Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fiji: Seeing It Through New Eyes

I went to Fiji a few years ago, and I'm still in awe of the amazing experience I had while I was there. Sure I enjoyed the wakeboards and surf skis, the cheap drinks, amazing seafood and astounding hospitality, but it was more than that.
So much of this country is stunning. It is this lush, rainforest-like terrain, with arteries of water running through key areas and supplying little villages and townships with a life line. But it is more than a tropical paradise -- it offers an unbeatable experience to the traveller who not only wants to holiday, but to experience a different way of life, put things in perspective and understand a new culture. So pack your solar charger, bathers and the mozzie repellent and get set for an eye-opening adventure.

The people
More than anything, the people will blow your mind. I initially stayed at a stunning resort on the coral coast. It wasn't expensive by any means, but it was still quite luxurious, with pools, bars, gardens and beautiful big rooms. It was truly serene. I would wake up to the sound of the birds, feel the soft humidity and look out the see the rain had washed everything clean.
But what was wonderful were the people. I had seen how many of them lived when on the way to the resort, and it certainly wasn't in the relative comfort I did at home. Many lived in small shacks or makeshift accommodation, the better off people with a house. Of those I spoke to at the resort, a lot didn't have running water or constant electricity. Yet the amazing thing was, despite this relative poverty, they showed up to work every day in these surprisingly stark white, crisp uniforms with a huge smile on their faces. They served us our food and refreshments, and despite the fact it must seem like a colossal waste of money to them, they did it with genuine grace and happiness. They blew my mind. They really put things in perspective.
The church
I befriended one of the locals who worked at our resort. She was an amazing human being, very kind and generous and of great faith. She offered to bring me along to her church on Sunday, and though not much of a church person, I agreed. Well, I don't regret it! The church was a living beast! There were people everywhere, some dressed normally, some in their finest -- and they were all just extraordinarily happy. The service was a little talking and a lot of singing and clapping. The music and singing was fantastic, contagious and so energising. I'm not a church person, but I'd definitely go back.
The village
The next afternoon, my new friend offered to take me to her village to have a look around. I'll be honest, I expected just a walk up the road, or maybe a short drive, perhaps towards Suva. But no. We took a half hour drive in someone's truck to the river, once there we jumped on a longboat with what looked like a car motor running it and headed up the river for about an hour. Finally we arrived -- and it was beautiful. Built by the locals, it was all quite makeshift, but it was natural and colourful.
That evening they put on a feast in the village’s meeting room. With chicken cooked underground and a range of unknown items, the food took me by surprise, better than almost anything I'd ever had.

While my adventures in Fiji continued long after the village, it was that experience that put things into perspective more than anything. The singing, the happiness, the energy. If you get the chance, don't hesitate -- do it!
Article written by Home Swap House Exchange

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