This is Kyle here. I have been strongly encouraged to write a blog post, so here I am, doing just that. This is also going to double for a school assignment! We are anchored at a little town called Raviravi. We left Savusavu yesterday after we finished our PADI Open Water SCUBA courses. (YES!!!!) And were hoping to show our guest here, Dan, a Fijian village experience. We were not disappointed.
It took 2 hours to motor here, and then 2 hours motoring in circles outside the bay, waiting for a squall to pass by. Good visibility is very important so that we can see rocks and shallow spots. We eventually anchored in decent holding, waited for the rain to stop, and took the dinghy to shore to do our Sevusevu ceremony, planning to only be there for half an hour.
For those of you that may not know what the sevusevu ceremony is, it is the Fijian way of welcoming visitors into their village. It is actually the village accepting you as one of their own. You set a $10 bunch of dried kava root in front of the village chief, and you sit before him cross legged. He talks for about 5 minutes in Fijian, none of which any of us can understand. There is some deep clapping which we try very hard to mimic, and then everything switches back to English. The chief asks a little bit about us, and we ask a little bit about him.
Kava root is a type of pepper plant, which grows in the ground as a root. It takes 2-8 years to grow, and the older it is, the stronger and better tasting it gets. This is what the Fijians say, but I really don’t see how it can taste any better or worse than it does. It tastes all the same to me. Like sawdust mixed into water that begins to numb your mouth after 2 cups. OK, maybe it is a little different at some times than others, but I just don’t notice it. I am no Kava connoisseur.
Drying of the Kava root.
Pounding of the Kava
What used to happen was that the kava brought in by the visitors was then shared in a formal ceremony of acceptance. Unfortunately, so many yachts and cruisers do sevusevu that it is no longer quite so symbolic.
That is why we were not expecting to immediately be invited to drink kava with all of the village men. I guess it is because this particular village doesn’t get many visits. We shook about 20 hands before joining the circle around the kava bowl, which was the most creative one we have seen yet. The men had found an orange fisherman’s buoy, about half a meter in diameter. They had cut the top off, washed the inside, and used the top that they had cut off as a stand. As usual, there were 2 coconut shells floating in the kava drink. Everybody drinks out of the same cups. Whatever works!
Straining of the Kava.
After 3 cups of kava, I stood up and left the kava circle. I have continued drinking kava for hours at other villages, and we have learned that the kava makes you very tired and VERY lazy the next day. I had to get up for school, so I decided leaving was best.
Joel and I went over to a couple of local kids passing a rugby ball on the grass. Joel and I joined in, and we were starting to pass the ball like we were pros! (FYI: First time I have ever touched a rugby ball in my life!) The local kids were asking me if I knew how to play touch rugby. Their English is not too great, and my Fijian is non-existent, so I really did not understand what they were trying to tell me. Eventually, a village lady that knew more English explained to me what they were saying, and the game finally got going.
The goal of the game is to run across the length of the field, about the size of a small soccer field. All of the players run in a line, and pass the ball across to each other. If you make it to the other side of the field without dropping the ball, everyone wins. It sounds easy, but is more difficult than one would think. I was clearly the weak link in the chain, but I was a lot better at it that I was the day before! (I didn’t know anything about rugby the day before…) As I was leaving, two of the kids came running to me, each carrying either a big pineapple or a huge papaya.
Meanwhile, my parents were enjoying tea and breadfruit at the house of two ladies. They are sisters, and have just moved in together after one of their husbands died 2 weeks ago. They were very nice.
We left the village about 4 hours later than we were meaning to, and it was dark when we got back to the boat. We made a decision to return to the village the next day, but with 2 chocolate cakes and a bunch of prepared custard. My mum worked for a couple of hours making the cakes, while I helped with doing dishes and mixing up the (boxed) custard. We also put together a goodie bag with a can of corned beef, some tea, and a box of crackers. These things don’t seem like much, but here, they are currency.
After school the next day, we dinghied to the village, and walked up the little path to the village. One kid saw us, and called something to the rest of the kids in the village. In 10 seconds, there were streams of kids coming out of the houses. Not very big streams though. There are only 40 kids from the village, and half of them are in boarding school elsewhere. There are only 80 from the village.
After passing the rugby ball for 10 minutes, I went to catch up with everyone else, and I found them at the house where my parents had breadfruit and tea the other day. Immediately, one lady handed me a bowl of our cake. She told me it was customary to give a portion to the chief. So, off I go to the chief’s house. I gave the giant bowl of cake to the chief’s wife, and I proudly walked back to where everyone else was, and found out I gave the cake to the wrong people. Oops. I was given ANOTHER bowl of cake, and this time was directed towards the correct house. The chief shared the cake with his family of about 7 in the house. The 4 year old was licking all of the custard he could out of the container. Everyone was very happy.
We sat in the house with the two ladies, fanning ourselves with the fans they make themselves out of palm leaf. We had a couple of cups of lemon tea, made by just throwing the leaf of a lemon tree into hot water. They also cooked some breadfruit, plantain, and pancakes (deep-fried dough balls) for us. It was all really good. We asked about the mat we were sitting on, and they said it took them 1 week to make. The mats are made out of boiled palm leaves that are woven together. They continued to describe when they make mats. They make mats when a baby is born, a person dies, the crops are harvested, the priest visits, or if there is any other special event. Sometimes they just make mats if they feel like it. They were very disappointed they couldn’t make a mat for us before we left the village. Like, seriously disappointed.
The best picture we had, but still blurry. This is about the whole house. They have some cushions for sleeping in a corner.
I will add that while we were talking in that little house over our tea, one of the ladies asked my mum who the eldest was. My mum answered me, Kyle. There was a little bit of confusion, and after five minutes, we found out that they thought our guest Dan was my parents’ son. They then asked how many daughters my mum had. She answered that she had none. The ladies were actually sad for my mum. Then, the ladies asked how many children she had, and she answered two. They were shocked that she didn’t have more. Maybe it is because the people here are used to having 8 kids per family.
Starting to get ready to get back to the boat before dark, another lady gave us a bag of 20 passion fruit. We found out that she was a wife of the wrong house I gave the cake to. She was very grateful and happy with the cake. The two old ladies that we were having tea with also gave us 3 breadfruit, some lemon leaf, and some plantains. As we were walking away from the house, one of the older ladies offered for Dan to stay in the village and find a Fijian wife. She said it in a joking way, but she wasn’t really joking…
As we were walking down the little path to the beach were our dinghy waited for us, the 30 village kids followed us. As we putted out towards Lady Carolina, all 30 kids waved a yelled goodbye as we putted off into the sunset.
I really had a lot of fun in that village, and I hope we can go back soon. It was the first time in months that Joel and I did something with other kids. If it was up to me, we would stay there for a month. But it is not up to me.
Our track from our base, Savusavu, to Raviravi is the red line. The orange box is where the next image is focused
The pass was simple.
The village. The red circle is the 2 ladies’ house, and the orange circle is where we landed the dinghy.