Part 2…Unbelievable day in Fiji…A cultural experience filled with wonders!

Upon arrival in Vuadomo, Tima,  standing on the right, came out to greet us warmly shaking our hands and leading us toward this structure where handmade crafts are offered for sale by the local women.

Nothing we do in our travels is more fulfilling than meeting the local people and having an opportunity to share the treasures found in their area, on their lands and in their villages, those which they hold in reverence and high esteem.

Most likely, these craftswomen of Vuadomo sit here all day waiting for tourists to arrive. It isn’t necessary to call ahead to let make them aware of our pending arrival. We didn’t see any other tourists while we visited, only one passing taxi on our way in.

Witnessing these treasures through their eyes and ours gives us a perspective, if only for a flash in time, of how they live among one another, cherishing the land and nature to provide them with everything they need.

As we entered the area of their marketplace, we were warmly welcomed and asked to sit and relax for a few minutes on the benches provided as shown on the right in this photo.

So is the case for the villagers of Vuadomo who have managed in their creativity, to utilize the beauty of their surroundings on the lands owned by their ancestors, to create a source of revenue to offset the costs for those aspects of life not provided by their gardens, their livestock and the seemingly endless sources of food from the ocean adjoining their lands.

Ratnesh explained he may bring tourists to see the waterfall a few times each week. He isn’t charged for entrance to the village on each occasion. Only the tourists are charged the token entrance fee of FJD $10, USD $4.64 per person, plus the gift of kava for the chief.

Yes, we were a little taken aback to see they had cellphones but, we saw no TV antennas, no satellite dishes, no cars, and no other motorized means of transportation. They do have electricity, septic systems, and well water.

The women were friendly hoping to sell their handmade jewelry.  Instead of making a purchase, we left a tip.

Many of the 80 residents, living in a total of about 16 modest homes, had small garden plots with plenty of chickens and roosters. We heard the sounds of goats but didn’t see them, although pigs and piglets were plentiful wandering freely throughout the property, most gathered by the water. We saw no cows in the immediate area.

A worn but adequate house in the village.

It’s a simple life with idle time spent in the evenings drinking kava, in the same manner, many others throughout the world gather for “happy hour” or enjoy alcoholic beverages with meals. 

Tom was equally fascinated as I was, as we wandered through the village with Tima.

Tima explained that drinking kava peaks the appetite. Often, there will be a variety of home-baked sweets available for “snacking.” It’s all a part of the ritual, a part of their everyday lives.

These chickens and roosters were outside the chief’s house (Tima’s grandfather).

Most of the villagers we encountered were rotund as a result of this pastime pleasure. Diabetes is rampant in Fiji, becoming worse each year. Ratnesh explained that with free medical care with accompanying free medications, many Fijians accept this condition as a part of life. Some Fijians have lost teeth due to years of drinking and chewing kava along with other health-related conditions.

Some of the homes were in ill repair while others were more up to date.

Comparable to overuse of alcohol, overuse of kava and addiction is not uncommon, especially in the male population. Apparently, women drink kava on social occasions and celebrations although not as regularly as men. These old traditions live on through generations.

This structure is used for ceremonial rites and kava drinking.  We’d seen similar structures when we visited the Masaai village in Kenya.

As Tima took us through the village, we had the opportunity, if only for a short time, to imagine the lives of these gentle, kind people. There’s never been a single moment since we arrived on this quiet island that we have felt unsafe. 

Breadfruit is abundant in Fiji. Tima explained the sweet fruit is commonly used in meal preparation.

Their joy for life at a slow pace with little anxiety is evident in almost every Fijian we’ve met, whether they are native Fijians or Indo-Fijians whose ancestors immigrated from India and who practice Hinduism. Please see this link for more on the Indo-Fijians who encompass 43% of the population in Fiji.

Tima showed us (me, Tom, and Ratnesh) the “lali,” a wooden drum in varying sizes from 2 to 3 feet which is used as a church service bell, alerting the villagers that it’s time for the service. With “Fiji time” it may not be at the same time each week.

The Vuadomo tribe are practicing Christians with a church located on their property as shown in the photos below. The pastor, who doesn’t live in the village, visits weekly or as needed to conduct services. We were both surprised by the size and beauty of the church as we gingerly stepped inside, careful not to tread too far into their sacred space.

This quaint small church is ideal based on the number of villagers in Vuadomo, named as a memorial to a former pastor.

We had no idea that the tour of the waterfall would include so much more. We couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our faces as we wandered about the property, in awe of these people and the home they’ve provided for themselves with resourcefulness, simplicity, and dignity.

There are no pews or chairs in the church. Sitting on the ground is common for Fijians of all ages. 

How fortunate and humbled we are to have this inside peek into the lives of others so far away from whence we came, not only in distance but also in lifestyle. They, too, like us, are eternally grateful for the treasures they’ve received through hard work and determination and ultimately, the gifts they’ve been given by the grace of their chosen higher power.

The houses vary in degrees of maintenance and care based on each owner’s preference.

In the realm of things, none of us are any different. We find our place in the world doing our best to survive and thrive with the tools we have available. We often feel sadness and angst over what appears to be poverty when in fact, many of those we perceive as poor look at our lives of over-abundance, thinking how rich they actually are.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more photos and stories of the resources in the Vuadomo village that provide sustenance for the villagers. Please check back!

Photo from one year ago, October 24, 2014:

We’re always happy to have a dining table and chairs as opposed to sitting at a countertop for meals. The condo in Maui had everything we could possibly want or need. And yet, we’ve found we do well without a TV, dishwasher, AC, or other modern conveniences. Even now, in Fiji, we manage with a less than comfortable bed and daily visits from armies of ants. For more details, please click here.