.
So we’ve decided our exploring is done and our final days in the Yasawas and Fiji will be here in ‘our’ village. We’ll do what we can for ‘our’ school and we’ll have dinner with ‘our’ family.
Maia and the lovely Lewa
There’s a lesson here isn’t there? Not the one that Bligh learned, that you must flee to survive. But more the idea that unless cannibals are actively chasing you, pretty much everywhere we travel comes with the potential joy and responsibility of becoming our home.
If only for a day.

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