At 4am, I arose to pack my bags over a sleeping six year-old. At 5am, I pulled my bags onto the billiard table and waiting for the call to the carrier. At 6:30am the mosquitoes claimed victory over my right leg as we crawled up into the carrier, which would take all the volunteers and a scattering of locals down the mountains into the city of Sinatoka. We waved goodbye to some sleepy and sad faces. The village was in our wake. When we hit asphalt, I pulled my Blackberry out so fast, I nearly elbowed the girl next to me. One week without internet made Lindsay an anxious girl. How sad. But once we boarded the bus to Lautoka in the city, I peeled myself away from facebook notifications and twitter updates to hang with Abel in the back, listening to my iPod and his favorite song on repeat (My heart will go on by Celine Dion...seriously). The speedbumps sent us flying into the air and crashing down with a back crack and big laughter. The open windows threw my hair around in a frenzy. And the views never let up from being awe-inspiring.
After a week of sharing kava bowls and receiving a rough nutritional spread, I acquired my first WTI travel bug...and not the good kind. I didn't feel much like hitting the bar hard with the other travelers, and instead Abel invited me to hang with him at his brother's house in the city (since Abel came back with us to work for his future school fees for two months).
Brother Elia's house shook from the little pounding feet of two children, Kenny and Faresa, both male, cheeky, and energy-packed. While dinner cooked in the kitchen, I received playful slaps from the two year-old, Kenny, that got me right in the kisser. He had a face smeared with his earlier dinner, and a laugh that meant mischief and ulterior motives. He was, in a word...hilarious.
Abel and I ate together a meal of noodle soup, village taro, and pig skin, and because of my subtle uncertainty with devouring slippery, jiggly pig, Abel sensed I was disgusted and began to beat himself up. He spoke only one or two words during dinner and nearly cried for being a bad host. I felt awful that I couldn't scoop the pig skin into my mouth feverishly, which would have been the only thing that would ease his worries, but I reassured him over and over that I loved the meal...I was just not as hungry as he was. Those from the villages in Fiji have such an innate desire to care for you, and when Abel thought I wasn't receiving a meal up to my normal standards of apparently royal feasts, he grew upset with himself. Had he only known how happy I was to still be soaking up village culture and company, he wouldn't have felt so sad.
The long meal drew to an end, and Abel went outside with his brother to pound some fresh kava for a small savusavu, or welcoming ceremony into the new household. Meanwhile, I created games that broke through the firm language barrier by making sounds with my mouth, creating rhythms of slaps and punches in the air to be repeated, mainly just doing anything that would entertain two kids who would quickly turn to violence if bored.
Abel and Elia welcomed me into their Lautoka home, and after a few bowls, I lounged by the mother of the household to gab about the boys. Her abilities to predict their next moves and behaviors was stunning.
"Next they are going to play a slow love song and start blinking for longer periods of time. That's the difference between men and women kava drinkers: we throw on the party tunes and gab while the men want to wallow in sweet songs and fall asleep. We're more fun."
As the rest of the Madventures group was bouncing around Ed's Bar, I was glad to know I was still connected with the village I just left behind. It made sense to be there, and it was yet another moment I cherished in the moment and beyond.