Published: December 30th 2005December 22nd 2005
Us in a cafe in nandi
Me about to eat goat curry (sorry mum!)
No, never fear i have not gotten married in scotland -i'm talking about the highlands of Viti Levu - the largest island in Fiji. We had decided we wanted to go and stay in a village in the highlands and opted for a homestay e.g. staying with a family in the village, hoping to see a bit more of the traditional fijian way of life. Amazingly enough we arrived on the day of a wedding ceremony! No this was not a faux wedding put on for tourists like the one in Tunisia which was a mock berber style wedding in which Ele was renamed Fatima and married another tourist called Ali ba ba ( for those of you who don't know that story it will have to wait until another time), it was a real wedding ceremony and we were allowed to attend! in fact we kind of became the official photographers for the wedding as everyone was very excited by our digital camera's and was asking us to send prints back to the village!
The marriages always take place between the two villages(99% of the time) which means the bride and groom are often second cousins - no I'm
not joking! The marriages are arranged and the family of the groom present the brides family with a whales tooth as payment for the girl. She can object however because of the shame she brings to the family her father can throw her out of the house and even kill her under fijian law. The couple do have a long engagement of 2-3 years before the marriage takes place however so they can get to know each other. They have the civil ceremony in a nearby town followed by lunch back at the village and then the traditional fijian cremony which involves the presenting of the whales tooth to the brides family. The brides family have to provide gifts for the village and also gifts for her new home such as cooking equipment. After various speeches and prayers the wedding party begins - this party continued til 8pm the next day for some people! The guests sat around drinking Kava (men and women in seperate groups) in one tent and had another tent where there was music and dancing. We had lots of fun as I'm sure you can tell from the photo's!
Whilst staying at Abaca (pronounced ambaca)
we also went on a 3 hour round trip to visit the local waterfall via the jungle - this was fun and at times challenging, especially as the path was so unclear at times so we were not sure if we getting steadily lost! Our host family were very kind to us however made sure we fitted in with the village routine and customs e.g. making sure we were up at a reasonable time for breakfast and wore the correct clothing. Everyone made us feel very welcome. I think because of the wedding we didn't see a full picture of village life however we did have a description from one lady who told us that the women look after the house and do cooking and cleaning and raise the children whilst the men grow crops fish and hunt for wild pigs. If the wedding had not been going on I think we may have joined in with some of these activities. The children go and stay in a nearby city(Lautoka) with a relative to attend school during the week which must be hard both the children and the parents. I would definately recommend the homestay experience - it was good
fun and we got to know the people and the culture a little deeper than we would have done otherwise. We stayed here for two nights - we had a great time, I would definately recommend it, especially as the money generated from people staying there goes towards improving the village dwellings and sending the children to school. However they do grow crops which they sell in Lautoka at the market so its not the only source of income for the villagers.
We then headed towards Suva the capital of Fiji on a bumpy bus ride - gluttons for punishment we sat at the back of the bus which is the bumpiest bit - we did not make this mistake on the way back. We decided to stay at a place outside the city and on the edge of the rainforest called the raintree lodge - from here we were able to visit the nearby Colo-i-Suva forest park. It's a small charge of $5 and you get a map, mostly well consructed paths, plenty of park rangers to point you in the right direction and the experience of visiting the rainforest! True to its name it bucketed down with
torrential style rain a few minutes after we entered and some of the paths were completely flooded. It was an exciting adventure however I abandoned my boots for part of the track because of the flooded paths! Ele and Tom swam in one of the pools which was used for filming Anaconda 2 -apparently there are no anaconda's in there now. The pictures show the lush vegetation, the rain/ excessive amounts of water but it can't show you the sounds of the rainforest- millions of insects singing in harmony and the occasional frog croaking through the din.
We also visited the Fiji museum in Suva which was really interesting to learn about the history of Fiji and its old traditions. This included Cannibalism! They generally only ate the enemies they killed following battle and there was a particular ritual to the eating which include specially designed cannibal forks (see picture). If members of their own tribe were killed they would try and take them back with them than let them fall into the hands of the enemies - I think apart from sentimental reasons this was also because the eating of an enemy was said to weaken the strength
of the tribe as warriors.
We headed back to nadi for one more night before leaving Fiji with a heavy heart - the people are lovely the place is beautiful, my only complaint is too many mosquito's and the occasional cockroach! However sad we were to leave Fiji it did not last long because we were on our way to Australia! Given that this is the country Tom and I will be living in for the next 7-8 months we were understandably excited and the christmas music on the plane only added to this! Needless to say we've had a lovely christmas in Sydney, details of that to come in the next blog, thank you for all your christmas messages, hope you have all had a lovely time
There are more photos below