Stir at 7:30am to the sounds of giggling children, bossy dads, and falling billiard balls into play. Emerge from half-slumber at 9am to eat a pound of crepes and cups of lemongrass tea. Wash face. Brush layer of cane sugar off teeth. Contemplate what today will bring. This was our morning routine during those first few weeks in Fiji, when we had a host family and the sole mission of experiencing Fiji before our classes began in the afternoon. Some days we scribed on our computers until they died. But what we usually opted for were outings with our host mother or the children, and these trips always centered around satiating that primal desire to cool off.
Ordinary Day #1
Walking down the road toward Suva, we crossed the newly uncovered cavern at Namando and found ourselves at a riverbank looking for young wild ferns - food for lunch. Fane took off on her search, and since Garrett and I had no clue which greens to pluck, we let ourselves get distracted by the water and the distant hollering and the swinging vine that caught our eyes.
Holy cow! Let's gooooo!
Dangling from an impossibly intricate web of branches and plant tendons was a vine that grew over teal waters just deep enough for jumping. Already frolicking were Samesa, Elias, and Carlly, presumably taking a break from their farming duties. Garrett and I stripped our sulus, flip-flops, and bags off at a near sprint, trudging through the mucky waters that skirted the shore.
While I struggled to harness the upper-arm strength to withstand the initial drop, Garrett and the boys flew with ease up ten feet into the air. I guess it pays to have muscles. The crew of "The Bachelor" couldn't have conjured up a more iconic jungle scene.
After two failed attempts, I realized my reason for existing today was to document this chuckle-filled occasion. First wading out over stones lacquered by silt, I caught the action from a view where one could appreciate the hollowed-out, eroded bank from where the boys were jumping. Getting more ambitious, I swam toward the boys with my hand in the air, camera strapped on tight and covered by a sad looking Ziploc bag. Though I was getting splashed from this vista at the foot of the vine, I couldn't believe I was watching boys swing from vines in a dense and dripping bush, mountains fighting for attention in the background. We stayed for hours.
Ordinary Day #2
It seems a little redundant to state that Fijians live a physical life. Clearing rugged terrain, planting crops, constructing bures, and tending to animals in the blazing sun is difficult work to fill your every day, but thankfully, for the Fijians, there is the weekend...and nothing strenuous happens on the weekends.
Every Sunday afternoon after shared family meals, swimming is on the brain. Kids from 4 to 24 take off to the nearby adventure spot on the Luva river, and because the cyclone battered our old favorite hangout at Namando, it was due time for a relocation.
Nabukalau. An elbow in the Luva. A spot that appeals to all ages with the following features: a 20 foot rock jump, 30 feet of trickling rapids for rafting on bilibilis (bamboo rafts), a mini current, a crescent-shaped beach for digging, burying bodies, sand fights, and games of He (a.k.a. Tag), small fresh water pools for fishing prawns, water spouts flowing from now-bare rocky outcroppings, and enough bamboo to build a fortress fit for a Fijian chief. Definitely not a downgrade in location.
For five hours on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, we swam with the children and youth. When one spurt of interest in the rock jump died, someone would create a sand ball and heave it at an unsuspecting runner. We'd all laugh, grab some submerged sand, and start our own ball creations. Older boys dropped sand balls in the back of little boys' underwear, and an uproar ricocheted off the jungle canopy as we watched a young one waddled his sagging undies to the water.
It was the sort of fun that was obvious at the moment but its ultimate magnitude not detected merely by an awareness of present contentment, which is to say, we had no idea how much fun we were really having until the moment ended. The day we swam for five hours with twenty-five kids at Nabukalau was among the best of our stay. If I remember correctly, we collapsed to the floor that night - couldn't make it past 9 o'clock.
Would you like to see a video highlighting some of these great water moments? Check back next week! What do you think about our time in Fiji thus far (and you've only heard 3/11th of it!)?