Visiting Fiji - Day 1: The Entry Posted on 9 Oct 23:00
Arrival 5:10am, Nadi International Airport. After a 10-hour flight we touched down in Fiji while it was still dark. There was a little light in the sky that was starting to illuminate some clouds, heightening my anticipation of the beauty we were about to experience. We stumbled off the plane, cleared customs and waited for our bags and rental a car.
The sky had lightened by the time we got out to our car and the beauty of the terrain was starting to become evident. We started the drive toward our hotel, stopping for a few minutes at a vista to overlook the Kai-Viti plant, and then heading straight to the Shangri-la Fijiian Resort for check-in and breakfast on the water.
After breakfast we checked in to our rooms and had about 20 minutes to freshen up and change clothes before catching an old sugar-cane train into the town of Sigatoka. The train ride was a beautiful introduction to the region of Fiji in which Kai-Viti is located. It was lush and green; full of plant and animal life. This train ride was also our introduction to the people of the community. We had heard that the people of Fiji were known for their happiness, and our first few touch points with the proved this to be true. As the train passed through villages, people would run out of their homes to wave and shout “bula!” as we passed. We threw some “lollies” (candy) out the windows and many kids chased the train to try and catch it. My highlight of the day was when one local kids jumped on the back of the train and hung off the railing to hitch a ride with us into town. The train was a tourist train and not a local train, so he had to keep a pretty low-profile, but since I was standing on the back platform of the train taking pictures we struck up a friendship and shot the breeze the rest of the way there. Though this activity was somewhat of a tourist attraction, it was a good cultural education for Amanda and I. We learned about the importance of sugarcane crops in the history of Fiji, experienced the varied terrain of Viti-Levu (green tropical forests, rivers, streams, oceans & coral reefs), and got to know the story of some of the people who live in this region. We also got acquainted with “Fiji Time,” which is basically just an attitude of moving through all of life in a relaxed state of mind, without hurry. This too was a welcome discovery.
The train let us off in the town of Sigatoka where we stopped at local markets, bakeries, and shops, and eventually at lunch at a Chinese food restaurant. This unstructured time of meandering around the city was just what I needed to catch my bearings and renew my energy.
Next it was back to the hotel where we had a short break to make some posts and to get ourselves ready for the evening activities. At 4pm we headed over to the Kai-Viti plant where preparations were underway for a Fiji Day kickoff party. Fiji Day is the celebration of Fiji’s independence from Great Britain, 45 years ago. It is the equivalent of the American “4th of July” and it is one of the reasons why we are in Fiji right now.
To celebrate Fiji Day, Kai-Viti invited 24 children from a local school that they support to bring their families and three friends each to the plant offices for a traditional Lovo meal (a traditional chicken dish cooked in a pit in the yard), a tour of the facility, and some live entertainment. The children drew pictures and wrote stories about why they are proud to be from Fiji. A traditional “welcome” ceremony was performed on our behalf . We were treated like kings and queens- given the best seats in the house, several servings of Kava (a traditional Fijian drink), and special floral accessories to wear. Paul got to address the crowd and share with them Kai-Viti’s appreciation for the history and beauty of the Fijian culture and their commitment to supporting education in their community. The children loved their tour of the plant, and we all laughed and danced (or tried to) for as long as we possibly could. At this point in the night, my jet lag caught up with me and I was ready to head for home. Thankfully, after a few last photo-ops and some clean up, we did just that
So now, I’m ready to sleep, and as I do, I am deeply thankful for all the rich experiences of today, and full of great anticipation for what is to come tomorrow.
Good night from Fiji!