Friday, October 30, 2015

One of the reasons we went cruising with our kids, Vuya Village, Fiji!

Hello Everyone,

One of the reasons we decided to go cruising was to get the kids exposed to other cultures, ideas, respect for other people and the way they live.  We wanted to open their minds up to how other people around the world live with or without the material items.  I believe we have been able to do just that with all of our experiences beginning with Mexico all the way through Fiji.  The common theme is that people live many different lifestyles depending on their environment.  The kids have noticed mostly how happy everyone seems.  I know that it is a struggle to live in many of these villages and it takes a lot of hard work and a community effort to just survive on a daily basis, but what the kids are noticing is the sense of family in the community and how close everyone seems to be.  We have been told over and over how it literally takes a village to raise children and survive with the resources they have.  Everyone has their part in helping out from the small children running errands for the elders, to the young teens helping with the chores around the village, cooking, cleaning and helping with the boats, to the young adults working on repairs, building, fishing, or traveling distances to find work to send money back or come back on the weekends.  Then of course the older generation training the younger generation in the profession or skill set that they know about while they are working.  The children all respect the elders and for the most part it seems do as they say and don’t dare to deviate… But with all that said and done you get the sense of how happy they are… They all support and love each other unconditionally (it seems) and extend this warmth and generosity of love to anyone who comes into the village (even us outsiders).

We had one of the most incredibly memorable experiences the other day.  It just so happens we were having a bit of engine trouble as we were traveling from Yadua to Savu Savu.  We had traveled 20 miles and still had 20 to go when we felt like something got wrapped on our prop.  Chris found on the map a tiny little reef protected area off of Coconut Point on the main Island of Vanua Levu.  We anchored there and found that what ever it was had broken free, but now it was getting to late to continue so we decided to anchor there for the night. 

We began some of the schooling lessons with the kids and had some lunch when around 3 we were approached by a load of people in a new ponga style fishing boat.  They where shouting Bula Bula at us and came up to the boat and began asking us a ton of questions about the boat and what we were doing anchored there.  At first I thought this was a little strange and maybe we had done something wrong but then we realized they wanted to come aboard and take a look at our boat.  They had never been on a catamaran before.  So we invited them all on to take a look even though the boat was a disaster and gave them some soda, water and peanut butter pretzels which they had never had before.  They were so fun and curious about our lifestyle and wanted to know if we wanted to come back to the village to see it and for a sieve sieve ceremony.  It was now getting late and we were wondering how this would work when they offered to take us and bring us back.  Well in that case, YES!  They were so excited that we would come and we couldn’t figure out why it was such a big deal until we found out that we were their VERY FIRST CRUISING VISITORS EVER!  It is such a crazy thought with it being 2015 and they had never had a boat stop there and come ashore.  The village is very difficult to get to because the reef extends so far out that you only have a 3 hour window at high tide to come and go otherwise you are there for 6+ hours… 

We all climbing into their boat with them and of course picked up our friends on Shine to go into the village with us and meet everyone.   We were greeted with kids swimming out to the boat, others jumping off the boats moored there yelling BULA BULA and escorting us into the beach.   As we walked up the road to the village all the people were coming out of their houses to shake our hands an greet us with hugs, kisses some completely on the lips others on the cheeks  (or sniffs) and pats on the back.  The kids were all grabbing the hands of our children and clinging to them.  We truly felt like rock stars. 

I need to side note here… it was the first time that when we were greeted by some of the women they would put their face next to your cheek like they were going to kiss your cheek but instead they would give a big sniff, like they are really trying to smell you… It was so strange and we couldn’t figure out who was sniffing and who would be kissing so we didn’t know whether we were suppose to sniff or kiss… Hmmm a dilemma we never figured out but by the end ended up doing both… Awkward moment.. Hee Hee

When we got up to the main part of the village we were taken to the chiefs house to present the Kava.  It is the first time I saw a female chief.  We were welcomed into her house and we all sat in the ceremonial circle.  While she was blessing the kava and giving us permission to walk around the village we looked up at the windows and all we could see where all these eyes of children peering in through the slats… they were crawling over the tops of themselves to peek in through the door.  I felt like the house was going to cave in with all the kids pushing against the walls from the outside.  I had never seen so many and before she could finish the kids all rushed in and began going in a line shaking our hands and saying Bula and welcome and nice to meet you… I couldn’t finish shaking one child’s hand before another and another were trying to grab at my hand to shake it… there were 11 of us between Shine and Family Circus and each one of us had at least 5-8 kids in front of us trying to meet us… The adults were finally able to get most of the kids out for a minute, so we took a picture with the chief and then some of the kids jumped back in for a picture as well.

The Chief is the older woman in front of Amaia

Amaia practicing her rock star pose...

We then were escorted (mobbed, pulled, in a good way) back down the hill to another house to do the Sevu Sevu ceremony.  Typically for a sieve sieve ceremony it is only the visitors and the adults that are in the house for the ceremony.  The Sevu Sevu started out that way, we all sat in a circle and began to pass the Kava around but before we knew it the kids were creeping in one at a time and filling every nook and cranny of the house.  At one time I was wondering if the beams and plywood that the house was built on would be able to support the weight of all the people inside.  The kids were repeatedly shooed out for about an hour and then the adults gave up and all the kids ran inside and were playing this dancing game that is called Taki Taki.  It was so cute because the small children started it… all the kids sing and while they sing, one child dances a routine to the chants, at the end the child spins in a circle and then picks the next child to dance and it starts over.  By the end of the game the kids were calling on the older village adults and they were participating and everyone was giggling up a storm to see their parents and grandparents shaking their booties and dancing to this children song… It was really a lot of fun to see everyone of all ages laughing and smiling and singing all together.  We were there for about 2 hours talking, singing and dancing and having a wonderful time, but then it was time to get back because the tide was getting low and we would have been stuck there.  

Our plans were to leave the next day for Namena Island.  They kept asking us to stay and come back and see the village during the day… We had such a fantastic time that of course we couldn’t refuse.  We really did want to see them again and all the kids.   We also found out that they were having a sustainable farm workshop in the village for the surrounding villages.  George, one of the men in the village, is trying to teach the other villages how to compost, reforestation, sustainable farming and he is also trying to turn the reef in front of their village into a marine reservation.  We wanted to learn more about what they were doing and to show the kids how they are trying to change things and use their resources more wisely.  So we decided to stay another day, how could we miss this opportunity to spend more time with these lovely people and learn more about them.  The funny thing was, before we were interrupted that afternoon by them coming onto the boat, Alexia was suppose to take a test on Culture… We decided to skip the test (for now).  There couldn’t be a better way to study culture than to close the book and actually go live it for a day.

Another funny thing is that when ever someone introduced themselves and we told them we were from the states they asked us if we knew Brooke…Hmmmm.. don’t think so.  As it turns out Brooke was from Alaska and was a green peace worker that lived in the village and helped them to set up their sustainable farming… She ended up marrying one of the local men and they will be returning in a few years.  They didn't know Brooke's last name but we are going to email them and see if we can find out.  We thought it would be fun to reach out to her and let her know we stopped by the village.

The next day our plan was to head out at low tide and walk what we thought was a short distance across the reef and then along the road to the village where we thought either they could give us a ride back or we could call George (Shine’s oldest son on the boat) and he could come at pick us up at high tide.  Well what we thought was going to be a short walk ended up being a quite an adventure walking across this coral reef.  It ended up being about a half mile walk across and in some parts it was deep and others was so thick with mud you lost your flip flops… 

but we all made it and started walking down the road when we came to a small settlement on the side.  As we were walking by a few of the women were hanging out of their windows emphatically waving their hands at us and yelling BULA BULA BULA BULA and giggling as they often do.  We came around a corner and this older lady from the settlement grabbed one of the kids and led them into the yard telling us all to come come come and sit… She led us next to 3 older women and had us all sit down to talk and then the other women that were waving ran over and started to give the biggest bear hugs and kisses like we had just come back from a long trip and they hadn’t seen us in a long time… The whole time they were giggling and laughing and hugging… it was so sweet.  We really wanted to spend more time but had to get back on the road so that we would be in the village in time to meet the bus of kids returning from school.  We had made small garbage bags full of popcorn for them and wanted to be there when they got off the bus.  

Alina hiding behind the bag of popcorn

As we were walking to the village the bus passed us and they waited for us at the bottom of the hill to walk up with us… Anna, from Shine, started to give them popcorn and before she knew it, it was like a feeding frenzy with all the kids rushing her bag and almost ripping it out of their hands… Hee Hee, I guess they like popcorn.  One of the women came running out of the house scolding them and took the popcorn and then started eating it herself and giving it to the other adults.  I now had the remaining bag of popcorn and felt like a fish dropped into a shark tank… I really wanted all the kids to have some so I went farther up into the village to give some to the kids that were to young to go to school and some of the adults there.  Phew… I ended up giving the bag to one of the adults because I just couldn’t handle the pressure and I didn’t want to leave one out… there were so many kids and I couldn’t tell who got some or not.  

Marianne and Moses from the boat the day before began to give us a tour of the village and showed us how they were farming their kava plantation, planting pine trees for lumber, raising chickens and composting their organics, where they have a small pool for laundry, swimming and other non drinkable uses… They were in the process of building a house for someone and we learned that they took the lumber to another town and then it was treated and they brought it back to use to build with.  While we were watching them build the house the kids all started to play a game of duck, duck goose on the hillside.  As you can imagine this became quite aggressive and slippery with the kids rolling down the hill, so they led all of us to an area where the kids could really play and run around.  Plenty more games began, simon says, tag, dancing, ring around the rosy… on and on until our kids started to get exhausted.  The kids were constantly hanging onto or pulling or jumping on the backs of our kids… it was really sweet to see them all playing and having fun with the simplest of games and just to be kids again playing freely and acting silly with all ages of kids.

All the kids love getting their pictures taken and then seeing themselves in the viewer... 

We thought it was time to start heading back down to the boat but they ended up leading us back to the house we had Sevu Sevu in the night before for an afternoon tea… It was lovely and nice to sit for a little while.  Of course it is never just tea… we were beginning to leave when the grandma who owns the house said… Okay, now it is Kava time!  Of course we have to obey and we all sat in the ceremonial circle and began the evening affairs again with Kava, talking and singing again… This time it was a little less formal since now we were no longer considered visitors but now a part of the village community.  At the end of the night all the kids gathered together and sang us the Fairwell Bula song… I am not sure what it is officially called but it was the most endearing music to my ears and I even got a little teary…

Again, we were escorted down to the beach with all the kids and adults coming out of their houses along the way giving us goodbye hugs and kisses (sniffs).  Moses and George and family took us back to our boats and we gave a final Moce (pronounced mothay, their word for goodbye) and hugs (sniffs) and they left.  As I watched them leave they were waving and shining their spot light on us shouting “Moce, love you and miss you already”… and then they would do it again every 50 yards until their shouts got to faint to hear and all I could see was their light flashing in the dark.

 This is truly one of the most personal, impressionable, and memorable day of our journey and maybe my life so far.  I will never forget the feeling of warmth and welcome we got as strangers coming into this village and leaving as family.

Hugs and Love to all,



  1. I love to hear these stories! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow, what a great post. I think the Fijians are the most friendly people I have ever met. Your kids will never forget this experience.
    PS I'm one of your neighbors back on S. Lucille, 94549.

  3. Bula re! I found your blog as I was searching for updates about the cyclone damage. I'm Brooke! :) Glad you found Vuya as welcoming as I did! You were anchored in our marine protected area, but that's okay as long as you weren't fishing! That's happened before and they got chased away ;) The village was hammered by the cyclone, losing all the houses along the coast and many on the hillside. We started a fundraising campaign to send money for building supplies. If you're interested I can send you the link. I hope your travels are still treating you well and you're meeting many others as friendly as those in Vuya. Lolomas, Brooke