One for the road

It’s good to be back in the States, there are lots of things we don’t normally get to do. We bake Slovak Christmas eve bread hams…

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admire our nieces’ artistic talents…

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and we ride Seattle city buses to and from work in the cold dark drizzle of the Pacific Northwest winter. It’s hard to believe that 3 weeks ago we were riding Nadi city buses in the sticky fragrant heat of the Fijian summer.

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We got to Fiji the easy way.

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Since we had traded what would’ve been our Fiji time back in September for more time in Tonga’s Ha’apai Group, we were excited to get to pass through Fiji on the way home from New Zealand.   We had six hours between our connections so we made a beeline for the airport door as soon as the plane landed (and Customs gave the nod).

We maximized our short time by hopping on the first bus heading to town, with all our carry-ons in tow. The people we met were super friendly and fun.

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The most comfortable buses were air-conditioned with real air.

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Many Fijians approach life with an energetic mix of hospitality and an earnest salesmanship, especially with the consumer-based holidays just around the corner.

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We met some friendly characters who were just about to close up their souvenir shop for kava-time as we walked by.  Maikeli heard about our compressed schedule and invited us in for a complimentary and solemn kava ceremony to bid us welcome to Fiji and wish us safety on our continuing journey.

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The kava he made comes in a powder but he let us examine a bit of whole kava twig as he prepared the brew.

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The we learned the special sequence of clapping (slowly, three times) and Fijian salutations that go with each shell-full. Vinaka vakalevu.

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The kava itself is pretty tasteless and provided a mild numbing sensation in the lips. Good fun but we doubt it will catch on. It may have provided our hosts with the liquid courage to make good natured demands for personal subsidies and shameless 200% mark-ups on small token souvenirs. But Fijian good nature and hospitality is a sincere part of life in these islands.

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It is a very smiley place…

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… even in the face of 5 years of  bad luck and with some very real racial tension simmering just beneath the surface.

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As the time for our flight to LAX drew near, with our baggage a little heavier and bellies full of lamb curry we caught the last bus out of town back to the airport, excited by our rich and vibrant afternoon and a little stunned by all the Fijian dollars we lost to our clever and crafty hosts.

17°47.50’S 177°25.00’E 27-Dec-10 01:55 UTC

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