Vern: We woke up the next morning at Bay of Plenty to an opulent breakfast. Danny had woken up early, cut up a papaya and made fried bread and coconut cream (known as lovo) dumplings. Danny says every Fijian dish is made with lovo and "that's why Fijians are so fat." We actually didn't see many fat Fijians (maybe they hide them from tourists) but Andrea recently read that neighbouring Samoa (with a similar diet) are the fattest nation in the world. Danny said that his mom cooked so wonderfully with lovo, that he could name his terms at school when the Indian kids wanted to trade lunch boxes: "Yes we can swap, but you must tell your mother not to make your lunch so spicy tomorrow. It makes my head explode. We can swap today if you give me your juice too!"
We spent most of that day on the beach and our Spanish friends hopped on to another island and were replaced by an English/Ugandan couple. Sam found a huge octopus on the sand flats that day and Steve fried it up with lemon and herbs and made a killer octopus salad as a starter. We got stuck into card games that evening, playing a distorted version of Go Fish (called Go Fishing which is actually the correct verb tense) and Danny cleaned up at Bullsh*t. Sam the boatman was playing though he didn't seem to understand the rules and was discarding the wrong cards and every time he did that, the chef would shriek with laughter. A rather disproportionate reaction but fun to watch. Sam then bowed out in second place leaving us perplexed!
The following morning it was pineapple pancakes. Mmmm. We spent the morning on the beach and then elected 'Basket Weaving' from the Activities Board. When he was ready, Eddie, the elderly groundskeeper, walked by dragging a palm leaf and motioned us over. We sat down in some tree-shade and Eddie hacked the palm leaf into two segments with his machete, each with around 16 fronds on either side. Andrea was up first. She was instructed to sit with half the leaf under one knee and then Eddie showed her the weave: press the middle one down, this one over, this one under, skip one, press the middle one down, this one over, this one under. Andrea looked bewildered. "Shall I show you again?" asked Eddie. "Yes" replied Andrea without missing a beat. Press the middle one down, this one over, this one under. "Right well here goes..." Andrea got started under Eddie's watchful eye. He'd tut and correct her when she misfolded a leaf but in a few minutes she'd turned the left-hand side of the palm leaf into a roughly woven rectangle. Andrea looked pleased with herself and Eddie seemed pleased with his student. "Good. But I will just do it over so it's good. Yes?" "Sure" said Andrea and watched Eddie undo all her handiwork and redo it tightly and neatly. He handed over the result and summoned me over and we repeated the whole charade. I was quite pleased with my green weave work but once again Eddie took it apart and fixed it. Andrea returned to Eddie's side and did the other side of the bag with a lot of interference from our teacher and afterward the palm leaf segment was two green squares on either side of the spine.
"I will show you now how to seal the bottom and weave the handle." Eddie roughly and powerfully tugged at the palm fronds and plaited these like a pony-tail. Andrea stared open mouthed. Eddie stopped and half handed back the incomplete mesh to Andrea then stopped. "Do you want me to finish it? Because you'll just spoil it" Eddie asked with no malice in his voice. "Uh, yes please" answered Andrea, slightly insulted but relieved. Eddie pulled and tugged and plaited and quickly wove the rectangles together to create the bowl shape of the basket and wrung two plaited tails out of each side and tied these together into the shoulder strap. The spine of the leaf was at the top and he split this apart to open up the dome. And voila, a basket! Marvelous. I handed over my leaf segment without a word and it didn't take him long to turn that into a basket too. Not very manly right? So I turned it around and slipped it on my head like an army helmet. Andrea liked this. Eddie didn't get it. We tossed the contents of our pockets into our new luggage and walked up the hill to our bure swinging them theatrically.
The dinner drums woke us from our late afternoon siesta. This time though we could make out faint music too. We were the only ones at the resort on our last night so we couldn't hold up dinner. We strolled down the hill, careful not to tread on the many frogs which came out at night, and followed the music to the restaurant. There we found a candle-lit table set for two in the middle of the room (with wine glasses put out instead of the normal water cups) and Eddie was playing island songs on his guitar and singing while Steve the chef was playing the ukulele. What a treat. Danny served up pan-seared chicken and pumpkin which we devoured while the two guys played moody island music. We clapped after each song finished. "What was that song about?" asked Andrea after one ended. "Eddie's cousin went to the next island over and he came back and wrote this song." Not quite the answer we were looking for, but it's pretty awesome that local stories are recorded in pretty songs. That track was like Eddie's cousins blog. We beamed when Danny brought out a surprise dessert and as we were getting started on the fruit and custard Eddie asked me, "Do you mind if I sing a song to Andrea?" "No, of course not" I replied and in English in an incredibly heartfelt and soulful voice Eddie crooned out an island style love song to my fiancée: "Dear Andrea, I love you, I miss you, Dear Andrea..." It was very sweet and it was a very romantic evening. Other than the bandleader wooing my future wife, of course.
The next morning after lovo pancakes, we decided to visit the farm. Danny walked us out the back of the lodge over a hill and down to a small farm where they were growing cabbages, cassava, peppers, bananas and mangoes. There were of course a ton of palm trees and Danny showed us how one de-husks a coconut with a wooden stake. I copied him and also successfully pried the furry husk away from the nut. He also hacked open a brown nut (the green riper nuts are also popular because they hold 2L of water) and we drank the water and ate the fruit. Danny pointed out spices and medicine plants and told us that everything that was grown throughout the lodge had a purpose: "That one there with the brown leaf. That one keeps bad men and bad spirits away. Before we planted that people said they saw evil men in their rooms." Probably not the best example.
On the way back from the farm, we had a good view of the two mountains on the island and Danny casually mentioned that Sam had named one of them 'Mountain View of Plenty'. The other one was nameless. Seeing an opportunity to leave our mark on the island, we decided we would name it. To ourselves we had already likened the hill to a giant boob so we offered up 'Boob Mountain' as the other name. Danny appreciated the vision and liked the direction it was heading, but wanted more. So he joined in. We kicked around lots of ideas and eventually settled on 'Booby View of Plenty', which doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Aware that some people might not think it's funny, we found out from Danny what the Fijian word for 'boob' is. So, forever more that mountain will be known as 'Mount Sucu' (pronounced 'suthu') and tourists will just think it's an exotic name. Win-win.
And after a lesson on how to make lemonade, our time on Bay of Plenty came to an end and we sailed away on the inter-island catamaran with very fond memories and a great respect for how the islanders use the land. I was quite pleased that Andrea was content to leave with me and hadn't been induced to staying by Eddie's love song. Eddie, however, was probably heartbroken.