Monday, 19 September 2011


Its a little late but here is a bit about Fiji. It was lovely, amazing beaches, nice resorts and very friendly people. The Fijian culture is very similar to the Balinese in that the whole extended family lives together and when poeple get married the woman leaves and moves to the man's village. Fiji also has a population of about 40% Indians who were brought over to work on the sugar plantations in 1875 as pretty much slaves because the British (who ruled Fiji at the time) didn't want to upset traditional Fijian life. However, the British began protesting about this and by 1910 it was banned and the Indians were given an option to stay or be sent home. Most have stayed as in Fiji there is no cast system and Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs get along well. However they do face prejudices and racism from the Fijians and are not allowed to own land, just lease it for 99 years and some are finding themselves kicked off it now. There are also many Indian boys in orphanages in Fiji, but no Fijian boys. This is because if a child is born out of wedlock, or the parents are poor or die it doesn't really matter, the whole family lives together anyway and there isn't even a word for cousin in the Fijian language, they are all brothers and sisters. The Indians on the other hand will make the child beg, or send it away or abuse it so they end up in the Methodist orphanages.

Traditional Fijian beliefs included the calling of the turtles (done by women) and the calling of the sharks (by men) to bring good luck but mostly it was  cannibalistic cultures. One chief is said to have eaten 812 people in his lifetime! When the British arrived they brought Christianity with them and Methodist is the most common, with Anglicans, Catholics and now some LDS churches.

The government in Fiji has been rotating between domocratic and military coups since it gained independence from the British Empire. The last coup was in 2007 and there is an interim government controlled by the army. They say they are working towards elections in 2014 and they have introduced free schooling, free school buses and major road improvements to get people to school. Its seems there is very little in the way of 3rd world, extream poverty, but we were only shown the tourist bits, and traditional villages which host tourists so I don't really know.

I did the Feejee Experience bus while I was out there, similar to Stray. We stayed at really nice beach resorts but we visited a couple of villages and had a traditional Kava ceremony at one of them. Kava is a root which they grind up and mix with water and it is a sort of sedative, it relaxes and calms you but its not a drug or narcotic. They say thats why the Fijians are so relaxed and friendly, they drink so much Kava. It tastes disgusting, like muddy water but its affects are good. People pay a fortune for Kava pills in America as it has no negative effects on the body but you get an amazing nights sleep. The ceremony involves the chief of the visiting tribe being welcomed with the Kava. There is a lot of clapping and it is very formal but when it is done you are considered a member of the village and part of the family. We also visited a school where they had traditional dances and songs, and they got us to get up and dance with them. We were asked by our driver to buy some stationary to donate before going as many people can't afford/ don't have a way of getting to a stationary shop.Some of the men in the village took us on a trip down the river on bamboo rafts then we played games with them, that was very fun.

One day I took the public bus to the grocery store and as I was waiting to go back I got chatting to a local woman. Its typical of the Fijians to be outgoing and friendly. She asked me about the London riots. I asked her what she did and she said she was married, and that many married women don't work, unless their husbands ask them to. It was a great holiday, not as cultural or off the beaten track as my other trips but I had plenty of time to relax by the pool, or go snorkeling, or go to the beach and met some great people.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Leaving NZ

Well my adventure is nearly over. I got back to Auckland not really looking forward to it as I'm not the biggest fan. But it has transformed into a totally different city since I have been away. With the world cup starting tomorrow the city is busy and full of energy, and the Pacific Islands conference with the guy from the UN is happening now. There are crowds of people carrying flags with their faces painted walking the streets. Each area of Auckland has been assigned a team to welcome and support after the All Blacks and the general feeling s one of energy and excitement. I was actually sad to leave Auckland, I felt like in going there before Bali I was saying good-by to NZ but Auckland still has Burgurfuel, and whitebait, jandles, singlets and all the other Kiwi things. And I would have loved to stay for the world cup but I just don't have the money.

My flight today was uneventful, and actually very comfortable. I have been flying with budget airlines this past year, and was not the biggest fan of the seats on Cathay Pacific but Air New Zealand is very nice, nearly BA standard. Makes me feel better about having 2 10 hour flights in 3 days, something I would have dreaded on Cathay Pacific. They safety video was almost funny, it had a few All Blacks including Richie Macaw (would pass up the opportunity to meet him!).

I had a very friendly immigration official, who asked me about my birthday and found a nice hotel/ hostel at the airport. Right now it looks like I have a 10 bed dorm all to myself though which is a little creepy, I hope some more people check in soon. Its got a pool, bar, restaurant, games room and other stuff like that so its one of the nicest places I've stayed in. I went and had a look round, and it turns out they have a massive projector screen in bar which they will be showing the world cup matches on! So thats the plan for tomorrow night. As its raining I'm going to get the bus into town and have a look round, see what the city is like.

I'm also going to make the most of every moment here, its the end of my trip and I really really don't want to go back to the real world so I'll enjoy this while it lasts!

Monday, 5 September 2011


Nusa Penida is actually paradise, I'm going back, definitely next year. It mostly the people that make it that way, the locals are awesome and Mike, who run's the place is great. We wake up fairly early with the sound of the pigs and chickens and go over to Wayan's Warung (shop) for breakfast. Mike taught her how to make banana pancakes with palm sugar and bought her a frying pan as us westerners can't really handle spicy food for breakfast (the locals have gado-gado, beansprouts, peanut sauce, rice chunks chilli and some sort of soy/ molasses mixture). If we feel like working we do, before it gets to hot we help the men in the tree nursury, the coconut plantation or the organic vege garden. Theres composting as well and other odd jobs. The vege garden is coming on well even though everyone said they were mad for attempting it. The first tomatoes are coming on and the salad looks good. When it starts to get to hot to work we go to the beach, jump on the motorbikes and explore, sit around sleeping, and go to Wayan's for lunch. She does the best Nasi Champur on the island and her Soto Ayam is very nice as well. There is a table in the front full of snacks and sweets, mostly sugar, fat and artifical stuff. She sells a drink which consists of florescent pink juice, fluorescent pink tapioca balls, sweetened condensed milk and some fruit puree. The kids start coming home from school and walk up with their 1,000Rp notes to stock up on sugar (but they are all thin) and just generally play. If they come to the centre then they ride bikes, play cards, sing and just generally get into trouble before their English lesson with Mike. They are wonderful children, so happy and enthusiastic all the time and I really miss them, especially my friend Koman. She is 7 but still insists I carry her around like a baby and is cheeky and clever and one of the coolest kids I know. After that we just hang around and chat, people come back from various excursions, wake up from naps, shower ect. Some people drift over to Wayan's for dinner, others take the bikes to the night markets in Toyapaka or Sampalan. Evenings involve sitting around talking and sometimes drinking Arak or young cocnut wine (which is horrible).

The other day Koman's dad, Nyoman, took me out snorkeling on the reef by  the beach. Just beyond the seaweed farms (this is the main economy on the island and really the only way of bringing money to it) is an amazing coral reef with all sorts of things. Its very dangerous to swim and Scuba in Nusa Penida as the currents are very strong and a few people have been lost recently. This is why you take Nyoman with you, he knows the currents, he's a strong swimmer and very experienced. He basically held my arm or my hand and did all the swimming, I just floated along and enjoyed the view. We went out again, 3 this time so he couldn't swim with me, he had to watch the whole group, and that wasn't nearly as fun. The current was so strong that day that you couldn't stop and look at anything and when we swam back in it was more like swimming furiously to stay in one place when the waves came out, then getting swept in by the incoming wave. And we didn't see as much stuff as we did the first time, like the sea serpent which he only told me after that one bite would kill me in 20 mins. He said they were shy though, and it was about 10m below us.

I also went to Nusa Lembogan, a more touristy neighboring island for the night with one of the local girls who is now my friend and we stayed at her boyfriends house. It was a traditional house with all the extended family in one complex, a real asian toilet and kitchen without a fridge. I survived!!! It was great to stay with a family as well, and see what a home is really like. We watched an Indonesian soap opera in the evening which was the funniest thing ever! It was full of damatic music, long pauses in dialogues and constant zooming in on faces. The actors portraed an array of emotions such as constipation, drunkeness, lip biting memory loss. It was like a cartoon, but with real actors and makes Hollyoaks look like the Royal Shakespeare company!

On Mondays and Thursdays the girls have traditional dance classes and their teacher is brutal, she pushes and pulls them into very contrived shapes. Its amazing to watch though when its done right! I've got a few photos of the girls, my one of Koman got deleted accidentally so I had her pose for a few but her brother got in the way. He's so cute though so we'll forgive him.

I also had two birthdays there! One of the girls bought me a birthday cake but was leaving on my birthday for a couple days so we had it Thursday night. We mostly sat around chatting and singing while Wayan (a different one) played the guitar. Friday night was much the same except I got a special treat! Mike has been collecting nice cheese, very rear in Bali and said we could have some if I bought the crackers. We went into Sampalan to get some and stopped at the nigh market to get my favorite, tofu stuffed with beansprouts and vermiccelli noodles that has been battered and deep fried. These things are amazing!!!! I'm going to miss the so so much! I go back and Mike had picked some salad from the garden, and basil! he bought some tomatoes and made a little salad to go with the cheese!! All us westerners were in heaven, this basil was so good! The locals had never tried it before, their idea of flavor is chili and more chili. If Nyoman and Wayan had their way the whole place would be a chili plantation. You could see on their faces though that they really enjoyed the basil, much more then they would admit. The only local girl there was my friend Kadek. She wouldn't drink at all, none of they women do. They don't smoke either but most men smoke and drink. Seems very old fashioned to me. It was a very good night, I had so much fun!

Kamon has been keeping me busy. The other day I went to the beach, had a shower and was just resting (we go to the bamboo shelter when we need to rest from chilling out) when she came over ans asked me to go swimming with her. I said I would, but just up to my knees and we went to her house where she got changed, and her little brother Kuntut who is about 4 came along with us. They live right on the beach and of course I started getting splashed. Koman grabbed my glasses and ran with them to her mother while I shouted hati-hati! (be careful). Then between her and Kuntut I got dragged in the ocean, fully clothed which is how the locals swim and we played in the water. It was very fun actually, but Koman really is a cheeky little monkey. We went back to the centre where I told Nyoman she was nakal (naughty) and he just laughed.

I'm really going to miss everyone, the westerners and the locals. It was so hard to leave because everyone there is so genuinely nice. Its not like Bali where they just want your money, they are just friendly people. ven in villages on the other side of the island they just want to talk to you. If you spend a bit of money with them, great, but its not like Bali where that is all they care about. I'm going home, getting a job and saving up to go back.