Friday, April 27, 2012

Day Three - BULA!!

Monday morning we woke to a bright sunny day in Ba, Fiji.  Outside our front door dozens of children and teenagers walked together to school.  I believe all schools are private in Fiji and all students wear uniforms.  Most children go to school until around eighth grade and then they look for work or perhaps furthering their schooling.  Over the Christmas break many of the kids in Ba get jobs harvesting the sugar cane. 
Loved all the bright colors that many of the students were wearing on their way to school.

Birch started off the morning with my parent's favorite banana - lady finger banana.  Throughout our time in Fiji we consumed an enormous quantity of these tasty little bananas which were so inexpensive to buy.  My mom makes loads of banana bread each week as the bananas ripen so quickly and are so readily available.
I enjoyed a super flavorful papaya for my breakfast.

Then we all packed up our bags and loaded into the truck for the beginning of our Tour de' Fiji.  Our final destination for the day was Suva.   We took the route through the Interior of Viti Levu (the largest island in Fiji).  I should mention that Fiji is made up of over 300 islands all of various sizes with only 110 of them occupied. Until recently my parents had only gone around the outer part of the island because rumor was that the roads were un-drivable through the interior.  Well, that didn't stop my dad!  I should mention that when my parents first arrived in Fiji my dad tried to apply for a driver's license.  He was told that he could go ahead and drive for at least six months and PRACTICE before he could actually apply for a license.  We got such a kick out of that because it sounds backwards -- but let me tell you it is not easy task driving on the wrong side of the road AND on the wrong side of the car.  Just days before Birch and I arrived in Fiji my dad had finally passed his test and is now owns a legal Fijian driver license.  I know I keep mentioning how horrendous the roads are but it is hard to adequately describe them without actually being a passenger.  My mom tells of a day that she stupidly fell asleep in the car while doing the long drive from Ba to Suva only to be jostled so violently going over a bump that she is still recovering.  I'm serious -- these roads are amazing!

Not sure why these kids were not in school -- perhaps their family could not afford the monthly tuition.  Daily the kids have the job of going out with their cane knives and chopping down and collecting firewood for their outdoor kitchen.  We found that it didn't matter the age of the Fijian's they all LOVED having their pictures taken.
This countryside was just beautiful!  So funny that this horse was just hanging out in the pond...cooling off??
What a treasure our time together was!
As I have mentioned many of the Fijians are Indian and practice Hinduism.  There were bright colored Indian temples all throughout Viti Levu.
Jumping for Joy!

We thought this hut was so cool so Birch jumped out of the truck and snapped a picture.

Typical Fijian home -- the bright colorful laundry sure reminded me how thankful I am for a washing machine and dryer.
Horses are still used extensively in work -- this young boy was going down the road likely gathering fire wood with his family.  It is very common to see people walking around with a shirt or towel over their head to help keep them cool
Lots of bamboo everywhere

Just hanging around
My dad and mom wanted to take some bamboo back to their home to make a picture frame.

We didn't see many of these type of houses while in Viti Levu -- I can only imagine how long it would be to make a house out of homemade mats.

Gorgeous countryside

Fijian women collecting pandanus plant leaves to eventually make into mats.

In 1954 the first missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in Fiji.  Prior to that time there had been other Christian missionaries on Fiji that were not so warmly welcomed (think cannibalism).  There are now around 15,000 members of the LDS church in Fiji.  While driving through the Interior of Viti Levu we came upon this humble LDS chapel.  The building on the left is the home to a member family. 
Branch President's office
Primary Room
Main room -- the doors at the back are the doors to the primary and branch president's rooms.  This humble little church congregation  just had five baptisms the prior weekend. 
#2 the boys bathroom and #1 the girls bathroom  -- the tank next to it is where they store their water.  There were little pvc pipes running along the grass.
Not too far down the road we came across this sweet man and his wife working together to dry the pandanus plant leaves for his wife to then weave into mats.  They were both so kind and shown of the true spirit of BULA!  Bula means Hello, Welcome, Goodbye, Cheers, Thank you, What time is it?  It is now one of my favorite words. 
The leaves need to be rotated for several days in the sun so they will dry evenly. 
Traditional mat weaving is a very intricate and time-consuming task. It can take up to a year for the leaves to be long enough to be used and they are then cut from the trunk, the thorns removed from the edges, the leaves boiled in hot water and the brown leaves that remain are left to dry in the sun for many days. Once dry, the leaves are straightened with a smooth sided sea shell. The leaves are coiled together and a small amount are blackened (by burying the leaves in mud for a week) to create decorative patterns, which adorn the fringe of the mat. The actual weaving is a careful process of criss-crossing the tiny strips into a huge grid like pattern.  The finished mats are proudly used for day-to-day use in the Fiji home.
 Weaving a mat
We just had to take a picture of this scary little bridge that we crossed.  Not far from this bridge there is another one being built by the Chinese.  It's interesting to see many roads, parks, etc... are donated by other countries.
Love this man!
Man crossing the river

All along the roads we often saw little fruit stands.  Sometimes these stands were just a dirty blanket on the ground with a heap of fruits; other times they were tables with neatly made coconut leaf baskets filled with fruit.

We finally arrive in Suva about six hours after we left Ba.  It wouldn't have taken quite that long had we not stopped throughout our drive to take pictures.  We arrived just in time to see all the school children walking home.

After unloading all of our stuff at the patron housing next to the Suva Temple we drove tot he Colo-I-Suva Forest Park.  This easy hike was just a perfect way to finish off the day. 
There were several little swimming holes at the base of several small waterfalls.  Birch and my dad enjoyed a quick dip.  We had started the hike out late in the day so we hiked quickly to make sure we didn't get stuck in the dark forest.
Near the end of the trail there was a deep water hole that had a fun Tarzan rope swing.  My dad did all sorts of cool stunts but I had a hard time catching them with the low light and slow shutter speed.
Birch always loves a good rope swing!
My mom is much more fun that I am.  She debated about going out on the water swing but in the end was so happy that she did.  On our hike out of the falls we saw several huge fruit bats.  Creepy!
We got back to our patron housing (very inexpensive housing ($10/night) for those traveling to the Suva temple.  We had a nice room and a communal kitchen that we fixed our dinner in that night.  The lighted temple stood out like a beautiful beacon of hope and joy in the city of Suva! 

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