So, in the end we finally did make it to the ranger's place and solved the misunderstanding!
The village we stayed in, Waisali, is amazing. It is located half an hou's walk (or let's say climb) downhill from the main road next to a river. People live in a very natural way, in decent huts with solar energy (sometimes...). They mainly eat what they grow and cook on open fire. The cows and horses I have seen there looked quite happy, too.
Once again the hospitality of the people made me speechless. Not only did we get our own hut and bathroom, they also went wild pig hunting for us (on horseback, with a speer and dogs) and caught freshwater prawns to cook us the best meals they could offer.
The nearby river is perfect for swimming and even the one hour's walk to the next (tiny) shop was fun as I am simply not used to the jungle vegetation.
We were sad that we could only stay two nights (first night: welcome kava party. second night: good bye kava party. I kind of like their way of thinking ;,D), but we had to leave for our boat to Taveuni. Still, I promised to come back and I absolutely intend to keep this promise...
Taveuni is a smaller island right next to Vanua Levu, also known as Fiji's garden island, and it is famous for its beautiful national park and waterfalls, as well as its reefs. We arrived after a quite tiring journey and as there was literally nothing moving in town (sundays on the islands are quite calm...) we just had a calm night to regain our energy and good mood.
The waterfall-slide we visited the next day certainly helped us doing that. There was nobody around, so we could enjoy the natural slide on our own. (If I may quote my best friend back in Germany: "O man, a natural whaterfall slide? Mother nature is so cool!!" Jep. I was thinking the same ;) )
Unfortunately, I caught a huge cold that day. I would have really enjoyed the bus trip along the shore to the lodge at the end of the road, if i hadn't been shaking from fever. When we finally arrived I was just happy to lay down. Luckily I had my private nurse with me who cooked me soup. Thanks Jim. (I decided to ignore the comments about how shitty I look and the pictures you took of me :P )
It took us the next day to get cash and food as the transport situation is quite bad in Lavena, the village at the end of the road where we stayed. So, we went two and a half hours in bus to the next cash engine, went shopping for half an hour and then waited three hours for the bus back. Hm, at least we could wait in a beach.... And I couldn't have done anything else that day anyway. Another important thing I have learnt on my first big trip: Always stay positive! :,D
Sorry that it took me so long, but the internet situation during the last two weeks was kind of hopeless..
So, I am going to take a break talking about cultural differences and update my Fiji-adventure-status ;).
I left the national park for one and a half weeks to explore Vanua Levu, the smaller one of the two big Fiji islands, and my Fiji foster brother Jim eventually decided to come with me. After five hours in a bus and ten hours on a boat we finally arrived in Savusavu at 5 am, a really pretty small marina town with boiling hot springs.
We waited for sunrise and then took a bus up in the hills to a national park as we planned to stay at one of the Rangers' place and we anticipated that he would be there. Well, a nice plan in theory, but it didn't quite work ourt. Although the park was supposed to open at nine, after one and a half ours of waiting in front of the closed gate in the rain, there was still no ranger to be seen. Hm.
I will never forget the face of a passing by truck driver certainly wondering what the hell a white girl was doing there in the rain, in the middle of nowhere in the jungle brushing her teeth. Well, after 20 hours of traveling I simply needed to. :,D Without battery on our phones and really tired we finally caught a cab back to town and found an okay room in a guest house... The bus ride to the park was completely worth the waiting though.
Everything is green and full of life and flourishing. The view from the top of the hills over the rain forest and the sea was absolutely amazing.
After a night in Savusavu we continued to Labasa, a city on the other side of the island where Jim had a cousin and a friend we wanted to visit. On our way there we finally got to enter the national park and do the rainforest walk. We met a ranger there, but we didn't know that this was not the ranger we had talked to via Facebook before. We kind of wondered why he didn't expect us at all but we were to shy to ask, so we just continued our trip. Big misunderstanding. We would need some more days to solve it... What a chaos trip! The jungle track we did was really fun though.
We had just arrived in Labasa, when we were told via message that BOTH the cousin and the friend had gone to the main island that same day, so we had to stay in a hotel at the river side for two nights. Although our plan hadn't worked out at all again, we were compensated by a beautiful view out of our room in the morning.
Next day we had a beach day at a small private beach behind a valley of coconut trees to relax a little...
I had my first sugar cane that day and it is SO delicious! (Although I was a little worried about breaking my teeth...) You just take a mouth full, soak the sweet juice out and then spit the rest out. Normal sweets are boring compared to this!
Walking back through the beautiful landscape made us enjoy our dinner afterwards.
After all, despite of all the failed plans we managed to haver a great time! It would be boring if everything worked out anyway ;) !
Okay, how to understand Fiji 2.0:
• Life at home:
Houses here in Fiji are quite different. Because it never gets really cold, they don't need to be as massive as in Europe. Buildings with more than one floor are very rare in the villages, as well as brick-built houses. Corrugated iron is quite a common building material.
In the houses, a lot of family members live together. There are hardly any massive doors, the small rooms are mostly separated from the main living room by curtains.
In a Fijian house it's unlikely to find chairs or a table as people eat, relax and even sleep on woven palm tree mats in the ground. As soon as you get used to it, it is really comfortable. And kind of more natural than sitting on chairs, when you think about it.
When relatives or friends come for visit, they usually sleep in the living room on the floor with a blanket. Many Fijians prefer to sleep with everybody else in one room than sleeping in a separated room.
Oh yes, the Fijians love their carbs... It's normal to have kasava (Fijian potato), rice, noodles AND bread in one meal... Furthermore, they eat kilos of breakfast crackers and French loafs (white soft bread) during their several daily tea times.
Besides that, the markets boast in tasty fresh fruits and vegetables which of course find their way into the meals. Pork is usually reserved for special occasions, so fish, chicken or vegetarian meals are usual. As almost half of the population has Indian roots, there are very good curries to get, too.
My personal favorites are the roro, some spinach-like vegetable cooked in coconut milk, and the kokonda, fish cooked in coconut milk.
The ugly truth is: Good chocolate is very expensive here as it is imported from other countries ???. The Indian sweets kind of keep me alive though.
still to be continued ? ...
Well, I think it's time to talk about the aspects that are making my Fiji experience so unique and fascinating, the reasons why I had travelled to the opposite side of the world. The things you only get to understand when you leave the hotel areas: the cultural differences.
Of course, I don't claim to understand this amazing culture after such a short time, but people here are excited about explaining their customs if you're just a little curious and interested.
• First and most importantly: Family. Okay. You may have to read this two times, it's really complicated ?. Families are huge, everybody has a ton of aunties, uncles and even more cousins. There are two kinds of cousins: If your cousin's mother and your mother are sisters, in Fiji then you are regarded as and raised like siblings. Same when your fathers are brothers. When your cousin's father and your mother are siblings, you are just "normal" cousins (tavarlays). To make it easier to understand for foreigners, they call the first kind of cousins "cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters".
Tavarlays constantly make fun of each other, and because everybody has round about 100 tavarlays , life in the village seems to be one big joke. People are constantly laughing and screaming.
Families care for each other. For every marriage, birthday or any big event you are expected to contribute in some way, as well as children (especially the boys) usually finance their families. That maybe doesn't sound like a big deal for us, but as families are so big, there is some event almost every week, which can turn out to be quite... let's say demanding. But in return, when you are the one to marry or whatever, you can be sure to get help from everybody.
• Second: Fiji time.
Yep. Fiji has its own time. And I am not talking about time zones. In one month here, I have hardly ever seen a Fijian walking in a hurry or running (except of when they play sports, of course ?). Fijians take their time, whatever they are doing. The buses, ships and vans do,too. If you miss the bus, well there will certainly be another one. If the bus is 45 minutes late, well, why bother about it? As long as you arrive... The relaxed and completely unstressed attitude is hard to understand for some of us western people who are used to get everywhere and do everything as fast as possible. But once you adapt to Fiji time, take a deep breath and leave the stress behind, you will understand why they say "no hurry, no worry" here. It's way easier to be happy like this. Still, I understand why this mentality is not really helpful for establishing a competitive and well working economy. There are also disadvantages in procrastination, which is definitely an important word in Fiji. Even in Fiji's most important sport, rugby, this gets obvious. There is always a notable change in the intensity of the game towards the end ?.
To be continued... ?
Did I write "I think I will find something to do here" in my last blog entry? I did, and actually a lot faster than I had expected. I left the resort I stayed in after five days. It was a really beautiful location and I met a lot of nice people there, but in the end I got a little bored, so I decided to move. I went to Sigatoka, a very small town next to a river. The resort I went to was completely empty, so the staff (which was incredibly nice) gave me a bungalow for myself although i just paid for the dorm (12 euros). So I had my OWN bathroom and kitchen and there was no one else in my bedroom! You really start getting happy about small things while traveling low budget. Like clean laundry. Or one night without snoring Australians in your bedroom ?.
The staff was quite bored because nobody was there, so I chatted with them and it didn't last long until they invited me for kava to their village. So, that was my first "original" kava. In the villages here there are no closed doors. You will always be welcome and they don't really make a difference between "yours" and "mine". The kava ceremony was fun, although everybody was very young, so you could call it a modern version. Usually when you are invited to a village you are supposed to bring a sevu-sevu, a small gift, mostly a little bag of kava or a kava root. You give it to the chief of the village, but in my case we didn't. Before you get the coconut bowl filled with kava, you clap your hand and say "bula!", then you drink it and clap three times after. I didn't really understand what you are supposed to say after drinking ?. Kava makes you sleepy and relaxed and after one hour I was really ready for bed... I had very interesting dreams that night.
Next day I went to the Sigatoka sand dunes national park because I really felt like using my legs. It is a beautiful and special place, unique in the pacific. Thousands of years ago people here used to burry their dead here, which is why bones and parts of pottery are still found frequently.
When I told one of the Rangers my turtle volunteer story, I was immediately offered to volunteer in the park for a time. As this was exactly what I had hoped for, of course I said yes. One of them even invited me to live with him and his family in his village. The people here are really poor compared to the standards of Germany. They live under very decent conditions, and I what I have seen is still the more developed part of Fiji. Up in the highlands it has to be way worse. Nevertheless people here are incredibly giving and hospitable. I was welcomed like a family member and I'm really looked after. Actually, everybody seems to be related to everybody in "my" village. I have given up remembering who is whose cousin, brother in law or third aunt once removed.?
Work in the national park is absolutely relaxed. It's a Fiji style kind of of volunteering, as I spend most of the day hanging out with the Rangers, drawing, eating or accompanying student groups on the walk through the park. I even built my first tipi.. Don't ask for the purpose, it was fun ?.
Oh yes, we had REALLY good food on world Rangers day...
I'm sorry if I keep repeating myself, but I keep being overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people. I've been in Sigatoka only for a short time, but I already have a new big brother and a little sister who happily cries out "vavalangi" (which means white girl in Fijian) whenever I enter the house and doesn't give up until I carry her around or play with her.