Fiji - a Gem on our Planet: 5 Facts About Fiji

Someone told us that “If you do not like Fiji, you might as well leave the planet”. These are the words we wish to start the Fiji section of our Amazing “Around the World in 50 Days” Adventure.

Fiji is an island country, consisting of more than 330 islands, of which 110 are inhabited. The airport is located on the main island, Viti Levu, close to the town Nadi. It takes 3-4 hours to travel from Nadi (in the west) to Suva (in the east), i.e. from one side of the island to the the other. And that is the Main island, which should give an idea of how big the other (smaller) islands are. 😊

1. The People

The people of Fiji are the friendliest people we have encountered our entire trip. They welcome everyone with open arms and are always happy. They are unfamiliar with the word “stress”, and spend their days enjoying life and their loved ones. This phenomenon is often referred to as “FIJI-TIME”. Of course, we realised that a small part of it was sort of a show for the tourists, but the Fijians really are quite laid back as a group. The most interesting thing is that FIJI-TIME is contagious. After just a couple of days on the main island, both Dilek & Vedran started feeling complete harmony, and as if there were no worries in the world. Is this what they call “Zen”?

2. Communication

BULA!!! (= hello; welcome; nice to meet you; etc.). The official languages of Fiji are Fijian (an Austronesian language), English, and Fiji Hindi. Although, the locals themselves described their language as a mix of an African language and French (which of course can be a crude description of Austronesian languages).
English is mandatory in schools, even in the smallest villages – a legacy left from colonial times. Therefore, most people speak English very well. If a misunderstanding should occur anyway, there are no worries = FIJI-TIME (hakuna matata)!

3. Transport

Nemas Problemas! (yes, we threw in yet another language here). There are local buses that will take you everywhere, and as mentioned above, nothing is too far away, as most islands are relatively small. Beware though, that you cannot always rely on the time schedules. Always remember: FIJI-TIME. If you wish to visit the islands, which we strongly encourage, you have to rely on the local boat company, which is really expensive.

4. Cannibalism

Traditional dance during a Welcome show

Yup! The Fijians were cannibals at one point in history. It was not for nourishment purposes, but rather during special ceremonies. The British prohibited and tabooed this tradition during colonial times, and that legacy seems deeply rooted among many Fijians who almost seemed to be ashamed of this part of their history (Or perhaps they felt judged by tourists?). From our perspective, however, the British (who invaded so many countries around the world) have a lot more to feel ashamed of than the Fijians. The British also converted the entire country to Christianity. Today the major religion is still Christianity and many people do not work on Sundays.

5. Kava Ceremony

Kava is a plant that grows throughout the western Pacific. The roots of the plant are used to produce a drink with sedative, anaesthetic, and euphoric properties (because of the kava lactone ingredients, which has shown to have a good effect in anxiety treatments). Kava is widely consumed throughout Fiji and, on a related note, could be the reason for all the FIJI-TIME. 😊

Kava Ceremony

Our island hosts told us that their ancestors discovered the effect of the root when they saw rats consuming it and acting as if they were drunk afterwards. They contemplated if the root would have the same effect on people, and thus came about the birth of the first Kava-ceremony.

5a. Preparation of the Kava - Is it Hygienic?

The root is ground and the powder is placed in a perforated cloth, which is then mixed with water in a huge wooden bowl – sort of like a tea bag. The difference is that you cannot just place the cloth containing the kava in the bowl and wait for the powder to mix with the water, but rather a person in the tribe has to kneed the cloth for a while. This would have been completely OK, if not for the fact that we noticed that people in general do not wash their hands before preparing the Kava mixture.

5b. After 15 years of travel, our stomachs have toughened

Northern European divas are not very accustomed to having other people wash their hands in our drinks, especially when they are not so accustomed to other cultures. Fortunately, after 15 years of travel, we have been able to kick our fear of germs. We have eaten a lot worse than what is described here, and never once been seriously ill. We have not had a single stomach problem in any of our destinations. Please see our blog about staying healthy when travelling.
After the Kava drink is prepared, the tribe gathers around the massive bowl and commences the ceremony. There is only one coconut shell used as a cup, and it is passed around from person to person. The chief has the honor to drink first, and then the cup is passed on to the next male in the hierarchy. Women drink last, and Dilek, who was both a woman and not even a member of the tribe, had the absolute lowest rank. She always received the coconut cup last, after every single person had drunk from it.
At the time Dilek accepted the dirty Kava-water (which everyone had put their hands in) from the same cup everyone had slobbered over, simply not to make anyone lose face. Today, she would have volunteered, and gladly had second and third helpings. 😊

5c. Mud water that makes you relaxed

The taste of the Kava-drink is literally like mud-water. It really is! The root is in fact a bit muddy when it is pulverized. Imaging taking a hand full of ordinary dirt from the ground and mixing it with water. That is the taste of Kava! In other words, the taste is not too bad, but cannot be described as well tasting either.
The effect of kava is that the body becomes numb and you feel very relaxed. We did not drink enough to feel the effect in full, but our tongues were completely paralyzed for a few hours. They literally started hanging out from our mouths and we were not able to speak coherently. Other than that, we still felt alert and energetic, but it was one of the best night’s sleep we had had in a looooong while (and we were sharing a teeny bunk bed, on a non-existent mattress).

Have you tried Kava?

And what do you think of Fiji? Post in the comments below.
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