Trip Start Jan 20, 2008
53Trip End ??? ??, 2010
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After the bumpy long ride of about 3 hours in the back of an old military troops carrying type truck, ( I: and after a quick stop to chat with a man riding a horse bareback with a giant machete in his hand and a black rag on his head and 2 teeth...seriously, eeeeee) we came to the little mountain town of Bukuya. We were greeted with many friendly kids and folks living around the house we were about to stay in. They treat visitors like dignitaries, give you their bed, feed you first, focus on entertaining you the entire time. It was really quite amazing but very awkward at first. Then you just start feeling like part of the family.
I of HI:
Bukuya. I think back on it and it was such a rush of life! It's one of those things that you can't put into words or recreate exactly how you felt or retell in just the right way. I just love that in our first week of travelling we experienced what i didn't think would come for many months. If you can imagine how weird the set up was - we meet a guy in a park and give him money to stay with his family and see how they live. Then we rock up to the village and get handed off to complete strangers who will be our hosts for the next 3 days while we see how they live. Imagine that happening in Denver - someone wants to come home with you see how you roll? Odd concept. But for the small amount of money it brought to a very poor family and village, and the Giant amount of excitement and learning that went on during that short time, it was pretty damn incredible. (H of HI: The interesting thing here is what Ingrid had said earlier at Club masa, that she was timid and I was comfortable talking at first. Well the exact opposite happenned in Bukuya. I had a difficult time feeling comfortable at first. Ingrid was amazing, chatting it up, asking questions, making jokes and giving them rhyming funny names within the first 5 minutes! Thanks to Ingrid! You were an exceptional ambassador!
The people are amazing. They became our friends and family. We become barefoot "floor dwellers" as every meal and gathering and guitar session and kava ceremony and night's rest was on the floor (except the 2 beds for the family heads and us, which we felt bad taking!)
We are shy at first, just like they are, but our mutual curiosity and excitement slowly spills out, and the laughter gets louder as we get to know our new friends. They speak various levels of English, but we always find we understand each other, and most people speak as much as we do. Momo is our grandfather, and he helps us out immensely by spelling everything out loud from the background as he plays on the floor with his grandbabies. "Vinaka, V-I-N-A-K-A Vinaka, Thankyou" he is awesome:) After a while we forget any uncomfortable feelings and really any self-ish feelings at all, as our focus becomes everything about the connections and the experience. We become "Heat and Ingi." and fast feel like we are at home. And the laughing. Did I mention the laughing?! We have a ball. I talked earlier about the cheeky women in town and how they giggle all over the streets - here its everyone laughing it up in headback, mouth open, shoulder shakin laughter. Beautiful!
Heath busts out his travel guitar and hands it to Sevu, he's 27 and seems very serious and strong. (H of HI: Sevu was, as Nate would put it, "my brotha from another Fiji mutha". I can't say enough about Sevu. Always polite. Always helpful. No hangups or idiosincracies of any kind. Just the kind of guy you would want your daughter to marry.) He is blown away by this little guitar, and takes it up and starts playing and singing. It's so so cool. He also plays this little song that i recognize from childhood, it's a Maori song from New Zealand that I learned in maybe 3rd grade singing class in Australia. I sing along in Maori words! How crazy that we come from 2 far away worlds and we can still sit down and sing a little song together. (I have also since learned from my NZ guide book that the song is Pokarekare Ana, a little ditty about a lady and a lake!)
We hike up above the village to the Playground to play some rugby. The Playground is an elevated table top of hard red clay, and sometimes the ball goes over the steep side, and sometimes a player or 2 goes over with it!! They play barefoot, but some have an old shoe for their kicking foot. Heath jumps in for a little runaround. He picks it up fast but it's a lot of running around, check out the Highlight Reel video.
(H of HI: Did we also mention that bat is a common delicacy of the mountain Fijians? Yes that's right. I feel like a wuss again because they offered to take us bat hunting and try this wonderful dish, but we declined. They say the crispy bat wings are quite a treat!
That night we sat with the men and had our welcoming Kava ceremony, the women ringing the outside of the room. I only got the low tide, since i'm a chick, and i thought about informing them that yes i was a chick but i was also a boozehound, but remembered to be respectful and shut my face:) The giant kava bowl sat on a small moped tire. David and Sevu have become our buddies, they take to Heath like a brother from another mother. David is the ambassador, and his questions always start, "So...in Amerricah..." (H of HI: or " so, Heat, may we please play the guitar, or may we please leave the swimming hole now or whatever...", then when I would always say "Yes", he would always immediately follow with a rapid "Thank you verry much." They were always so polite and everything always revolved around us, the entire time we were there. When Ingrid describes the Last Big Night in our next entry, you'll understand why, at a certain time in the evening they are ready for us to go to bed so they can have a little bit of non entertaining time to themselves.)
More than just talking differences, we talk about money and happiness and how they relate. The Bukuya Boys and Big Joe ( that's their stage name that i gave them) played the guitar and sang harmonies, we danced and Bula'd some Kava until it was gone.
PS if you can't see the videos imbedded here, go "see all" photos in the album and watch from there.
Where I stayed
With Buka's family in the mountain village