I know, I know….it’s been almost a month since our last post. Sorry about that but getting here and getting all sorted took a bit of time and, of course, we’ve had to effect some repairs. Seems that when your boat sits for a couple of years without being used much things just tend to break down all on their own. Since we’ve arrived here we’ve had to replace our anchor light, repair our generator and a crack on the bowsprit and then send off for a new lithium ion battery for our IridiumGo because it swelled up and nearly exploded. And now, for the second time in two weeks Dan is working on our windlass motor. This time replacing it with the spare one. Anyway….I’ll leave the mechanical stuff for Dan to share with you. My job is to tell you more about Fiji…The land of the super friendly people!
There’s no doubt we fell in love with Fiji when we were here for the first time in 2019. The five months we spent here were amazing, filled with village visits to meet the locals, interactions with island chiefs, snorkeling and just enjoying everything this extraordinary country has to offer. But, coming back this time has been even more special. Why? Well, this time we were coming back to Fijian friends we had made on our first trip. This is when we learned how truly special the Fijians really are and why they make this one of the happiest places on earth. Sorry Disney….Fiji wins the Happiest Place on Earth title hands down.
As you may have read we checked into country at Vuda Marina in mid May. While we never stayed at this marina before we did anchor outside of the basin many times in 2019 and so we got to meet a lot of the staff here in the office and at the Boatshed Restaurant. One of the things I was drooling over on passage was my first Mongolian Beef meal of the season. No one does it quite like the Boatshed and it’s just as good as I remember. In the past month it’s safe to say I’ve had it six or eight times. It’s THAT good!
When Your Taxi Driver Remembers You
Now you know you’ve made an impression on people when you see the taxi driver you used three years ago and even he greets you with a hug and a “welcome home”. Veeru from Marina Taxis & Tours drove us one time three years ago but he remembered us. He could even tells us where he took us. Imagine that. Of course we also remembered him fondly as well.
We kept his card because he is such a sweet and interesting guy. His son works for the Fiji Sugar Corporation and Veeru lives with him. He’s even pointed out his house to us on our travels with him. He has a daughter in New Zealand and several grandchildren that he adores. Yes, we like to get to know the locals and make a point of showing interest in their lives. They aren’t just workers to us….they are beautiful human beings who all have interesting lives and stories to share.
Veeru is Indo-Fijian so he has that Indian accent that Dan loves to imitate and he does it quite well too. He did it in the cab with Veeru that day and the two of them got on just brilliantly. When we got out of his cab three years ago he told us, “This, this is your car. This not my car. This your car. When you need it you call me and I bring it to you.” Of course we loved every second of this exchange and we’ve never forgotten him. It was a joy to know that he had not forgotten us either.
Those Hardworking Fijians
We spent several days in Vuda Marina with our brilliant Fijian family but we had parts on order and it was going to take a week or more so we hopped out to Musket Cove where we’d spent quite a bit of time in 2019. Upon arrival there we were took the dingy into the island bar where we were greeted with hugs once again. Josie, one of the bartenders there was on duty. It was so wonderful to see her beautiful smiling face welcoming us back.
We got all the updates on what has happened in Josie’s life and how things went during Covid lockdowns etc… We learned that during the lockdown she was stuck on the island away from her family. Josie actually lives in Suva which is three hours away. She was scheduled to go home the day after the lockdown began. She ended up spending seven months away from her young children in the employee quarters on the island.
She, like most of the resort workers around Fiji, works six days on and get one day off or fourteen days on with three days off. She and her hubby, Sebu, both work at Musket Cove. Imagine this. They have to take a one hour ferry ride from the resort to Denarau then take a three hour bus ride to Suva. They then get on another bus there that takes another twenty minutes or so to get them home. Talk about a long commute. If they work the six on one off schedule they are home one full day then take the same trip back to the resort. Just one full day of seeing their two young daughters then back to work.
This is not just Josie and Sebu’s story. It’s the story of most of the resort workers here. And you know what? None of them complain about this life. They do it willingly and with a smile. They are, wait for it, HAPPY to have jobs. Hmmm…I know a country or two whose citizens could learn a lot from these people. I’m just saying.
When they are working their families pull together to take care of their children. Yes, here in Fiji you find they aren’t just happy. They are hard working and truly believe in and practice the very essence of community. It’s simply astounding to see this and to get to know these folks on a personal level. The more you get to know them the more you love each and every one. We’re blessed to have the opportunity to be here doing this but we’re more even more blessed that these incredible people allow us to be a part of their lives.
Of course our friends here have followed us on Fakebook (misspelling intended) and so they knew we were coming back. A beautiful young lady we met at Rhumba, a restaurant that was in Denarau in 2019, knew the moment we made landfall and she wanted to see us. Wilma is so sweet, pretty and kind. The happiness literally bubbles out of her engaging soul. We made plans to take her and her friend, Kata, to dinner at Sails which is where Rhumba used to be right there at the Denarau Marina.
When this charming young lady came through the restaurant and saw us she literally leaped across the floor and couldn’t wait to give us one of those magical Fijian embraces. I was so moved I had to fight back the tears. I mean how many people in this world get to experience this kind of love from people they’ve only met a few times? As I said… “We are blessed.” And, it turns out her friend Kata is just as beautiful and lovely as Wilma. It was such a wonderful evening chatting with these ladies, meeting a new friend and becoming even better friends with Wilma.
That Amazing Fijian Spirit
We have another very, very dear friend here named Va. She was a bartender at Musket Cove when we were here in 2019. Sadly after we left for New Zealand she had to quit her job when her eight year old son, Owen, was diagnosed with Leukemia. For three years this amazing young man fought the good fight but tragically he passed on in February of this year.
We never had the opportunity to meet this incredible young soul but we followed his journey through Va and we know that he was one of those people any person would have been blessed to have known…wise beyond his years and a joy to all who crossed his path. And while yes this is a tragedy to be sure, Va, in true Fijian fashion, displays a mighty spirit and finds a way to smile and continue on in life. Her strength is beyond any that I believe I could ever muster and I feel honored to call her my friend.
Given our love for Va and for Owen, we wanted to pay tribute to his life and so we rented a car one day and picked her up at her home in Nadi. We drove into town and purchased a few dozen children’s books to donate to the children’s ward of the Lautoka Hospital in Owen’s name. This is the place that Va wanted them to go and it seemed a rather appropriate way to honor this loving young boy.
We made the one hour trip to the hospital where we were unable to go inside due to continued Covid protocols. We did, however, get a chance to meet Owen’s doctor and a few of the nurses who cared for him. We passed on the books and told them they were not from us…but from the little boy with the heart of gold.
That day with Va is one that will live on in our hearts and souls forever. We got the chance to know her better and to see what a truly inspirational and amazing person she is and how she embodies the true Fijian spirit. Even in the midst of tragedy she smiles and exudes feelings of peace, hope and happiness.
Super Friendly People
Just one of the servers from Rhumba is still there now that it’s called Sails. Her name is Merewai. When she saw us walking by one day she, like so many others, rushed out to greet us with a hug as well. She said she’d heard we were in town. Seems we’re famous or is that infamous? But Merewai and the people we met in 2019 aren’t the only ones greeting us with that marvelous Fijian charm.
You see we talk to everyone…literally everyone. We love to chat with the staff because they love to engage with us. Some of the new staff at Sails have now become what feels like old friends. My favorite new friend is Simione. I absolutely adore him! He’s got the most infectious and happy personality and he always greets us with his warm smile and a giant hug.
In just about every restaurant in Port Denarau because, well, we’ve eaten in most of them, we have new Fijian friends who go out of their way to stop and say, “Hello” and give us a warm embrace. We’ve watched a couple of rugby games at Amalfi’s Italian restaurant and now the locals who go there to watch the game ask us when we will be back to watch another with them. It’s so easy to make truly genuine friends here that I wonder why it can’t be that way everywhere in the world.
At Lulu’s Beans where we’ve stopped a few times for sundowners, we’ve gotten to know a couple of the ladies rather well. Tia and Kalisi always step out on the wharf to chat with us. One evening before we left the area I was looking at Kalesi’s earrings and told her how much I liked them. They were very pretty.
Before I knew what was happening she was taking them off and had handed them to me. “No! You can’t give me your earrings.” I told her. She insisted that I take them. “It’s the Fijian way.” she tells me. And yes….I do know that you have to be careful about complimenting the Fijians because they will do just that…give you whatever you have admired. Apparently after a few cocktails I had forgotten this.
Well, I couldn’t let her generous gesture go unanswered so, she had complimented the silk flower clip I had in my hair. I took it off and gave it to her. She beamed with a smile so big they surely could have seen it in space. She asked me to put it in her hair. I did and I swear it looked better in hers than mine. I only wish I could find more of these clips here. All of the Fijian ladies love my hair clips and I have flowers to make more. I just can’t find the clips here. Anyway, Kalisi and I share a new bond of friendship and I am grateful to have yet another Fijian family member.
These are just a few of the people here who have made an indelible mark upon our hearts and souls. There are many more and we’re certain there will be even more lovely Fijians in our future who will become a part of our lives and family. Yes, this country with with her stunning beaches and hypnotic azure blue waters is truly majestic but it’s her astonishing, hard working, humble and beautiful people who make this country one of our favorite places on earth.
If you ever have the opportunity to make a trip to Fiji….do NOT pass it up and don’t just stick to the resort areas. Get out and meet the people….the real people of Fiji. Talk to the staff wherever you go and allow their contagious spirit of love and happiness envelope you. They truly will fill your heart with more peace and happiness than you can possibly imagine.
As for us….we’re going to embrace every second of the next few months in this special place.
Until next time,
1 thought on “Fiji … Land Of The Super Friendly People”