Another tour today, and another wonderful day. Robyn, Adam and I went to a local village, home of the chief of Savusavu. I have seen plenty of postcard worthy scenery, but we just keep getting better and better and today's was by far the best.
We arrived by tender at Savusavu and were bundled onto another un-air conditioned bus, but this was only a short ride to the local village. We were welcomed with a Bula (welcome) song and a flower wreath much like a lei. (As a side note, everywhere you go in Fiji people are always saying Bula to you. Even when we've been on a bus, they have called out and waved to us-they are really really friendly here and always smiling.)
We were shown around the village a bit. It was mostly beachy shacks painted in fresh greens and blues. We saw the meeting hall, the tiny old church and the much larger new church which they are still building (but looked as if they were using it already). Then we were taken to the beach which skirted the village. Think typical blue sky and waters, yellow-white sand and the brown and green of coconut palms and you have a fair idea of what we were looking at. Beaches at home are absolutely nothing-this was truly stunning.
The group was then asked to sit down for a kava ceremony and another cultural show. The kava ceremony was interesting. First we saw it being made in a huge wooden bowl with legs. Water was poured into the bowl then an assistant passed the 'chief' (though he didn't look old enough to be the actual chief) what looked like bunches of raffia or dangly weeds which were used to wipe down the sides of the bowl with the water. I assume there was also some kava powder in the bowl, otherwise it was just dirty water (kava is made from a dried tree root which is then smooshed into powder and added to water to make the drink). A cup was then filled with the drink, it is passed to the first person (7 volunteers from the tour group) who clapped once, accepted and drank from the cup, passed it back then clapped three times. The cup was refilled and passed onto the next person and the ritual continued.
When the ceremony was over, the villagers did some traditional singing and dancing. It was much the same as what I saw at the Arts Village, but it was much more relaxed and less rehearsed. There were a couple of kids joining in and getting steps and movements wrong, and so there was laughter too and it all just seemed more real in a way. I guess more that we were part of the village and not just paying tourists.
Next, the villagers demonstrated how they get coconuts when they want them-by climbing the palms-and also one of the women and one of the men used the palm leaves to make a basket and bag which would then be dried and used for carrying things. They also cut up some fresh (green) and dried (brown) coconuts and we got to try them, both the flesh and coconut water.
We were then given time to browse the souvenir stalls run by the villagers and wander some more around the village. The three of us found a spot near the beach to plonk down and just observe. I could have sat there for hours watching the water, it was so beautiful.
We weren't alone for long though, and one of the villagers, a boy of about 15 by the look, came and sat with us and chatted and asked us questions and we asked him questions. We found out the village has about 200 people living in it, he has (about) 9 siblings (!!!) and that the majority of people born in the village end up staying in the village all their lives, though many move to Suva for university but come back again. I also asked how often they had tourists coming to their village and if they were sick of it. He said that there was a resort nearby that brought tourists every Tuesday and cruise ships like us about once a month, and that they liked being able to share their traditions so didn't mind the tourists. He was a really nice kid, shame he wasn't a bit older!
Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye and get back on the bus back to town. Like yesterday, I am so glad that I did the tour as I learnt so much.
Back in town, we wandered around the shops for a little while but there wasn't really much there so we got the tender back to the ship for the rest of the day.