Momo and the pigs

 

Turns out we don’t have the only free range pigs in Fiji!  Recently we visited friends who live right on the beach near Rakiraki.  Momo (uncle) feeds the pigs out of coconut shell bowls.  They wander around, walk on the beach, and when they want milk, scamper in through a little hole in the pig pen to mum.

Momo and the pigs

Pacific Princess

Pacific Princess

I love this photo of my friend Kim, who visited from Canada, taken at Naumoidmada Beach, near Rakiraki, Fiji. I love it for two reasons:
Firstly, because she really looks beautiful with her skirt swaying in the afternoon breeze.
Secondly, because it looks like an add for Fiji, as if she is in a resort village, with luxury lurking just behind the scenes, or just out of shot.

In reality, we were visiting my friends who run a little village bakery on the beach, far far away from any tourist amenity. They have dogs, and piglets that think they are dogs, and go walking on the beach with you, and eating their food out of coconut shells with the dogs. Just out of shot on the right of Kim is the pig pen. Behind, you see the village kids taking their afternoon raucous swim. We ate a home cooked meal with Momo (our friends’ uncle who received us traditionally and welcomed Kim and Ari to the village with a kava ceremony at which my husband was the traditional spokesperson or mata ni vanua) – fish cooked in fresh coconut juice (lolo), fresh squeezed lime and fresh chili on the side, cassava and greens. It was the perfect meal and the perfect day.

The Flying Prince

The Flying Prince

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One of the many “Flying Princes” based in Rakiraki Town

So many bus companies in Fiji, all with great names, and old fashioned retro painted bodies. Open air buses are a favourite of mine, and this is my favourite named bus company in Fiji – The Flying Prince – which runs the service around Rakiraki Town. These photos were taken on one of the most scenic and also one of my favourite drives in Fiji – the road between Rakiraki Town and Naumoimada beach – one of the only white sand beaches between Suva and Lautoka. If you ever get the chance, take a bus ride from Suva to Rakiraki to Ba to Lautoka to Nadi. It costs about $20 all the way. The local Flying Prince from Rakiraki to Naumoimada Beach is $1.80. You can get the Sunbeam, Intercities or

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Between Rakiraki and Naumoimada

Vatakoula Express from Suva or Nausori to Rakiraki and then change if you want, or take a few local bus trips around Rakiraki. If you are not sure, the big buses are called “the bus” and they are often express, but the local buses are called “the stopping bus” which means that it will stop anywhere at all along the route to pick up and drop off. This is the most fun way to go as the village kids get off and on on their way home from school. Once I saw an old man walking a bicycle by the side of the road. Tied to the bike was a rope, which led a massive cow who walked behind. I was too slow for the photo, as that time I was on “the bus” not “the stopping bus”!

 

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Between Tavua and Rakiraki

In my opinion, the bus ride from Nausori Town (which is actually where Suva airport is) and Rakiraki which takes about 3 hours is the nicest scenery by far on the main island of VitiLevu. When you get to Rakiraki, the Tanoa Rakiraki is a quaint old hotel with every modern convenience and a nice place to stay. I love it there, the owners make you feel at home, and it has a pool that you can cool off in, lawn bowls, and tennis.

The Chiefly Island of Bau, Fiji

 

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Signing the visitors’ book at the Chiefly home of Ratu Epenisa Cakobau – photo courtesy of Jeff Moag

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Chiefly Island of Bau.   I am a big reader of Fijian History so it was a real thrill for me to meet Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, the great grandson of the King of Fiji.  With other guests, we went to Ratu Epenisa’s home, where I signed the guest book that Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain has signed, on the table that the Deed of Cession was signed in 1874 when Fiji peacefully ceded to Britain at Levuka, on Ovalau Island.  100 years later to the day, Fiji became independent of Britain.  The date is 10th October, and this date that marks both occasions is celebrated as Fiji Day.

The table top is coming off of the table bottom, and it was in the lounger room next to the Christmas tree.

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Ratu Epenisa Cakobau waving goodbye to us at Bau Landing. Photo courtesy of Jeff Moag

I loved my visit to Bau Island and learned so much that I didn’t know.  My husband’s mother’s village was a defender of Ratu Epenisa’s great grandfather in the tumultuous days of tribal warfare, and so our family has a special traditional relationship with Bau Island and the Chiefly family.

Ratu Epenisa presented such a humble and welcoming face to us, and I felt so at ease and found him very easy to talk to.  The village children however, when we walked past their game on the playground on the way to the church, sat down mid-game, almost like a game of “what’s the time, Mr Wolf” and would not stand up until he passed.

There are no crops planted on the island, so the island looks beautiful and well kept.  I asked Ratu Epenisa about this and he explained that no one is allowed to plant crops except for his family, and they all must go to the mainland to harvest or buy root crops.

The villagers are divided into classes – the fisher classes (one class for around the shore line which uses fish traps made of sticks, and another class who are the open water or deep sea fishermen), the planting class, the warrior class etc.  This structure still remains today.

I even got invited back to bring the kids – what a gracious man!

Oh, we were just playing in the sand….

Oh, we were just playing in the sand....

Max and Sophie, my two little friends, made these sandcastles one day whilst just hanging around in the sand at Leleuvia Island. Max, Sophie, one day I will email your mums and let them know we all thought of you after you left when we found these!

Blended Family Fiji Style

Blended Family Fiji Style

My daughter and I – the only time we both looked nice. I had to dig out a nice dress and my makeup to go to a function in Suva. Normally we are both covered in the trappings of pig cleaning and feeding! Blended families are an oddity here and often we feel the strain, so it is lovely to have a smiling photo to remind us that all is not lost.

Boys in sulus – skirts for men

Boys in sulus - skirts for men

Fijian boys singing a hymn in church. It is customary for boys and men sit on one side of the church, and girls and women on the other.

The Boys after Church, Palm Sunday 2013

The Boys after Church, Palm Sunday 2013

Palm Sunday is “children’s day” at many churches in Fiji. The kids do everything for the service including the sermon, and recite bible verses. After the service, there is relief and euphoria, looking forward to playing together crazyily, and a big feast at which they are the guests of honour. Church is like many words when you come to Fiji – it actually means something completely different from what we would normally understand from that word. In this case, it is held in a corrugated iron shed. My son, far right, spoke his first Fijian language bible verse at that service.

Memory of Max – Leleuvia Island, Fiji

I met some people at Leleuvia Island, an extended family of Americans who had come to remember their mother, who had brought up the family many years ago in Suva.   At the end of a long, hot afternoon, I asked Max, the cutest little 8 year old, what he had been doing.

Sandcastles left over from the day before, Leleuvia, FijiHe replied that he had just been playing in the sand.

What else?  – said I.

Oh, nothing, just playing in the sand with Sophie (his cousin).

All day?

Uh-huh, all day.

That night, after dinner, I went to look at the water, and noticed hundreds and hundreds of sandcastles all over the beach, and in the coconut trees.  This photo is what was left after high tide the next day, a couple of hours after the family had left the island by boat to start their journey home.  A memory of Max and Sophie.

Sandcastles left over from the day before, Leleuvia, Fiji

Girl at Church Service, Nabua, Fiji

Girl at Church Service, Nabua, Fiji

This little girl was sitting in the doorway, taking a break from church. Her hairstyle is typical of young Fijian girls. She is wearing a traditional sulu jamba.