After church, we hung around the village anchorage for 3 or 4 more nights. The weather had not been great with wind and rain and cloud. We wanted good visibility to move the boat around the reefs inside the lagoon. We did a few projects on the boat and visited with some other cruisers.
One morning, Monty went in to the village to invite Ma and George’s children to come and hang out with us on the boat for a while. We planned to get them on the paddle boards, and get to know them a little.
When Monty arrived, George asked for a favour. Could Monty take him and Ma out clamming? They wanted to send some clams back to their family in Suva on the supply boat that was to arrive in the next day or so. So Monty arrived with their 3 children, another boy, Ma and George in our dinghy. It was riding pretty low in the water. We served them some tea and soft drinks and showed them around the boat. The kids seemed bored after about an hour, so their parents sent them back to the village. George showed Monty and me how find the clams. I only found one clam but Monty found about a dozen. Monty spotted an octopus! Ma picked it up for him and showed him how to disable it, turning it inside out. She still got a few stings.
Ma wanted to cook up the octopus and some fresh clams and dahl and return with her family for lunch on the boat while waiting for the supply ship to arrive. She is a great cook and we would have loved to have enjoyed another day with them, but we had to get some exercise!
Ma and George would have lots of company on the shore, as the supply ship’s arrival is a big community event. Many of the islanders leave to work in Suva or Nadi, Fiji’s biggest cities. The remaining family eagerly await packages from their relatives on the mainland In return, they send their family members weaved mats and carvings to sell in the markets. We also witnessed the villagers out picking up coconuts from palms growing along the shoreline around the lagoon. They send bags of coconuts, fish, clams and whatever else they can produce on the island to their family living on the mainland. The supply ship is also the only means of transportation between the islands so tearful good-byes and welcomes are common.
It was delightful to visit the village and intriguing to learn about the Fijian culture, but we also wanted to experience some outdoor acitivities. We joined other cruisers anchored near the spit, snorkelling, kayaking, paddle-boarding and kite-boarding.
Snorkeling, we saw lots of colourful fish including large parrot fish, mullet, a wide variety of coral, a resident reef shark and a turtle.
A rotation of boats hosted sundowners and, one beautiful evening, we all gathered on the beach sharing appetizers.
Yesterday morning, Monty went with Bob to do some clamming. They set off in the dinghy with wetsuits, snorkels and buckets. The low tide was around 730 so it was already rising by the time they left the boats.
I caught a ride into the village with Joyce to watch a bit of the women’s weaving session, a village activity on Mondays. Joyce joined in, getting a lesson on mat weaving.
I moved on to say hello to our host family. George was busy grinding the flesh of 25 coconuts collected from the school compound to make some virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil is great for cooking and costs nothing but their time and energy to make.
Two of their kids, Sala and Junior, joined me on a walk to the next village. I wanted to deliver a photo of two young girls I had taken there. We eventually found the right house and their mother, lying on her back with a young baby resting on her tummy. She was pleased with the photo, smiling and saying something in Fijian. One of the girls, Miri, age 6, was there, but she had become shy. She seemed a little embarrassed. I hope she is not scolded for letting me take her photo.
Sala and I walked along the beach for a time and collected shells. Sala, the eldest daughter, who plans to be a nurse. Junior lost interest in collecting shells, and hung back, play-wrestling with a boy on the way. Later he was playing with plastic tape, possibly from an old VHF tape. He wants to be a soldier. Too many war movies, I suspect. He was a very nice boy and enjoyed interacting with us yachties, as did most of the children in the village. His English was perhaps not as good as Sala’s but that was understandable, as he was only 7 years old. In addition to the Fijian language, the kids are taught English starting in the early grades. Both Sala and Junior had spent the prior year at school in Suva and were top of their classes. With a teacher as a parent, they had a good chance of becoming well educated.
I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my arms and legs, so I moved into the shade for the walk back to the main village. It is interesting that I didn’t seem to burn as easily in Fiji as in New Zealand or Canada.
When we got back to our host family’s house, I was invited for tea. They are such generous people! I gave them the family photos I had taken over the past week or so. They seemed pleased.
I thought Joyce would be heading back at noon after the weaving, so I assumed I would go back with her. Monty might have some clams for lunch so I declined their offer of lunch. George and Ma were disappointed I did not want to stay longer. It is very hard to say no to them. George then mentioned he had ground up some yagona and wanted to share some kava with Monty. Monty had expressed interest in trying it with him. I felt I had to call Monty and ask him if he wanted to come in and try some kava. I got on Joyce’s handheld VHF. What could Monty say but that he would be over as soon as he put away the clam chowder?
Monty dinked over from the spit and brought some more gifts for the family like fishing hooks, shampoo, tin foil and a bundle of yagona. George slowly went through the process of preparing the kava he had already ground up. Friends started to drop by their house. The word was out!
Monty was asked by George to act as chief and to say “Bula”, which meant he was ready to drink kava. He asked if Monty wanted a “low tide”, “high tide” or “tsunami”, the different pours. Monty had a high tide and, as instructed, drank in down in one go. Then he was instructed to say “Mudder” and clap three times. The hands are cupped to make a low deep clapping sound. George had some and thought it was a bit strong and added some water. I was asked, and requested a “low tide”, following the same protocol. I did not think it was all that bad tasting, just like a muddy peppery concoction which leaves a slight numbness on your tips and tongue. The others continued several rounds.
I was excused from the kava drinking to go to the little store. I had wanted to visit it since it had been restocked by the arrival of the supply ship last week. Who knows what I might find that would be useful on our boat? A girl has to shop!
Ma accompanied me, which was good because we first had to find and wake up the store keeper from his afternoon nap. Since Ma had baked us several loaves of bread during our stay, I bought her some flour and sugar as we did not have a lot of of baking staples on board. There were not many interesting items in the store, just very basic supplies. I bought some onions which looked fresh and a couple tubs of margarine. It could be used for baking instead of butter which was not available. Refrigeration is just not available in these communities with limited power sources. Lastly, I bought some candy and chewing gum. as requested by the men drinking kava. It must be the combination of texture and taste, with the peppery taste and numbness of their lips.
George (“Joji” in Fijian) informed us that the children were coming over to the spit for a beach party the next day. The parents would also be coming for a picnic. Graham on Casteele had a part in organizing it. Summer Soul, another NZ boat, offered to help transport some of the kids over to the spit from the lagoon anchorage. We could not promise to still be in Fulaga, as we were looking at leaving on the next good window, but told him we would join them if we were.
After letting George and Ma know that we might be leaving soon, he asked a favour, on behalf of Ma, in his gentle manner. Would I would bake a banana cake, like the one I had given them the last time? That cake was from a recipe that Joyce had given me. Mah wanted the recipe too. I agreed, so long as we were still there.
On the way out of the village, we ran into Ben and Astrid, a Dutch couple, on a Hallberg Rassy called Gaia. They were on their way to say farewell to the village chief and sign the guest book, a tradition before leaving the island. We decided to do the same. We were not sure how many more days we would be staying. The chief could not be found but we talked with a spokesman, and left a note of thanks and said something about our experience in the guest book. One more formality off the list.