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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2012, 10-17 Persistance Pays Off

2012, 10-17 ........Persistance Pays Off in the End.

      We arrived in Suva Fiji with plenty of time to check out the marina at Vuda Point and then make an informed decision about whether to stay in Fiji for the coming cyclone season or turn north to the Marshall Islands as we had originally planned. To expedite things at Vuda Point Bill took a five hour cross island bus trip to check things out while I remained with the boat in Suva. He was satisfied with the details and so returned to Suva after deciding to reserve a spot on the quay for the next six months. Then by chance we were wandering through Lami town outside of Suva when we met David one of the owners of the two marine hardware stores in the Suva area and a member of the family that also owns and operates Vuda Point Marina as well. The store was actually closed when we arrived but they let us in to wander around and we started talking a bit. He was friendly and easy to talk with but more importantly he was able to tell us a more about the marina and their policies and what their past experiences had been with cyclones. We shook hands and took his business card and walked back to the Royal Suva Yacht Club feeling a bit more confident with our decision decision to stay in Fiji.

       From my last blog post you know that I was basically instantly taken with the place when we arrived. The staff is friendly and warm and knew our names from day one, the town of Lautoka was easy to reach and has a great market, the buses are cheap and easy to use, they have movie night tree nights a week and they have two washing machines. What more could we ask for? Well, a guarantee that our place would be waiting for us if we traveled out to the nearby islands to beat the seasons worst heat.

      Our plan all along was to prepay for the spot on the quay -$2500.00 FD/$1500.00 US- then over the next six months spend most of our time away from the marina traveling around the outer islands. We knew from experience that the marina would be blisteringly hot for the coming months. The cyclone protection the marina offers is here only because the design of the boat basin reduces the airflow in and out. Which means all the usual cooling breezes of the pacific ocean are also kept out. Getting out of the marina would also remove us from the polluted marina water and free us up for swimming, snorkeling, walking the beaches and diving while we get better acquainted with some of the local islanders. A perfect solution.

     Perfect until we found out that despite the lump sum payment the marina would not hold our spot. They did promise to fit us into the marina in case bad weather threatens which sounds like a reasonable offer but all things considered not all of the spots along the quay are equal. We had managed to land in a spot well away from the channel opening across the reef while also sitting tucked in behind the widest area of reef, rock, dirt and width of trees that separates the in-the-water boats from the open ocean and we wanted to be able to come back to it. Guaranteed.

     But the marina isn't run like that. So despite being done in by several days of hot temperatures and high humidity our planned jump to Musket Cove would have to be delayed while we worked on an answer to our question. In fact we were starting to discuss alternative choices for the coming season while we persisted in our quest for a guarantee. The marina has until now operated by moving boats around, a lot. They want to be able to move anyone (except the commercial boats who have permanent spots!!!) at their discretion in order to fit in the comings and going of transient boats and generating the maximum amount of income from each few foot wide swatch on the quay. We on the other hand come from a back ground of always renting an actual space. You're own little 50'x15' piece of real estate that you could call home.

     Next we tried the general operating procedure, third world approach: small well placed currency. It was accepted and landed us the choice spot we are now sitting in and a big smile but it obviously came with no true guarantee. Then we tried the office manager Maria who smiled and suggested we talk with Mo. Mo being the man who previously couldn't give us any real guarantee seemed a dead end so we moved on. Then we met the marina manager Adam at a kava ceremony and tried appealing to his business acumen. Adam didn't think it would be any problem at all. In fact he said he assumed that we had actually rented a specific spot and it would of course be waiting for us on our return. He then had to back peddle a bit with surprise when we told him that the marina was saying no, that wasn't the case. He was positive and reassuring but also stated that since he had only been working here at the marina for a week and a half that he would need to talk with his boss and see what he could find out for us.

     We re stated what we wanted: a guarantee that if we left we would be given the same spot that we were currently sitting in. No different than if like most of the other boats in the marina we simply stayed put and didn't travel the islands. He came back saying he couldn't guarantee us anything but a place. Another day lost. Then I asked Bill if he had Davids card from the Lami Town marine hardware store -the guy who's family owns and operates this marina and several other marine bases operations? While Adam worked to get us a better answer Bill wrote an email to David. While we waited for something to break loose we told Adam that we were seriously considering heading north to the Marshall Islands or even possibly going south to New Zealand for the season if they could not offer us anything better. Adam then asked if we were interested in one of the pits instead of a slip -despite the fact that we had been told on previous inquiry that there were no pits available- and said he would check into that for us. We told him that we would be willing to buy a pit if he could get us on for six months so that we could still travel despite the fact that a pit is about 1/3 more expensive and we would need to manage a $400 FD/$240 US round trip on the travel lift into and out of the hole whenever weather threatened. Another day gone waiting to hear about the pits.

     Ah, but there are no pits left save one that is reserved but the boat is still in Tonga and they have not paid any deposit and may not be coming. He had emailed them and would tell us the next day if we could have the pit. The pits to be clear is a hole in the ground where they lower your boat after lifting it out of the water via the travel lift. You are keel deep in the pit with old tires propping you up all around -the pit area looks like someone has planted a crop of blue water boats. It's a great choice if you are going to leave you boat for an extended time away but a less enjoyable experience if you are going to try and live on it. It is generally hotter with no water to cool the hull and you have a tendency to get infested with vermin like rats, ants and roaches. Most people go in the hole here in October/November and get back out in the spring.

     Finally yesterday Adam tells us that after talking it over with Tony the big boss and surprise surprise David!!, we could have the pit that has now been released (we later learned there is in fact a waiting list of other boats hoping for a spot in a pit but one was offered to us regardless.) Then after another day and a moments relaxation into the whole idea of opting for the pit Adam came to us once again saying after a further discussion with Tony and David we would be offered the choice of the pit if we wanted it or they would guarantee to hold our spot. They decided they would give us our guarantee and proceed with the idea that they would use us as research into what impact offering guaranteed spots would have on the marina. They did ask if we thought a guaranteed space would be worth a premium and we honestly told them that yes we thought it would, we didn't know about other cruisers but had we been offered in the beginning a choice of a premium space with guaranteed in and out privileges or a place that would change every time we came and went we would have chosen the premium package.

     Finally we're satisfied. Never raised our voices or threatened or caused a fuss. Captain Bill simply kept asking questions until we got the answer we needed. By the time the final decision was made we were actually getting pumped about the possibility of New Zealand which certainly would have given us an entirely different experience and blown a bunch of friends out of the water -whom we had said our good byes too -when they saw us sailing into the anchorage next to them. But Fiji had been the plan and we are still happy with it. We assured everyone that they are free to put other boats into our spot when we are gone and we will be gone a great deal. We know if we came to the marina and were told that we were welcome but that the spot belonged to another boat and we would have to move if they returned we -and everyone we know- would be fine with that. So help themselves, no problem. The marina has promised to make a sign saying reserved and an email went out saying that “they (we) were adamant about having a guaranteed place at the quay” so the yard staff should consider us a commercial account.

     Even Adam kept a smile through the whole process and so far despite the meetings and emails and discussions I don't feel like it has impacted how we are thought of by the staff we interact with everyday. For the moment we may be the squeaky wheel but my guess is that any hard feelings will disappear into the reality that to them we all look alike and so in a few days or weeks the whole issue will have disappeared into nothing at all. Now the laundry is done, the boat is clean and we've got plenty of TP so we are off in the morning for Musket Cove. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vuda Point Marina, Our Fiji Home for the Next Six Months

2012, 10-9 Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu Island Fiji

      From Suva we sailed around the South West corner of Viti Levu Island to our new home at Vuda Point Marina. The marina sits half way between Nadi -home to the international airport- and Lautoka the second largest city on the island. The marina started as a submarine harbor during WWII and is different from any other marina we have ever been to.

      When you enter from seaward you pass first the Boat Shed restaurant and Bar sitting on the point. Then a big grassy area of picnic tables and a large outdoor screen where they show movies in the evenings three nights a week. Next you pass the coffee shop, the marina offices, a marine store and a small but surprisingly well stocked grocery store. Attached is a small laundry facility with three!!! washing machines, the restroom/shower facilities, a taxi stand and the security gate for the marina.

      For the marina itself imagine a cement pond in the shape of a “6” with the tail of the six being a channel that was blasted out of the coral reef that lines shore here. The circle of the six is the boat basin where some four or five dozen boats are tied Med Moor style stern or nose in to the cement quay. There is a cement path running the perimeter of the boat basin along behind the boats and a boat yard off to one side. The grounds are filled with tree's and plants that teem with birds -starlings, parakeets, lorakeets, numerous types of finches- and bright white long tailed Tropic birds swoop over the reef. There is a path off one side that cuts through thick vegetation to First Landing Resort where we are welcome to enjoy five star amenities including a couple of restaurants and bars, a full service spa and a pool.

      Adjacent to the boat basin is a section of marina ground that has been filled with holes dug into the ground. This is cyclone territory and many cruisers opt to bury their boats keels in a pit, prop tires around the edges and then climb in and out by ladder. It's funny to see them sitting here looking like someone is about to harvest a crop of blue water boats. There are obviously boaters still living in some and others have been prepared for the worst and then left to fend for themselves.

      That is why we are here, Vuda Point is reputed to be the best cyclone hole in this area of the South Pacific. For those not in a pit the marina offers some other unusual safety measures. In the event of a cyclone all of the boats in the marina will switch to stern to on the quay tying off to the heavy rings and chains attached to the edges of our little cement pond. From the bow of each boat will run the typical heavy duty anchor chain sans anchor. Every boats' chain will attach to a central underwater tie off point, wagon wheel style pulled off slightly from the quay. Additionally the marina deploys a breakwater made up of a line of airplane tires that is designed to close off the channel leading out of the marina and through the reef. This breakwater is essential in that it should cut down on the the surge that will inevitably try to work it's way into the marina. Once the breakwater is in place and we are stern too off the quay it will be impossible to leave the marina and almost impossible to leave the boat -we will be much further off the quay in preparation for an actual cyclone. This is the best that can be found in the South Pacific and we are betting our boat on it. The obvious problem is that if any of the boats in the marina have a problem they could and will effect other boats in the marina -like a pinball in play.

     Our plan is to monitor the weather, cruise when we can and flee to safety when anything threatens. But getting home will actually be the least of our concerns. In order to really be ready for what may come there is a great deal of preparation to be done. Our sails will have to stripped and stowed and the bimini and dodger will be removed as well as our four solar panels. Everything that can be stowed below will be and anything that won't come off will be lashed down. Once the dodger is off we will be vulnerable to rain coming in through places we have never experienced before.

     Oh and the rain, it will rain and rain and rain. At the same time the rain is coming down it will be hot - hot and muggy hot. Black mold will be growing on the inside of the boat from the heat and the humidity and during the guaranteed stormy weather every door, hatch and port will be dogged down tight. A new acquaintance warned me yesterday that even the cockroaches suffer from the cyclones. Desperate for dry land they will come scampering up our mooring lines looking for a dry home. Ewwwwww! But we cruisers are a pretty tenacious bunch. I have talked to couples who have prepared four times in one season for a coming hurricane or cyclone. Most have never seen winds above 50mph! I'm counting on that statistic proving out.

     Again the upside is that between the weather that is surely coming our extended stay will allow us to discover a Fiji most travelers never experience. Fiji's cruising choices are wide -multiple island groups, huge barrier reefs, vibrant cities and unspoiled beeches, exquisite snorkeling and world class diving- with enough to do and see to keep us busy for a years.
     Travel is all about experiencing life in a new way and Vuda Point promises to give us plenty of new experiences. From the moment we motored into the cut I've had a great feeling about this place. It felt like home to me like nothing else has since we first moved into Shilshole Bay Marina. Already half of the staff knows us by name and we are meeting our neighbors more every day. We've begun working our way through the to-do list and Gordon the Gekko seems to have settled into his new job with us as bug control patrol.

Bula! Kat

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October 1, 2012 You Gotta Love Fiji.

      Since the early days of planning for our cruising life people have been telling us not to miss Fiji. They said we were going to love it there, had to visit Fiji, could easily spend months in Fiji, don't miss Fiji!!! They were absolutely right – on our first trip into town I was completely captivated by the sights and sounds around me. Even the bus ride was great. We caught the bus into Suva right in front of the Royal Suva Yacht Club where we had left our dinghy and the 15 minute trip costs a mere 45 cents US. The mostly open air covered buses run seven days a week from sun-up till ten pm and if your feeling flush a taxi ride back will only set you back about $1.80!

     In town the buses converge at the main depot just next to the main market where you unload amidst dozens of other buses and taxis. The platforms are thick with business men and women and the throngs of local women on their way home from the market or grocery shops. Twice a day the place explodes with thousands of school children filtering through either coming or going each wearing their own schools distinct uniform.

     Amidst the travelers move a whole world of beggars and peddlers typical to a large third world city. There are snack peddlers and shoe shine men, stands selling fruit juice and tiny carts filled with Chinese foods. Rushing through it all are the wheelbarrow men who deliver goods from the area shops directly to your platform. Lining the edges of the depot are small stands in long rows selling curry and drinks, shoe repair and Bollywood D VD’s.
     The main farmers market is a permanent two story affair the size of a football field. Cement walls and floor filled edge to edge with fruit and vegetable sellers, stands filled with fresh eggs, take away food and prepared portions of fruit. There is a distinct separation between Indian merchants and Fijians but for as far as the eye can see there are things to buy. There are pile after pile of mango, papaya, watermelon, banana, coconut, apples and oranges. The air is filled with the scent of lemon grass and ginger and there are colorful pyramids of tomato and eggplant that vi for attention with pumpkins, squash, sweet potato, new potato and okra. Huge piles of several types of root vegetables who's names I don't know are continuously hauled away strung over wooden poles and virtually everything was picked that very morning.

     Up a long flight of cement stairs is home to the spice merchants and kava sellers. Here is where you find mounds of brown potatoes and huge stores of yellow onion piled in tight with sacks of lentils, popcorn, dried peas and beans, mule sized packages of almonds, cashews, cinnamon sticks and sultanas. There is dried ginger, smoked paprika,dried chili peppers and little bowls filled with tiny green and red peppers along with plastic bags spilling over with a dozen or so separate ingredients each cook uses to fashion their own special curry. It's here in the second story of the market where we will buy our sevusevu kava for gifting as we travel around the country.

     Kava is a local “grog”made from the pounded mashed root of the kava plant. It produces a slight tranquilizing effect and numbs the lips and tongue. Originally it was made by chewing the roots into a pulp and spitting it back into a special wooden Kava bowl where the resultant grog would be poured into coconut shells and passed around during a kava ceremony. Now days there are kava joints you can go to and spend your day getting loaded, buy it pre-made in take away containers or grind up your own at home. There are “brands” of kava from specific regions with their own reputations but most of the kava is made from powdered root bought by the bagful.

    For the offering of sevusevu which is still practiced mostly in the more remote villages the correct form is still generally a 2 kilo bunch of whole kava ears and gnarly root wrapped up in newspaper with colorful ribbon wrapped round the paper to keep it all in a neat package. Their were maybe 20 different sellers all selling your choice of whole plant sevusevu packages, “ears” -just the wide part of the root severed from the tangle of root and brown paper bags of powdered root. A few of the stands had huge ceremonial sevusevu gifts made up out giant many years old roots. One package had a root and ear bouquet that stood six feet tall! We bought six 2 kilo sevusevu packages, now All I need to do is figure out how to fumigate it before it comes aboard Island Bound.
     Across the street and further into the city Suva continued to surprise us. Past the daily fish market you move into a world of skyscrapers. Walking along the sidewalks feels like New York City with buses blaring past, taxis honking and whistling, pedestrians crossing everywhere with little regard for lights, beggars on every corner and signs and lights everywhere. The scent of warm fresh bread rolls over the sidewalk from the many bread stores, there are Chinese restaurants everywhere, signs advertising nightclubs and cell phone company kiosks everywhere. There is a six-plex movie theater showing Hollywood, Australian and Bollywood films from noon till midnight.

     In the center of downtown there is a big four story MHCC mall with $300 dollar dresses selling next to stands filled with Indian sweets. There are other smaller malls as far as the eye can see and a McDonald selling Big Macs and Fires. Across the river walk from the MHCC mall is “little India” filled with wedding jewelry shops and clothing stores filled with fancy spangled wedding and special occasion clothing and jewel toned sarees that to my eyes looks like they would be fit for a king or queen. More than half the population in Fiji is of Indian descent and between their dark brown skin and straight hair and the Fijians kinky black hair and dark eyes all around us is a sea of brown. In the big market I was buying bananas from an Indian woman and turned around to find Bill was no longer behind me. I paused searching for my $2 saying my husband was missing and the woman whirled around in a circle then pointed at Bill and laughed saying it was easy “just look for the white, every where is black so he stands right out, see!”

     It's in little Indian where finally we locate the curry shops I've been looking forward to for months now. I'm in heaven as soon as we walk inside the Curry House. The lunch crowd lines are thick but the glass cases on either side of the front counter are filled with delicious smelling goodies. The menu behind the counter has three full rows of curries and accompaniments. Lamb curry, goat curry, chicken curry and fish, roasted eggplant, fried noddles, Masala, tandoori and butter chicken and a whole array of vegetarian yummies and roti: fresh made upstairs roti, yummmmmm. The full meal deal gives you a round metal tray with a small bowl of peas and potato, a serving of lentil soup, a smear of tamarind chutney and a piece of pickled mango along side the matching bowl filled with your choice of main dishes. Bill goes for the goat and I decide on the boneless lamb all for less than $5 US each including a drink! Over our days in Suva we find sit down curry houses, take out curry houses, curry dishes at the Chinese restaurants and curry take away at the grocery stores. There is no “how many stars?” when you order here it comes out as hot, hot and hotter - I don't care.

     Every time we go into town I am struck again by the chaos and the rhythms of Fiji. Such a mix of island time slow down and big city pace. The locals are quick to smile and filled with laughter. We're greeted on the streets with loud hellos, “Bula!” and are often stopped and asked where we are from and how we are enjoying Fiji. Lots of locals guess straight off that we are here on a “yacht” and are always thrilled to find out that we are staying for months instead of days. They show genuine interest in how long it took us to get here and almost always ask why we decided to visit Fiji. When they find out we will be traveling throughout the outer-island groups they are quick to tell us where they are from and where there families are still. The people have been so welcoming and with so many islands to explore and so much to see and do I'm sure we are going to run out of time before we run our of Fiji.


Sunday Lunch with Joe and Tiesla, Suva, Fiji

September 25th 2012 Sunday Lunch with Joe and Tiesla Suva, Fiji Cruising requires a great deal of planning and we gather our information from a variety of sources. First there is the big scale planning: deciding where we want to go and what time of year is best for our passage there, what paper charts we will need and which chips we need to buy for our chart plotter. Then there is the rest, the micro scale of information gathering that for us is usually being done underway right up to the moment we make our next landfall. For that we turn to cruising guides and compendiums, information from other cruisers, Lonely Planet and Moon travel guides and locally published visitor guides. We spend hours on passage pouring over information and now that we are traveling internationally my favorite part of the research is learning the local customs of the country we are about to visit. I usually end up spending a few hours during our passage pouring over a Moon Guide. These popular travel guides give a good overview of each country from Customs clearance and Visa requirements to how long we can stay and how long the boat is allowed to stay (which oddly is almost always different from how long we are allowed to stay ) along with a list of formalities for checking in and out and for any movement within the country. There is always a section covering the countries history, politics and religion(s.) They chart out the seasonal climates including temperature and rainfall and list information about the flora and fauna of the regions. The country is then further divided into regions for travel. The generally have a good section on what to do and see when we travel with a section on restaurants, farmers markets, grocery stores and other shopping, how to ride the local buses and use the local taxis. If there is a movie theater in town the books even let me know if we will find movies in English. My favorite part of every Moon book is always the section on local customs and culture. The Pacific Islands have been rich in cultural differences. In Samoa we needed to know that our choice of clothing needed to be modest, that the local churches were a huge part of life there and that is would be considered rude to walk down the street eating or drinking anything. In Tonga we were told we shouldn't take people pictures without their permission and that again the dress was to be modes and also that if we wanted to go swimming in view of the locals we would have to do it basically fully clothed. Here in Fiji we learned about the custom of presenting “sevusevu” -a gift of kava root- to the chief or mayor that gains ones access to the village, its anchorage, roads, beaches or reefs. We also read about the customs surrounding being taken under the wing of a Fijian family and the process and pitfalls of gift giving. We had been warned that if we were invited into anyone’s home we needed to be careful about admiring anything because it would be quickly offered up as a gift. We had read that it was common for Fijians to ask for things that we would need to be careful of being put in a position of giving away things we really can't live without like binoculars, our VHF radios, our outboard motor and even the line off of our boat. Despite the write up and warnings we were still amazed at how quickly we we adopted into our first Fijian Family. We met Joe and Tiesla as we stood in line at the DigiCell kiosk waiting to buy a SIM card and a data plan. Joe struck up a conversation with Bill and literally in less than five minutes we had plans to spend Sunday lunch in their home the following day. From the moment we met it was obvious that Joe was thrilled to have found us and was excited to be our “first Fijian friends.” They took their new job quite seriously and immediately abandoned their own Saturday plans to accompanied us through town and back and from one cell phone shop to the next until we had both a working phone and up and running internet too. Once that was completed Joe squired us back through the city to find a doctor -on a Saturday - to treat Bill who now had his own version of my Tongan skin infection. The tropics are tough on skin and we have now both had abscessed skin infections that required antibiotics. Joe especially took his new job every seriously. On the way to the doctors office we stopped a the bus depot so he could point out the correct bus to take the next day and then at the doctors office he gave us another round of instructions on catching the bus. He kept explaining and we kept reassuring him but no matter what we said Joe seemed pretty sure were were going to get lost. The fact that we had made our way halfway around the world didn't seem to have left us much credit in his eyes but eventually he left us there at the doctors in order to meet Tiesla at the market so they could do the shopping for the next days meal. His eyes were filled with joy when we parted saying “now you will come yes?” On Sunday morning he called again -we were in town again at DigiCell to try and fix a glitch- to check on us and ask if we could come an hour earlier! When we finally arrived at the parking lot of their home church he bounded up to us and quickly bundled us into a cab and off to their home to meet the family. The family of five live in a modest neighborhood on a street with rows of carbon copy houses. Theirs is a two room, half of a duplex on a street filled with families walking home from Sunday services. Tiesla was already inside and busy preparing our Fijian lunch while Joe introduces us to Susanne Collins, 8, Joe Jr, 6 and Meme, 4 along with Nana #1 and Nana #2. There home was tiny but neat and tidy. The main room was roughly 10'x16' and held a single table, three chairs, a small refrigerator, a two burner stove and a separate one burner stand alone cooker, a single counter with a small sink, two wooden hutches one filled with dishes and utensils the other with family photos and boxes of papers and other bits of family life. There were woven mats on the floor and the standard south pacific centerpiece -a large flat screen. We were formally ushered into two of their three chairs (along with Joe) while the rest of the family sat on the floor and spent the next several hours as their honored guests. We visited and talked and asked questions back and forth while Tiesla finished preparing the meal. She served us fish cooked in coconut milk, a local green similar to spinach, fresh cucumber slices and a chicken and veggie noodle dish. When we were first served we sat quietly watching for clues to try and avoid any social blunders. We waited for the others to begin eating but soon realized that it was only to be the two of us and Joe. Our meals came with spoons as did Joe's which I think he was using as a show of solidarity but he soon abandoned his for the local custom of eating with his fingers. Tiesla and the two grandmothers sat quietly watching us while Joe explained the local custom: everyone else would wait until we had been served, then the children were served and finally we were offered seconds, “please eat you're fill.” Only when we had declined seconds did the women take a plate. Guests get first dibs on everything and if we had eaten every bite they would have gone without. The three kids were well behaved and also obviously catered too, especially Joe Jr. I brought along a batch of brownies which were a huge hit especially with little Joe who was on fourths or fifths by the time the rest of us finished our meals. Afterward we talked about their lives here and asked questions about the language and then practiced our Fijian. Susanne Collins taught us our numbers and apparently my attempt at twenty something made some hilarious reference to my feet! We learned about their church, the church's new primary school, the fund raising efforts to build a secondary school and bits and pieces about their lives and their customs. Tiesla's mom, Nana #1 comes every week by bus on Wednesday from Nadi -a five hour trip across island -to stay with the family. She stays through church on Sunday and then returns to her home again. The other grandma is actually not a blood relative. She attends the family's church and though she has three grown children of her own in Suva she spends her family time with Joe and Tiesla. The afternoon had barely begun when we started to learn our own lesson in Fijian gift giving. Shortly after we had arrived Joe stepped into the second room to get out of his go to church suit and came back out with a mans shirt in his hands. He came to Bill and instructed him to take off his shirt -how do you react when someone stands in front of you and says take off your shirt? Bill did as he was asked and stripped off his own shirt and received as a gift one of Joe's prized button down Fijian dress shirts. He explained that with this shirt hanging in our closet we could never forget him. A few minutes later Bill decided to try to reciprocate the gift. The weather had been cool and wet and he had packed his only pair of still decent Levi's in his backpack as a just in case so he pulled them out and offered them as a gift. At first Joe acted reluctant but beamed and then soon had them on and was strutting around the living room fashion show style showing them off. A few minutes later Bill pulled out a baseball hat that was also tucked in his pack and it too was accepted and worn amidst giggles and grins but then quickly taken off and placed high on the top of a shelf. We later remembered that we had read that as palage (off island white folks) it was considered rude to walk through a village wearing a hat or sunglasses and then realized that in our days wandering around Suva we had not seen anyone wearing a hat. After our meal we watched rugby, -Suva won, Nadi lost- and gave balloons to the kids. We drank tea Fijian style with milk and sugar and ate “pancakie” a deep fat fried pancake served with a dusting of sugar and nibbled on a typical Fijian snack made up of dried salted peas, peanuts and little crispy noodles similar to the canned Chung King noodles from home. We learned a lot about Fijian life and Joe explained about his plan to buy a piece of property in the spring. He hopes to build a bigger house and start an export business growing and shipping Fijian produce. He said he knew there was a growing community of Pacific Islanders in the states and Australia whom he was sure would buy up all that he could grow and ship. He invited us again and again to come back any time and told Bill he could help with the farm. We could too if we wanted, build a home of our own so we could come and go to the boat and our travels but then would always have a place of our own as part of his family when we return to Fiji. Then Joe mentioned how nice it was going to be when we all returned to our boat for a little trip. Uh oh, I hadn't prepared for guests or planned any food. Plus our outboard was not working very reliably and ferrying everyone out might be a challenge. Worse, it had been raining with thunder and lightning off and on all day so maybe not the best day for a trip out with the family. No problem, they will wait until the weather has improved and we will all go out for a little turn in the bay. Eventually it seemed like it might be time to go but it was hard to tell. Were we expected to stay all day? Had we overstaying our welcome? Finally it was explained that it is custom for the guest to ask for release from the gathering. OK time to say our goodbyes. There were short speeches of appreciation from Joe and modest thank you's from Tiesla and finally a tear filled speech of gratitude from Nana #2 before it was time to make our way back to the main road to catch a bus back to the waterfront. The grandmothers stayed at the house, waving and crying and waving some more while the rest of the family walked with us through the neighborhood -apparently showing us off- and back to the bus stop. At one point on the way Joe said to Bill “let me see that shirt you had on.” So Bill obligingly opened his pack and pulled out the shirt he had worn to lunch. Joe told him how much he would like to have it so that he would never forget us. OK, one shirt, one pair of Levi's and one baseball hat. A few moments later Joe's flip flop broke when Joe Jr stepped on it and poor Bill instantly looked down at his own sandals with a flash of wonder as to just how he was going to make it home barefoot. What a nice way to spend a lazy Sunday and wonderful to now have someone we know in Suva. We will wait for the weather to turn dry again and then make an afternoon of burgers and chips aboard Island Bound -after we've decided on some appropriate gifts and hid away the things we cannot live without. Kat