||August September Continues More Ramblings
September 5, 2000:
My mother thought it was extremely funny that I had been rained
on one night while we slept. We had been staying at a small 6-acre-sized
island off the Nadi coast and for the first three days the sun
shone down, making the place look like anyone's ideal dream-island
paradise. My mother and I floated around the island day in and
day out while I told her stories from my trip. Well, the rains
showed up one day in the wee small hours of the morning as we
dozed to the sounds of waves lapping at the foot of our bure,
our Fijian thatched hut. It felt like someone was tapping on
my chest and I brushed at whatever it was in my sleep. A few
seconds later I opened my eyes and realized that the pure Fijian
water -- a rare drinkable-from-the-tap water -- was pooling on
my belly-button. How is the rain blowing in through the window?
I wondered, knowing that the roof overhung the window far enough
to prevent that ever happening unless the sky turned itself perpendicular.
I groaned and got up, closed the windows and got back into bed.
Right as I dozed off three large drops plopped right onto my
face. I didn't even raise my arms to wipe the rain away, I just
opened my eyes to look straight up at the culprit: the roof.
I sat up in bed and perused the rest of the bure, no other
place was leaking except the exact spot over my head. I dragged
the bed to the middle of the room. All this I did to the soft
snores of my mother.
In the morning I woke up to my mother. "How did you sleep?"
She asked. "Have a nice wet dream?" And she chuckled
to herself as she walked into the bathroom. We checked out a
Now we're on our way to Vanua Levu, the second largest island
on Fiji, from Viti Levu, the biggest island. Fiji is a small
place, right? Well, tell that to the ferry captain who just came
on the radio to tell us that our afternoon cruise will take a
short 12 hours.
September 13, 2000:
Talk about a great weekend. I was able to fly from Savusavu,
the place I've been for the past week, to the island of Taveuni.
I had been invited along to join the a few friends on their relaxing
trip to the island. It wasn't just any friends however, and it
wasn't just any island. I was going along with Adi Koila Ganalau,
the princess of the strongest tribe in Fiji to her ancestral
home, Somo Somo.
We drove up and down the north-western side of the island,
visiting various family members and seeing some of the incredible
sites of the island. We stopped on the side of the road one day,
Adi Koila jumping out to point something out to me. As I peered
over the edge I looked out over a beautiful bay. You could see
the bottom through the clear glass water. "You see out there,"
she said. "a few years back some villagers looked out over
here and saw one of the fishermen get attacked and eaten by a
tiger shark. Let's go swimming." Adi Koila explained that
the fellow had been wearing his catch on a rope tied to his waist
but that didn't make me feel much better about flapping about
in those same waters even without my fish-belt.
Later that night though, she told me a story that would have
calmed me a bit more. At the local country club I sat with Adi
Koila and a few of her village friends. We drink a few beers
in the traditional taki style, pouring shot-sized amounts
into a glass and passing it around till everyone had a gulp,
and danced to a few of the Fijian folk songs blaring on the sound
system. "My grandfather could call sharks," Adi Koila
began. And she told me a story about how one of the large Navy
boats he was on started to sink. Her grandfather called the sharks
and they came and escorted the ship to the nearest island to
safety. "Every tribe has an animal, and ours is the shark."
Then she also told me about the time the Queen of England came
to Fiji. On its way into Suva harbor a large shark and a barracuda
followed along the bow, when it pulled up to the dock, Adi Koila
said, her grandfather walked to the edge of the pier and waved
the two animals away; they left. And when we drove home that
night Adi Koila spotted a pier and told me how, here in Somo
Somo, her father used to call the sharks up to the edge and pet
them, sometimes ride them out to the small island a few miles
away. I'm not sure if the takis had gone to her head or
not at this point but Adi Koila made a special effort not to
trust in the belief too whole-heartedly. "They say the shark
won't hurt me either but I think I'm too westernized to go and
swim out there and see."
September 15, 2000:
A day after we got back from Taveuni, Adi Koila and
I took to the reef to do a little shellfishing. We were in charge
of collecting enough food for a large feast we were having that
evening. About half a dozen people would be coming to dinner
and they each brought with them a large appetite, fueled by a
long days work on their farms. That's a lot of food. I had my
doubts. We started out towards the reef around 11am. "What
kind of things are we looking for?" I asked and Adi Koila
as we plodded through the knee-deep water for the half-mile trek
to the reef's edge. "Oh, clams, shellfish, that sort of
stuff." And before she could elaborate Mary, the Fijian
house girl who was accompanying us, called out the she had an
octopus. We swamped over to see Mary nearly inside a chunk of
coral, clicking loudly to call the octopus with it's tentacles
wrapped all the way up and around her arms. "Quick, find
some black sea cucumbers." Said Adi Koila. As I found out,
the liquid from the cucumber is a type of repellent to the octopus.
Mary squeezed a few cucumbers into the hole and we stood back
to see. Slowly the octopus crept out of the hole. Mary grabbed
it and flipped its head inside-out. It was huge, its tentacles
easily reaching head to foot of any average-sized human. Well,
that was easy, I thought, thinking that the hard part was
over for the day and that we'd now be able to just swim for a
bit before heading in to start preparing the octopus feast. "Come
on." Yelled Adi Koila. Huh?
I chased after Adi Koila, as she slogged off, trying to watch
where each foot landed. The last thing I needed was to step on
the dreaded Crown of Thorns or Stone Fish, all deadly poisonous
sea creatures that are so abundant in Fiji's waters. She practically
waltzed through the water while I tip-toed my way along. "Here
is nama try and gather as much as you can." She said
while plucking at the small pellet-sized sea weed. Adi Koila
moved on and I stayed, squatting there, gathering sea weed. A
few seconds later I fond my prize of the day. I looked down and
saw a huge vasua, the giant clam. Adi Koila and I sat
there and ate fist fulls of clam and sea weed in the Fijian ocean.
"That was great." I said. She agreed and added, "Yeah,
you just have to make sure you get that poisonous sack out of
it before you eat it." "Poison sack, right." I
said and held the huge shell, easily bigger than my head, in
my hands. What isn't poisonous here? I asked to no one
The catch was successful however, no one stepped on anything
hurtful, and we collected more then enough edible (poison removed
or cooked out) stuff to feed twice our number. Mary ended up
catching another octopus and two other vasuas. Adi Koila
and I added a good couple kilos of large shellfish we plucked
out of the coral next to the reef's edge. Another friend brought
a tuna steak which we sliced up raw and dipped in a spicy soy
sauce mixture. "We always eat like this in the islands."
Said one of the guests and I could only nod as I looked out towards