Monday, October 4, 2010

September 27, 2010 "A Big Bula!"

In one of our encounters with a Fijian, I have been thinking of a man named Marika. Marika has been working as a pest-control person for the last 11 years in the islands of the Yasawa group and the Mamanucas. In our conversation about Fijian culture and people, Marika talked about the fact that it takes a while to break the ice with Fijians. Despite the fact that English is the official language, they are very shy about speaking English to foreigners. This is because some Fijians don't want to make mistakes in front of their fellow Fijians and be ridiculed later. In a one-to-one conversation, it is easy to talk in English, but in a group, some people become shy about speaking English. (This is similar to Mike's experience in Korea. One-on-one, the effort to converse in English was greater; but in a group setting, no one would speak to him and he thought they were ignoring him.) Marika said that "a big bula" is just the way to break the ice. Bula is "Hello" in Fijian and it means 'health'.

As he became comfortable with us, Marika shared his observation of tourists. As he made hand gestures of a busily moving thumb, he said, "They're all so addicted to their ipods or blackberries no matter what they're doing. I took some people to see the land in my car, and I can see them all working on their little blackberries or whatever. They seem to live in a small world." So he thinks we live in a small world because we are engaged in our electronic gadgets. When I inquired about the conservative dress code in Fiji, he said, "The white people came and said we need to cover down to our ankles. We were all naked before that. A few years later, they come back wearing bikinis. What the heck." Then he proceeded to comment that foreigners like to "work out" but ask for a safety harness when an opportunity is given to climb up a coconut tree. "We use our arms and legs. What safety harness?" All right, I'm not a big fan of tourons (tourist + moron) who sit by a pool when the soft coral capital of the world is ten meters away. However, I thought his observation of tourists was perhaps unfair and that it was unfortunate that his encounters with foreigners only consisted of the selected population of tourists.
Since we don't have fancy iphones or ipads, we pulled out our monster Macbook and showed him pictures of ourselves climbing mountains. Limestone, sandstone, granite, glaciers; helmets, harnesses, ropes, gear, puffy jackets; big boots. Mike said, "Before we came here, we used to spend lots of time in the mountains. Now we are spending time in the ocean to learn about being in the big world." Marika seemed to acquire a new sense of respect for this and nodded his head.

When I asked Marika where he recommends we go in Fiji, he said, "To see real Fiji, you have to go to the Lau group. To recharge myself, that's where I go. Here, you go to the islands, they are interested in your money. In the Lau group, they put Fiji in your heart. They want to put Fiji in your hearts. You know what moce (pronounced "mo-thay") means? It means, 'we will meet again' and it also means 'we will never see each other again'." He placed both of his hands on top of his chest as he said this. I felt that he was very genuine in his love for Fiji. The Lau group is a group of islands on the easternmost Fiji and considered to be less touched by tourism. For cruisers, boats have to check into Savusavu, obtain a cruising permit, then retrace back and beating into the wind to visit these islands. Most boats with certain time schedules, like us, are not thrilled about turning back. I know we are missing out. However, this year, perhaps I can justify not going there as there is a dengue feaver outbreak and that would not be good anyway.

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