Bula! Bula!

Sept. 6 - Sept. 11:

5 Americans, 3 Frenchies, 1 Canadian, 1 Mexican, 1 Norwegian and 1 Kiwi spent five days in Fiji. Here's what happened...

We we were greeted at the Nadi airport (pronounced Nan-di) with Bula beads and were excited to arrive despite the warm drizzle outside. After hearing it many times, we finally learned that "BULA!" meant "Hello" .... and "Goodbye," "Welcome,"  "Thank You," "Whats Up?" "Bless You!" (after a sneeze), "Cheers!" and basically whatever else you want it to mean (except for "What time is it?" the people here have no need for that. Everyone lives according to "Fiji Time," a concept we quickly became familiar with).

At the Anchorage Resort, we spent our first full day lying in hammocks, playing volleyball in the pool and kayaking in the ocean, all while increasing our risk of skin cancer.

We then took a taxi into the local town to pick up fruits, veggies and other essentials. On the ride, I saw how although Fiji is full of beautiful landscapes with tall green mountains, clear blue water and white sandy beaches, the people who live here lead lives that can't be compared to what visitors see in the resorts. Most families live in small huts in an extreme state of poverty. The Fiji Poverty Report actually states that 25% of the households cannot afford a basic standard of living. They often do not have land or permission to use it, live in very poor houses, and have nutritionally inadequate diets.

Along with the overwhelming amounts of poverty, the country currently has no established government. In April, the Fijian President suspended the constitution and dismissed the judicial system while assuming complete governance within the country.
But despite these hardships, the people always manage to greet you with a loud "Bula!" and beaming smile.

While in town, we stocked up on the cheapest fruits and vegetables I have ever purchased from the local market. Under a large, open-air pavilion, a mass of booths were intricately positioned, each selling a variety of fresh fruits. We also purchased some kava root from one of the booths to make the national drink of Fiji.  It is known to be a sedative, helping the body to relax while clearing the mind. 
Drinking fresh mango juice outside the market

Fijian kids love getting their picture taken

That evening, a man from the resort pounded the sundried kava and mixed the powder in a bucket of water creating a cloudy brownish-grey concoction. He then taught us the traditional way to drink -- reciting "Bula" before and after each bowl along with a series of three claps. The flavor wasn't necessarily bad, but is most comparable to the taste of dirt. After a few "high-tides" (full bowls made from a shelled-out coconut), my lips and tongue were numb, but that's about all I felt.

The next day we took a "taxi" (i.e. ten of us sat in the bed of a small pick-up truck while the other two sat in the cab with the driver) to Natadola Beach which is known to be one of the best white sand and surf beach on the main island. The driver wasn't completely sure how to get there and it took over an hour, so we sang songs in French, Mexican and English to keep our minds off the bumpy ride along dirt roads in the back country.

When we finally got to the beach, we waded through the clear, warm water along the cliffside before relaxing in the sand. I played a little sand soccer with the boys and we finished the day horseback riding down the beach.
A long ride along dirt roads in the bed of a truck leads to singing/screaming French songs

Before going back to the resort, we stopped in a little tourist town on a marina for a seafood dinner with a lot of Fijian beer.

Cheers! ...I mean, Bula!

The next day, Anchorage transferred our accommodation to it's partner resort on Beach Comber Island. There, we ate great Fijian food, snorkeled along the reefs and met other students from all over the world. The boys sailed and played miniature golf while the girls relaxed in the sun. We all spent the majority of our time at a little private saltwater pool hidden near the back of the island. At nighttime, since the island caters to students, it basically turns into one enormous beach party.

We stayed the majority of the next day on the island and caught our boat home early in the evening. The water was a little rough and some of the boys chose to sit at the bow. It was hilarious watching them get slammed by wave after wave over the course of an hour.
That night we drank more kava and regretfully spent our last night together in Fiji before flying back to Auckland the next morning.

Highlights of the Trip:
  • Kava
We created our own traditional kava ceremony complete with "King Ratu" (a.k.a. Travis), a Queen and servants. Although I didn't get the full relaxing effect of the drink, I laughed the most while sitting outside with our fictitious tribe.
  • Snorkeling
I have never seen ocean life like I did in Fiji. All of the fish were such vibrant colors and matched the atmosphere of the bright coral. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I did not see any sharks, but spoke to multiple people who did.
  • Kayaking
We took the kayaks out one evening into the ocean outside the resort. As Mads and I raced Nate/Elizabeth and Mark/Allison along the coast, we tried to smash into one of their boats, but were hit sideways by a wave and flipped out of the kayak in the middle of the water, obviously losing the race. Karma, I guess.
  • Taxi Ride
At times (like when we were driving over rickety bridges on railroad tracks) we thought we were being taken into the bush of Fiji to never return again, but it ended up being a great experience. Ever since that ride, I've had "Aux Champs Elysées" and other French songs I don't know the words to stuck in my head. 

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