A lifestyle story from a local worker…Far removed from the reality of many throughout the world…Familiar to many others…

Overall, the beaches in this area are rocky.

At the moment, we’re the only residents at our resort other than Mario and Tatiana, whose house is quite a distance from ours, almost inaccessible on foot. Other guests are arriving after we soon depart.

As a result, the housekeepers haven’t been as busy as usual with only our free-standing house to clean and the other units in the main building requiring only dusting and general upkeep in the interim. Tidy and often doing much of the cleaning ourselves, our little house requires little work each day.

When Vika arrived yesterday, the younger sister of Usi with whom she splits the workweek, I finally had a chance to “interview” her knowing she didn’t have to rush off to clean the other units. I’ve wanted to inquire more as to their lifestyle since we arrived, but was only able to do so in snippets as they breezed through doing their work seven days a week.

Vika, who lives with her older brother happily shared the nuances of her everyday life, which was surprising in many ways. We had some idea as to the everyday life of many locals from prior conversations and subsequent posts. 

Each household operates on its own level of affordability based on amenities in their homes, income levels, and also a desire to maintain the integrity of their ancestors and generations past, preferring not to adopt many modern conveniences more out of familiarity than for any other reason.

We stopped many times on the beach road to revel in the views.

Vika’s home currently has no electricity. When the power was out over a week ago, it never came back on at her house. I asked her if electricity was generally available at her home. 

She explained having power was an on and off thing and she needed to visit the power company to discuss it further. I offered her my phone to make the call and that I’d look up the number for her online. She graciously declined seeming unconcerned that they’d again have power. 

They have no appliances…no stove…no refrigerator…no radio…no TV…no washing machine…no means of cooking indoors or preserving food from spoilage…no coolers.

We spent considerable time discussing the preparation and storage of food. When our refrigerator didn’t work for 24 hours, we threw away the roasted chicken, mayonnaise, and many other perishable items. 

Now, we understand why the locals were shocked as we tossed what they may have construed as “edible” food into the trash. They have fewer concerns over spoilage. Perhaps, their bodies have adapted to withstand possible illnesses wrought by unrefrigerated foods. I don’t know for sure.

Cooking is another challenge, all done outdoors on rough wood stoves. Also, without a kitchen in their house, all food prep is handled outdoors as they fire up the woodstove to prepare it for cooking for each meal. All wood used for cooking is gathered outdoors, never purchased, other than if it’s a big holiday celebration with lots of food being prepared.

The narrow road we toured.

Keeping in mind, that Vika lives walking distance from us, albeit up and down a very steep incline, it may be difficult for some to envision the simplicity of life in such close proximity. When she or Usi arrive each morning they are beautifully dressed, coifed, and wearing pretty handmade jewelry and earrings. 

They appear as if they are preparing to attend a party as opposed to cleaning in their colorful dresses, often a long skirt and matching short sleeve top. I always genuinely compliment them on how lovely they look as they shyly smile offering a heartfelt “vinaka” (thank you) for the compliment.  

The smile on their faces truly reflects the kind, loving and happy spirit they each possess, as we’ve seen in the Fijian people since we arrived almost three months ago.

My questions continued with such things as:

1.  Do you shop at the Farmers Market?  “No, we have a garden and get all of our vegetables from there and fruits from the trees.” On the property here we could easily gather enough fresh fruit for a family from the available papaya, cassava, pineapple, lemons, limes, breadfruit, and a variety of other pods that are fit for human consumption.
2.  Do you shop at the grocery stores? “Only once in a while if we need a few items like soap for hand washing clothes and other household items. But, not food.”
3.  What do you do for meat without refrigeration? “My father lives nearby and has electricity and a small freezer where he keeps some meat we can use. Mostly, we eat fish that we catch and only a little meat once in a while all cooked on the fire.”
4.  We’ve noticed the locals like bread and sweets? Do you purchase any of them at the bakery in the village?  “No, I know how to bake over the open fire to make the bread and sweets which we do quite often.” (Her mastery of the English language is flawless and the local accent is easy to understand as is the case for both the native Fijian and the Indo-Fijians whose ancestors came to the islands from India with a current language which is a combination of Fijian and Hindi. Vika and Usi are Indo-Fijians, as is the case for Rasnesh and Sewak).
5.  How do you bake over an open fire? (I knew the answer to this question but wanted to hear how the locals do this). “We will place the baking pan in another larger pan of water making steam and then cover it. It bakes the bread and sweets easily.”
6.  The biggest question in my mind was this: What do you do with leftover food without refrigeration? In a way, this question may have been ridiculous. For millennium, the human race survived without refrigeration. It is only our narrow minds (mine included) that assume that people always become ill from leftover unrefrigerated foods. Vika explained:  “We often have leftover foods from cooking. We place them in containers on a shelf in the house. I pack my lunch for work each day.  It may contain leftovers foods from the last day; meats, rice, fruits, vegetables, and a sweet treat.” I didn’t react, preferring not to embarrass her with my western mentality and concern for the safe preservation of food. They obviously have survived for generations eating leftover food without preservation.
7.  My last question: Do you sleep in a bed?  Vika replied, “My bed is a mattress on the floor. I am happy with this. Growing up, we slept on a mat on the floor. As we got older we got one mattress which my siblings and I took turns sharing. It was so comfortable, we couldn’t believe it.” 

The occupants of the houses across the street have to travel a short distance for a sandy beach.

As we’ve slept on one of those uncomfortable locally available mattresses for these past 83 nights, it did enter our minds how many locals may actually be sleeping on mats of the floor. We didn’t complain and made the best of it with no box springs and a blanket under the sheet so we couldn’t feel the mattress springs as much as they were digging into our ribs and hips.

In an earlier post, we wrote about the often lack of a TV, computers, and cell phones for many locals in this and of course, many other countries throughout the world. 

Their evenings are often spent reading by lantern or candlelight, playing games, and doing a variety of handicrafts. We thought of this a week ago when we had no power for less than eight hours. Working hard during the day, plus the difficult walking required to get anywhere with the steep mountain inclines draws them to crawl into bed early. 

Keeping one’s mind engaged may be a challenge for the local people without modern conveniences, digital equipment, and electricity. And yet, they’ve found ways to busy their minds in idle hours. The crime rate is nearly non-existent on this island (not the case on the bigger island). 

This is a popular snorkeling area with extensive coral reefs.

We’ve yet to hear a siren other than an ambulance on a rare occasion, more often than not used by the foreign residents and travelers. The locals would most likely figure out how to get to the hospital with the help of friends or families with some type of vehicle. Ratnesh explained he often provides “free” taxi service for his friends and family, whether on a trip to a shop or for any type of emergency.

Vika and I spoke about cultural differences which she’s observed working around tourists she’s encountered in this job and her past job at a larger resort. She explained that many are demanding with unrealistic expectations. 

Finally, it was time for her to go but before she did, I showed her a few of our favorite videos on YouTube we’ve taken over these past three years. She giggled, enjoying every moment, thanking me profusely for sharing these morsels of our travels with her. She especially loved the wildlife, “Birdie ” and the albatross videos from Kauai, a few of our favorites.

My heart was singing over her joy from this simple pleasure. Without a doubt, sharing with her yesterday was a day I’ll always treasure. Between humans, animals, and exquisite scenery our travels continue to be enriched in each location in a variety of ways. 

We are humbled. We are grateful. We continue on in six more days. 

Oh, oh, ironically, the power just went out…

Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2014:

A classic car hanging from the ceiling at the Hard Rock Café in Lahaina, Maui. For more details, please click here.

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