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Hello - welcome to my blog about drawing, poetry, children's books, glass art and way too many other things. I’m an artist in Tasmania, Australia. I usually like a splash of science in my art. If you'd like to see more, please try the links to my folio page or email me at silvergumstudio@yahoo.com.au. Thank you!

Monday, July 18, 2016

What I did in Fiji


Dawn at Navutu Bay in the Yasawas
Bula! Bula!

I've just blown in on the gale after two sun-soaked weeks in the former Cannibal Isles, now surely the most friendly and welcoming archipelago in the world ... Fiji.  I've never visited there before, but I hope to go back soon and often.  It's a ravishing, extravagantly lovely place, even five months after Cyclone Winston.  Most of the places we visited had suffered damage to homes, vegetation and the reef, even loss of life or livelihood.  Trees were stripped bare and uprooted, and extensive areas of reef were destroyed.  But the trees are in fresh leaf, new outcrops of colourful coral are blooming on dead grey shelves, and the Fijian spirit seems unstoppable.  One local explained to us how lucky it was that the cyclone had only devastated half of Fiji, so that the other half could help them.
Taiwai weaves a palm leaf basket at Navutu

Placing palm leaf baskets filled with fish and other meats on the lovo
Community spirit is very strong in Fiji, and much of our pleasure in going there came from meeting the locals and other travellers from Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US.  Although some of the places we visited were very remote, others had an astonishing traffic of ferries, sea-planes, cruise ships, dive boats and dinghies.  Fijians clearly enjoy life and their own identity immensely, love to celebrate, and will play the guitar and sing to you at the drop of a hat.  The arts are a natural part of community life and everybody's birthright.  It costs nothing to arrange hibiscus flowers or weave a palm leaf mat, so why not decorate?  As for the food, their perfectly cooked meals of fresh fish, chicken, and pork with root vegetables, fruit and coconuts - sometimes cooked in the lovo, a bed of hot coals on which food is laid in palm leaf baskets, covered and buried in sand - are only too huge and delicious, and I came back 2.5 kg heavier.
Walu for dinner!

In the Yasawas, we witnessed the arrival of a newly acquired dive boat.  As it appeared in the passage between islands, all the men from the resort leapt into tinnies and roared out to escort it in.  The women lined the shore, laughing, clapping, singing sonorously and waving banners.  As the decorated fleet approached, we saw standing in the prows of two beaten-up tinnies a pair of stern Fijian warriors with folded arms, wearing nothing but body paint and grass skirts.  Much hilarity from the women.  Suddenly and dramatically all the men dived into the water, rushed up the beach and chased the women, who fled screaming delightedly.  Then they all returned, the women piled into the new boat singing, and off it went for a maiden voyage around the island.  (In fact the boat was so heavily laden we feared its maiden voyage might also be its last, but all went well.)  The kava bowl stood ready on the mat for all and sundry, and drums were beaten.  I'm thinking of developing a similar ritual in Australia for when we get a new family car... minus the water, of course.

I admit to being very relaxed but I did put in some effort and, as well as helping Taiwai with the palm leaf basket above, with Mark's help I constructed 'Birdie', a sculpture made entirely from found beach materials on the island of Ono:
'Birdie' at Mai Dive on Ono
Birdie was quite popular with the staff and guests, many of whom wanted to know what kind of bird she was.  People variously guessed her to be a chicken, a heron and a roadrunner.  Personally I hadn't thought quite so concretely, but thought she was rather stylish and clearly knew a thing or two.

We were in the water every day and visited some superb coral gardens replete with smartly dressed fish.  In the Yasawas we went for a night snorkel to check out the reef night life.  It seemed to be mainly jellyfish.  'Don't worry,' said the guide airily, 'they don't sting.'  This proved approximate: they didn't sting much, or perhaps they didn't sting by local standards.

Shallow reef at Paradise Cove in the Yasawas
Getting an overview of our next snorkelling site



Sunset on the reef
Leaving the Mamanucas
When you leave Fiji, the locals sing you a song called 'Isa Lei'.  As explained to us by a Fijian, 'Isa Lei' means many things including good-bye, love, happiness and sadness.  Here is an English translation given to us of the version they sang to us when we left Navutu Bay.


Isa, Isa you are my only treasure;
Must you leave me, so lonely and forsaken?
As the roses will miss the sun at dawning,
Every moment my heart for you is yearning.

Isa Lei, the purple shadow falling,
Sad the morrow will dawn upon my sorrow;
O, forget not, when you're far away
Precious moments beside dear Navutu Bay.

Isa, Isa, my heart was filled with pleasure,
From the moment I heard your tender greeting;
'Mid the sunshine, we spent the hours together,
Now so swiftly those happy hours are fleeting.

Isa Lei, the purple shadow falling,
Sad the morrow will dawn upon my sorrow;
O, forget not, when you're far away
Precious moments beside dear Navutu Bay.


Farewell, Navutu Bay
O'er the ocean your island home is calling,
Happy country where roses bloom in splendour;
O, if I could but journey there beside you,
Then forever my heart would sing in rapture.

Isa Lei, the purple shadow falling,
Sad the morrow will dawn upon my sorrow;
O, forget not, when you're far away
Precious moments beside dear Navutu Bay.

 Farewell and vinaka, dear Fiji.. we'll be back.



1 comment:

  1. Great post, and what an amazing trip you had!!! My favorite quote is: " One local explained to us how lucky it was that the cyclone had only devastated half of Fiji, so that the other half could help them." I love Birdie, and the photos! Wow!!! Thanks for sharing such a unique experience!

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