Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bula Bula [Hello] Fiji

Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands

Viti Levu, the largest island in the Fijian archipelago, has an abundance of resources, a rich history and vibrant culture. Not surprisingly, the island serves as a hub for trade and communications in the Southwestern Pacific. Suva, the capital of Fiji since 1883, is one of the largest cities in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand.

Markets are a great place to learn about local life,  and in Suva, the Municipal Market pulses with Polynesian, Chinese, Indian, and Fijian vendors selling fresh fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, nut oils, flowers, crafts, and anything else you did not know you needed.

After a short walk from the market, past the electronics stores, banks, and government buildings, you will find the Fiji Museum on the grounds of Thurston Gardens, where South Pacific flora can be seen. It also has some large kapok trees, which house communities of fruit bats hanging out during the day.

At the Fiji Museum you can learn the history not only of Fijians, but also other Polynesians, their migrations, and their culture. Outside the main building different areas teach you how to make paper, weave mats, make clay pots, or kava. Inside the main building are replicas of the giant double-hulled canoes that were used in the migrations. These canoes were big enough to hold cattle and live on for a short time and the carvings and craftsmanship reminded me of the Viking ships. Another part of the museum contains photographs and artifacts, telling the history and fate of the Fijians and the early missionaries who came to the islands.

Driving around the volcanic island offered snapshots into the mosaic of culture, history, and lifestyle that blend into an eclectic community today. Suva is a blend of Fijians, Indians, Chinese, Tongans, Samoans, Rotumans, Solomon Islanders, Micronesians, and Europeans and this diversity shows up in the various denominations of churches and temples throughout the island as well.  

On the drive I witnessed many contrasts. Compared to the congested big-city lifestyle of Suva, the outer villages had a simpler, quiet lifestyle with local produce stands, and singular houses near a river or waterfall. Not far from Suva, a lush rainforest, Colo-I-Suva, contains stunning flowers, birds, and even mongoose, which were brought in to eradicate snakes.

Standing up on a ridge overlooking Suva and the harbor, I marveled at the beauty of the mountains, the lush green landscape, and the collection of open-air homes with such a peaceful view of the ocean. Laundry fluttered on the lines, chickens, dogs, and goats roamed the sandy path, and the smell of cooking from the earth ovens wafted through the air. I ate the juiciest, sweetest papaya, freshly picked, and felt so much gratitude. My deepest wish is for all people to have the experience of peace I felt at that moment.

Moving Towards Peace: Dravuni Island, Fiji

You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.

As I stand on a bluff on the highest hill in Dravuni Fiji, my eyes become saturated with shades of blue: The horizon fills with layers of lapis and tanzanite with strips of turquoise, all encircled by the large reef betrayed by crashing white waves.  No photograph or painting could fully capture this moment as the wind caresses my hair and the sun kisses my skin.

Earlier that morning I watched the sun rise over the misty ink-colored shadows of the uninhabited islands nearby. Papaya- and mango-colored fingers of light welcomed the day and I thought about the Chinese proverb:
”When the sun rises it rises for everyone.”  Everyone on the planet bears witness to a new day, each one as unique as its witness.

Dravuni, a volcanic island in the Kadavu Island group of Fiji, is less than two miles in length with a population of about 200 people.  This tropical paradise, complete with shady coconut palms and pristine white beaches, could be the very beach I fantasized about visiting while viewing my computer’s screen saver in a windowless office.

By ‘modern’ standards the inhabitants on Dravuni have few possessions or luxuries. Yet, they have fresh rainwater, tropical breezes, and regular sunshine. The sea and the island provide their food and they have a strong community and family. They have a lifestyle at a pace many work at a frenzy in order to retire to. How much do we really need for a life filled with peace, contentment and love?