***WARNING: THIS IS A LONG POST, PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING!***
While I have summarized the adventure that was 2012, I now need to summarize the adventure that began 2013! Fiji is unique in its ways and its culture. My friends and I decided we were going to ring in the new year embracing our new home Fiji style! Caitlin and Sarah endured the six hour bus rides from town, to escape to my little house on a hill and experience this place I had been talking about so much – Na Bu 8!
The New Year adventure started with a nature walk up into the hills with Caitlin where we discovered a serene creek in the midst of dense trees. We enjoyed the site and relaxed the afternoon away. On the way back to the house I ran into my neighbor who kindly said he would bring us some dalo to enjoy (dalo is a potato like food I eat lots of and enjoy more than I should). Another walk down to the jetty and Sarah arrived on her bus, she was exhausted, but excited to experience Nabouwalu. We carried the bags of food and wine up the hill and started cooking some pumpkin curry…word had gotten out that I had friends in town and soon the invitations to come drink yagona rolled in.
For those of you who don’t know what yagona, grog, or kava is, let me explain. Yagona is the root of a plant pounded up into a powder, that powder is then put into a cloth bag and mixed with water, the result is a substance that resembles muddy water. You then drink the yagona out of coconut shells passing them around the circle. Drinking grog has a relaxing effect and it numbs your mouth a bit, some people get “grog drunk,” something I can say I have yet to experience. There is a whole method and routine to what you are supposed to do at a grog session, much of I still don’t know, I just go with the flow and enjoy the good times.
After the three of us had our delicious pumpkin curry we found our way to a neighbor’s house for a few bilos (cups) of grog. Tired though, we didn’t make it that long and found our way back to my house where we haphazardly hung a hammock and mosquito net and curled up for a good night’s rest.
The next morning we took it slow enjoying the cool breeze that passes through my front room and indulged in multiple cups of coffee accompanied by scrambled eggs and toast. We really didn’t have any plans for the day. After a lazy morning, we finally decided to go for a leisurely walk to Vuya (another volunteer Brooke’s village). It was an afternoon filled with good conversation, good company, and good views. On the way back we began to crave a snack and a drink. On the side of the road we saw a banana tree that had fallen and no one had laid claim to the bananas under it, unfortunately they were half in a gnarly muddy trench. Sarah braved the trench and picked some bananas, sadly they weren’t quite ripe. Unsatisfied we went on a hunt for some Bu (coconut water), this task was more challenging than expected. While there are many coconut trees around, they are all quite tall, and all my Fijian friends were napping. Again a neighbor helped us find a fallen tree and we found three Bu to crack open.
Fijians make it look so easy to hack open a coconut. While I’m sure it is a skill that comes with practice, the three of us need lots of practice! After many hacks and cracks we were exhausted and satisfied with full bellies of wainibu. Still hungry we set out to make some hummus, roasting some garlic and pounding up some chickpeas. As soon as the hummus was made, it was eaten and we all laid in “wainibu/hummus” comas.
We began to dose off and a knock came at my door, my neighbor had come over to teach us how to cook dalo. Excited to finally learn how to cook this stuff without getting milamila (itchy), we returned to the kitchen for a second afternoon snack. Knife in hand we peeled, boiled, and consumed the dalo! The sun was beginning to set and I had yet to show Caitlin and Sarah one of my favorite spots in Nabouwalu, the hospital and the gorgeous view behind it. We poured a little fermented grape juice in a water bottle and climbed my hospital hill to watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. It had been an eventful day and we had big plans the next morning for a memorable hike above Nabouwalu, so we returned home, locked the door, poured some Sangria, and played Bananagrams and Boggle.
It was New Year’s Eve and we were ready to hike to the towers above Na Bu 8, we baked some banana scones (baking technique still needs to be perfected), drank some coffee, and packed a bag. And so the hike began…it really isn’t a bad hike. About 1.5 to 2 hours each way. Though it is mostly uphill, and not advisable to do in the middle of the day. Caitlin took the lead, and I brought up the back (20 minutes behind). We endured hill after hill, looking back only to see stunning view after stunning view. After two hours the end was in sight and we all got a little perk in our step and jogged up the last hill to the towers. We stood on top of the hill taking it all in where we lived. We could see Viti Levu off in the distance, both coasts of Vanua Levu, and to Savusavu Bay in the South. It was amazing – it was perfect.
Arriving back at my house Caitlin and Sarah passed out, I left them and went to check in at the hospital and find some more Bu, and when I returned Caitlin was face first into my mat asleep and Sarah was out cold on the wood floor in front of the door. The sound of me hacking open coconuts aroused them and they came to join in the fun and goodness. We drank more wainibu, took some showers, put on some face masks and had a leisurely afternoon watching a chick flick, as the night was promised to be eventful.
Ten at night rolled around, and we had all fallen asleep, thank goodness we set an alarm! Groggy eyed we all woke up and began to pretty up for our Fijian New Year. A cup of coffee, a little blush, and all dressed up we headed off to church with my neighbor to ring in the new year! Kids played with in the back of church, as we all tried to decipher the Fijian sermon. Midnight rolled around and everyone joined in a Yabaki Vo (New Year) song, and let out a good hoot and holler at midnight. We settled down with the ladies after church to drink tea and eat some coconut buns, where we were doused in baby powder, given flowers for our ear, and a kiss on the cheek by some Fijian men. Next we headed back to my neighbor’s house, where they had built a shed earlier in the day, people began to gather and the grog drinking and dancing began. We had hoped the power would stay on late that night, but no such luck and at one AM they turned it off on us. Fortunately, my neighbors planned for this and before we knew it a portable generator was there and we continued dancing, drinking, and laughing into the early hours of the morning. Four AM rolled around and the three of us had bellies full of grog, muddy dancing feet, and sleepy eyes. We stumbled our way back to my house, and fell asleep…
Now you think this would be the end of the fun, but no! Its Fiji there is always fun, food, and good times to be had. We woke up five hours later and made French Toast and coffee (please note coffee is an essential item to every morning). We played with the neighbor kids, we talked about life, and we embraced 2013. The afternoon rolled around and the neighbor invited us to lunch with their family down by the ocean, where we” gunued” yagona, had delicious lovo, and received beautiful salusalus. We ended the day with a walk up into the hills of Nabouwalu and tried to forget that the next day brought a long six hour bus ride back to reality…Happy 2013 everyone. Hope it is filled with memories and moments that last a lifetime.