Fiji 8: Off to Viti Levu

July 1, 2019

The sky is infested with stars and the sea is infested with squid! Perhaps they have been there all along but tonight we have spotted them. We normally don’t have the searchlight out on overnight passages but Fiji has particularly tricky waters so Joe was looking at something with our high-powered light. 

When I came up for my watch, he shone the light on the water and told me there were squid all over. Sure enough, there were little glowing spots everywhere. Some were hopping out of the water, some were making squid-like squishing motions, and some were just stunned. When he turned the light off, they continued to glow for a few seconds. Wow! I made all the kids look and hope to remember to tell Mara and Chris when they come on watch (their daughter, Shannon, was awake for the original sighting).

I’ve often wondered how calamari can be on the menu in so many places when I rarely have seen squid in my snorkeling time. Now I know! They must be nocturnal because there are thousands of them. They’re like the night version of flying fish but apparently, much tastier, because I never see flying fish on the menu.

We have left Suvasuva and are on our way to the north side of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, or at least the one with the biggest cities, including Nadi (pronounced Nandi – there are lots of unwritten “n”s in this language – not sure why), which has the airport our current guests, the Hagans, are flying out of.

The Hagans (Chris, Mara, Shannon) arrived yesterday and have already expanded my culinary repertoire (not a difficult task). Remember when I went shopping with the kids in Somosomo and bought veggies at the roadside stand? Well, my purchases added up to 8 Fijian dollars (FJD) but I only had a 100 FJD bill and the lady didn’t have change. So I told her to throw in the only other thing she had – eggplant – so I could get to 10 FJD and hopefully she would have change for that. No dice. So now I was buying a bunch of eggplant I didn’t want (have unsuccessfully cooked it before) and she still didn’t have change. But for $1 US (US dollars are worth roughly half a Fijian dollar), it seemed like I might find some use for them.

Turns out the Hagans love eggplant and know how to cook it. Shannon chopped, Mara stirred, and I provided the sauce packet (I do all the hard stuff) for a delicious stir fry tonight. We also roasted a couple of them for babaghanoush (which the Med Café in Colorado Springs makes and I love) tomorrow! Chris apparently makes a good cucumber salad. Cucumber is the other vegetable that is prevalent in the markets right now (apart from some I don’t recognize) so we may be eating better than I expected over the next few days.

In other provisioning victories, I found a butcher shop today so we have options apart from frozen chicken and frozen chicken sausages! Hamburgers for the 4th of July! Before the Hagans arrived, we had a full day and a half of continuous rain, with occasional downpours, so I did all the remaining provisioning this morning while Shannon took her parents on a hike to an overlook she and I had run to the day before.

I was able to leisurely peruse the stores because 66.67% of the children on Charm went to school! Yes, actual school in Fiji! The 33.33% that wasn’t in school threw a fit this morning and refused to go, despite being serenaded by an entire class of adorable children singing a fun Bingo-like song about sharks, birds, and (oddly for this part of the world), beavers. That 33.33 % of the kids stayed on the boat with Joe and unjustly watched videos when she should have been in kindergarten. 

However, we won’t dwell on that. Marin and Cobin went to school, along with 100% of Aurora B’s children. As Marin said, “We didn’t just observe. We actually were students in the class!” They went from 8 am – 12 pm and, when we arrived to pick them up, all the kids at school wanted to know if they would return the next day. Both Cobin and Marin said they enjoyed being there. Cobin said he wasn’t quite sure what subjects they covered but said there was a time when they all sounded like robots. 

Marin had more clarity in her day – they did math, science, and some grammar and sang songs during what they called “devotional” (I don’t think anyone cares about church/state separation here). At recess, she said the kids took her on a tour of the school and then she tried to find Cobin to say hi. She did see him, climbing something with the other kids. I asked her if he looked like he was having fun and she said, “He looked like he always does – kind of frowny.” Both kids agreed that the teachers were very kind to them and that the kids were well-behaved and pleasant. I’m sorry for Tully that she wasn’t able to participate because I think she would have had fun but it is a lot to ask of a 5-year-old. I am very happy that the older two kids had such a positive experience and am thrilled that the school allowed them to come. Marin’s teacher said that the class was really excited about having her there and Cobin’s class couldn’t stop posing for photos at the end. To the point that I have none of Cobin with any of the kids because they kept crowding the camera to make sure I had their photos!

The rest of the kids continued with school until 3 pm and we saw a good number of them from the boat, peeking at us through the fence as they finished up their day. After school, we got the boat ready for a passage, did a quick sevusevu (basically handed over a bag of cava which he chanted and clapped over) with an available chief (he worked at the marina), and were on our way. No wind so we’re motoring, but the seas are calm so it’s a fairly pleasant transit for the Hagans’ first night at sea.

When the Hagans showed up, they had three large duffel bags which contained about 10% of their possessions and 90% of ours. Thankfully, they do regular trips to Haiti to help at a school there so they are experienced packers of other people’s stuff. In addition to things we had them bring us, they were carrying some amazing care packages from folks like you! Thanks to all of you who sent us cards, letters, books, candy, games, random toys (flying dinosaurs, Aunt Michelle?), and huge heaps of love. All of us felt warm and fuzzy and not just because of the lack of wind and high humidity. 

Powered with Sour Patch Kids and Jelly Bellies, Joe will surely navigate the reefs tonight! Poor Joe needs some extra sugar in his life right now. He has been struggling with nerve pain in his hip and leg that is keeping him from getting a good night’s sleep. There’s a dive resort where we’re going – if they have a masseuse there, we might not see Joe for a while.

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