Thursday, July 31, 2008
I love the Fiji flag! It was first used in 1970..
It has a British Union jack with the Fiji's coat of arms:
This has three sugar canes,(for their main industry) a coconut palm,(they line their beaches) a dove with an olive branch (showing what peace-loving cannibals they were) and a bunch of bananas, (where the tarantulas hide).
The lion in the emblem is holding a peeled coconut and it is all divided into quarters by an English St. George's Cross.
The light blue colour represents the Pacific Ocean.
The golden lion holding a coconut & the St George's cross represent Britain and the good old colonial days!
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
We did see sharks on our snorkelling trip to find the manta rays - apparently 'sleeping' but such a distinctive shape that my heart sped up a couple of beats a minute anyway.
Next time I checked it had gone and our guide was flippering off into the distance, muttering about the "mummy shark" wondering where she was!
Although we didn't find the giant manta rays, I did discover a sting ray the next day on the reef - I was more mindful of its tail though.
Did you know that Fiji has the world's third longest barrier reefs, called the Great Sea Reef, it is home to whales and dolphins, sharks and turtles and giant clams which can grow to over one metre across!
Greg managed to spot a turtle when he was completing his diving course and Jess took loads of pictures with her underwater camera..
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
We went on the village walk twice - 170 steps up and half an hour down.. beautiful views and we visited the school and church there and met the kindergarten children.
They were all fascinated by Sophia and clung on to her as she walked through the village. There were lots of dogs, chickens and some geese.
What the children needed most was books and paper, we shall take some next time.Their whole school was the size of my classroom at the College!
A visiting American group of students had brought them toothbrushes - the Fijians SO love sweet things that most of them have gold or missing teeth.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
We met some wonderful characters on holiday in the Yasawas - Gavin, who tried to kill the giant spiders at 2am with his flipper.. Linda, for whom Wednesday never comes.. Hope, who couldn't cope "oh well"! Manu, the dive instructor, Big John, the gardener, Moses, the naughtiest boy in the band, Reeeno, the Scottish, Italian on his 'honeymoon' - there were so many.
In particular the staff were wonderful and made our holiday special - here are some photos of them!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
We got back from Fiji yesterday.. from blue skies to the worst storm in a decade, in New Zealand.. oh well, we made the most of it!
I have to recommend Waya Island to you all - best resort we've stayed in, gorgeous food, lots of activities and the bures were comfortable and as modern as you can get without spoiling the 'island experience'!
Highlights of our holiday..
Snorkelling into a school of squid, spotting sharks and stingrays (alas, no giant manta rays), jewellery making from local shells, basket weaving and all the laughing that went with it, hibiscus by the handful, hammock swinging, the volleyball match where I won a 'shot', giant spiders in the roof, island safari to Mafia island, the village walk and schoolchildren, and the sunshine, beach and cocktail bar - all in all, a very successful vacation - we will be going back!!
Friday, July 25, 2008
Muriwai,is a coastal community located on the west coast of North island. It's a wild, rugged place to visit and we go mostly because it is home to a large colony of gannets, that you can get really close to. And yes, they are smelly at that distance.
The backdrop to the gannets is an unbroken 50 kilometre stretch of beach which extends up the Tasman Sea. The black sand is caused by the iron content from the ancient volcanoes in the area; much like Piha.
Muriwai gets its name from the rock stack 'motutara' - and school trips often come her to see the unique rock formations. In fact, Sophia came with the College for a Beach safety course.
The best time to visit the gannets is between October in February when the chicks hatch. They leave for Australia at 15 weeks old. Most of them don't make it, and then they come back when they are adults, and stay here.
The walkway takes you right to the cliff edge, so that you are only a few feet away, above them!
One thing Fiji has a lot of is frangipani. The flowers are highly scented during nights and often tucked behind people's ears. They are used to indicate marital status -over the right ear if looking, and over the left if taken.
The flowers have wonderful tropical essence and this is put into essential oils and soaps. Just using them makes me feel on holiday again!
It's a strange tree, hardly any leaves and the flowers on the end of short, stubby, rounded branches. The sap is also poisonous. But the scent is incredible.
They attract the sphinx moths with this scent, but it's to trick them, as they have no nectar, and the moths go from tree to tree looking for it and pollinating.
They are also called 'temple trees' and often planted there.
They are made into garlands called 'leis' in Fiji.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
So, what has Mr Greg been up to since we emigrated to New Zealand?
He's taken up several 'hobbies' which verge on obsessions, actually!
We bought the kayaks on our first Christmas here and he's gone on various outings, even one to Brown's Island with the girls (two kayaks) across the ferry harbour lanes!
Then he had one converted to a fishing kayak and joined a fishing club. He often goes to Eastern Beach and when we go camping he kayaks off into the sunset to catch dinner.
We bought a boat next and Greg and I did our Skipper's course - going back to evening classes and exams!He's wearing his 'skipper' hat here!
He's done his first snorkelling, when we went to Treasure Island in Fiji, last year. This year he's gone one step further and completed his PADI diving course, saving his open dives for next week, when we return to Fiji..
He's tramped through bush, over cliffs and up mountains.
Finally he has taken on the Duke of Edinburgh at the College and is taking a group of students on an 'expedition'.
This is all besides starting a new job, buying a house and vacationing in Australia!!
Who's a busy boy?
Monday, July 21, 2008
Kiwifruits are assumed to come from New Zealand, they are certainly named, after much deliberation, after the national icon, the kiwi bird.
The fruits are oval, about the size of a large hen's egg with a fibrous, dull green-brown skin and bright green or golden flesh, with rows of small, black, edible seeds. The fruit has a soft texture and a unique flavour. They are always used to decorate the national dish 'pavlova' (SEE earlier blog on this!)
Originally these fruits were known as the Chinese Gooseberry, but it was re-named in the mid-20th century, first to melonette, and then to kiwifruit , typical indecision.
Historically, the seeds were introduced to New Zealand by Mary Fraser, the principal of Wanganui Girls' College, who had been visiting mission schools in Yichang.
When we went round the kiwi farm there were distinct different 'types' of kiwi; our favourite was gold Kiwifruit, which has yellow flesh and is sweeter.
Raw kiwifruit is rich in the protein-dissolving enzyme actinidin - which means that it cannot be put in jellies (if you want them to set, that is!) and people can be allergic to the fruit because of this.
And, in order to eat the fruit, the New Zealanders had to invent a special implement, of course, and this is a spife, a plastic tool designed for this purpose with a spoon at one end and a knife at the other (get it, 'sp(oon)+(kn)ife'?)
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
This blog is for Miriam.. because she didn't know what the shells were which are washed up in their hundreds on the West Coast beaches.
New Zealand has a lot of squid, in fact, more than 85 species.
The tiny ram’s horn squid (Spirula spirula) which lives around here,is unique and has an internal, coiled shell, for buoyancy, (see photo) which allows it to move up and down in the water.
Although they live far from shore, they show they are here by the quantities of empty shells that wash ashore, following their death after breeding.
Spirula spirula, is a deepwater squid-like cephalopod, live specimens are very rarely seen because they are such deep ocean dwellers.
It is also known as the little post horn squid.
Although the whole animal is rarely seen, the internal shell is very light and commonly floats ashore on beaches. The internal shell of this animal is known as the "ram's horn shell". Often they are used to decorate jewellery boxes and the like; the girls and I collect them by the cupful in the summer.
Friday, July 18, 2008
You haven't experienced the real Fiji until you get down on a hand-woven coconut mat on the floor and drink kava with the locals.
Only Greg has had this so far, drunk out of a coconut shell (didn't seem to affect him much!)
Kava is made from the dried ground roots of the kava plant, a relative of the pepper plant. When we went to the market there was a whole floor devoted to selling bunches of huge stick-looking bunches of it.
Nowadays the root powder is put in to a small bag that is thoroughly kneaded and squeezed in to water. The result is a muddy-looking liquid which apparently tastes like dirty water. Yum!
Traditionally, the roots are thoroughly chewed and the masticated result (and lots of saliva) are spat into a kava bowl to be mixed and drunk by everyone. The saliva starts a sort of fermentation process. You are offered a coconut shell full, you have to clap your hands once, drink it down in one go, clap your hands three times and say 'Bula!'
It is a legal intoxicant and the effects are the numbing of lips and tongue, talkativeness and a sense of well-being..your eyes become light sensitive and you then feel sleepy, unlike alcohol you have no after effects.
Scientists have recently discovered that it inhibits cancer cells! Perhaps we should drink it regularly..
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Thought you might like to try some Fijian cooking at home!
Kokoda is a traditional Fijian dish that tastes much better than it sounds. You'll find it served in every restaurant in Nadi.
The traditional dish is prepared with mahi-mahi,(or dolphin-fish - see photo),but you can use white fish of your choice. It's very simple to prepare – just be sure to leave enough time to marinate the fish in the lime. You’ll need a minimum of 6 hours.
It's like a mild, sweet curry and served in a coconut shell here.
2 White Fish Fillets
Juice from 3 large limes
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup Coconut Cream (be sure to use the cream and not the milk)
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 hot pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
2 Tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
1. Cut the fish into bite-size pieces and place in a glass or plastic bowl (avoid metal as it will react with the lime juice and ruin your dish) Add the lime juice and salt. Mix well, cover and marinate in fridge for 6-10 hours.
2. Just before serving, add coconut cream, onion, and the pepper. Stir thoroughly then place onto serving platter using slotted spoon. Top with chopped tomatoes and serve with a flourish.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
We've brought all the gear, flippers, snorkels, divesuits, gloves.. last year my friend Miriam took me literally when I said to bring a snorkel (no mask!) it was the first one-handed snorkelling attempt!!
Greg has booked two dives and we've brought the underwater camera - so wait with bated breath. Snorkelling in Fiji mean you just wade out from the beach and there, right beneath you, are fans of coral and brightly coloured parrot fish, striped zebra fish and shoals of electric blue fish - it's like being in an aquarium - unreal!
We've even seen Nemo!
Let's hope there are no sharks...
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
'Bure' is the Fijian word for a wood-and-straw hut, a bit similar to a cabin.Here's me outside ours.
In Fijian terms, a bure is a structure built of anything that comes to hand. The 'thatch' and walls of the bure are either stacked together, tied together by rope, or a combination of both methods. Most of them have a central pole inside.
When there was a storm the local boys used a rock and palm leaves to do a patch up job! Inside the roof is pointed with beams from which hang the strings for the mosquito nets.
The really luxurious ones have fans on the ceiling.. we've splashed out for the first week here and the girls have their own bure. Next week, when Greg has left, we shall share and have a 'girls' bure.
Monday, July 14, 2008
The shop in Fiji was owned by an Indian-Fijian and the conversation went like this:
"What is this wooden spindle?" I asked the Indian shopkeeper.
"Gannibal imblement, mahm."
"Did you say 'cannibal'?"
"And gannibal glub," he went on, showing me a shiny skull-crushing bat, of the sort that had once been used to bash out an enemy's brains.
"Fahmerly this island was all ferocious gannibals, mahm," the Indian said, glancing furtively behind him. "Feezee pipple, mahm." Paul Theroux
In case you are wondering (or worrying) about the present day culinary tastes of Fijians, the last occurrence of cannibalism in Fiji was in 1867 (when a chief on the island of Viti Levu killed and devoured a Wesleyan Methodist missionary, Thomas Baker.)
A descendant of the chief recounted, "We ate everything, 'even tried to eat his shoes."
In the Fiji National Museum in Suva today, we saw one of Baker's shoes on display!!
In the old days, the defeated warriors were cooked in "lovo" - pit ovens -and eaten with breadfruit. The ceremonial practice of cannibalism was very important.
Fijian cannibals believed it was bad form to eat with their hands, so they used forks instead, made from sacred vesi wood, like the photo above.
Cheap copies of these cannibal forks are available for sale all over Fiji, and make interesting conversation pieces - the girls have one each as souvenirs. I think we're leaning towards a kava bowl for ours!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
One of the interesting things I learned, in my pre-holiday reading, was about Fijian hairstyles!
In the early days, hairdressing in Fiji was an art form and a Fijian's head was considered sacred. While the traditional hair art is not practiced anymore, the head is still deemed sacred and it is an insult to touch any Fijian's head.. so we'll remember that!
Mostly we've seen afros as the most popular hair style here.
Female chiefs used wear huge stately hair-dos. A man's hair was a symbol of his masculinity, so their hairstyles were often extravagant and showy (see the photo).
Hairdressers were also employed to dress up men's hair to a sculptured form and for festive occasions heads were even more elaborately dressed up. Hair-dos were also dressed with shells, twigs and flowers; sounds like the Elizabethans to me!
The Fijians would sleep with their head raised up on a log, so that their hair wouldn't get messed up.
I wonder what happened if you had a 'bad hair day'?
Saturday, July 12, 2008
One of the most famous expressions in Fiji is "Bula" (pronounced boolah). It is the Fijian word for "hello". We're busy practising..
'Bula' is as significant in Fiji as "aloha" is to Hawaii, and as a visitor to Fiji, the moment you arrive in the airport you will hear this word, often pronounced by the Fijians with great gusto ... BULA !!!!
At resorts, restaurants and islands we have been greeted on arrival by the Fijian song - 'Bula Malaya' - a joyous song of welcome, which ends with an emphatic "BULA!" at the ending.
Bula represents more than just 'hello', however. It also means happiness and health. If you sneeze, do not be surprised to hear Fijians close by say "bula" as it also is used in the sense of "bless you" or "gesundheit".
That's your word for the day!
Friday, July 11, 2008
Only days before we go...so excited...suitcases are packed and by the door! Sunshine here we come.. these are the 'boat boys' from Botaira Island..
In history books Fijians are described as formidable warriors and ferocious cannibals, builders of the finest vessels in the Pacific, but not great sailors. They inspired awe amongst their neighbours, the Tongans (who are formidable themselves!)
The Tongans called the island Fisi, and Captain James Cook mispronounced it as Fiji,the name by which these islands are now known. Cook named a lot of things out here.. and didn't have much imagination - more on him in another blog..
Fiji basically survives by sugar exports and the tourist industry. So we're contributing to its economic stability and having fun!
The Fiji sevens team is one of the most successful rugby sevens teams in the world, having won the two world cup titles and the 2006 IRB Series. They are very proud of this and always tell us so, on finding that we've travelled from NZ...we just nod and say we're really from England, and talk about Johnny Wilkinson!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Spent the day with my friend Miriam, under blue skies and sunshine everywhere! We headed for the Hibiscus Coast..it's our school holidays at last..three weeks of freedom and quality time with friends and family.
The winds were bitter along the harbour, but we bundled up and lunched in the sun, in a secluded spot by a lake, lots of seagulls.
Orewa was more sheltered and the whole day was spent gossiping, reminiscing, planning and having 'girlie' time. Orewa has a long, golden beach, at low tide it stretches for miles. One of the best things is that it's close to Waiwera Thermal pools with warm waters all year round.
Great view of Auckland City from Harbour Bridge on the way back.